Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Mackenzie King, me and Allan Levine

My review of Allan Levine's new biography of Mackenzie King is in the Globe & Mail today.

It's always odd rereading one's published work, and there's only so much you can say in a short review. But Levine's book is worth a read - it's certainly worth more attention than it has been getting since it was published last autumn.

Many of the other reviews seem to think that he is being critical of King. By this I think they mean that he is pointing out all King's oddities. But King biographies, even the official volumes, have always been less than pleasant on King the 'man'. Levine is simply following form in guffawing at King's eccentricities - and he has even more material to work with now than others did in earlier years. But ultimately Levine tows the main Liberal, nationalist line in praising King as nation-builder and statesman.

I think I've been reading way too many King biographies because I am beginning to despair if anything new and interesting can truly be said of the man. It seems to me that if you took Frank Underhill's appreciative take on him published in Canadian Forum after King's death in 1950 ('He divided us least') with Frank Scott's great 1955 poem ('nothing by halves that could be done by quarters') that you would have King in a nutshell. All the rest is dressing...

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