Sunday, February 08, 2015

Book recommendation: Conversations with a Dead Man: The Legacy of Duncan Campbell Scott by Mark Abley

Duncan Campbell Scott (1862-1947) was a disturbing enigma.  A career bureaucrat, he was the overseer of Canada’s destructive Aboriginal schools policy—but also one of our country’s important poets.   It was natural for Mark Abley, a fine poet himself as well as socially concerned journalist, to imagine bringing Scott back to life in order to have a conversation.  The ghost story—or more precisely, a series of interviews with a ghost visitor—is a superb narrative strategy, injecting humour, irony, and drama into what could have been a pretty dry slog had Abley simply followed a more conventional research paper format.  Abley portrays Scott as a product of his time, and yet open to persuasion; he contrasts mores, manners, mentality and even linguistic usage in a way that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible.  An absorbing and delightful read!  Highly recommended…

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