Second and Third Volumes in Early Canadian Literature Series

I’m pleased to announce the publication of the second and third volumes of the Early Canadian Literature series published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press: an edition of Nellie L. McClung’s 1925 novel Painted Fires, with an afterword by Cecily Devereux, and an edition of George Copway’s 1850 book The Traditional History and Characteristic Sketches of the Ojibway Nation, with an afterword by Shelley Hulan. Both can be purchased either in print or in epub format directly from the publisher or from your favourite bookseller.

Painted Fires, by Nellie L. McClungPainted Fires, first published in 1925, narrates the trials and tribulations of Helmi Milander, a Finnish immigrant, during the years approaching the First World War. The novel serves as a vehicle for McClung’s social activism, especially in terms of temperance, woman suffrage, and immigration policies that favour cultural assimilation. In her afterword, Cecily Devereux situates Painted Fires in the context of McClung’s feminist fiction and her interest in contemporary questions of immigration and “naturalization.” She also considers how McClung’s representation of Helmi Milander’s story draws on popular culture narratives.

The Traditional History and Characteristic Sketches of the Ojibway Nation, by George CopwayThe Traditional History and Characteristic Sketches of the Ojibway Nation (1850) was one of the first books of Indigenous history written by an Indigenous author. The book blends nature writing and narrative to describe the language, religious beliefs, stories, land, work, and play of the Ojibway people. Shelley Hulan’s afterword considers Copway’s rhetorical strategies in framing a narrative as a form of “history, interrupted” for a non-Indigenous readership.

Back on the Island

Ben and AnneI’m pleased to be back on Prince Edward Island for L.M. Montgomery and War, the 11th biennial conference hosted by the L.M. Montgomery Institute and held at the University of Prince Edward Island (an event that I am co-chairing). I’m also pleased because I have finally launched L.M. Montgomery Online, the new-and-improved version of the L.M. Montgomery Research Group website that I started in 2007! I’ve been travelling to the Island for these conferences since 1996, so in a way it feels a lot like coming home. Especially when there’s always an old friend (albeit a two-dimensional one) there to greet you at the airport!

Profile in The Charlottetown Guardian

Benjamin Lefebvre's L.M. Montgomery Collection

A profile of me by Sally Cole appeared in yesterday’s Charlottetown Guardian, in which I discuss my longstanding interest in L.M. Montgomery’s work generally and the first two volumes of The L.M. Montgomery Reader in particular. It also includes this photograph of me taken in front of part of my Montgomery collection in my home office. (When I look up from my laptop, this is what I see in front of me.)

UPDATE: Apparently the Guardian has also called me “Montgomery guy.” That’s fine, of course, although I personally prefer “Man of Green Gables.”

Launch of The L.M. Montgomery Reader 2

The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 2: A Critical HeritageI was so pleased to receive yesterday my first author’s copy of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 2: A Critical Heritage, from University of Toronto Press. It should be available for purchase in the days or weeks to come, and it can also be ordered at a discount directly from the publisher.

For those of you who are going to Congress, there will be a launch for the book next Tuesday, 27 May 2014, from 2:00 to 3:00 PM at Brock University’s Congress Centre—Expo Event Space. Hope to see you there!

Announcing The L.M. Montgomery Reader 3

The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1 The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 2: A Critical Heritage The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3: A Legacy in Review

I am very pleased to announce the forthcoming publication, in fall 2014, of the third (and final!) volume of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, subtitled A Legacy in Review. It collects for the first time over four hundred reviews of Montgomery’s twenty-four books, originally appearing in periodicals from eight countries. The selections are accompanied by an extensive introduction as well as an epilogue that provides an overview of reviews of twenty-four additional books attributed to L.M. Montgomery after her death.

“Now that it is complete, The L.M. Montgomery Reader is sure to be the authoritative source on Montgomery’s critical and popular reception as a bestselling author. Benjamin Lefebvre has devoted many years to the Reader, and one cannot imagine anyone better suited for the work.”—Janice Fiamengo, Department of English, University of Ottawa

24 April 1942

Source: "Noted Author Dies Suddenly at Home Here," The Globe and Mail (Toronto, ON), 25 April 1942, 5.

Source: “Noted Author Dies Suddenly at Home Here,” The Globe and Mail (Toronto, ON), 25 April 1942, 5.

Seventy-two years ago today, L.M. Montgomery died at her home in Toronto, at the age of sixty-seven. Her death was interpreted by her family and by her physician as a suicide—a belief not revealed to the public until an article appeared in The Globe and Mail in September 2008. But in 1942, the circumstances of her death were omitted from the many obituaries that appeared in newspapers across the country, including one from the Calgary Daily Herald. Instead, these obituaries celebrated her life as well as her work, namely twenty-two book-length works of fiction, from Anne of Green Gables (1908) to Anne of Ingleside (1939), and one volume of poetry, The Watchman and Other Poems (1916). Moreover, the obituary appearing in The Globe and Mail, entitled “Noted Author Dies Suddenly at Home Here,” noted that “for the past two years she had been in ill health, but during the past winter Mrs. Macdonald compiled a collection of magazine stories she had written many years ago, and these were placed in the hands of a publishing firm only yesterday.” That book was The Blythes Are Quoted, and it was published in its entirety only in 2009.

In addition to obituaries and coverage of her burial in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, a number of tribute pieces appeared in daily newspapers in the days and weeks following Montgomery’s death, including two unsigned editorials appearing on the same day in the Windsor Daily Star:

When L.M. Montgomery (Mrs. Ewan Macdonald) died in Toronto at the age of 67, a literary career that was built upon an appreciation of the simpler things of Canadian life was brought to a close. No cold realist, no pseudo-sophisticate, she wrote of life as she knew and lived it in her girlhood in Prince Edward Island, and the homely truth and honesty of those works brought her international renown. […]

It was not only a flair for plot and facility of expression that made Mrs. Macdonald a great writer. Her understanding of human nature was deep and thorough, and her interest in the loves, joys and sorrows of everyday folk transcended professional curiosity. It was from all these gifts that she wove her stories, and it was from them that her novels drew their wide-ranging appeal.

Source: “L.M. Montgomery,” The Windsor Daily Star (Windsor, ON), 27 April 1942, 4.

Another tribute, appearing two pages earlier, is a reminder of the fact that Montgomery’s death occurred in the midst of the Second World War:

People were beginning to discover the delights of Cavendish and other parts of Prince Edward Island. The war and the consequent curtailment of travel have meant many journeys to the island will have to be postponed. But, after the war has been won, people will be going in ever-increasing numbers of Prince Edward Island, a province which Lucy Maud Montgomery helped to make famous.

Source: “‘Anne of Green Gables,’” The Windsor Daily Star (Windsor, ON), 27 April 1942, 2.

As these and several more tribute pieces demonstrate, L.M. Montgomery’s work touched a chord with many readers during her lifetime, and part of its uniqueness is that her readership has only grown in the seven decades since her death, especially since volumes of journals, letters, and periodical pieces began to appear in the 1970s and 1980s, alongside popular television adaptations of her books. Her work continues to gather an international community of readers and researchers whose interest in all things L.M. Montgomery shows no signs of slowing down.

Montgomery’s Globe and Mail obituary, several tributes, and extensive coverage of her funeral all appear in The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: A Life in Print, available now.

First Volume in Early Canadian Literature Series

The Foreigner, by Ralph ConnorI’m pleased to announce the publication of the first volume in the Early Canadian Literature series by Wilfrid Laurier University Press: an edition of Ralph Connor’s 1909 novel The Foreigner, with an afterword by Daniel Coleman. Several more volumes will follow later this year.

First published in 1909, The Foreigner comes from the pen of bestselling author Ralph Connor, the pseudonym of Presbyterian minister and missionary Charles W. Gordon. The novel opens in Winnipeg, where Kalman Kalmar, a young Eastern European immigrant, is growing up under the shadow of his father, whose allegiance to the customs of the Old World has caused him to become a fugitive in Canada. After a violent encounter with his father’s sworn enemy, the adolescent Kalman is sent to a ranch in rural Saskatchewan, where, in learning the ways of the land, he must also reconcile the customs of his ancestors with the possibilities available to him in the New World. Part adventure story, part allegory for a vision of a culturally assimilated North West, the story features a form of male maturation and muscular Christianity recurring in Connor’s popular Western tales. Daniel Coleman’s afterword considers the text’s departure from Connor’s established fiction formulas and provides a framework for understanding its depiction of difference.

Home to Little House

Little House on the Prairie title cardBack in mid-January, TVShowsonDVD.com announced that the first season of Little House on the Prairie would be rereleased on DVD and BluRay, with sets expected to be available on March 25, 2014. In subsequent posts on that website, the project was briefly rumoured to be discontinued immediately before they posted the official press release and cover art. This announcement was followed a month later by news that the second season would be released in the same two formats a mere six weeks after the first season, on May 6, along with one or two additional posts with the second season cover art. Judging by the fact that the first season contains part one of a six-part documentary about the series, it seems pretty likely that the remaining seasons will follow at a steady clip, especially given that the pilot telefilm aired forty years ago on March 30, 1974, and that the ongoing series premiered forty years ago on September 11, 1974.

Comparisons between Little House on the Prairie and shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek, and Dr. Who are obviously slight as far as content is concerned, but Little House remains in many ways a cult favourite: with all four shows, the line between “fan” and “fanatic” is often a blurry one. So the news about this DVD rerelease is exciting—perhaps literally breathtaking—for two reasons: the first, because both the picture and the sound have been substantially cleaned up (apparently it looks even better than it did in 1974); and second, because unlike the first set of DVDs released a decade ago, these sets will contain the original network broadcasts. With a lot of older shows, the versions that become the basis for DVD sets are the ones that were made for syndicated reruns, which have to be trimmed to make room for more commercials. This means—wait for it—that each episode of Little House on these DVDs will contain two to three minutes of footage that I have never seen. With 205 episodes in total (including the two-hour pilot movie, three two-hour post-series telefilms, and a three-hour retrospective special), that’s four hundred to six hundred extra minutes. In total, that’s the equivalent of FIVE OR SIX NEW EPISODES.

Now, I’m not anticipating that we’re going to discover a new character who was ritually cut out of the syndicated versions or subplots that alter character development in a radical way. It’s entirely possible that the new footage in question consists almost entirely of establishing shots and bumpers, along with extra bits of dialogue that don’t add anything substantial to the content, or more extreme close-ups of Michael Landon crying. In other words, it’s entirely possible that the editors who trimmed the original broadcasts for syndication did so pretty judiciously, even though the way they did so (abrupt fades and cuts) is jarring to watch.

The copy I ordered is still in transit and will take a while to get here, so I have a bit more waiting ahead of me. But I’m really looking forward to taking another look at a TV show that I’ve been watching, off and on, all my life. I like to think that, for me, revisiting these episodes with so much extra footage will be a lot like discovering a stack of extra photos of my family when I was a child that, for whatever reason, didn’t make it into my mother’s albums: familiar but new at the same time. In fact, I so much enjoyed writing about the pilot movie in my book Textual Transformations in Children’s Literature that this might be the opportunity I’ve been waiting for to write about the overall series in a more intentional way—not only to speculate about what made it an unexpected hit in the 1970s but why it continues to endure forty years later.