By Stephen Henighan
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Award-winning, bestselling writer Jane Urquhart? ’s eagerly expected new novel is a powerful accomplishment and her most powerful thus far. A Map of Glass weaves parallel tales, one set in modern Toronto and Prince Edward County, the opposite within the 19th century at the northern seashores of Lake Ontario.
The environment is a fictional nation, Murinam, which has the look and feel of a former French colony. Benny Cooperman, nonetheless improving from the top damage that impaired his temporary reminiscence, is persuaded to enquire the loss of life of an previous schoolmate, Jake Grange. Grange, a relations guy, ran a scuba diving enterprise earlier than he used to be, it sort of feels, murdered; his widow wishes Benny to determine what occurred and recuperate very important records.
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The book club absolves literature of non-conformist reclusiveness by projecting it into the neon-lit glare of the mass world (the most famous book club of all, that of Oprah Winfrey, is televised). Having originated in the cultivation of private, solitary perceptions in the context of uncompromising post-feudal societies, the book has descended to the role of being a social facilitator among a random collection of people who ultimately have little in common other than the “universal” values of very late modernity (whether they belong to a women’s book club or a Braille book club or a Pentecostal or Marxist book club).
Like primitives dwarfed by the ruins of a collapsed civilization whose language and history they have forgotten, we imitate without being fully conversant with the traditions that we are copying; we simplify, we dumb them down to our level. In our case, the tradition that looms over us is one predicated on the assumption of broad swathes of silence and solitude. Our public print culture had its origins in the scholasticism of the middle ages, in the silence of monasteries; even a medieval writer who was a busy public figure like Geoffrey Chaucer – one of his era’s most important diplomats – would find himself hyper-stimulated by the rapid-fire distractions of our era.
The inferiority of today’s young people is invariably portrayed as a consequence of the breaking of a link with history and the perversion of tradition by “foreign” influences (such as “immigrant,” “Asian” rhetorical customs). In the contemporary world, immigrant parents, educated in the ancestral theology, philosophy, literature or music of their homelands, often regard their imperviously happy, sexually unfettered, know-nothing children, assimilated into an ahistorical consumerism, in this way.
A Report on the Afterlife of Culture by Stephen Henighan