Thursday, 2 June 2011

Canadian Authors Part IV - Earle Birney

In the first part of this post I discussed Earle Birney's Turvey. A revised edition was published in 1976, also by McClelland & Stewart. Here are Robert Fulford comments:

"When Turvey was first published, in 1949, it was seen by some reviewers as vulgar. Arnold Edinborough, writing in the Queen's Quarterly said: 'There is a Rabelaisian reliance on the bodily functions and the Army's treatment of them which makes the book in many parts a very unamusing affair.' Queen Victoria could hardly have put it better.

But Edinborough and the other reviewers didn't know just how bad it really was - or how nearly they escaped even more unamusing passages. Birney, in his original manuscript, reported Canadian Army dialogue as he heard it during his service. It was only the bowdlering intercession of McClelland and Stewart, dropping in dashes here and there and changing one word to 'bucking.' that saved our 1949 book reviewers from many an uncomfortable blush.

But these are more liberated times. Now McClelland and Stewart, 27 years after the original publication, has given us an edition in which the original manuscript is restored to all its Rabelaisian splendor. Now we can read it just as Birney wrote it. It doesn't make much difference, of course; the readers of the original edition presumably filled in the appropriate words where they needed them. But it's a pleasure to see the book back in the bookstores, handsomely jacketed. Perhaps a whole new generation will discover it."

The next year M&S published the new edition in paperback. It was an uninspired effort. The covers are ugly, the introduction is the same as the 1963 NCL edition with no mention of the changes and, finally, it is not clear what the book is. The front cover says complete and unexpurgated but the back cover says fifth reprint. So is this the sixth printing of the new edition? No it's the first printing but the sixth printing of N 34.

N 34 - 1963

N 34 - 1963 back

N 34 - 1977

N 34 - 1977 back

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