Monthly Archives: July 2014

Reflections on HUM, NEO, and LETS

What was really surprising about Bibian Bovet, the trans-sexual former prostitute, eventually rejected municipal political candidate, and, most startling of all, advocate of a new currency, was that she surfaced in Montreal. She would have appeared a far less astonishing arrival in Vancouver, where even her ideas about barter and currency innovation would have seemed less remarkable to locals already using a currency of their own called Seedstock.

British Columbia has long been the favoured destination of colourful people with unconventional ideas, afflicted by what I call HUM, or Harmless Utopian Madness. Harmless, because not advocating subversion or violence; utopian, not because all the unconventional ideas are foolish, but because they are advanced with little sense of the world’s vast indifference; madness, because even what are begun as highly rationalist political or economic programs take on the character of lifelong religious obsessions. The B. C. HUM tradition was launched by the provincial Premier of the 1870s, Amor de Cosmos, prospector, entrepreneur, journalist, and orator, who was declared insane in his last years. Ever since, HUM, while found worldwide, has in B. C. reached almost Californian proportions. It lives in small Vancouver bookstores, in little colonies in the interior, and even in occasional grand conferences. And one of the permanent manifestations of HUM is the pursuit of the good society through some heterodox reform of banking and currency.

These schemes become more significant in eras of broad and deep discontent with capitalism. The odd HUM even turns into a real political force. In 19th century France, the followers of the unworldly Henri de Saint-Simon, who strangely imagined himself a disciple of Isaac Newton, first turned themselves into a mystical sect, devoted to bringing about a ‘marriage’ between the ‘male’ civilization of Europe and the ‘female’ one of Asia. That meant they gave passionate early support to the development of transportation networks, including both the building of railways and of the Suez Canal. The white-robed, groupie-trailing Saint-Simonian guru, Prosper Enfantin, started out as the Son of God and ended as president of a railway company. Europe and America have provided several more recent examples of individuals who went from HUM to highly successful careers as entrepreneurial capitalists.

Furthermore, most economic HUM, even of the clearly crank variety, has still held a certain amount of insight. Not everything argued by the Single-Taxer Henry George, the Social Crediter Major Douglas, or the Nobel-Prize-winning Oxford Chemist, Frederick Soddy, was pure folly. But while even less-known to the Canadian general public, the most durable, intellectually respectable, and interesting economic HUM has been that of the followers of the German businessman, anarchist, and economic thinker, Silvio Gesell (1862-1930). The B. C. interior even used to have a colony dedicated to following the principles of NEO – the Natural Economic Order – the English title of Gesell’s most important book – and other such colonies are sprinkled all over the earth.

Gesell began a successful career as a businessman and financier in Buenos Aires in the 1880s, and moved back and forth between Germany, Argentina, and Switzerland throughout his life. He was almost ruined in a terrific Argentinian crash of 1890 and the subsequent long depression, and was led to reflect long and hard on the nature of banking, interest, and national currencies.

Even economically literate present readers may have scarcely heard of Gesell, or at most recall him faintly from a brief reference in a history of economic thought. But even a brief web consultation shows that he was never regarded by academic professionals in economics as a crank and complete outsider, in the manner of George or Major Douglas. The complete text of The Natural Economic Order can be found on the web, and on its original English publication, it was praised by a substantial array of famous economists, including two Nobel Prize winners. Not only that, Maynard Keynes gave an admiring summary of Gesell’s ideas in his General Theory.

The summary can be found on the web as well. Keynes described Gesell as a ‘strange, unduly neglected prophet who only just failed to reach down to the essence of the matter’. He also recognized HUM on the way: ‘Gesell…became the revered prophet of a cult with many thousand disciples throughout the world…Since his death in 1930, much of [this] peculiar type of fervour…has been diverted to other in my opinion less eminent prophets…I believe that the future will learn more from the spirit of Gesell than from that of Marx.’ He also thought that Gesell’s work was not really complete, and he pointed out some weaknesses, but still pronounced the main principles as sound.

Gesell’s big idea was that interest on money sets a limit on the growth of real capital. Money is different from other assets because of its absence of ‘carrying costs’, and can be kept out of productive use. Keynes agreed with Gesell that the overall rate of interest over centuries of time had been shown to be remarkably stable. He also thought there was nothing wrong in principle with Gesell’s proposal of ‘stamped’ currency: notes which had to be regularly updated by weekly buying and affixing stamps for some agreed fraction of their face value, preventing banks and other money holders from storing value merely by sitting on their holdings. The idea was also tried in 1930s Alberta by the Aberhart Social Credit government, but had this swiftly disallowed by the Canadian federal government. The inconvenience of the procedure never made it any overpowering rival of ordinary national currencies, but Gesell’s additional proposal for a kind of communitarian anarcho-capitalism was more successful In fact, Switzerland has had a functioning community bank of this kind since 1934, called ‘WIR'; Bibiane Bovet cited its example in her letter to investors.

Gesell and several similar English, French, Belgian and German interwar economic theorists were largely successful businessmen. engineers, or scientists, often broadly educated, but with limited academic credentials. However, they all understood something vital about currencies that is sometimes forgotten by Wall Street megabankers and distinguished professors, which is that the way currencies function as either a store of value or a medium of exchange depends ultimately on trust. While his ideas attracted thousands of people worldwide in the 1930s, they stayed in the realm of HUM because of factors like the rise of the dictators, another World War, and then the bipolar Cold War that followed.

But what has been happening since the 1990s has been something new in the long history of LETS (‘Local Exchange Trading Systems‘). Steadily improving computer hardware and software available to individuals have already led to a huge proliferation of alternative currencies, now electronic, for every purpose from computer gaming to shopping for produce. Currencies are coming to be recognized as ‘brands’, that can be competitively assessed. So the prophecy of Keynes that the world would eventually owe more to the spirit of Gesell than the spirit of Marx may finally be coming true. And Ms. Bovet, despite sounding a bit weird, and having troubles with the Financial Markets Authority, may yet turn out to be one of the prophets of tomorrow’s world.

PAH Fourteenth 2013 Article

Published on November 4, 2013, in the Prince Arthur Herald as A theory on Harmless Utopian Madness

The Values Charter as Jumbo Shrimp

If demonstrable failures in logically consistent reasoning were a punishable criminal offence, most politicians would be in jail. Quebec nationalists would be especially likely to be forced to don striped suits, facing charges as habitual offenders. There is little hope of seeing this appealing fantasy realized, so it is more useful to examine why so many self-contradictory expressions and propositions, scourged in philosophy and law classrooms, are so readily advanced in politics, nationalist politics especially.

For movements seeking ambitious changes, there is an unstated first principle: sauce for the goose must never be sauce for the gander. The principle is mandatory when trying to rouse any new sense of moral entitlement. It is always hypocritical, requiring selective targets and selective outrage. At the moment, for example, gay political activists are making loud noises about the ‘anti-gay propaganda’ stance of Vladimir Putin, while being almost mute about the many countries in which homosexuality is illegal, unlike Russia, and treated with far more savagery.

Similarly, in Quebec and elsewhere, many of the most ardent advocates of interventionist government policies aimed at re-arranging public behaviour are graduates of expensive private schools intended to enter them into high prestige employments and expensive neighbourhoods, comfortably remote from any unpleasant consequences of the improvements they favour. Compulsory rules are for the geese; protection from the farmyard for the ganders.

Quebec’s nationalist politicians, who represent only an uncertain aspiration at best, have always found it difficult to transform the projections of their egos into the shared purposes of a broad electoral base. If a large and enduring majority shared their views, a party like the PQ would scarcely need to exist. There have been exciting moments when nationalists have almost conceded this possibility. In June of 1990, when Robert Bourassa had to rise in the Quebec legislature to formally acknowledge the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, Jacques Parizeau, then the Official Opposition Leader, walked across the floor and embraced the Liberal Premier. Not long afterwards, with his usual unmatched flair for dropping bricks, he declared in public, “I or Bourassa will lead Quebec to sovereignty.”

However, the fevers of 1990 subsided, and when Parizeau led the province into the 1995 Referendum vote, even after calling on the more charismatic Lucien Bouchard for assistance, their combined forces could not raise a ‘Yes’ vote of over 50%. The demographic changes since then augur still lower percentage limits for any future referendum. Francophone immigrants, and children of non-francophone immigrants raised in French, might feel little emotional attachment to Canada, but have largely become trilingual Montrealers, not enthralled by separatist dreams either.

Hence the PQ is now a party founded on an ‘option’ that does not exist. It has become otherwise largely defined by deference to the interests of the public sector unions and to the mass agitation of college students; declining political assets, even for holding their off-Montreal voting base.

Their current attempt to escape this blind alley, the so-called ‘Values Charter’, is another oxymoron in its own right, like Bill 101’s accompanying ‘Charter of the French Language’, proposing the kind of legislation that ‘charters’ are normally intended to prevent. While it is obviously a gamble for electoral advantage, its many critics have been dismayed that it seems to be having some success at just that. However, its elite and popular francophone support can not be simply dismissed as being based on ‘bigotry’ alone. It also displays a local fondness for yet another tacit oxymoron, best called ‘cosmopolitan parochialism’.

The ‘old’ French Catholic pre-1960s Quebec was never as cloistered and confined as the approving mythology of Lionel Groulx had it. But its main intermediary relationship with the wider world for two centuries was through English language, political institutions, and business. But that was changed, not only by the newer kind of political nationalism, but by the Trudeau government’s formal endorsement of ‘multiculturalism’ in a 1971 Act of that name. When Keith Spicer, the frequently indiscreet first Official Languages Commissioner, was interviewed on CBC English TV in the 1970s, he described the Act as a ‘bribe’ (his word) for ‘ethnic’ Canadians, especially in the West, to get them to accept Official Bilingualism. Cynical Ottawa bureaucrats treated it as being little more than a program of new subsidies for ‘dance, diet, and dress’.

In Quebec, on the other hand, it was regarded with suspicion, as possibly establishing the notion that the French Canada could become just another tile in the big mosaic, not just in the rest of Canada, but in Montreal. However, even nationalists wanting to jettison more and more ‘trans-Canadian’ institutions have also become anxious to avoid being identified as the partisans of a narrowly tribal French Canadian movement, ‘Opened to the world’ by modern mass media and by travel, they have sought some outside additional authentication. The U. S., anglophone and individualistic, will not do. The consequence has been a superficial but politically significant turning of eyes to Europe.

European countries have never had the Western Hemisphere’s welcoming assumptions about immigrants, and has clearly been having real problems with Muslim ones. Especially over the last seven years or so, their leaders have been taking a harder and harder line on both immigration in genera and the whole concept of multiculturalism. The recently re-elected Angela Merkel has flatly declared the latter a failure, to a standing ovation at the last convention of her party. David Cameron has agreed. France has been moving in the same direction for years now; even the traditionally tolerant Dutch and Scandinavians have changed course. General European apprehensions have clearly been increased by high youth unemployment, but there is also alarm about Muslims showing little inclination to assimilate or even partially integrate into their host societies, instead withdrawing into sullen urban enclaves, maintained more by welfare payments and petty crime than gradually improving paid employment.

Pauline Marois may not have all that detailed an understanding of these developments, as was revealed in her quickly-withdrawn but expedient comments that multiculturalist Britain is now plagued by constant bomb-tossing. She got her message out, and it is about more than visible head coverings. The ‘Values Charter’ requires a mask of it own; the dual pretence about the existence of a new ‘sacredness’ of a ‘secular’ Quebec state and society, dodging the obvious observation that the largest single religion in contemporary Quebec is collectivist political nationalism itself, and the additional one that this province can pick and choose immigrants and shape their urban cultural behaviour, while continuing to drive out the Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and miscellaneous who would have been most likely to provide the province with adequate future tax revenue. Perhaps they should raise a statue to the 19th century New England Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson, who maintained that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Across the frontiers of time and space, great windbags reach out to each other and touch, convinced that, through the magic of language they are able to convert very bad-smelling prawns into tasty jumbo shrimp.

PAH Thirteenth 2013 Article


A Logical Paradox and a Historical Quarrel

About 600 B. C., Epimenides, a Cretan, declared that all Cretans lie all the time. This seemed to imply that, if he was telling the truth, he was lying, and vice versa. Philosophers have wrestled with this apparent logical paradox ever since. Some think they have successfully resolved it, by introducing devices like different ‘levels of language’, but it still makes ordinary readers uncomfortable.

The paradox in pure logic disappears if qualifiers are added, instead providing something like this: ‘Epimenides was a Cretan who claimed to belong to the .1% of Cretans who did not lie all the time, and felt himself justified in claiming that 99.9% of Cretans did.’ But this introduces a different kind of problem, one about history and historians. Finding the truth about Epimendes and his fellow Cretans could be just as difficult, and even more complicated. The qualified and non-contradictory statement brings in three new levels, since it requires some kind of documentary source, at least one historian of the Cretans to produce the statement, and at least one reader to assess it. There may not be much real evidence about Cretans living in 600 B. C., or that Epimenides even existed. Unlike the philosophical logician, the historian can not just postulate him, and proceed from there. The historian’s reader has something else to worry about, which is whether the historian seeks above all to increase understanding of life and thought in Cretan antiquity, or is more concerned with pleasing a contemporary Cretan political party or the Cretan chamber of commerce.

This latter problem is a central one, whether in thinking about the remote past or just the last half-century, and in decisions of what to teach about both. A century ago, it was believed that history with temporal remoteness was a real advantage in reaching truth; learning about the Greeks and Romans was seen as the best way to discover the real nature of historical change, in language, thought, and action, undistorted by confusing present noise. That concept of history could not be maintained through the rise of mass public education in the 20th century, which brought demands for the formal study of more recent years, but that also brought more uncertain and divided counsels about just how modern historical studies should be composed. For most of the 20th Century, the usual common replacement for classics in liberal college and university education in Europe and North America has been one or two survey courses ranging from antiquity to the present. Only students ‘specializing’ in history would take more chronologically defined courses, like ‘Europe 1914-45′, or thematic ones, like ‘Science and the Enlightenment’.

But ‘history’, conceived as a required study in public educational institutions, has also frequently been something quite different from broad surveys or broad themes. Governments frequently instead try to impose some kind of ‘history of the nation’. That involves some serious limitations even when the ‘nation’ is a very old and broadly influential entity, like one of the major European countries, or at least a large one, like the United States or Brazil. But applied to small and even would-be ‘nations’, such courses can at most be justifiable as useful instruction in civics or local government. Especially when imbued with political myth, it is pretension and even near-fraud to call such courses ‘history’. Even if well-taught, the initial premise represents the near-opposite of what the study of history was originally intended to do, which was to broaden the mental horizons of students.

Nationalist politicians, however, seldom ponder such distinctions. The current minority PQ government has recently announced that it plans to introduce a compulsory cegep course in the history of Quebec. But this suggests both a short memory and a deficient understanding. The two consecutive majority PQ governments of 1976 – 1984 tried to do the same thing. They claimed public support, the personal enthusiasm of Rene Lévesque and his cabinet, and the initial support of the majority of the history teachers on their provincial curriculum committee, most of them in those days young francophones cheering on the projet nationale. But the compulsory course in the history of Quebec still failed to arrive, even after eight years. The reasons were instructive about the wider history of our own times.

When that previous attempt was launched in 1977, I was one of the history teachers on the curriculum committee, representing John Abbott College, and like all the anglos and a few francophones on the committee, I was part of a minority opposed to such a compulsory course. Our opposition made the case that if there was to be any single compulsory course at all, it should be a broad background survey of our common roots, extending back long before the founding of New France, and taking in more general European history. We were politely received; Aaron Krishtalka of Dawson College drew special praise (“Bonne adresse!”) even from voting opponents, for his eloquent and closely-reasoned argument for European history. We didn’t win over their votes, but over the following years, watched gusto for the ‘national’ course fade, for more ironic reasons.

What stymied the introduction of the course was not so much our case as was a devaluation that had happened to the study of history everywhere, the combined effect of the ultra ‘presentist’ 1965-75 era and of proliferating extreme specialization and multiplication of disciplines, including in the cegeps. With that came the implicit idea that history of any kind was ‘just another course;’, like psychology or computer programming. The space that once would have been available for it was already filled with four compulsory courses in ‘philosophie’ (‘humanities’ in the anglo colleges), and by the additional optional but popular courses in ‘social sciences’. All were now given by unionized teachers, most with immovable tenure. The mercurial flow of the cegeps in their opening years at the end of the 1960s had been swiftly replaced by entrenched silos of hardening bureaucratic concrete, growing harder every year.

Over fifteen years after I first attended the history curriculum committee, I was elected on the West Island for the protest Equality Party. I almost immediately became an independent voting member of the Education Committee of the Legislature, remaining on it for the five years of 1990-1994. The Liberals, like the PQ before them, run through a long series of Ministers of Education, most of them not doing much. However, by the start of the 1990s, a rising roar of discontent with the cegeps was being heard from business, the universities, and the general public. Furthermore, this coincided with the arrival at the Education Ministry of Claude Ryan, who had the intellectual depth, assurance, and firm authority to break through bureaucratic concrete and make things happen. I was happy to find, not only that his own strong preference for a compulsory history course was for the same kind of broad survey that Aaron Krishtalka and I had advocated many years before, but that the change could be implemented by taking a slice from the union hiring halls of philosophie/humanities. Even the PQ opposition was desultory rather than passionate.

My experiences on both the curriculum committee of the 1970s and the legislature committee of the 1990s lead me to suspect that the current PQ government, even if it should happen to win a majority in the next provincial election, will be no more successful with this renewed project for compulsory ‘national’ history than its predecessors. I also doubt that if the change were carried out, it would do much more to propagate separatist nationalism. What is taught in history courses always depends more on who teaches them than on even the most detailed calendar requirements, and Quebec history teachers of the new century are now largely a mixture of near-retirement baby boomers and newly hired 20-somethings. If they have any unified ideological inclination, it is probably represented by Denys Arcand’s trilogy of progressive disillusionment, from The Decline of the American Empire to The Barbarian Invasions and The Dark Ages.

The real weakness of college history teaching today is not local, but universal: that still-existing disastrous notion that history is ‘just another subject’, when it should really be, like language itself, one of the foundation stones of all adult understanding of the world. As Alfred North Whitehead once remarked, you can be provincial in time as well as in space, and that is a besetting sin of this era. Survey mandatory courses, if well-taught, at least reduce some of that temporal provincialism. Mandatory college instruction in the history of Quebec comes closer to offering the historians’ variation of the paradox of Epimenides. All good historians try to tell the truth, but all historians restricted to the narrowly particular are offering a lie about what history should teach.
PAH Twelfth 2013 Article.


Of Mice and Magnanimity

Pascal Covici was a Romanian Jewish immigrant who came to the U.S. as a twelve-year-old with his family just before the start of the 20th century. In the 1920s, he became a bookseller and editor, and by the 1930s was running a high quality small publishing house called Covici-Friede. He was sometimes the target of self appointed guardians of public virtue, as when he was the first publisher in the U.S. of Radcliffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, the first ‘above ground’ book to deal openly and sympathetically with lesbianism, and when he published books that were a great deal better, but heavily laced with profanity and obscenity by the standards of the time. Covici-Friede, always on an insecure financial footing at the best of times, disappeared after 1939, but how the firm failed, and what Covici did afterwards remain a story of permanent interest.

Covici was for years the publisher and friend of John Steinbeck. He ‘discovered’ Steinbeck, but the early years of his discovery were ruinous. Steinbeck apparently came to him with one of his first books in the early 1930s, and Covici thought it good, but told Steinbeck it would never sell. He chose, however, to publish it anyway. He was right; the book got some friendly reviews, but had very poor sales, so that Covici lost money. Steinbeck came to him with another book, and Covici again told him that it was good but would not sell, nonetheless publishing it anyway, and losing even more money. There may even have been a third such expensive plunge. Finally, at the end of the 1930s, Steinbeck came up with Of Mice and Men.

Mice was a huge success, but too late; Covici went broke. However, he moved to Viking Press. A much larger publisher. as an editor, taking Steinbeck with him. Hence he was still responsible for the publication of The Grapes of Wrath, and later Steinbeck novels, stories, and journalism as well. Steinbeck became both a critical and popular success from then on, with the cinematic Grapes, starring Henry Fonda, becoming and still remaining the iconic film about the Great Depression. It has been widely held that there was some decline in the quality of Steinbeck’s later work, but he still won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature. He also became personally friendly with Lyndon Johnson, and was a hawk on the Vietnam War, in which his son fought, thus falling out of favour with his liberal former admirers, much as they had turned against John Dos Passos and James T. Farrell in in their own later politically incorrect years.

Steinbeck’s books, at least Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, and Cannery Row remain assigned readings on many high school and college courses in American literature, and have retained some popularity among general readers as well. But I have an additional reason for memorializing Pascal Covici, beyond his dogged resolution in bringing Steinbeck to the world. The failure of his publishing house gave him less freedom and opportunities to cultivate promising new writers in the way he had with Steinbeck, but he moved on to launch a great internal enterprise at Viking of a different kind. I don’t know whether it was entirely his own idea, or whether he had been influenced by the example on the other side of the Atlantic provided by Allen Lane, who was quickly moving from the original narrow range of his green paperback Penguin reprints to other lines issued in different colours, like the more scholarly pale blue Pelicans, But in any case, Covici created something entirely different of his own. He began the publication of a long series of thick reprints of 600-700 pages, also released in relatively inexpensive paperbacks, generally called ‘Portables’. Most were devoted to a single notable writer or scholar, like The Portable Swift or The Portable Voltaire. A few were more wide-ranging anthologies, like The Portable Elizabethan Reader.

For me, and I am sure for many of my close contemporaries in age, the ‘Portables’ made up a large proportion of my real liberal education in my undergraduate and graduate years. They were at least as important as even the best courses my friends and I took in literature, philosophy, and history, many of the introductory survey courses in all of these once being almost identical at all Canadian universities. These courses sometimes assigned a ‘Portable’ or two, but in my own case, and I think that of many other young people of the period from about the end of World war II to the early 1960s, we read several more of them, sometimes re-read favourite ones, and were also frequently be led on to additional works by the same authors. Each book was edited by a distinguished scholar in his own right, providing useful assistance, but no overwhelming scholarly apparatus, and contained one or two large pieces, either complete plays or novellas or long extracts from novels or philosophical studies, and shorter stories, essays, and poems.

I have now forgotten a great deal of what was in these books, even some of my favourites of the time, but I have no doubt at all that they changed my overall understanding, reasoning, and taste. I was not all that fond of the Elizabethans, and may not have finished that particular collection, but otherwise, I read the complete volumes with fascination and great pleasure. Not necessarily in this order, I recall reading all of the following: The Portable Plato; The Portable Chaucer; The Portable Voltaire; The Portable Milton; The Portable Defoe; The Portable Swift; The Portable Nietzsche; The Portable Thomas Mann, and The Portable Mencken; perhaps one or two more that I can’t recall. I still have some scattered around my bookshelves. Pulling down my long-treasured Portable Swift, 600 pages, edited by Carl Van Doren, which I bought over half a century ago, I find that the green-and-red soft cardboard jacket lists its price as $1.25 ($1.45 in Canada). The inside cover has a summary bio of Swift at the top, and of Carl Van Doren at the bottom, and the facing page outlines the scope and purpose of the whole series.

Covici died in 1964, but Penguin, which swallowed Viking many years ago now, keeps at least some Portables in print today, which are unchanged in content, but have brighter and glossier covers, and now cost about twenty times as much in our cheaper dollars. The older I get, the more I have come to realize how much all of us who want to read and learn and understand owe to good publishers and editors, and I wonder how many suitably apprenticed and gifted ones are still appearing today. The fine ones of the past sometimes came from modest origins, like Covici himself, often from impecunious but cultivated European Jewish immigrants to England, the U. S. and Canada. Others have been drawn from monied old families, but even these ones usually did their work in small quality houses. Some of the latter are still being born, but are more easily drowned out than ever before, not only by the increasing concentration of a few giant octopuses like Penguin and HarperCollins, but also by the mixed blessing of e-books and Kindle readers.

I didn’t really appreciate the thought and care that had gone into Covici’s Portables when I was in my teens and twenties, despite the admiring blurbs on their jackets from scholars and newspaper reviewers, and I would guess most other young readers little pondered these matters either. Perhaps many readers never do think much about such things. In my own case, I happened to work for some years in bookstores and for university libraries, which eventually drove home to me what a fine thing had been done for me and for the world by Pascal Covici.

He was no model of how to be a profitable publisher, that role better filled by Michael Korda at Simon & Schuster, But he was a model of another virtue required of a civilized society, of magananimity. Covici was magnanimous both in the generosity and courage he displayed in bringing out a new writer like Steinbeck, and in the vision he showed in revivifying great old ones in his Portables. Jack McClelland showed a similar magnanimity in launching Canadian writers and reprinting valuable older ones, but I was more impressed by Covici, who gave fresh life to the literature and thought of a larger world. I hope our e-book age can still produce some new version of him. Perhaps some young contributor or reader of The Prince Arthur Herald will qualify. He or she might also, like Covici, respond to being given a lemon by thinking of a way to make another new kind of lemonade.

PAH Eleventh 2013 Article    08/08/2013