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As For Sinclair Ross

As For Sinclair Ross

David Stouck
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 350
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  • Book Info
    As For Sinclair Ross
    Book Description:

    As for Sinclair Rossis the story of a remarkable writer whose works continue to challenge us and are rightly considered classics of Canadian literature.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5744-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. one Wild Rose 1908–1915
    (pp. 3-9)

    When James Sinclair Ross was born on 22 January 1908, it was a bitterly cold day in the bush country of northern Saskatchewan, but winter wasn’t the only adversity attending his birth. His father had brought home a Native woman, Mary Belle Clifford, to assist with the delivery of his third child.¹ Mrs Clifford was well known in the Shellbrook area as a skilled midwife and a kindly woman, but she had asked for a strong drink – ‘a toddy of rum,’ she said, ‘to warm her fingers.’ Peter Ross handed her the bottle and went out to the stable to...

  6. two The Housekeeper’s Son 1916–1924
    (pp. 10-25)

    To make a living for herself and her son, Kate Ross worked as a housekeeper for the next nine years. The boy’s relation to the world was significantly altered; where he lived was no longer ‘home,’ but a transitory workplace where he was the son of the housekeeper. Sometimes he and his mother shared the same room. The first time they left Wild Rose, Kate worked for an elderly couple in Regina named Forsythe. She kept warning her son not to touch things: ‘Remember, they’re not ours.’ Occasionally he would slip away and play with a couple of small children...

  7. three Bank Clerk 1924–1929
    (pp. 26-41)

    In the summer of 1924, Jim was back at Sid Ketcheson’s farm with his mother, and life was much as before. He had the same bedroom in the large house and the same chores to perform. Sid chose his hired hands carefully, and the same men returned each year. Lady was there to ride about the farm and occasionally into town, and she could still ‘strike sparks’ from the imagination. The crops were good that summer – the rains came regularly and gently – and there was a general feeling of prosperity in the area. This was the third time that Jim...

  8. four Musician 1929–1933
    (pp. 42-68)

    In June of 1929, the piano teacher, Frank Woodbury, answered a knock at the door to find a shy, vaguely familiar-looking young man standing on the threshold of his parents’ home in Arcola.¹ Jimmy Ross identified himself and, in a little speech he had prepared in advance, carefully explained his visit. He was twenty-one years old and working for the Royal Bank of Canada in Lancer, but he was discouraged by the prospect of a life-long career in the bank and dreamed of making his living as a musician. There was a transfer position open at the Arcola branch of...

  9. five Winnipeg 1933–1938
    (pp. 69-91)

    Kate had only been back in Arcola for a week when Jim was informed by the bank that he was being transferred to Winnipeg. As he read the notice, Jim felt misgivings and simultaneously a sense of injury at being moved about against his will. He still liked Arcola. It was a substantial and safe little community, its citizens no better or worse than most, and he had come to play an agreeable if minor part in its daily affairs. Moreover, his emotional life was still bound up with his Arcola friends – Dorothy Cornell, Keith Clarke, Forbes Murray, Isabel Gill,...

  10. six Days with Pegasus 1938–1941
    (pp. 92-106)

    The period from 1938 to 1942 is at the centre of Sinclair Ross’s creativity; it was his high tide. Between the age of thirty and thirty-four, he wrote several of his best stories, including ‘The Painted Door,’ ‘Cornet at Night,’ and ‘One’s a Heifer’; he also wrote two novels, most importantlyAs for Me and My House, upon which his reputation as a major Canadian writer squarely rests, and he planned a third in some detail. It was a time of creativity unaided by public interest or support, and it came to a premature close with the author’s enlistment in...

  11. seven As for Me and My House 1941
    (pp. 107-123)

    The genesis and the writing ofAs for Me and My House, described in the previous chapter, culminated in the novel’s publication in New York on Valentine’s Day of 1941. The timing can only be viewed as ironic, since this novel hardly celebrates romantic love, but the timing was unfortunate in a larger sense. The novel’s realism reflected back an era that had just closed and there was little public interest in reading about the Depression and dust storms. The world, now plunged into war, still wanted escapist entertainment. American reviewers hardly knew what to say about a book which...

  12. eight War Years 1942–1946
    (pp. 124-138)

    The friendship that Jim had established with Roy Daniells and Doris Saunders at the university brought a request for a story for the winter 1941–2 issue of theManitoba Arts Review. Jim appreciated their enthusiasm for his work but was reluctant to break from the novel-length project to write something new. With the New York publication ofAs for Me and My House, however unimpressive the response, he was determined to move away from small academic magazines and break into the mass markets for fiction. His dream of having a large audience for his work and of tending his...

  13. nine Montreal 1946–1952
    (pp. 139-160)

    Jim’s overseas service came to an end on 28 January 1946, and he was demobilized March 22,¹ at which point he was faced with an array of options for the future. Forms completed for the Department of Veterans Affairs, as he was about to leave the army, reveal that Jim had hoped first to complete the novel he was working on, and then to be employed at the University of Manitoba teaching in the English Department for two years. He would subsequently complete an arts degree, he reported, with the hope of being taken back on staff. Jim had in...

  14. ten The Well 1954–1960
    (pp. 161-180)

    In a Christmas greeting for 1954, Jim wrote to John Gray at Macmillan saying he had been hard at work that year on a new manuscript and hoped to have something to show him in two or three months time.¹ Gray replied in his buoyant fashion that he was delighted to hear Jim was writing again, especially to hear he was writing about the West. The combination, he said, should make a good book, and they would look forward to it eagerly.² (Gray had kept in touch with Jim, even though Macmillan turned down the shortstory proposal, and when he...

  15. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  16. eleven Whir of Gold 1961–1971
    (pp. 181-207)

    The failure ofThe Wellto find either critical approval or a popular readership further narrowed Jim’s writing life. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he toyed with ideas for stories and novels, but felt too discouraged to do much writing.The Well,he felt, had taken a big chunk out of his life, and he was not prepared to let that happen again. He no longer pushed himself to sit at his typewriter in the evenings. After work he would read in his apartment or go to the movies, alone; on weekends he sometimes went to the theatre,...

  17. twelve Tourist 1971–1973
    (pp. 208-218)

    In early fall of 1970, Jim had spent a month travelling through much of Spain, and he wrote to Lorraine and Keath Fraser that he liked very much what he saw and was ‘tempted.’¹ In mid-March of 1971, he moved from Athens to Barcelona, in letters to friends giving language as the chief reason for the move. To Margaret Laurence he wrote:

    ... it’s the old story, I just can’t learn the damned language (and am spending too much time trying). They understand me, but I don’t understand them. It isolates me, makes it difficult to know people, and moreover...

  18. thirteen Sawbones Memorial 1973–1975
    (pp. 219-241)

    March 1973 saw Jim hard at work on one of the ideas for a novel he had discussed with Sheila Kieran – the story of a Saskatchewan Prairie doctor on the eve of his retirement. He described the project in a letter to me this way:

    ... what I’m embarked on now is something in the nature of an experiment – at least for me ... I’m using very plain material – I’m sure you could call it pure prairie corn -but it’s the method of presenting it which interests me. Dialogue and some stream-of-consciousness musings – not a word of connective tissue, not...

  19. fourteen Literary Forefather 1975–1982
    (pp. 242-261)

    The ‘don’t feel sorry for me’ letter to Margaret Laurence and the silence that ensued mark Jim’s gradual withdrawal from Canada’s literary establishment. The poor sales forSawbones Memorial, its failure to make the Governor General’s Award list, and the problems he was having with ‘Price above Rubies’ were eroding what self-confidence he had accumulated during the last couple of years. Given his repeated failure to win a popular audience for his work, he was increasingly glad that he had remained with the bank and could now enjoy the security of his pension. In a letter to Ken Mitchell, who...

  20. fifteen Suicide 1982–1988
    (pp. 262-275)

    In Vancouver, Keath Fraser had offered to see what might be available in the way of apartments in the city’s West End and then wrote on 1 February 1982 to say that he had rented a place for Jim on Comox Street in a building ‘up against the rhododendrons of Stanley Park.’¹ It was a pleasant, one-bedroom apartment on the fifth floor (the building was thirteen years old), and it looked down on the street and to the park’s tall trees. From the dining-room window there was a glimpse of English Bay, and sitting out on his balcony he would...

  21. sixteen The Order of Canada 1988–1996
    (pp. 276-298)

    Life did improve for Jim in the late 1980s, as he had hoped. Not only was he enjoying some renewed attention for his writing, but in the spring of 1988 he got a private room at the Brock Fahrni Pavilion; it would turn out to be his home space longer than any other room in which he had ever lived. Keath Fraser had stored most of Jim’s belongings in the basement of his house, but he was now able to bring a few of those things to the hospital to create a more aesthetically pleasing environment for his friend. These...

  22. Notes
    (pp. 299-328)
  23. Bibliography
    (pp. 329-336)
  24. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 337-338)
  25. Index
    (pp. 339-353)