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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

Cabin Fever: The Best New Canadian Non-Fiction

Reviewed: January 12, 2010
By: edited by Moira Farr and Ian Pearson
Publisher: Thomas Allen Publishers
336 pages, $24.95

I might take exception to the notion that this title could be given to any book not set in the North except for Marni Jackson’s explanation of how things work at the Leighton Artist’s Colony in Banff. The 13 writers collected here have all spent time wrestling with their prose in one of the eight studio cabins that are the working homes of writers in the Literary Journalism program.

To judge from these contents, the program encourages writers to explore aspects of their lives and perhaps their obsessions in a very personal way. This the kind of writing that seems to turn up in magazines like Walrus, Geist, Harpers and Atlantic, writing that is both informed and personal, sometimes bordering on the too personal.

For all that, however, it is interesting creative non-fiction with a dash both reality and invention in the mix. Here, we read of the search for the perfect absinthe or oysters, driving lessons in Rome, tree planting, attempts to bridge the gap between generations, siblings and cultures, and explorations in the worlds of blue frogs and whales.

I won’t pretend that I enjoyed them all equally, but I gave the book an hour a day for about two weeks and it’s a keeper. I wonder how you get to stay in one of those cabins.

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