Genius of Place (Polestar $24.95)

In her 1947 novel Hetty Dorval, Ethel Wilson wrote “To some, the genius of a place is inimical; to some it is kind... My genius of place is a god of water.”

For editors David Stouck of SFU and Myler Wilkinson of Selkirk College, their Genius of Place (Polestar $24.95) is an anthology of 29 B.C. non-fiction pieces from the earliest days of European exploration to Bill Richardson.

It starts with the famous ‘Narrative of Adventures and Sufferings’ by John R. Jewitt, published in 1815, to recall Jewitt’s capture by Nootka and to replicate the commercial success of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe.

“Anyone who presumes to map a literary tradition by making a first anthology,” says Stouck, “will not only experience the pleasure of discovering writers, but must wrestle with the humbling fact that choices are arbitrary.”

Along the way the editors stopped to smell the roses—literally, Lancaster roses—with Gray Campbell in Sidney, visited Hilary Stewart on Quadra Island, talked to Hugh Brody on the other side of the Atlantic, met with Arthur Erickson in his False Creek offices and shared a glass of wine with Helen Meilleur in her North Shore apartment.

Meilleur is one of their ‘finds’. Born and raised in Port Simpson, just south of the Nass River, she spent the first five years of her life on the Tsimshean reserve where her parents operated a fur-trading and general store. In her only book, A Pour of Rain (1980), Meilleur combines personal recollections with details from the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Fort Simpson journals.

“Nearing ninety,” Stouck says, “and astonishingly vital, she ended our talk with the sly observation, ‘I fear I shall live to a great age’.” 1-896095-48-8

[BCBW Summer 2000]