28 August 2012

Collecting Norman Levine (Arts '48)

A collector writes today in response to my column in the new Norman Levine issue of Canadian Notes & Queries: "You mentioned that you asked Levine if you could use one of his stories in an anthology. Was it ever published?"

Indeed it was. The story in question, "My Karsh Picture" was included in Classics Canada, Book 2 (Prentice-Hall Canada, 1994), the second of six ESL textbooks I co-edited with Patricia Brock.

Looking it over all these years later, I see that the story appears between Daniel David Moses' "King of the Raft" and "April Fish" by Mavis Gallant; selections by Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies, Irving Layton, bonnet-babe Susanna Moodie and a bunch of other CanLit names also feature.

Must admit that despite my great admiration and appreciation, I've never really collected Levine's work myself. I have only five of his books, my favourite being a copy of the Porcupine's Quill Canada Made Me, which he inscribed nineteen years ago at Westmount's Double Hook Bookstore.

My most cherished Levine items are those I inherited from my father: the 1947 and 1948 issues of Forge, McGill's University's literary magazine.

These three issues feature some of Levine's earliest published work, most of it uncollected: the poems "Myssium", "Circles", "It Was a Dull Day", "Autumn" and "A Dead Airman Speaks"; the short story "Our Life is to Be Envied"; and "Prologue", which would today be described as creative non-fiction. Levine served as Poetry Editor in the 1947 issues and was elevated to Editor for the lone 1948 number.

Old McGill '48
He and my father attended McGill at the same time and were in the same faculty and graduating class. I don't know that they ever encountered one another. I like to think so. Both R.C.A.F. vets, they had a good deal in common.

Old McGill '48

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