Monday, December 8, 2008

Review of T.B.R. Newspaper Pieces by Thomas B. Roberton

The first winner of the Governor General's Award in the category of non-fiction (1936) is:

T.B.R. Newspaper Pieces by Thomas B. Roberton

This is a collection of newspaper articles written by Thomas B. Roberton, columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press from 1918-1936. The book was assembled posthumously by J.B. McGeachy. It includes a smattering of articles on a variety of subjects from the early twentieth century. Surprisingly, there are few articles relating to Winnipeg itself. Perhaps this was a conscious decision by McGeachy to reach and to appeal to a broader audience.

While the book demonstrates Roberton's significant literary talents, it's hard to gain any sort of larger sense of the work. Upon completing my reading, I was struck by Roberton's strong concern for his native Scotland and for Canada, but it is hard to see any stronger, underlying theme, other than perhaps Christianity. Obviously, since these are newspaper columns, they tend not to lend themselves to larger issues. However, I must take issue with McGeachy's selection and ordering of articles based on ''variety in reading'' (Roberton xv).

Overall, the book represents an interesting sample from a talented newspaper columnist, but as a whole, it falls short.

I would like to add that Roberton's column ''Women in Trousers'' will interest 21st century readers. Additionally, ''Poor Dying Scotland'' succeeds brilliantly as a biting, sarcastic criticism.

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