WHEN WORDS DENY THE WORLD:
THE RESHAPING OF CANADIAN WRITING
—Erin, Ont.: The Porcupine’s Quill, 2002.
Finalist, Governor General’s Literary Award (English Non-Fiction), 2002.
Henighan is the first Canadian literary journalist to take a penetrating look at the impact of globalization on Canadian literature – and what he sees isn’t pretty....it’s the liveliest, most cogently argued, most provocative and most infuriatingly self-satisfied work of literary criticism to be published in this country in at least the last decade. Consequently it’s a must-read for anyone with even the slightest interest in either the literature or the culture of Canada.
When Words Deny the World is crucial reading for anyone concerned about Canadian writing or, for that matter, our sense of identity. It is, perhaps, the past ten years’ most insightful examination of what has sadly become a superficial book business.
The most clear-sighted, bracing and provocative collection I have read in years.
What a joy his new book is. When Words Deny the World...is impassioned, contrarian – and the work of a wide-ranging and avaricious reader, obviously. Not categorically, but sufficiently frequently, are Henighan’s views jarring – on the significance of place in CanLit, on the effect of free trade on national literary debates, and the consequences of our writers living on the margins– that I hesitate to praise him too much lest the man feel unjustly seconded to exactly the literary establishment he so enjoys denigrating....
It is not the least of the virtues of this collection that it challenges a good many of us in the literary journalism racket to re-examine our approach to Canadian literature. Henighan, a novelist and short story writer and instructor in Spanish-American literature at the University of Guelph, who was raised in eastern Ontario, but lived for years in Montreal and England,
writes very much as an aggrieved outsider....
A compelling argument....Some of the most blistering and erudite pieces of Canadian literary criticism ever published.
Such is the depth of Henighan’s reading and such is the passion of his writing that the reader is forced to re-examine a lifetime’s reading and opinion....Henighan’s book should be read by anyone who cares about our literature.
For anyone with even a passing interest in the course of Canadian literature, Henighan’s unusual mix of literary and political criticism is too eloquent and captivating to be ignored...it’s a kind of wake-up call, possibly a bright beginning of real literary debate in this country.
Stephen Henighan pounds home the theme of the Canadian novel’s actual betrayal of history. His analysis is brutal and important.... He not only kills sacred cows, but he tortures them first. One might not necessarily agree with him, but his audacity is compelling and it is hard not to find yourself nodding in agreement....