Finalist, Governor General’s Literary Award (English Non-Fiction), 2002.
A Globe and Mail “100 Best Books of the Year” Choice, 2002.
—Second printing, June 2002.
—Third printing, February 2003.
Examining both Canadian fiction and Canada’s changing literary institutions, Henighan explores subjects ranging from best-seller lists to the Giller Prize, from “voice appropriation” to Toronto-centrism, from Americanization to the literary languages of the Americas. He traces the disintegration of the traditional Canadian linked short-story collection and probes whether Canadian writers abroad can be considered “post-colonial.” Analysing novels such as Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, Anne Michaels’s Fugitive Pieces and Carol Shields’s The Stone Diaries as expressions of a free trade culture, he reaches conclusions that are original, irreverent and devastating.
Belonging to no clique and respectful of no orthodoxy or party line, Henighan has created a passionate personal record of one writer’s engagement with a shifting literary landscape that is also a thoughtful, erudite account of where our literary culture is going.
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.
How compelling is When Words Deny the World?
I received a review copy consisting of loose leaf pages in a binder, and I read it like a mystery novel. I couldn’t put the damn thing down, even when my wrists got sore from holding it.
A riveting read – something one hardly says of literary criticism every day!
What makes the book as a whole hard to ignore are the evidences, provided throughout, of Henighan’s powers as a literary critic. Those powers are considerable, which is bad news for such popular “literary” writers as Jane Urquhart, Bonnie Burnard, Carol Shields, Timothy Findley, all of whom Henighan eviscerates….
This is criticism that is non-academic, readable, respectful of genuine literary accomplishment and merciless towards pretence and muddle. How badly we need it.