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Elisabeth Harvor : Comments by Writers and Critics

Selected Comments/Reviews on Three Books

Fortress of Chairs, a collection of poems, Signal Editions, Véhicule, Montreal, 1992.

Such a beautiful book, so full of emotion and inventiveness....
                     —Pierre Nepvue, editor, Spirale

[In Fortress of Chairs] Harvor is alert to detail, to nuance, to the way stories interpellate one another...(and) her acute sense of poetic line keeps unsettling the surge of syntax .....Along the way, shemanages to pull memory and mourning and conjecture and delight into an emotionally intense fabric that never becomes sentimental.......
                     —Charlene Diehl-Jones, Books in Canada

Fortress of Chairs is a brave and compelling book.....(in it) Harvor displays the same remarkable insight into the human heart familiar to readers of her short stories, but here the available shields are dropped and her own life examined. (The book's) mixture of intimacy, sensuality and ruthless honesty charges the poems with an intense energy.....Fortress of Chairs is a collection I admire greatly and am grateful for.
                     —Glen Downie, Event

As a writer of fiction as well as poetry, [Harvor] approaches narrative with a complete assurance which allows her to manipulate narrative elements in an infinitely flexible matrix......[Her] validation of the body's pleasures is tempered, in many poems, by a rueful perspective on the youthful bravado that takes for granted the body's physical "reliability" and an implied acknowledgement of mortality. Harvor redefines sexuality for us, and the pervasive sexuality of her poetry, its multifaceted eroticism, is one of the defining features of her work. It is still rare to see this kind of openness, honesty and integrity in the depiction of the pleasures and dangers of being female.......
                     —Rhea Tregebov Sudden Miracles/

If I can fault this book for anything, it is that it will no doubt attract a host of imitators deceived by the seemingly easy naturalness and directness of its narratives....Especially in the opening tour-de-force, "Afterbirth". the story flows forward and back on a wave of association, sometimes inspired by wordplay, sometimes veering into the logic of dreams....And always there are layers of metaphor that supercharge the language.....
                     —Colin Morton, Quarry >

...with incredible craft, Harvor pulls it off, pulls everything together. In [her] imagination, the objects of memory carry within them the seeds of truth, so that the braiding of a child's hair, or a dead mouse, or a stranger's question can awaken both the past itself and the kind of self-knowledge which can only
                     —Sandra Nicholls, Poetry Canada Review

Women and Children

I've just read Women and Children, and will read it again and again, with joy. Absolutely some of the best, richest, subtlest, craziest, finest writing ever about marriage, kids, sex.....LIFE.
                     —Alice Munro

Harvor's alert intelligence and her eye for the significant detail make these stories accessible, yet deeply moving.
                     —The Victoria Colonist

It would be unfortunate if the book's title turned away male readers, for Ms. Harvor is dealing with extremely important issues. And she is an artist--her stories are beautifully put together; even those that are in fact reveries are powerfully dramatic, with images--like that of "a monster baby" without a brain, a creature that refuses to die quietly--that function both within the context of the individual story and beyond it, as allegory, as "macrocosm." Women and Children must be one of the most accomplished first books of our time.
                     —Joyce Carol Oates, The Ontario Review

Alive, vulnerable.....
                     —The Canadian Forum

There is nothing naive about Harvor's writing--she is both incisive and imaginative.........
                     —Montreal Gazette

"Harvor's stories leave the reader with the feeling that there is more to life than the surface: more feeling, more mystery."
                     —The Ottawa Citizen

If Only We Could Drive Like This Forever,
a collection of six stories and a novella, Penguin, 1988.

....incandescent, utterly compelling....[her stories] have the sureness and conviction of a first-rate original.
                     —Barbara Black,Montreal Gazette

Harvor's voice—strong, clear, unpretentious—never falters, from beginning to end.
                     —Ann Charney, The Toronto Star

Eloquent and honest....[written with] a lyrical heartbreaking fairness....
                     —Joel Yanofsky, Books in Canada

....consistently enjoyable...[Harvor] is especially shrewd on mothering and the half-resented, pleasing ache of identification with one's children. Her humour, though fleeting and muted, resonates throughout. It is as pervasive as the gorgeous and demanding Canadian landscape, which is both metaphor and active participant in these stories....
                     —Eileen Gillhooly, The New York Times Book Review

Everyone who read Women and Children has waited for this second collection and it is very good, the voice is even more distinctive, the perceptions sharper...these are stories that insist on taking the reader inside to experience their complex climates, stories in which the tension is played upon not only by the characters but by the real weather, the landscape, the interiors of cars and houses, which are smelled and tactilely felt as well as seen. Such intimacy makes the reader share vulnerability with the characters rather than sit in comfortable distance and judgement.
                     —Jane Rule, Globe & Mail

...humour and vivid insights flash like heat-lightning on oppressive summer nights.
                     —John Keith, The Vancouver Sun

Harvor's women are wounded, lonely, cautious, and brave....They carry a past with them--imperfect parents, failed marriages, mistakes in judgement--but they have all grown past looking for someone to blame.
                     —Ann Copeland, Wild East

[The novella] The Age of Unreason is a masterpiece .....
                     —Rosemary Sullivan, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, State of the Arts

Each story is fluent, pointed and funny. Harvor may not publish a lot, but her work is paragraph for paragraph as satisfying as any story by her peers; she can keep company with Alice Munro, Ann Beattie, Laurie Colwin and the best of the New Yorker regulars, and anyone else you care to name....
                     —Douglas Hill, Globe & Mail

There are few writers writing today who can equal Harvor's precision of language and subtlety of observation. Above all, I admire her work for its quality of intimacy, of surrender.....
                     —Nino Ricci

Elisabeth Harvor's works copyright © to the author.

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