I have always loved Brick, a handsome, polished, semi-annual from Toronto. The journal typically features some of the finest, and most influential, writers and from across the Americas and around the world (this issue’s stars include Michael Ondaatje, Eduardo Galeano, Edmund White, Dionne Brand, Francisco Goldman, Jim Harrison, Jack Spicer, and Juan Cruz for example); what I’d call “pure and original finds” (a brief essay on Harold Pinter by acclaimed Canadian filmmaker Patricia Rozema, along with a marvelous photo of her and Pinter; and the posthumously published “Three Wishes” by Pannonica de Koenigswarter, fascinating black and white photos of and fragments from bebop and jazz musicians); and terrific graphics (some great photos in this issue).
This issue’s surprises and rewards are too numerous to describe completely in a brief review. They include: a tribute to David Wallace Foster featuring essays and a postcard by Alex Pugsley, Don Delillo, George Saunders, and Zadie Smith; an excerpt of roundtable discussion, moderated by Colm Tóibín, called “It’s Irish! Irish Letters Past,” which took place at the International Festival of Authors in Toronto last year; an interview from 2007 by Juan Cruz, editor of El País, with Portuguese novelist Jose Saramago who, at 85, had been near death, miraculously recovered and took up work again on a new novel; and “A Conversation with Gabrielle Buffet-Picabia” from 1976 when Buffet-Picabia, an avant-garde Parisian musician and member of the French resistance (in her nineties when interviewed); among numerous other sensational features.
Noteworthy, too, are Dionne Brand’s “Three Elegies for Constance Rooke.” Brand is a Canadian poet, novelist, and wise cultural critic whose work deserves much greater attention in the US. The elegies are typical of Brand’s writing, which is lyrical, cautious deliberate, rich, and moving. I liked very much an essay by Jaspreet Singh, “Hotel Leeward,” about Kashmir, and Dan Paterson’s long seven-part poem, “Phantom,” which manages successfully and evocatively to merge the philosophical and the personal.
Reviews in Brick are especially fine, as well, intelligent and engaging. Linda Spalding, Michael Redhill, Esta Spalding, Jane Urquhart, and Dionne Brand review fiction, biography, history, and children’s literature.
In “One, two, three…pause,” her farewell to Pinter, Rozema (whose movies are as creative as this little essay) writes: “that’s what makes good writing good – the unfiltered lifeness of it.” Get some unfiltered lifeness – pick up a copy of Brick.