ROGER C. LEWIS... Canadian writer

As well as working as an active writer of short fiction and literary essays, Roger C. Lewis is Professor of English Literature (Emeritus) at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada, teaching online courses, including graduate studies, there and at Athabasca University in Alberta. He was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and was educated at the University of Toronto (B.A., M.A., Ph.D.) He has published many articles and books including: Poems and Drawings of Elizabeth Siddal (Wombat Press, 1977), The Collected Poems of Robert Louis Stevenson (Edinburgh UP, 2003); A Variorum Edition of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Sonnet Sequence “The House of Life” (Cambridge UK: D.S. Brewer, 2007). He was Editor-in-Chief of the last eight volumes of The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Cambridge UK: Boydell &. Brewer, 2003-2015); taking over from the original editor, William E. Fredeman who died suddenly in 1999, having completed the first two volumes.
He lives in the SlocanValley of British Columbia with his wife Nancy and dog Bruce, close to some of his sons and grandsons.

 

    IDENTITY MATTERS ...   Published 2017 CUSTOM BOOKS Noveletta imprint

IN LIMITED RELEASE
These stories deal with matters of identity and the fact that identity matters. Especially Canadian identity, which some people think doesn’t even exist – such as those who believe that we went from being a British/French colony to becoming an American colony without any intervening period of independence.

Renowned Canadian thinker Northrop Frye has declared that the real question defining Canadian identity is not ‘Who are we?’ but ‘Where is here?’

These stories explore both questions.

Roger C. Lewis

*****

This collection features Canadian characters and settings, mostly the Maritime Provinces, Ontario and British Columbia, some mixed with international settings in the USA, Caribbean, UK, Europe and Asia. Genres include action and adventure, romance, mood pieces, flash fiction, dystopian sketches and satire.

A leitmotif running through the book is the issue of identity, whether personal, ethnic or national. A series about Maurice, who defines himself from early childhood as a bad boy, depicts his pursuit of a more satisfying identity. The longest story, a novella in 16 episodes, follows a couple from courtship at college to retirement in Eastern Europe, a series of hilarious misadventures. Another, Gone Like A Train, tells of a small boy neglected and abused by his mother who is arrested and jailed, losing her son to adoption, yet many years later they are reunited. De Profundis details the sorry career of a tormented homosexual who is tempted by both murder and suicide. Cursed is the story of two backpackers who desecrate a sacred Muslim site in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco; as a result, they become victims of a curse. In Vaya con Dios a hapless older woman is hustled and deserted by a Cuban fortune hunter. Added at London tells of a retired man who, like King Lear, fails in his attempts to live in his retirement with his adult children.

 

Review by Art Joyce

Exploring identity in a new collection of stories

With global geopolitics unleashing a new wave of desperation that has created millions of refugees, it’s the right time to question the politics of identity. New Denver resident Roger Lewis has just released a new collection of short stories, Identity Matters, that explores these themes. Lewis takes as his basic point of entry a quote from renowned author and academic Northrop Frye, who once declared that the issue of Canadian identity is not a question of ‘Who are we?’ but of ‘Where is here?’

 The book is divided into four sections, the first three of which mimic the progress of a life from childhood to retirement, with a large middle section titled ‘Clifford and Maureen’ that has strong overtones of autobiography. Actually a novella, it tracks the career of a young couple setting out in the 1960s on an academic career that takes them to universities in Canada, Britain, Eastern Europe and the US, while starting a family. Their academic work puts them in contact with people from cultures around the world. And despite the ‘sunny ways’ narrative of Canada’s official multiculturalism policy, it doesn’t always go smoothly. At one point, when Clifford and Maureen are offered a research post in Texas, the couple’s children beg them to move into a white suburban neighbourhood. There’s a reason history is littered with the victims of cultural clashes that erupt into wars, and Lewis explores these subtle undertones in depth.

 Identity is central to our conception of ourselves in the world, even our basic self-esteem. It’s also tied into group dynamics, since humans are tribal animals. “In becoming passively aware of one’s identity, or actively constructing it,” writes Lewis, “an individual notices a number of traits that make him identical with other members of the group with which he identifies himself. Nevertheless these identical features make him different from others outside his group. Thus identity is a paradox made up of similarities and differences,” making it dangerous to assume homogeneity amongst any national or ethnic group. It makes a mockery of the very notion of racism. The book’s final section is a chance for the author to offer stories with a broad range of themes, drawing on his love of short story masters such as Edgar Allen Poe, Ernest Hemingway, O. Henry and Graham Greene. In the vein of Poe, Cursed tells the story of two backpackers who desecrate a sacred Muslim site in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and become victims of an ancient curse. Lewis raises questions that challenge the conventional narrative of Islam. In Vaya con Dios a hapless older woman is hustled and deserted by a Cuban fortune hunter in a kind of karmic rebound. Added at London tells of a retired man who, like King Lear, fails in his attempts to live in retirement with his adult children. De Profundis echoes the title and theme of the famous letter written by Oscar Wilde from Reading Gaol during his imprisonment for homosexuality in the 1890s. Rather than being merely a retrospective trashing of a now-outmoded social morality, Lewis portrays a conflicted character whose 21st century life as a gay man is anything but a happily-ever-after story. If it could be said that one of the prerequisites for great literature is that it overturns our comfortable expectations of the world, then Lewis is on the right track. While not a stylist in the manner of a Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Wolfe or Hunter S. Thompson, Lewis writes in an unadorned prose that cuts to the chase and moves the reader along rapidly.   

In addition to writing short fiction and literary essays, Lewis is Professor of English Literature (Emeritus) at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, teaching online courses (including graduate studies) there and at Athabasca University in Alberta. He was born in Ottawa, Ontario, and was educated at the University of Toronto (BA, MA, Ph.D). Anyone who hails from this part of Canada will enjoy the cultural references to central Ontario braided throughout these stories, including canoeing in Algonquin Park. He has published many articles and books including Poems and Drawings of Elizabeth Siddal, The Collected Poems of Robert Louis Stevenson and A Variorum Edition of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Sonnet Sequence ‘The House of Life’ with an Introduction and Notes. He was Editor-in-Chief of the last eight volumes of The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a huge accomplishment in itself.

A reading and book launch will be held at Villa Dome Quixote in New Denver at 4 pm on August 16. The book is available locally at Raven’s Nest Gifts in New Denver and Otter Books in Nelson. Online the book can be ordered from Amazon.com, also from bookorders@custombookpublications.com..
 

Published: OCTOBER 2017
Release April 2018
ISBN
978-1976578984

PRINT Format:5.25" x8"
133 x 203 mm 
US Trade Paperback
Extant 262pp 
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