Dyment's response to Conrad Black's review of "Doing the Continental" in the Literary Review of Canada

Published in the
Literary Review of Canada, June 2011

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David Dyment in the Literary Review of Canada, June 2011:

Mr. Black is a man of remarkable substance, intelligence and industry. I am most gratified in his review of my new book Doing the Continental: A New Canadian-American Relationship that he sees fit to describe it as "useful," "a good addition to the discussion" and as a "good book," and to effuse upon what he sees as "excellent," "good," and "important" points.

Doing the Continental is unique in the general literature on our relations with the United States. Books on the topic are uniquely from the nationalist left or the continentalist right.  Doing the Continental offers a new way of conceptualizing the relationship, where we advance not our competing ideologies but our national interests: drawing on the best of both traditions.

Bob Rae in the foreword describes this approach as one of "intelligence and gusto." Conrad Black's problem with the book is not with its substance, but with its tone, which he finds "immodest."

As you know, it's always frustrating to be misunderstood. My intention, and responsibility, was to write with conviction. By inclination, I am reform minded, progressive, and activist. That this be misunderstood as "somewhat portentous" is ironic, as the disjuncture in appreciation for Mr. Black generally concerns tone. He has perhaps a challenge in the interpretation, and in the projection of tone.

Almost thirty years ago John Holmes, the leading essayist on our country's international relations, wrote a pithy, elegant, seminal book called Life with Uncle: The Canadian-American Relationship where he describes continentalism as a "force of nature." That animating idea, the length and style of Life with Uncle are the inspiration and model for Doing the Continental.

A short, carefully thought out treatment of the major issues of the relationship tied by a unifying, new perspective are strengths. Testimony to the objective of being provocative, not definitive.

Doing the Continental is a concise overview of an ongoing challenge facing our country, written for general readers where the author by turns happily weaves his personal story. That it is on back-order, four months after publication, perhaps attests to the success of the genre.

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