Books Acquired Recently: Mostly Mennonite/Mostly Canadian Edition

I’ve been thinking and writing about Mennonite literature a lot lately, and this latest round of book-buying includes some of the earliest novels published in the field. It also includes one of the more recent works of Mennonite fiction and a book by someone with a Mennonite-sounding name (Kroetsch), though to my knowledge he has no Mennonite ties. Aside from Flamethrowers, all of the books take place in Canada.

Friesen, Gordon. Flamethrowers. Caldwell: Caxton, 1936.

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Flamethrowers is to my knowledge the earliest literary novel by a Mennonite published in the United States. It, like Kliewer’s book (and arguably like Wiebe’s), is rather critical of the community. I bought it from one of amazon.com’s booksellers. Hossack’s, Kliewer’s, and Wiebe’s books were also purchased via this method.

Hossack, Darcy Friesen. Mennonites Don’t Dance. Saskatoon: Thistledown, 2010.

I try to keep up on writing by as many contemporary Mennonite writers as possible, and just heard about Hossack’s short story collection from a friend. This person passed along the rumor that the publisher insisted on the title rather than on Hossack’s choice because books with “Mennonite/s” in the title sell better, especially in Canada where Mennonites are seen more as an ethnic group than as a religious one.

Kliewer, Warren. The Violators. Francestown: Jones, 1964.

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This is another early example of U.S. Mennonite fiction. I am tickled by the juxtaposition between the cover’s bucolic illustration and the book’s violent title.

Kroetsch, Robert. The Stone Hammer Poems: 1960-1975. 1975. Lantzville: Oolichan, 1983.

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I bought this at Back of Beyond Books in Moab, Utah, which is an excellent new-and-used independent bookstore. I’ve been wanting to investigate non-Mennonite Canadian literature more, and Kroetsch is an author in this category whom I’ve heard of, so I decided to buy his book. It is a lovely aesthetic object.

Wiebe, Rudy. Peace Shall Destroy Many. Toronto: McClelland, 1962.

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I already have the 1964 Eerdmans paperback edition of Peace Shall Destroy Many, which is the most important early piece of Mennonite literature, but I wanted a copy of the McClelland and Stewart hardcover edition because of its unique back cover, pictured here. The front cover of both the hardcover and first paperback printing has a white background with red lettering for the title and author’s name, and black lettering for the controversial plot description (Wiebe was the editor of a church newspaper at the time, not a “theologian.” He strongly objected to this description, but the publisher insisted on it). The back cover’s reversal of these colors is striking and foreboding. I acquired this copy for only $7.00 even though it is signed by Wiebe.

Published by danielshankcruz

I grew up in New York City and lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Goshen, Indiana; DeKalb, Illinois; and Salt Lake City, Utah before coming to Utica, New York. My mother’s family is Swiss-German Mennonite (i.e., it’s an ethnicity, not necessarily a theological persuasion) and my father’s family is Puerto Rican. I have a Ph.D. in English and currently teach at Utica College. I have also taught at Northern Illinois University and Westminster College in Salt Lake City. My teaching and scholarship are motivated by a passion for social justice, which is why my research focuses on the literature of oppressed groups, especially LGBT persons and people of color. While I primarily read and write about fiction, I am also a devoted reader of poetry because, as William Carlos Williams writes, “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet [people] die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” Thinkers who influence me include Marina Abramovic, Kathy Acker, Di Brandt, Ana Castillo, Samuel R. Delany, Percival Everett, Essex Hemphill, Jane Jacobs, Walt Whitman, and the New York School of poets. I am also fond of queer Mennonite writers such as Stephen Beachy, Jan Guenther Braun, Lynnette Dueck/D’anna, and Casey Plett. In my free time I’m either reading, writing the occasional poem, playing board games (especially Scrabble, backgammon, and chess), watching sports (Let’s Go, Mets!), or cooking (curries, stews, roasts…).

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