Newfoundland off the map: Michael Crummey’s “Sweetland”

I’m very pleased to announce that The Toronto Review of Books has just published my review essay “Newfoundland off the map: Michael Crummey’s Sweetland. You can read it by clicking that link.

I first read Sweetland on the train from New York City to Toronto. A book about a community’s final sputtering days (and its strange, stubborn afterlife), it felt especially appropriate to read it as I passed through America’s rust belt.

I finished shortly before Buffalo. It was like I’d been punched in the gut, a feeling that sometimes returns when I think of the book. Here, someone had finally written ‘the Resettlement novel’, and had done it with such emotional depth, such poetic richness, that I was convinced it would serve not just as a monument, but also as a tool.

But then, I got to thinking about how true that could be . . . .

Is the book Moses throws into the ocean maybe one of Crummey’s own? Perhaps even Galore? This passage becomes a despairing “what good did that do?” act of literary violence. Literature will not save us. Ghost stories and folklore will not save us. There may be no use in turning to folklore when an entire culture is going extinct.

That’s the corrective Sweetland offers. Rural Newfoundland is not a fairy-tale place inhabited by fairy-tale characters. It is a real place, a marginal culture choking and sputtering at the hand of circumstance.

Newfoundland off the maps: Michael Crummey’s Sweetland

Previously on Michael Crummey’s Galore