Eminent Canadians: candid tales of then and now

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McClelland & Stewart, Apr 1, 2001 - Biography & Autobiography - 306 pages
Ninety years ago, Lytton Strachey scandalized British society with his book Eminent Victorians, in which he disparaged the accomplishments and exaggerated the failings of four highly respected Victorians. It was an immediate bestseller, of course. In Eminent Canadians, John Fraser helps himself to Strachey’s title and to his innovative form – the journalistic profile – and goes one better by doubling the number of worthies under the magnifying glass. But his purpose is not the same as Strachey’s. Fraser wants, as he puts it, to “redeem the dismissed and humanize the demonized.” By telling stories about them, and about the Canada they live or lived in.

Of the eight Canadians Fraser subjects to his informed, opinionated, and highly entertaining scrutiny, four represent the past and four the present of a key national institution – the Anglican Church; The Globe and Mail; the prime ministership; and the monarchy. By juxtaposing rich portraits of past leaders with candid tales about their present or most recent counterparts, Fraser sheds light on just how exasperating an entity Canada has always been. And how lively a history it has.

Eminent Canadians has a serious purpose, but it is not a serious book. This is John Fraser, after all, so there is much fun to be had reading his tales of eight eminent Canadians who, as Fraser says, did the best they could to live up to the challenges of their offices and times.

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About the author (2001)

During his varied, award-winning journalistic career, John Fraser has been Peking correspondent for The Globe and Mail and the editor of Saturday Night magazine. He is the author of several books, including the international bestseller The Chinese: Portrait of a People, the collection of essays Saturday Night Lives!, and the novel Stolen China. He is currently Master of Massey College in the University of Toronto, and writes a weekly column on the media for The National Post.

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