Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Book Notes: Levine on King

Allan Levine is currently touring southern Ontario in support of his new book on William Lyon Mackenzie King.  Today he is in Burlington for the Different Drummer bookstore's always terrific book breakfast.  Tonight he is talking about "Politics and Private Lives in 20th Century Canada"  at Toronto's Spadina Museum (details here). Wednesday night he's at Laurier House in Ottawa.

It seems to be boom times for prime ministerial historical biography (after a long drought, I would say)  Paul Litt's John Turner, John Boyko's recent R. B. Bennett, Andre Pratte on Laurier, and Gwyn's two volumes on John A. Macdonald.  And of course Trudeau, Chretien, Harper, and other recent leaders have not lacked for biographers.

Levine's publisher notes it's been thirty years since the last King biography. Presumably that was C.P Stacey, writing in the wake of the opening up of King's private diary.  Time for fresh perspectives, for sure.  Levine subtitles his King bio "A Life Guided by the Hand of Destiny"  Not sure if that is Levine's  (ironic?) phrase or King's undoubtedly sincere one.

Levine's King has been reviewed and excerpted over several days in the National Post.

Update, Nov 10:  Lawrence Martin also takes note of Levine's book and King's wierdness.  Martin celebrates the appearance of four big political biographies, and then grouses that no one will read them, 'cause, you know, no one cares about Canadian history 'cept you and me.  Maybe sales of his Harper book were not up to his requirements.
Martin also comments,  "Among the lessons King could have given the others was not to allow themselves to be challenged from within."  Sad that he should think it is among the rightful powers of a prime minister not to allow himself to be challenged.    (H/T Stephen MacLean)

Update, Nov 11:  Allan L confirms that is King's own subtitle:

"My belief in myself leads me to hope that this will some day be realized. The public will admire me for the courage & spirit I show in sacrificing a certainty for a great uncertainty. . Lastly there is the purpose of God in all, the realization of the dream of my life, the page unfolds as by the hand of Destiny. From a child I have looked forward to this hour as that which should lead me into my life's work. I have believed my life's work lies there, and now I am led to the threshold by the Invisible Hand."-The Diary of William Lyon Mackenzie King, July 25, 1907
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