Phantom Lake explores the stories, legends, and tall tales that make up "Flin Flon," a real imaginary place perched on rocky outcrops and lakes of the Canadian Shield. Birk Sproxton traverses the high latitudes of Manitoba and Saskatchewan in a quest for the mystery of Flin Flon and in search of himself. The northern stories, like Shield Lakes seen from the air, become ink-blots to test the writer's mettle. Sproxton tells of the first gold rush, the draining of Flin Flon Lake, the emergence of the open pit, smelter smoke and slag pour, headframes, and tailings ponds. At the center of this fictional and historical mosaic lies the elusive Phantom Lake.
"'My story is shot through and through with strands of North" writes Birk Sproxton in the concluding pages of Phantom Lake, a compelling exploration of the significance of personal, literary, geologic, and historical narrative to Sproxton's understanding of his 'home place'..'Towns must be imagined into existence,' he writes..By blurring the delineation between literary and historical aspects of place, Sproxton invites the reader to consider the power of literature to inform history..The essays of Phantom Lake could be used, either individually or collectively, in courses concerned with the imbrications of literary, personal, industrial, and ecological history. For those familiar with the Flin Flon area, this collection offers the pleasure of revisiting known landscapes from varied directions and perspectives. And for those unfamiliar with this region, Phantom Lake offers the opportunity to visit this realm 'North of 54' with a guide fluent in the history and lore of this land." Angela Waldie, ASLE-Canada Newsletter, Issue 2, Spring 2006.
"After reading some the Red Deer author's work, or even just talking to him for a while, boundaries that once seemed clear start to get a little fuzzy. Boundaries between Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta start to fade; boundaries between the Prairies and Canadian Shield become sharper. And boundaries between fact and fiction start to hop around. And his published books - including the most recent, Phantom Lake: North of 54 - run roughshod all over the boundaries between different genres of writing. That may explain why Sproxton was presented the $25 000 Grant MacEwan Author's Award last weekend." Carl Hahn, Red Deer LIFE, May 21. 2006.
"Phantom Lake is one part autobiography, one part town history of Flin Flon, Manitoba. 'Personal essay' is what Sproxton calls it in a note at the end; 'creative documentary,' another term he uses, could apply as well. I like to think of it as an excavation, one in which he digs through layer after layer of fact and fiction, prospecting for truth and meaning. He is mining for the ideas of Flin Flon, life on the Canadian Shield, and northern identity.. My only complaint about the book is that Sproxton does not render his own history with the same detail and love that he gives to Flin Flon and the Canadian Shield.. Otherwise, Phantom Lake is a goldmine, shot through with rich language and worth patient exploration." Linda M. Bayley, Canadian Book Review Annual 2007
"City author Birk Sproxton has been honoured with the second largest literary prize in Canada for his latest title Phantom Lake: North of 54..Published by the University of Alberta Press, Phantom Lake: North of 54 is a multi-layered narrative exploring summer vacation, working, water and the 'real, imaginary place' called Flin Flon..For Sproxton, the award is abundant affirmation he's on the right creative track." Mark Weber, Red Deer Express, May 24, 2006.
"Manitoban Birk Sproxton (who lives in Alberta) has written an engaging memoir, Phantom Lake, about growing up in northern Manitoba, in which he mingles family issues with the literature about the landscape in a thoroughly postmodern telling. He illustrates how the literature about a place itself becomes a part of the place, influencing the local people's perception of their home." Sharon Butala, quoted from her book Lilac Moon: Dreaming of the Real West, Toronto, Harper Collins, 2005
"Red Deer author Birk Sproxton's book Phantom Lake: North of 54 offers a layered exploration of Flin Flon, Manitoba that brilliantly reveals how stories, personal and public, form the bedrock of a place. [The book] is a magpie nest of stories about Flin Flon, a re-mythologizing of the near North...a moving contemplation of a place as experienced over time." Christopher Wiebe, VUE Weekly, Dec. 29-Jan. 4, 2006
Sproxton explores the area's myths, legends, people, and history in Phantom Lake. He interweaves personal memories of family with present-day investigations, and meditations with stories of colourful characters from literature and life. Readers gain an understanding of not only the physical place, but also the emotional complexity of the people of Flin Flon and Phantom Lake. 'This is very much a Canadian book about traveling to the lake in summer'...says Sproxton." Paula E, Kirman, Prairie Books NOW, Spring 2005.
"Both Anne DeGrace [Treading Water] and Birk Sproxton recount the story of a lake transforming into a monster....The body of water that inspires Sproxton's meditation on self and land, Phantom Lake: North of 54, is drained to make way for a mine. The lake literally becomes a ghost. Both authors mourn the passing of their respective lakes and thus write elegiac memoirs for them....Both DeGrace and Sproxton tell stories and record voices of people and things most often ignored or forgotten." Jennifer Fraser, Canadian Literature 194, Autumn 2007
"[Birk Sproxton] has made the legends, stories and mysteries of an isolated northern Manitoba community come to life in a newly released book. He's gifted with a striking ability to paint with words; readers will conjure up vivid pictures in their minds of the scenes and folks he describes throughout the book. From the start, he wanted to tap into a multi-layered exploration of the area, including a range of historical glimpses." Mark Weber, Red Deer Express, Dec. 7, 2005
"Once the cover of Phantom Lake was closed, I tried to figure out just what kind of book I had just read. Yet Sproxton's often lyrical style of writing left me with the most amazing mental images of the northern landscapes. Phantom Lake: North of 54, I finally decided, is a Canadian story and it's pure poetry." Susan Jones, The St. Albert Gazette, Dec. 28, 2005, p. 41
"Birk Sproxton, now a professor of English in Alberta, cannot get Manitoba's north out of his head....In Phantom Lake, Sproxton's writerly mission is to make this world real, even to the outsider. He takes us on a series of journeys, each one uncovering a place, a memory, a character, or a bit of history. His sensual writing (and that of others he has found) does indeed make the place real." Faith Johnston, the Winnipeg Free Press, January 22, 2006.
"This is a personal essay and a biography of place: based on local history, narratives of explorers and fur-traders, oral histories; tourist brochures, formal studies, magazine and newspaper clippings; scientific geological studies (with photos, diagrams, and maps), fiction and on-line sources. So, it is not surprising that quasi-historical figures appear, such as Kathleen Rice, a prospector and Joseph Burr Tyrell, a geologist (who used maps drawn by David Thompson and also edited narratives by both Thompson and Samuel Hearne)....In this book of creative nonfiction, the author uses a form that works with facts, then sets them in play, with and against each other. The result is counterpoint or contrapuntal, in which the central idea serves as a foil for other ideas and values. In this manner, there is space made for new versions, other versions; taking stories into a new realm, which avoids traditional limitations." Anne Burke, Prairie Journal of Canadian Literature, October, 2005
"Sproxton explores the area's myths, legends, people, and history in Phantom Lake. He interweaves personal memories of family with present-day investigations, and mediations with stories of colorful characters from literature and life.'This is very much a Canadian book about traveling to the lake in summer, a part of our experience not much written about. [Readers] may also learn about the history of the town and some of the wacky characters who have made the North, both fictional and historical people,' says Sproxton." Paula E. Kirman, Prairie books NOW, spring 2006.
"You can take the boy out of Flin Flon but you can't take Flin Flon out of the boy. No one illustrates that better than Birk Sproxton, whose latest book, Phantom Lake: North of 54, stars an unnamed narrator who can't resist delving into the rich past of the Flin Flon region..'It's based on true stories, but then I take license with some of them,' he says. Phantom Lake can be described as a vivid trip back to an era of fur trading, wide-eyed prospectors, open pit mines and industrial smoke so strong it 'ripped our throats.'.Birk Sproxton is only too happy to take readers along on his journey of self discovery." Jonathan Naylor, The Reminder (Flin Flon, Manitoba) February 3, 2006.
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