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Literary Criticism Canadian

They Have Bodies, by Barney Allen

A Critical Edition

by (author) Barney Allen

edited by Gregory Betts

Les Presses de l'Université d'Ottawa/University of Ottawa Press
Initial publish date
Feb 2020
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2020
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Feb 2020
    List Price

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Sexy, saucy, and unsparingly satirical, Barney Allen’s They Have Bodies is the most experimental book written by a Canadian until well into the 1960s. Gregory Betts reintroduces this censored “realistic novel in eleven chapters and three acts”.
Published in 1929, and almost instantly censored by the Toronto City Police, They Have Bodies has been completely overlooked by generations of scholars and writers interested in the Canadian avant-garde. It is not just the novel’s extreme formal innovation that is immediately startling about They Have Bodies. There is also its close attention to the depraved, licentious behaviour of Toronto’s elite, its revelation of moral hypocrisy, and its exposure of the means by which aristocratic and church power provides succour to egregious duplicity.
Its social criticism and dark humour were too much for Canadian readers at the time. It is, however, exactly the kind of book contemporary Canadian readers, writers, and scholars hope lies buried in the archives waiting to be recovered. A gem of insight, innovation, and novelty: finally, here is a new edition of one of the rarest, wildest books of the twentieth century.
Published in English

About the authors

Barney Allen's profile page

GREGORY BETTS is a poet, editor, essayist and teacher, originally from Vancouver and Toronto. Since his first published poem, an anagrammatical translation of a short poem by bpNichol, Betts's work has consistently troubled individual authorship through such mechanisms as anagrams, collaboration, found-texts and response-text writing. If Language presents paragraph-length anagrams that explore the formation of meaning within a recombinant linguistic system. Haikube was part of a collaborative art project with sculptors Matt Donovan and Hallie Siegel in which six of Betts's poems were carved into an ebony movable (a la Rubiks) cube. The text was carved in negative relief, which allowed the cube to function as a press block to print new poems as they were 'discovered' by moving the sides of the cube. Betts currently lives in St. Catharines, where he edits PRECIPICe magazine, curates the Grey Borders Reading Series and teaches Avant-Garde and Canadian Literature at Brock University.

Gregory Betts' profile page

Excerpt: They Have Bodies, by Barney Allen: A Critical Edition (by (author) Barney Allen; edited by Gregory Betts)

Allan’s novel was disappeared. It was successfully erased from the story of Canadian literature, and from the broader story of the emerging Canadian nation state. Despite its difference from mainstream literary modes made apparent by the visually striking innovations of the book, including the most dynamic use of ellipses in Canadian literature, the book became invisible almost immediately upon publication. In J. L. Charlesworth’s review of literature for 1928 to 1929, the fact of the censorship is all that remains of the book: ‘A third first novel, They Have Bodies, by Barney Allen of Toronto, achieved the distinction of being banned by the police censorship of that City.’

Other titles by Barney Allen

Other titles by Gregory Betts