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The Seven Oaks Reader Review

The pianist Glenn Gould revelled in counterpoint, whether in Bach’s compositions or his own radio documentaries: In Idea of North, Gould presented a series of voices that sometimes ran overtop one another. Text can’t quite achieve this polyphony – the eye can read only one line at a time – but it can come close. Myrna Kostash’s Seven Oaks Reader, originally developed for radio, is a contrapuntal history of the 1816 gunfight known as the Battle of Seven Oaks, which took place near the Forks in today’s Winnipeg. The skirmish lasted only 15 minutes but left 22 dead and would long reverberate in relations between settlers and natives. In Seven Oaks Kostash arranges short passages from multiple sources – journals, histories, fiction, songs – that together form an at times contradictory narrative. From those contradictions emerge larger truths about finding meaning in history. A work that heeds the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to build “capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect.”

Review by Jade Colbert, Globe and Mail

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