A profile of me by Sally Cole appeared in yesterday’s Charlottetown Guardian, in which I discuss my longstanding interest in L.M. Montgomery’s work generally and the first two volumes of The L.M. Montgomery Reader in particular. It also includes this photograph of me taken in front of part of my Montgomery collection in my home office. (When I look up from my laptop, this is what I see in front of me.)
UPDATE: Apparently the Guardian has also called me “Montgomery guy.” That’s fine, of course, although I personally prefer “Man of Green Gables.”
For those of you who are going to Congress, there will be a launch for the book next Tuesday, 27 May 2014, from 2:00 to 3:00 PM at Brock University’s Congress Centre—Expo Event Space. Hope to see you there!
I am very pleased to announce the forthcoming publication, in fall 2014, of the third (and final!) volume of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, subtitled A Legacy in Review. It collects for the first time over four hundred reviews of Montgomery’s twenty-four books, originally appearing in periodicals from eight countries. The selections are accompanied by an extensive introduction as well as an epilogue that provides an overview of reviews of twenty-four additional books attributed to L.M. Montgomery after her death.
“Now that it is complete, The L.M. Montgomery Reader is sure to be the authoritative source on Montgomery’s critical and popular reception as a bestselling author. Benjamin Lefebvre has devoted many years to the Reader, and one cannot imagine anyone better suited for the work.”—Janice Fiamengo, Department of English, University of Ottawa
Seventy-two years ago today, L.M. Montgomery died at her home in Toronto, at the age of sixty-seven. Her death was interpreted by her family and by her physician as a suicide—a belief not revealed to the public until an article appeared in The Globe and Mail in September 2008. But in 1942, the circumstances of her death were omitted from the many obituaries that appeared in newspapers across the country, including one from the Calgary Daily Herald. Instead, these obituaries celebrated her life as well as her work, namely twenty-two book-length works of fiction, from Anne of Green Gables (1908) to Anne of Ingleside (1939), and one volume of poetry, The Watchman and Other Poems (1916). Moreover, the obituary appearing in The Globe and Mail, entitled “Noted Author Dies Suddenly at Home Here,” noted that “for the past two years she had been in ill health, but during the past winter Mrs. Macdonald compiled a collection of magazine stories she had written many years ago, and these were placed in the hands of a publishing firm only yesterday.” That book was The Blythes Are Quoted, and it was published in its entirety only in 2009.
In addition to obituaries and coverage of her burial in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, a number of tribute pieces appeared in daily newspapers in the days and weeks following Montgomery’s death, including two unsigned editorials appearing on the same day in the Windsor Daily Star:
When L.M. Montgomery (Mrs. Ewan Macdonald) died in Toronto at the age of 67, a literary career that was built upon an appreciation of the simpler things of Canadian life was brought to a close. No cold realist, no pseudo-sophisticate, she wrote of life as she knew and lived it in her girlhood in Prince Edward Island, and the homely truth and honesty of those works brought her international renown. […]
It was not only a flair for plot and facility of expression that made Mrs. Macdonald a great writer. Her understanding of human nature was deep and thorough, and her interest in the loves, joys and sorrows of everyday folk transcended professional curiosity. It was from all these gifts that she wove her stories, and it was from them that her novels drew their wide-ranging appeal.
Source: “L.M. Montgomery,” The Windsor Daily Star (Windsor, ON), 27 April 1942, 4.
Another tribute, appearing two pages earlier, is a reminder of the fact that Montgomery’s death occurred in the midst of the Second World War:
People were beginning to discover the delights of Cavendish and other parts of Prince Edward Island. The war and the consequent curtailment of travel have meant many journeys to the island will have to be postponed. But, after the war has been won, people will be going in ever-increasing numbers of Prince Edward Island, a province which Lucy Maud Montgomery helped to make famous.
As these and several more tribute pieces demonstrate, L.M. Montgomery’s work touched a chord with many readers during her lifetime, and part of its uniqueness is that her readership has only grown in the seven decades since her death, especially since volumes of journals, letters, and periodical pieces began to appear in the 1970s and 1980s, alongside popular television adaptations of her books. Her work continues to gather an international community of readers and researchers whose interest in all things L.M. Montgomery shows no signs of slowing down.
Of course, it’s actually #1 in Canadian History & Criticism, which is something else entirely. Still, it’s currently the top seller in three categories:
These Amazon.ca bestseller ranks are quite unpredictable, though. Just a few weeks ago I discovered that the book was ranked around 4,200 in the list of overall bestsellers, only for it to drop to 16,000th place a few hours later. And, of course, the fact that Amazon.ca received stock just today after taking pre-orders for the book for half a year accounts for this sudden spike. Still, this is a very pleasant surprise.
I was thrilled to receive, last Friday afternoon, a padded envelope containing my first author’s copy of my new book, The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: A Life in Print, published by University of Toronto Press. I’m always rather in awe of the transformation from a PDF of proofs to a physical book, and this time was no different. I’m enormously pleased with how it turned out, and I do look forward to hearing the reactions of those who read it.
What is especially gratifying, of course, is that it’s taken six years to reach the point where I could hold the book in my hands as a tangible object. Between August 2007 and July 2009, I held a postdoctoral fellowship (funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, otherwise known as SSHRC) at the University of Alberta while living in my current hometown of Waterloo, Ontario (it’s a long story). My project was entitled “Branding a Life: The Case of L.M. Montgomery™” and my plan was to write a book-length study about Montgomery’s body of work, leading up to her final work, The Blythes Are Quoted,which at the time remained unpublished). Although I did a lot of researching and writing during those two years, I also spent a fair bit of time travelling to libraries and archives in order to track down Montgomery’s short stories, serials, poems, essays, and interviews, including a good number that are not listed in Lucy Maud Montgomery: A Preliminary Bibliography (1986). Initially my plan was to introduce all of this little-known material in the book, but then two things happened: first, Penguin Canada accepted The Blythes Are Quoted in March 2008, and second, I realized that I now had so many essays and interviews for a book of their own. Initially my plan was to put together a volume entitled How I Began: L.M. Montgomery’s Essays and Interviews 1910–1939. But then, somewhat inevitably, I kept finding material that I found just as fascinating—early scholarship, entries in reference works, profiles, and book reviews—and started to think of ways to place all this work in the context of Montgomery’s publishing history within her lifetime and in the seven decades since her death. And soon, the book-length study that I had originally planned got shelved, and the three-volume L.M. Montgomery Reader emerged. Like most big projects, this one has been several years in the making and it has evolved considerably as time went on, but I am very happy with the final shape of each of the three volumes.
Speaking of the three volumes, I’m pleased to announce that Volume 2: A Critical Heritage will be published in May 2014! And who knows? Maybe at some point I’ll be able to resume work on the book-length study that I had originally planned!
The call for proposals for L.M. Montgomery and War, the eleventh biennial conference hosted by the L.M. Montgomery Institute and held at the University of Prince Edward Island on 26–29 June 2014, has a new deadline of 15 August 2013! Please visit the new conference Facebook page for all the latest updates!
“And you will tell your children of the Idea we fought and died for—teach them it must be lived for as well as died for, else the price paid for it will have been given for nought.” — Rilla of Ingleside (1921)
“I am thankful now, Jem, that Walter did not come back … and if he had seen the futility of the sacrifice they made then mirrored in this ghastly holocaust …” — The Blythes Are Quoted (2009)
The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, a global conflict that would prove life-changing for L.M. Montgomery and millions of her contemporaries. For the eleventh biennial conference hosted by the L.M. Montgomery Institute at the University of Prince Edward Island, we invite proposals for papers that consider war in relation to L.M. Montgomery’s fiction, poetry, life writing, photographs, and scrapbooks, and the range of adaptations and spinoffs in the areas of film, television, theatre, tourism, and online communities.
Montgomery’s 1921 novel Rilla of Ingleside is one of the only contemporary accounts of Canadian women’s experience on the homefront during the First World War, but the War is evoked and implied in direct and indirect ways in many of the novels, short stories, and poems that precede and follow it. The Blythes Are Quoted, Montgomery’s final published work, bridges the years between the First World War and the Second World War, complicating Montgomery’s perspectives and thoughts about war and conflict. Montgomery’s work has met with a variety of responses world-wide during times of war and rebellion, from post-WWII Japan to today’s Middle Eastern countries. Different kinds of wars and rebellions also permeate her fiction and life writing—class conflicts, family disputes, gender and language wars—sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic. This conference seeks to take stock of the complex ways in which war in all its forms has influenced Montgomery’s works and their reception, both in Canada and around the world.
Possible topics include: the Great War anticipated, revisited, remembered, and re-imagined; the politics of gendered witnessing; Montgomery’s reception in times of war and conflict; chivalry, patriarchy, conflict, and romance in poetry and fiction; war as an agent of change; internal and external rebellion in relation to war; the psychology of war in battle and on the homefront.
Proposals should clearly articulate the proposed paper’s argument and demonstrate familiarity with current scholarship in the field (please see http://lmmresearch.org/bibliography for an updated bibliography). For more information, please contact the conference co-chairs, Dr. Benjamin Lefebvre (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr. Andrea McKenzie (email@example.com). Submit a proposal of 200–250 words, a biographical statement of 70 words, and a list of A/V requirements by 15 August 2013 by using our online form at the L.M. Montgomery Institute website at http://www.lmmontgomery.ca/. Proposals for workshops, exhibits, films, and performances are also welcomed. Since all proposals are vetted blind, they should include no identifying information.