Most students are waiting for the launch of the latest cellular gadget or fresh fodder for their game console. Part of my job is to get them to read good books. Call me 'old school' but my binoculars are trained on publishers, as I wait for important books I need to perfect my knowledge of this great country. These days, the really interesting books are being published by Canada's university presses. A fabulous example of what a tireless pair of biographers can accomplish is PHOENIX: The Life of Norman Bethune, just released by McGill-Queen's University Press. My interest in Bethune is not casual. I have all of the previous biographies and have researched him in archives. Memory convinces me that I first learned of his importance to our national history when, about 30 years ago, I joined a group of friends at U.N.B. in screening an NFB film on Canadian Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War. Since then I have collected much of what was published about Bethune. I knew PHOENIX had been completed, and I must thank McGill publicist Jacqui Davis for sending me a review copy.
Canadian surgeon Norman Bethune, a Communist and a hedonist, has been a staple of popular culture since his death in China. Radio dramas, stage plays, movies, postage stamps, coins, a television series, novels, biographies, posters, colouring books and (above) the cover of a vintage war comic book, published in 1943.