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Emily Carr’s first book, published in 1941, was titled Klee Wyck ("Laughing One"), in honour of the name that the Native people of the west coast gave to her. This collection of twenty-one word sketches about Native people describes her visits and travels as she painted their totem poles and villages. Vital and direct, aware and poignant, it is as well regarded today as when it was first published in 1941 to instant and wide acclaim, winning the Governor General’s Award for Non-fiction. In print ever since, it has been read and loved by several generations of Canadians, and has also been translated into French and Japanese.
Kathryn Bridge, who, as an archivist, has long been well acquainted with the work of Emily Carr, has written an absorbing introduction that places Klee Wyck and Emily Carr in historical and literary context and provides interesting new information.
chipped away the outer wood so that you could see her. Her arms were spliced and socketed to the trunk, and were flung wide in a circling, compelling movement. Her breasts were two eagle heads, fiercely carved. That much, and the column of her great neck, and her strong chin, I had seen when I slithered to the ground beneath her. Now I saw her face. The eyes were two rounds of black, set in wider rounds of white, and placed in deep sockets under wide, black eyebrows. Their fixed stare bored into
for a moment as we stood in its way—but in us it had no interest. The moment we moved from its path it tightened again—this tense, living stare glowing in the sunken eyes of a sick Indian child. All the life that remained in the emaciated, shrivelled little creature was concentrated in that stare. It burned a path for itself right across the sea to the horizon, burning with longing focused upon the return of her father’s whaling-boat. The missionary bent over the child. “Millie!” Millie’s
came up the path on the bank with tin pails. When they saw me, the boy hung back and stared. The man grinned and pointed to our well. He had coarse hair hanging to his shoulders; it was unbrushed and his head was bound with a red band. He had wrinkles everywhere, face, hands and clothing. His coat and pants were in tatters. He was brown and dirty all over, but his face was gentle and kind. Soon I heard the pad-pad of their naked feet on the clay of the path. The water from the boy’s pail slopped
and shadow hands too enormous for this tiny place reached for some article. “I am afraid I am holding up all the sleeping quarters,” I said. “Please, lady, nobody do sleep when at night we go.” I floated in and out of consciousness, and dream fish swam into my one ear and out of the other. At three A.M. the rudder cable stopped playing scales on my vertebrae. The boat still breathed but she did not go. Sou’wester opened my lid and called, “Please, lady, the Cannery.” I rolled, righted,
who was born in 1871. Failing health—angina, followed by a series of heart attacks beginning in 1937—made travel difficult and reduced her physical capabilities. She was no longer strong enough to embark on sketching trips or even to cope with many of the daily chores revolving around her house and animals. Trapped indoors recuperating, Carr stayed abed most mornings and one full day each week.5 Forbidden by her doctor to paint, time weighed heavily on this woman, who was normally so vital and