A Circle of Birds by Hayden Trenholm (Anvil Press) might serve as a benchmark for the Geist Distance Writing Contest: it crosses more than the requisite number of time zones, and it might certainly be said to be as far out there as the author can take it. The protagonist is an old man suffering from aminesis, struggling to hang on to the present while his "mind is peeling away like an onion. "That peeling away gives the story a compelling drive that makes this book hard to put down: what he does remember (or contrives to remember) are shards of a life story that seems to include most of the twentieth century and most of the world. This is a surprising tour-de-force, and its author should be praised for it; his vision is bleak, his language spare, but his imagination is rich and his abilities are profuse. More, please, Mr. Trenholm. Canadian literature (like Canadian film) has always lacked a solid substratum of popular genre work. The reasons for this are diverse and rooted in our history; they include: the peculiar systems of support for the literary arts in Canada; certain prevailing (and long outdated) notions of High Art that permeate the literary world here; a system of mass-market distribution that fails to encourage (insofar as it does not actively exclude) Canadian popular writing; and a critical press unable to respond meaningfully to pop writing that is not part of a foreign tradition of potboiler history, romance, thriller, mystery, etc. The literary world in Canada has no real place for the Canadian low-brow, or the home-grown good read—save for certain regional works that thrive well outside the mainstream. As a result, the works of Pierre Berton, for example—potboilers every one, on a par with the books of James Michener—fail to create a potboiler tradition, for they are everywhere received as they are marketed: as capital-L Literature, and are immediately levelled-up as it were, into the remoter echelons.