Frygeana From Here and There

Compiled by Robert D. Denham

A.N. Wilson, The Evening Standard [ London ] 31 December 2001 : 15.

“The best book on the Bible ever written in my opinion is The Great Code by Northrop Frye—a somewhat magi-like Canadian professor who died some years ago. It shows you the kind of book the Bible (and for that matter the Koran) might be, and the kind of truths and insights which might be extracted from such texts.”

“Jerome’s Declaration of Independence .” Toronto Star 23 September 1988

With Jerome Godboo, you never know. It may come in the middle of a song or at the end of a set. Or it may happen between numbers as he eyes his audience and notices something not quite to his liking.

Suddenly, he will lunge into the crowd, or violently shake a bottle of beer and spray it up the crotch of his guitarist, who continues to play as if nothing were wrong.

Explosive and gloriously unhinged, Godboo is the most dangerous performer in Toronto these days . . . .

“Earlier, I had a band called Northrop Frye,” the singer says. “We read this interview with Northrop Frye and he seemed so intelligent but he had such a child-like innocence about him that we decided to name our band after him.”

“Author’s Festival Notebook.” TorontoStar 21 October 1993 : E6.

Northrop Frye’s Grave, and Whole Fresh Tuna. It’s impossible to predict what Toronto attractions will rank as favorites with foreign authors. Japanese author Masahiko Shimada, for example, visited Mount Pleasant Cemetery, the final resting place of critic Northrop Frye, whose work Shimada reveres. But he was most taken with Kensington Market. The novelist loves to cook, and was delighted with the range of fresh foods, including live tuna.

Larry McCaffery, “As Guilty as the Rest of Them: An Interview with Robert Coover,” Critique 42, no. 1 (Fall 2000): 115–25.

Robert Coover: “I don’t think any literary critic has ever had any influence on me, though probably I should have listened to some of them. Valéry maybe in his essaying mode. Northrop Frye.”

Financial Times, July 29 2004 announced this week that it was considering identifying reviewers, thus ending the practice of anonymously touting your own book and giving your nemesis a kick. This is a shame, particularly since Observer’s well-sourced mole has pointed out that in its heyday the wags at The had great fun at their colleagues’ expense. In a review of Hitting the Jackpot: The Inside Story of the Richest Indian Tribe in History by Brett Duval Fromson, someone purporting to be “Northrop Frye,” the literary critic, writes that after reading the book he found himself “trying to understand how people felt about dance before Balanchine, about jazz before Satchmo, about cuisine before Escoffier.”

Philip Marchand, TorontoStar , 20 September 2004 .

Maya Lin’s 1982 Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., was a turning point in the design of monuments. It stood Borglum on his head. Rather than looking upward, the visitor to the memorial looked downward; rather than fixating on the prominent brows and jutting chins of famous faces, the visitor felt the presence of negative space, like the presence of men missing in action.

It was unheroic, but so unexpectedly moving that it changed our thinking about memorials in general.

The depiction of heroic figures will not quite die out, of course. In the Ottawa Peacekeepers Memorial there is an old-fashioned sense, aroused by the statues of brave men and women caught and frozen in a moment of action. Increasingly, however, we will be drawn by memorials that create a certain mood or atmosphere. Statues won’t do it.

If we want to memorialize remarkable figures in the life of our city, for example— a Glenn Gould or a Morley Callaghan or a Marshall McLuhan or a Northrop Frye, or even an Olympic gold medallist such as Marnie McBean— we will create spaces that evoke something of their style, even if it’s in a fairly abstract or minimalist fashion.

Robert Inchausti, Interview with Rob Moll, Christianity Today, 26 July 2005 .

Literary studies over the past 20 years has been struggling with a lot of competing materialisms. Frye had offered in the early 60s a radical mystic contemplative vision of the literary studies, which doomed him to obsolescence in 1963. But now that practices like lectio divina and those contemplative ways of reading are being rediscovered, you look back at Northrop Frye, and he’s the guy who provides the most interesting ideas and paradigms. But I think such a recovery is going to have to be done by religious folk. Because if you try secularizing his categories, they just don’t work. It’s only through religious eyes that Frye’s literary cosmology makes sense, in the same way that Lord of the Rings has a deeper meaning to those who see its Christian themes.

In Frye’s letters and journals and also his sermons, because he was a pastor, you get to see the full Christian dimension of his thinking. He discussed how to read prophetically, how to read contemplatively. These were issues that Frye addressed that the last 20- 25-five years of literary criticism just ignored. I think what’s going to happen in about 10 years is they’re going to rediscover the language in which Frye was writing and learn he was trying to teach us how to read in a way that deepened our inner lives, not just increased our intellectual sophistication.

Northrop Fox

In November 1983 Frye received a letter from Northrop Fox of San Francisco. This letter has not survived, but Frye’s reply seems to make clear that Fox’s classmates were making fun of his given name and that he was asking Frye’s advice.

Dear Northrop Fox:

. . . . In my view your classmates are a lot dumber than your name. It used to be very common to give family surnames as given names, though it may have gone out of fashion for a few years. I was named after Miss Sarah Ann Northrop of Lowell, Massachusetts, who eventually became my grandmother. It is quite a common name in New England, and there was a quite famous scholar in Yale of that name.

So hold on to your name, and don’t be ashamed of it.

Sincerely yours,


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