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“Original and engaging…an act of scholarship and imagination.”
“All of Canada in a one acre plot.” The Globe and Mail.
Where is here? That question, Nothrop Frye believed, was the key to the Canadian identity, the secret of our collective psyche. For Phil Jenkins, “here” is a single acre on Le Breton Flats, in Ottawa. In this strikingly inventive book, he stakes out that acre and recounts its life story. He rides a glass elevator up from the earth’s core, describing the geological strata he passes through before reaching the surface. He watches the land submerge beneath the salt water that rises as high as the tallest skyscraper, a place where, ten thousand years ago, whales cavorted. He climbs a pine tree to watch Champlain paddle up the Ottawa River, intent on converting the native Algonquins and claiming the acre for France. He walks down Duke Street in the early part of this century and reports in detail the on the busy community he finds there. He stands on the desolate acre, expropriated by the federal government and then left in bureaucratic limbo, studying its endangered flora, fauna and future.
An Acre of Time is about the way land becomes territory, territory become property, and property becomes real estate. It’s about the process by which man alters the places he inhabits. By taking a single acre of Canada and examining it in unexpected ways, Jenkins has produced a highly original celebration of place, a book at once eclectic, invaluable and unique.
I’m a landscape artist, but I write word pictures on the page, not paint on canvas. Taking a microscope slide of one acre, in the city I call home, and laying out its history, the way it has been used and abused seemed the perfect way to illustrate my root philosophy; life is a contest between the poetic and the financial, and we play it out on the land. So I managed to come up with an offbeat history of Ottawa, and the Canadian attitude to land.