Friday, May 31, 2019

Aaron Vidaver, Counter-Interpellation: Volume One


257 Station Street,
Duncan, B.C.

TO      Adoption Placement Section,
            Child Welfare Division,
            Department of Social Welfare,
            100 West Pender St.,
            Vancouver 3, B.C.                                           August 7th, 1969

RE:FRANKLYN, Virginia Athea

Please find enclosed Background Study of a child being Relinquished for Adoption. The child is expected the first week in September.

                                                            [signature: “E. McKierahan”]

[signature illegible, “for”]
PETER H. CLUGSTON, District Supervisor



I’m fascinated by Vancouver poet, critic, editor and publisher Aaron Vidaver’s Counter-Interpellation: Volume One (North Vancouver BC: CUE Books, 2019). I’ve seen literary works constructed out of the archive numerous times—poems and works of prose that directly utilize and incorporate archival materials—but Vidaver’s latest is made up entirely of archival documents, without editorializing or context, one that provides a fascinating portrait of how one imagines self from the outside. The bulk of Counter-Interpellation: Volume One focuses on Vidaver’s birth, his relinquishing and subsequent adoption, providing multiple and layered view into how an archive, especially one as thoroughly researched as this one, creates a portrait of an individual through what might otherwise be seen as cold and disconnected letters, forms and files.

The book is composed in eight sections—“Letter to Josephine Vidaver / from Ridgeview Elementary School,” “Adoption,” “Birth Certificate,” “International Certificates of Vaccination / Certificats Internationalaux de Vaccination,” “July 1972,” “Alien Registration,” “Collected Evaluations (1975-1995)” and “Hospitalization.” The bulk of the book explores the details of his origins and subsequent adoption, and finally move into his twenties, examining records around his depression and subsequent hospitalization, which shifts the attention away from immediate origins in a curious way (and suggest the book is a collection of all of his official records, which simply happen to be from these two poles of life experience—origins and adult depression). As someone who is also adopted, as well as an author who has been sending boxes upon boxes of literary papers into an archive at the University of Calgary, I have long been curious about the kinds of portraits various archives and archive material might present of ourselves, which in itself causes one to distrust the archive as any kind of complete overview of anyone, instead providing exactly that: a portrait, one that exists from a particular time and place, and one that might even have been curated (or “edited”). What does the archive allow, and what does it leave out? What might the archive, through no fault of its own, overlook, and how might that affect the resulting portrait? The difference between a life lived, I might wonder, and a photograph taken of you with your parents in church clothes. At the end of the collection, in his “Note,” he writes that “Additional notes on the work appear in the final volume of Counter-Interpellation, with a glossary and list of abbreviations, a lexicon, a bibliography and acknowledgments.” Given this is “Volume One,” I can’t presume how many more volumes exist, beyond the singular (although a quick search discovers Daniel LaFrance’s review via The Capilano Review, that suggest three volumes to come), but I am curious to go through this work and realize the purity of the archive being presented, without a single word or phrase of editorial commentary by the author/archivist. While I might be curious to know something from the author itself, I admire the purity being presented here. It might be all the information I need.

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