Cape Breton is in the blood
American who fell in love with the
island and its people produces tribute
By ELIZABETH PATTERSON, Cape Breton Post
Bretoners have always been interested in the opinions of
others and there are few things more cheering than making a
"best of" list in some magazine. But instead of just being
known for beautiful scenery In The Blood: Cape Breton
Conversations On Culture goes even further with a look at
what makes the islandís culture so unique.
Feintuch, who wrote the text in In the Blood, is the
director of the Centre for Humanities and a professor of
folklore and English at the University of New Hampshire. He
has been coming to Cape Breton since the 1990s to research
the islandís traditional music.
take long for me to realize that, for me, Cape Breton was
paradise," he says.
interviewing people so he could understand the music better.
That eventually led to Smithsonian Folkways asking him to
produce two CDs. He asked his friend, Gary Samson, to do the
photography and it eventually led to something more
I talked to people, the more I wanted to talk to even more
people," he says. "At some point, I came up with the idea of
a book of interviews, and I asked Gary to collaborate."
that what really inspired the book is that I fell in love
with Cape Breton, and I wanted to do something to convey
that, something that would be a gift to many of my Cape
Breton friends, and something that might help others
understand why the island is something we should care
is a book of fascinating interviews with some of the
islandís cultural icons and beautifully rendered photographs
of those same people and of course, the scenery. While the
book features many of the better-known artists, such as
Natalie MacMaster, Alistair MacLeod and Mary Jane Lamond,
there are just as many interviews with lesser-known people
who have made a similar cultural impact.
says he wanted to show the islandís diversity, as well as
what makes it so special.
very strong sense of shared identity, derived from histories
that most people know. Thereís a deep affection for place ó
everyone I talked to loves being home. Thereís a very high
degree of what the writer Robert D. Kaplan calls
Ďcommunity-mindedness.í There are deep economic challenges
that have led to a need for a kind of creativity and
flexibility. While I donít know that these things cause the
cultural richness and artistic production, I think theyíre
important factors, and I think that much of the art in Cape
Breton, ranging from the traditional music to the remarkable
literary creation, reflects those factors."
released the book just before last yearís Celtic Colours
Festival at Cape Breton University and in Mabou. Considering
this bookís roots in the islandís traditional music scene,
itís probably the most appropriate homecoming for a volume
that examines the islandís culture and those who create it.