Here I get, closer to the magic 50 with a week or so of mostly literary explorations. I realize there’s a thread that runs through much of this post – maybe I should call it the Q Report.
#37 (March 12) The city of Mission’s Main Street Café hosted another Freedom to Read event. Owner Briant Grossmuck was, once again, wonderfully supportive. Last year he ordered in Danishes for the event (remember the Danish cartoon kafuffle?). This year’s menu featured chicken balls; read on.
A highlight of the evening was the very talented 11-year-old Ali (who also plays the alto sax) reading a section from reading a section from The Higher Power of Lucky. It’s hard to imagine, but this Newbery Award-winning book has librarians in the U.S. tut-tutting up a storm. Why? For its use of the word ‘scrotum’. Other readers chose pieces from other challenged YA books – Kevin Major’s Hold Fast and S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders.
The second part of the event focused on adult books that have been banned or challenged – Shelley Haggard read from Nancy Friday’s Women on Top; I read from Stephen King’s Different Seasons and Al Purdy’s Selected Poems. Robert Martens read a section (in Old English yet!) from The Canterbury Tales. The musicality of the Old English was spectacular, and served as a great lead-up to the section he read from Allen Ginsberg’s Howl (a segment that led our emcee, Marion Quednau, to say that Ginsberg sounded a lot like Patrick Friesen). Marion also reminded us about the anthology that helped get Sam Hamill banned from the White House, Poets Against the War. She read two selections from the parallel Canadian anthology, The Common Sky: Canadian Writers Against the War. How appropriate to hear these poems this month. Can it really be four years since the U.S. invaded Iraq?
#38 (March 15) The Ides of March is supposed to be a day to stay home. At least if your name is Julius Caesar. I stayed home, but still experienced some Canadian art – art that would probably rouse a challenge someplace. I watched a DVD I’d borrowed from the library, SCTV is on the air.
The episodes on this disc were made in the ’80s, and I suspect they might not get made today. Still, there was plenty that made me laugh – and while it’s good to see how far we’ve come in some of our attitudes, it’s a shame we’ve lost some of our innocence and have become so guarded and self-censoring. Oh John Candy, if only we could see an episode where Borat meets Johnny LaRue.
#39 (March 18) This event required me to follow a map (often a dangerous proposition for me, as I’m directionally challenged, to put it mildly) to the home of Walt and Elsie up on Sumas Mountain. But Elsie is brilliant and had sent me a map. Unlike the ones from Mapquest, hers had homelier details: “Think up and up. Now you are going up a steeeeeeeep hill.” and “Soon…you’ll come to a four-way stop. Don’t turn or you’ll become a pillar of salt.” and “…on your right you’ll see another GRAVEL MINE! Curse aloud! Walt spent two years fighting the government…” I figured even if I got lost, I’d at least have her notes to keep me entertained while the search party looked.
And what was my reward at the top of the mountain? A reading by poet, Patrick Friesen(who so recently had been compared to Ginsberg!). I’m not accustomed to Sunday afternoon readings, but the sturdy calmness of the work in Friesen’s new book, Earth’s Crude Gravities, suited the mostly older crowd; its truth about family and characters in small towns touched a chord with the group. The foggy mountain atmosphere enhanced the almost-spiritual mood of the reading – helped conjure the memories and spirits in Friesen’s finely crafted poems.
And wouldn’t you know, as he was closing the book and starting to answer questions, the sun burned its way through the clouds.
#40 (March 21) Yet another literary event – this time in Langley. Tariq Malik was reading from his collection of short stories, Rainsongs of Kotli He opened by explaining some of the history surrounding the partition of India and Pakistan, then offered some beautiful slides of photos he’d taken in Kotli, his home village. Tariq was generous with his time, answering questions and signing books.
I’m interested to learn more about his next book, based on Vancouver in the years 1907-1914. He’s already done four years of research, so it sounds as though he has a lot of material. Some of the hints he dropped were plum-delicious. Did Vancouver really have a link to the stirrings that brought about partition?
#41 (March 23) Because the rains persist (and persist!), I decided to take the day off. I brought my coffee back to bed, curled up in my nest of blankies, and read Marion Quednau’s new book, The Gift of Odin. It’s supposed to be for kids who are 9 to 11, but heck, my inner child is always sneaking out for some fun.
Odin is a Vietnamese pig, and his owner, Tammy, is one spunky girl. The characters are sparkly-clear and believable, and Odin is a sweetie – even when he has reason to bite. Just the right treat for a lazy rainy morning!
Anyway, enough 50 for 50 pursuits for now. It’s hard to believe I only need another nine!