Literature
Stories About Storytellers
Hugh Maclennan
Stories About Storytellers

Stories About Storytellers, by Douglas Gibson with illustrations by Anthony Jenkins (Copyright © Douglas Gibson, 2011 Published by ECW Press)

This is an excerpt from Douglas Gibson’s new book Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and Othersrunning every Friday. The following is from the chapter on Teacher, Novelist, Essayist , and Cottager, Hugh MacLennan.

One of the things I liked best about Hugh MacLennan — and there were many things to like — was his easy democratic touch. He loved to tell the story from his earliest days about his household in Cape Breton being wakened by a crowd of men fresh from an altercation. When his doctor father threw up the window to make enquiries, a voice floated up. “We’re sorry to disturb you, Doctor, but the gentleman I was fighting with has bitten off my nose!” (I once told that story in Alistair MacLeod’s presence, and Alistair — a proud son of Cape Breton — was not pleased. I hope he’ll forgive this repetition, with its marvellous use of the courteous “gentleman,” which Robert Louis Stevenson’s Alan Breck would have understood completely, and which Hugh relished.)

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Literature
Reading In Canadian
Al Purdy
Al Purdy

George Bowering, Angela Bowering, and Al Purdy at the Purdy home in Ameliasburgh, Ontario, 1967. Photo by Eurithe Purdy.

February, the season of cold and of love, is upon us. Not that easy, natural, bursting love that blooms in June and washes into August, but love deepened by hardship, metaphorical and actual chill winds, love recovered and deepened through humour, and self-mockery, and the need to go on.

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History
In the News
Literature
Sunshine Sketches

SUNSHINE SKETCHES OF A LITTLE TOWN
Airs this Sunday, February 12th at 8 pm on CBC

Based on the life and writings of Stephen Leacock, Canada’s first and foremost humorist, this two-hour signature television event celebrates the book’s 100th anniversary. The reinterpretation of the popular work combines two key stories from Leacock’s time-honoured Canadian classic of the same name, first published in 1912: the sinking of The Mariposa Belle steamer with its holiday crowd in the perilously shallow waters of Lake Wissanotti; together with the frantic campaign to save Mariposa’s hotel and public bar from the Liquor Commission’s shutdown. Leacock’s sly, humorous portrait of small-town Canada—a portrait that mirrors the whole nation—remains intact in the adaptation.

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Literature
Stories About Storytellers
peter-c-newman-header
Stories About Storytellers

Stories About Storytellers, by Douglas Gibson with illustrations by Anthony Jenkins (Copyright © Douglas Gibson, 2011 Published by ECW Press)

This is an excerpt from Douglas Gibson’s new book Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and Othersrunning every Friday. The following is from the chapter on Refugee and Power-Seeking Missile, Peter C. Newman.

“That bastard Newman! You can’t ever trust him!” It was 1968 and my boss, David Manuel, was furious. The letter in his hand contained bad news. Despite the existence of a signed contract, Peter Newman was cancelling his plans to provide Doubleday with his next book, which was certain to be a bestseller. He was cancelling the contract with regret, and returning, without interest, the money that had been advanced to him some years earlier.

But it wasn’t just that. The letter to David — announcing, and feebly explaining, this decision — was a copy, and the envelope contained an original, signed letter from Peter to Jack McClelland, saying, in effect: “This should fool those guys at Doubleday.”

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Literature
Stories About Storytellers
Robert Hunter
Stories About Storytellers

Stories About Storytellers, by Douglas Gibson with illustrations by Anthony Jenkins (Copyright © Douglas Gibson, 2011 Published by ECW Press)

[Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Douglas Gibson’s new book Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and Othersrunning every Friday. The following is from the chapter on Greenpeace founder, writer, and Very Merry Man, Robert Hunter.]

That sounds like Bob, all right, with only the infectious little hehheh- heh chuckle missing at the end. But that’s only a tiny part of this guy’s life. Let’s try to do better, raising awareness of a man who would have been an icon in many other countries, but who was much too Canadian to take himself seriously, even when Time magazine in 2000 named him as one of the century’s Top Ten Eco-Heroes. Others on the world list — like Rachel Carson and Jacques Cousteau — are probably better known all over Canada than he ever was.

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Literature
Stories About Storytellers
Charles Ritchie
Stories About Storytellers

Stories About Storytellers, by Douglas Gibson with illustrations by Anthony Jenkins (Copyright © Douglas Gibson, 2011 Published by ECW Press)

[Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Douglas Gibson’s new book Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and Othersrunning every Friday. The following is from the chapter on diplomat, diarist, and charming dissembler, Charles Ritchie.]

Charles Ritchie should have been a spy.

By day, he worked as a diplomat: dispassionate, discreet, and diligent (apart, of course, from those afternoons when he slipped out to the movies). In his diplomatic role — in the words of the old Elizabethan joke, as “a man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country” — he was very effective at producing shrewd dispatches, as one of those legendary external affairs men whose sheer skill and dedicated professionalism allowed Canada to punch well above its weight in the international ring. By night — even when he was our ambassador to jfk and lbj’s Washington, or to Bonn, or to London — he emerged from his dark-suited carapace to become a wildly indiscreet diarist, a role that allowed him to be a gossip, a boulevardier, a ladies’ man, and a gifted writer with a novelist’s eye and ear, and an insatiable appetite for life.

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Literature
Stories About Storytellers
Val-Ross
Stories About Storytellers

Stories About Storytellers, by Douglas Gibson with illustrations by Anthony Jenkins (Copyright © Douglas Gibson, 2011 Published by ECW Press)

[Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Douglas Gibson’s new book Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and Othersrunning every Friday. The following is from the chapter on journalist, author and Maker of Rules, Val Ross.]

The byline was Goderich, Ontario, but the setting of the Globe and Mail piece was the neighbouring town of Blyth, where a fundraising dinner was being served to benefit the local theatre. The story began:

“Excuse me, but I hear there’s a famous lady writer who lives near here,” said the man in the Blyth Hall, summoning an alert-looking, sixtyish waitress to his table. “I hear she sometimes comes to this festival.”

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In the News
Literature
Reading In Canadian
canlit-is-sexy-header

January is so often bad news, and the news of M&S’s absorption into Random House dimmed the fugitive light that much more for many readers interested in Canadian literature. But one aficionado’s “misguided” response to the news has captivated the Canadian googling public this week:  Read More

Literature
hot art joshua knelman

Hot Art: a fast-paced true crime story of the seedy underbelly of international art theft.

Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives though the Secret World of Stolen Art
Joshua Knelman
Toronto/Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2011

From the middle ages until 1995 there was something in the south London borough of Bermondsey called a market ouvert. Anything sold in this market between sunset and dawn, literally under the cover of darkness, conveyed legal title to the purchase, no matter how dodgy its provenance. Unscrupulous dealers bought antiques and fine art from even more dishonest burglars and conmen, who likely acquired them within the previous twelve hours. If you have ever bought an antique in London, there is a chance that it was stolen. Bermondsey, literally, was a thieves’ market.

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Literature
Stories About Storytellers
Jack Hodgins
Stories About Storytellers

Stories About Storytellers, by Douglas Gibson with illustrations by Anthony Jenkins (Copyright © Douglas Gibson, 2011 Published by ECW Press)

[Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Douglas Gibson’s new book Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and Othersrunning every Friday. The following is from the chapter on Islander, teacher, and inventor of words, Jack Hodgins.]

“Jack Hodgins, he got curly hair” was the first recorded comment by my daughter Meg (aged two) on one of my authors, after Jack had visited the house for dinner. (I remember fondly that at a return engagement at Jack’s house outside Nanaimo, his kids, Shannon, Gavin, and Tyler, kindly took me outside to see their pullets in the yard overhung by arbutus trees.) Jack’s hair was curly then in 1976 and it’s curly now, although it’s less springy, and a purist would notice that it has gone grey. But Jack is still impossibly boyish, lean, and active. And he’s still shy, in a stooping sort of way that allows him to rear back with a sudden smile or a laugh, as the conversation — or the instructive talk about the craft of fiction — demands it. Those who have seen him in action in a classroom know that he is that very rare blend of a shy person who is also a natural teacher.

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In the News
Literature
Reading In Canadian

McClelland and Stewart Logo

A: Apparently to Germany. Today it was announced that the German-based publishing conglomerate Bertelsmann AG, which owns Random House, took full control of McClelland and Stewart, venerable independent Canadian publishing house and champion of Canadian literature through its flowering in the 20th century under the leadership of Jack McClelland, when it published such  stars in our firmament as Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, and Farley Mowat (the triumvirate one can generally rely upon new CanLit students to name). Douglas Gibson, longtime Editor at McClelland and Stewart, became a household name himself as he steered the work of writers and the reading tastes of Canadians. The New Canadian Library, brainchild of Sinclair Ross and Jack McClelland and published by M&S starting in 1958, introduced countless Canadians to their literary history.

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Literature
Stories About Storytellers
Peter Gzowski
Stories About Storytellers

Stories About Storytellers, by Douglas Gibson with illustrations by Anthony Jenkins (Copyright © Douglas Gibson, 2011 Published by ECW Press)

[Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Douglas Gibson’s new book Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and Othersrunning every Friday. The following is from the chapter on writer and voice, Peter Gzowski.]

I may have counted him as a friend, but Peter was never easy to work with, if “easy” means automatic agreement with the publisher’s plans. We sparred over contracts, where I was shocked to discover that he liked to get his own way, and he was a perfectionist over the book’s contents. He was, in other words, a pro, and I enjoyed working with him over the years. I was distressed almost beyond speech when I first visited him at the Toronto waterfront apartment he shared with the faithful Gill, and found him with his walker and oxygen tank. Some of my McClelland & Stewart colleagues who had the misfortune to be taking a relaxing cigarette break outside the building that afternoon still recall, no doubt, my explosive return by taxi from seeing Peter laid low by nicotine.

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