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 Winner : Western Magazine of the Year

20

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GEIST retrospective

: Special Collector’s Edition

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Fall & Winter

78/79

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e keyed everything into the database in the afternoons, and unwound in the evenings with a glass of Savage Caves, a can of Kokanee, a

bottle of Moosehead beer. Twenty years passed and we had 3,383 things in the database, a tidy collection of top-notch work. But where was the pain, the struggle, the agony? Where was the hijacking of No. 8, the whole edition snatched from the loading dock by faceless

villains? Who would steal 5,325 copies of a literary magazine, said the officer attending. No one had any ideas, but one fact remains: Geist No. 8 is the most completely collected issue in the twenty-year history of the illustrious magazine that you hold in your hands at this moment, with 1,388 writers and artists of the first calibre in the database, along with 302 poems, 404 fiction pieces,740 narrative pieces, 175 comix, 295 essays, 108 “other” things, and hundreds of photographs, maps, puzzles and illustrations, reviews of 1,558 books, films, zines and comix. Some-

one said the numbers don’t add up. Well, some of the records are multiples. And don’t forget the readers, the illustrious 22,580, every one of them keyed into the database with loving attention throughout the same period, readers who followed these same writers and artists of the first calibre through 5,248 published pages, a lot of page turning, a lot of keyboarding, but no smoking, not any more, not in this century anyway. We outgrew our tiny office, and booked meeting rooms in the public library until the librarians threw us out for laughing too loudly too often: it was time to move on . . . continued on page 82 Fact & Fiction Made in Canada by Annabel Lyon t D.M. Fraser t Edith Iglauer t Paul Tough t Miriam Toews Charles Bernstein t Meandricus t Mary Meigs t Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas t TOM WALMSLEY

Soren Bondrup-Nielsen t MandELbrot t bill bissett t Yoshihiro Tatsumi t Jane Awde Goodwin t Clem and Olivier Martini t Bakir Junaideen t Edward Hoagland t Jennica Harper t Patricia Young


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www.geist.com published by The Geist Foundation publisher Stephen Osborne senior editor Mary Schendlinger publishing assistant Michal Kozlowski associate editor C.E. Coughlan executive director Patty Osborne circulation manager Kristin Cheung web editor Ross Merriam editorial assistants Sarah Hillier, Chelsea Novak administrative assistant Daniel Zomparelli interns Becky McEachern, Lauren Ogston, Dan Post editorial board Kevin Barefoot, Bartosz Barczak, Trevor Battye, Jill Boettger, Marisa Chandler, Todd Coyne, Brad Cran, Laurie Edwards, Melissa Edwards, Robert Everett-Green, Derek Fairbridge, Daniel Francis, Erinna Gilkison, Helen Godolphin, Leni T. Goggins, Lily Gontard, Michael Hayward, Gillian Jerome, Brian Lam, Sarah Leavitt, Sarah Maitland, Thad McIlroy, Billeh Nickerson, Eric Peterson, Leah Pires, Leah Rae, Debby Reis, Craig Riggs, Kris Rothstein, Norbert Ruebsaat, Jane Silcott, Paul Tough, Michelle van der Merwe, Carrie Villeneuve, Josh Wallaert, Kathy Vito, Kaleigh Wisman, Barbara Zatyko accountant Mindy Abramowitz, cga advertising & marketing Clevers Media cover Steffen Quong web architects cascadiamedia.ca composition Vancouver Desktop distribution Magazines Canada printed in canada by Hemlock Printers first subscriber Jane Springer managing editor emeritus Barbara Zatyko Support the Geist Writers and Artists Fund: geist.com/donate

Volume 19

Number 78/79

Fall/Winter 2010

NOTES & DISPATCHES

Stephen Osborne

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Shots Fired

Veronica Gaylie 12

Memory Test

Jane Silcott 14

Lurching Man

Jane Awde Goodwin 16

Dear Doctor

Megan Mueller 17

Vladimir

Taylor Brown-Evans 18

In the Centre

FINDINGS

Joseph O’Connor, Catherine 21 Owen, Olivier Martini, Bakir Junaideen, Edward Hoagland, Jennica Harper, Tim Inkster, Don McLeod, George A. Walker and Frank Newfeld, Patricia Young, Shane Rhodes, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, François Mandeville, Sarah Leavitt, Roger Epp, Harry Karlinsky, Renee Rodin, Susan Telfer, Jeffery Donaldson, Soren Bondrup-Nielsen, Gillian Jerome

From a Growl to a Scream, Father’s Day, Bitter Medicine, The Butler’s Room, Hotcakes on a String, Strange Time, Flowers for Hitler Was a Peculiar Book, Extinction, Circle the Wagons: In Ink, Drifting Life, The Cheating Gambler, The Agony and the Impasse, Waiting For Sleep, Moniyaw Treaty, Evolution of Objects, Home Team, Funeral Fire, Hereafters, Like a Belly Dancer, Tenement Song

COMMENT

Stephen Henighan 121 The BookNet Dictatorship Daniel Francis 125 Revising Mr. Bennett Alberto Manguel 127 Going to Hell RETROSPECTIVE

Authors old and new

81 Selections from 20 years of Geist

DEPARTMENTS

4 Letters Mandelbrot

7 In Camera

The Usual Gang 131 Endnotes Meandricus 143 Puzzle Melissa Edwards 144 Caught Mapping


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FEATURES

Flowchart 41 Christopher runs. leannej He runs everywhere. Sometimes he wears no shoes.

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Eye for Detail 42 A profile of Edith Iglauer Annabel Lyon She has been writing for more than seventy years, and her dense, detailed style of description has a quality of almost photographic accuracy and deep care. Guanacaste Journal 54 We are intent on leisure Evelyn Lau The pool, the food, the drinks, the artificial waterfall . . . Letters from Josef 56 Joseph Meyer, or Josef Mengele? Ann Diamond At age eleven, a young man from Pennsylvania realized that he was a reincarnated Nazi war criminal

Motion Sensitive 62 Stories like lines of wash M.A.C. Farrant The time we buried Daddy is another story. The grave was too shallow and then it rained

Postcard Lit 64 500 words or less Honourable Mentions 6th Annual Postcard Story Contest Tilly Starblanket 70 “Are you an Indian squaw?” Kelly Shepherd Tilly says that when people try to guess her ethnicity they are always wrong, because they see what they want to see and Natives aren’t exotic

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Red Scare 77 Our winter of protest Daniel Francis Canada on the brink of a Bolshevik revolution? Sholem Paints 119 The Ugly Painting Competition Sheila Heti So ugly, Sholem couldn’t look at it Cover design by Steffen Quong. Geist is printed on eco-friendly papers with vegetable-based inks.

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Readers Write

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Geist is published four times a year by The Geist Foundation. Contents copyright © 2010 The Geist Foundation. All rights reserved. Subscriptions: in Canada: Individuals $24 (4 issues); Institutions $31; in the United States: $32; elsewhere: $32. Visa and MasterCard accepted. Correspondence and inquiries: subscriptions@geist.com, advertising@geist.com, letters@geist.com, editor@geist.com. Include sase with Canadian postage or irc with all submissions and queries. #210 – 111 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, B.C. Canada v6b 1h4. Submission guidelines are available at geist.com. issn 1181-6554. Geist swaps its subscriber list with other cultural magazines for one-time mailings. Please contact us if you prefer not to receive these mailings. Publications Mail Agreement 40069678 Registration No. 07582 Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: Circulation Department, #210 – 111 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, B.C. Canada v6b 1h4. Email: geist@geist.com Tel: (604) 681-9161, 1-888-geist-eh; Fax: (604) 677-6319; Web: geist.com Geist is a member of Magazines Canada and the B.C. Association of Magazine Publishers. Indexed in the Canadian Literary Periodicals Index and available on microfilm from University Microfilms Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. The Geist Foundation receives assistance from private donors, the Tula Foundation, the Canada Council, the B.C. Arts Council and the B.C. Gaming Branch. We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical Fund (CPF) for our publishing activities.

special thanks to the tula foundation

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E L E M E NT A L S enjoyed Lynn Coady’s short story “The Natural Elements” (Geist 76 ) so much, I actually resubscribed to Geist. But I take exception to Cal, the main character, being called “a well-meaning schlub” by Steve Fahnestalk (Letters, No. 77). To me, Cal is a man a bit adrift in a world where the rules and certainties he grew up believing to be written in stone turned out to have been etched on ice and melted away with the years. (And when I look at the young men of today, I think we may have lost something valuable.) What particularly struck me was the compassion Coady telegraphed for this man, who might be thought of as old-fashioned, even sexist. I couldn’t help but feel he was human and good, even if I don’t agree with his world view. So not a schlub. —Beverly Akerman, Montreal At geist.com: “The Natural Elements.”

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ABSENT FRI ENDS hanks to Julie Vandervoort for sharing her heart (“Sewing Cabinet,” No. 74). All of us who have lost a mother or a loved one will immediately understand what she is talking about. How our lives, like it or not, are woven with others’ lives, and in

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OH, T HE BOWERI NG FEELI NG till a Writer” by George Bowering, at geist.com (from The Box, published by New Star Books), about being a writer and a spy, picked me up with the first sentence and carried me through the paragraphs with as much suspense and anticipation as the Grand Chute on the Des Moines River once whisked my canoe from top to bottom. Nice pic, too. Hope you still have those shoes, George. —Bruce McDougall, Toronto At geist.com: “Still a Writer” and other work by George Bowering.

www.geist.com

their absence we need to fill in for them, with our memories that spring as they never did before. Objects and spaces acquire a new meaning. The question arises: Why live distanced from the ones we love? The ones who are still here, in this transient journey like us? I like the way the story flows in psychological time more than linear time. It gives the narrator a tri-dimensional, human quality and the reader can follow her in every heartbeat. —Maja L., Tulum, Mexico At geist.com: “Sewing Cabinet” and other work by Julie Vandervoort.

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LINGUISTIC PEST CONTROL arah Leavitt’s cartoon “The Authoritative Field Guide to Language Vermin” (No. 76) is the most super, if visual, bit of language lessoning I have seen/heard in a lo-o-o-o-o-ng time. —Janet E. Smith, Edmonton At geist.com: The field guide, and other works by Sarah Leavitt. Read an excerpt from her new graphic memoir, Tangles, in this issue.

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WAY OUT OF THE PARK hanks for “Kosmic Baseball,” Brad Robinson’s memoir of counterculture baseball in Vancouver during the 1970s. Like Robinson, I was writing for the Georgia Straight in 1970, and played in the Kosmic League, at Connaught and McBride Parks. A couple of memories. First, an all-female team called the Eager Beavers had a centre fielder who, in desperation during a lopsided mismatch, threw her glove up at a fly ball that was hopelessly out of her range. The glove actually caught the ball some twenty feet in the air and fell to earth, and she attempted to throw the runner out at third base (in vain). Second, if I remember right, Flex Morgan and the Mock Heroics had a

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catcher who wore pants that were split in the crotch, and he played sans cup or underwear. Anything to distract the pitcher . . . —Ted Laturnus, Delta, BC At geist.com: “Kosmic Baseball.”

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C L I M A T E WA R S started “Phony War,” Stephen Henighan’s opinion piece (No. 77)— about the cataclysmic damage being done by climate change—with reluctance, only because I have been listening for some time to the low hum of rising panic that rests on the horizon, waiting to arrive full-blown and terrifying. I did not want to read more doom and gloom. I really didn’t. But Henighan is a compelling writer, and an intelligent, reasoned argument is difficult to resist; and so, I read the whole thing. And I agree with him, absolutely. Nonetheless, I will soon board an airplane and head to Texas (one of the future desert states), where our only grandson lives with his parents. I am going to celebrate a wedding—his parents’, in fact. And I will look around at all the drive-through businesses (even the liquor and beer stores) and lack of sidewalks and limited public transit and keep my thoughts (mostly) to myself. We will be there to celebrate life. But what of our young grandson’s future? Thirty years (according to Henighan)? Please be wrong. Thank you for the article. And how I wish I hadn’t read it. But like all things truly important and difficult, it will stick with me in ways that others on the same topic have not. Instead, they have simply drifted away. —Ruth E. Walker, Whitby ON At geist.com: “Phony War” and more work by Stephen Henighan. And, for that matter, more work by Ruth E. Walker.

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POSTCARD L I T ttention, Geist readers who didn’t get the connection between the story and the postcard image for “Blue Eye” by Donna Kane (No. 77): check out the magazine cover on the far right. There’s a single blue eye that looks permanently open. Subtle connection, but what a start for a story. Imagine if that eye were in your stroke-damaged body. —Heidi Greco, Surrey BC

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ood riddance to Louis, I say (“Blue Eye”). Never trust a guy who keeps his eyes shut. Do you remember Jean McKay’s story about the teacher she had in elementary school who made the kids carry a clean teaspoon in their pockets in case one of their eyeballs ever popped out, so they could scoop it up and plunk it back in? Can’t pull off that little trick unless you’re looking. Same with life. —George Sipos, Salt Spring Island BC The postcard story “Men Gone Mad” by Richard Harris—so damn funny. Is that a teapot in your pocket or . . . —Jason Tannenbaum, Bronx NY At geist.com: Winners of the 6th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest, and entry information on the 7th annual contest, underway now. SPELL CHEQUER was going to let you have the last word on the spelling of “plough” (“plow,” according to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, your house lexicon) when, just yesterday, reading Jack Hodgins’s A Passion for Narrative, I noticed that on page 213 he uses the word ploughing. I believe that the Canadian Oxford would be well advised to take its spelling preferences from living Canadian authors—who, I’ve

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noticed, generally agree with the way I was taught to spell in Canadian schools. —Anne Miles, Gibsons BC

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VOGON’S A DVOCATE n her blog, your editor Becky McEachern objects to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as the One Book, One Vancouver title chosen by the Vancouver Public Library. To play Vogon’s advocate for a moment: I agree that it’s hard to drag anything Vancouver-specific out of this thirtyyear-old British book, but I have to agree with the selection on principle. It’s an incisive, funny, whimsical book whose satirical relevance has, if anything, grown over time—the titular handheld, networked computer that sprang from Adams’s fertile imagination in 1979 is very much a reality today, and in fact it’s hard for us to appreciate how fantastical it would have seemed when originally published. Now, you can argue that public reading events should focus on up-and-coming, or local, or capital-L literary authors (or preferably all three) and ignore lighter, popular fare such as The Hitchhiker’s Guide, but that attitude is so prevalent that it actually makes a popular book a daring choice. I’m reminded of recent criticism of the work of Anne Michaels (as one of Canada’s ten most overrated authors) in the National Post: “They’re the All-Bran of CanLit: books that people read because they think they’re good for them, not out of any expectation of pleasure or enjoyment.” Surely we can allow ourselves a break from the All-Bran and enjoy a nice meal of fish and chips every now and again instead? One more thing: McEachern’s blog entry on the subject was posted October 10, 2010, binary-42 day (10/10/10 = 101010 = 42 in binary notation). That only rolls around once a century. —Brook Jones, Vancouver

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SENSE OF PLACE aving grown up in eastern Ontario, I was pleased to see Apple Hill included on the “Beatles Map of Canada” (Jill Mandrake and Melissa Edwards, No. 77). My buddy and I used to bicycle there from Alexandria to visit his grandparents. However, you appear to have located it north of the Ottawa River, in “La Belle Province.” Did I miss something? Has Harper ceded that part of Ontario to Quebec in his crazed quest for the Quebec vote? —Peter Dawes, Edmonton Melissa Edwards replies: Hm, looks like there are two, and I chose the less culturally significant one. Go to http://ow.ly/2qrxL to see the one in Quebec. For more on the Geist maps of Canada, see geist.com/atlas.

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CANUCK-SPEAK More grist (geist?) to the mill for the Cross-Canada Phrasebook-in-Progress, a trove of words, names and turns of phrase that explore regional differences in Canadian English. I’ve noticed that B.C. and Ontario have both common and different terms for putting your old stuff outside for sale. In Vancouver, I’ve seen “yard sale,” “backyard sale” and, on rare occasions, “lawn sale.” Ontario uses “yard sale,” “lawn sale” and “garage sale.” Is there a place in Canada that calls the sorry display of mouldy items what it really is: junk sale? —Ken Klonsky, Vancouver SEND YOUR LETTER TO:

The Editor, Geist letters@geist.com, Fax 604-677-6319, #210 – 111 W. Hastings Street Vancouver BC, v6b 1h4 Letters to Geist may be edited for clarity, brevity and decorum. Authors of published letters will receive a Geist Map, suitable for framing.

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IN CAMERA

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COLLECTING

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rom: “100 Shopping Carts,” a workin-progress by Brian Howell, who since June 2010 has been photographing shopping carts in Vancouver used by street vendors engaged in scavenging, recycling and related economic activity. Howell purchases the carts outright, with their contents, so that he can photograph them under controlled conditions in his studio. He pays the prices

asked by the vendors, who say they have no difficulty acquiring replacement carts whenever they need them. The shopping cart on the right-hand end of the middle row was retained by its owner, a man named Cowboy, as it contains his personal belongings rather than commercial goods. The two new bicycles in the cart in the bottom row were returned by the photographer to their young

owners, whom he found on craigslist. Brian Howell’s work has appeared frequently in Geist. It can be seen at geist.com, along with images of the tent on his front lawn in which he stores his growing collection of shopping carts (numbering “just under forty” at press time). His publications include Fame Us: Celebrity Impersonators & the Cult(ure) of Fame. —Mandelbrot

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Shots Fired STEPHEN OSBORNE

What makes a real city real?

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n the afternoon of September 11, 2004, in a Lebanese café on Hastings Street near Victory Square in Vancouver, a heavy-set older man in a windbreaker and baseball cap who had been chatting quietly with the proprietor began to speak up in a remarkable gravelly voice on the subject of what was wrong with this city; or, to put it another way, he said to the proprietor in

measured tones, I can tell you what this city needs, what this town doesn’t have nearly enough of, he said, is more shots fired. He paused with these words and it was clear now that he was addressing not only the proprietor, an amiable man in an embroidered flat-topped cap who was standing behind the counter, but everyone in the café, young women and men sitting alone or in pairs at tiny

photographs: victory square, steve dynie, dyniephoto.ca 0

tables and along the tiny counter, students from the downtown university campus and the film school at the end of the block, with their books and magazines and hushed conversations, all of whom ceased talking or reading or staring out the window to look over at the proprietor and the gravelly-voiced man in the windbreaker, who seemed, to me at least, to be an unlikely connoisseur of baba ghanouj, tabbouleh, hummus or the falafel wrapped in pita that lay on the plate before him; he held a folded newspaper in his hand as if it were a pointer or a wand; he was forceful but not unfriendly; in fact he was smiling. The proprietor remained attentive but uncommitted; he seemed to be a man of considerable equanimity. Earlier when I had asked for a bowl of lentil soup, for example, from my stool at the other end of the counter, he met my gaze solemnly with a nod that seemed to seal a pact between us that would never be broken. Perhaps it was his trusting and at the same time conspiratorial manner that encouraged the gravelly-voiced man in the windbreaker to speak so forthrightly to a room full of strangers, all of whom had fallen silent at the words more shots fired, and remained silent as he went on to describe a recent journey in a pickup truck along the coastal highway through California, Oregon and Washington, accompanied by his faithful dog Alf, whom he referred to as his best living friend. Now in this city here, he said, as he returned to his theme in the same measured tones, you got a fine city here, don’t get me wrong, a good city, a good-looking city, but you can’t call it a real city. You

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go to L.A. to get real, he said. As much as I admire this city, he said, but this city is not real like L.A. is real. That’s where what you need is more shots fired. Say what you want about L.A., but you go to L.A., you get shots fired, lots of shots fired. None of the other diners offered to contradict or to affirm these remarks delivered with such authority by the gravelly-voiced man, who now looked confidently along the counter toward me and toward the other diners, inviting a response from any who wished to speak. But no one spoke; perhaps, being young film students and university students, and a marijuana advocate or two from the paraphernalia shop across the street, they felt that the gravelly-voiced man in the windbreaker was in some disquieting way right in his call for more shots fired; but to agree with him would be to collude in an unpleasant truth about ideas of urbanity and the city, and to argue with him would be to expose oneself as naïve and foolish. Eventually a young man at the front of the café spoke up, only to ask the gravelly-voiced man in the windbreaker if the truck parked outside was the one he had been speaking of, and if so, would it be cool for him to go out and say hello to the dog? Better than that, I’ll introduce you personally, said the gravelly-voiced man, and he and the young man stepped out onto the sidewalk and no more was heard, during the remainder of my time in the Lebanese café, of L.A., shots fired and/or the more general question of the real in cities. In another moment all was nearly as it had been when I entered the Lebanese café, low conversations, occasional eye contact, falafels and lentils, baba ghanouj, but one could still feel an after-effect lingering in the air, a continuing reverberation, the consequence

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and the promise or the possibility of needing more, more shots perhaps, more shots fired. The lentil soup was, unsurprisingly, superb, thick and savoury, possibly the best lentil soup I had ever tasted. I slipped along the counter and scooped the newspaper left behind by the gravelly-voiced man and read on the arts page an account of the International 3-Day Novel Writing Contest, which had been founded thirty-four years earlier, shortly before closing time in the Piccadilly Bar, three blocks from where I was sitting, followed by a report of the City of Vancouver Book Award, which had been won by Maggie de Vries for Missing Sarah, a biography of her sister, one of the twenty-seven or possibly fifty-six or even sixty-five women taken from the streets a few blocks away from the Lebanese café and possibly murdered on the pig farm in Coquitlam or somewhere nearby over a period of years while the police failed to investigate or even to keep an accurate tally of

the missing or the dead. The question of what made a real city real, as implied by the remarks of the gravelly-voiced man in the windbreaker, had coloured my attention, which I could feel seeking signs of the real in the news of the day. The front page carried a so-called exposé of the business holdings of the Hell’s Angels, which included nightclubs, coffee shops, a travel company, trucking firm, supermarket and chocolate factory, but clearly the business dealings of the Hell’s Angels were not an element

of the real in the sense that the man in the windbreaker had intended and as I think all of us in the café, fellow diners, the proprietor and myself, had understood it while he was speaking; and in fact the Hell’s Angels story in the newspaper was so long and so boring that no one, not me and certainly not the gravelly-voiced man who had been flourishing the same newspaper like a wand during his address, and who, as I left the café and turned down Hastings Street toward Victory Square, was out on the sidewalk looking into the passenger window of his pickup truck with the young man who wanted to say hello to the dog Alf, would be likely to read it to the end.

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ow did more shots fired represent what we miss in life, in city life, I wondered: during our lives in cities, I mean, in this city. What can we mean by more shots fired, words never spoken in cafés or restaurants, or on public transit, but nevertheless words to conjure with, words that conjure a world of dark passages and lurid behaviours; a matter of aesthetics, I wanted to say as I walked down Hastings from the Lebanese café on my birthday, although I had forgotten that it was my birthday, a cloudy Saturday, a day well suited to walking along with nothing much on one’s mind. Who, after all, yearns for shots fired, I wanted to ask or to have asked, in the Lebanese café. Surely, had I thought of it in time, I would have or could have pointed out to the gravelly-voiced man in the windbreaker that an apparent lack of shots fired, encountered after a journey along the winding, scenic, bucolic highway up from L.A. along the Pacific coast and over the border, was in fact a lack of reports of shots fired; and doesn’t the

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phrase shots fired refer to shots not heard by those who read or hear reports of shots fired, a phrase that itself emerges from textures woven by journalists, photographers, novelists, movie makers, news reporters and the like, whose trade is to wrap a veil of the real around the unreal ordinary city, so to speak, always with one proviso: that the real remain at a distance, just around the corner or over on another side of town, a darker place of mysterious byways and elusive histories, such as the Downtown Eastside, which lay beyond Hamilton Street at the Hastings Street intersection where I paused and looked over into Victory Square at the cenotaph rising up and the grounds around it recently terraced in such a way as to render them unsuitable for the tents of the homeless. I felt confounded by this question of the real, and no matter what I imagined myself saying to the gravelly-voiced man in the windbreaker, or to the other diners in the Lebanese café, I couldn’t shake the feeling that indeed what cities needed, in order to fill an obscure but real requirement, lay in the requirement more shots fired. The facade of the cenotaph in Victory Square bears a text carved in gleaming capital letters coated with gold paint that I often recited to myself when I was in the neighbourhood: IS IT NOTHING TO YOV ALL YE THAT PASS BY. Now I said it aloud: YOV. What kind of city says YOV when rebuking its citizens? Beside me, on the wall of an empty bank building, hung a bronze plaque memorializing the land commissioner for the CPR, a man named Hamilton, who, in 1885, according to the plaque-writer, IN THE SILENT SOLITUDE OF the Primeval Forest drove a wooden stake in the earth and commenced to measure an empty land into the streets of Vancouver. Here was an urbanity that

denied the gravelly-voiced man, a vision of the city emerging from silence, from an unpeopled vastness, inoculated with a wooden stake against the lurid, the criminal, the world of shots fired, of reality, of any reality at all. I crossed Hamilton Street and Victory Square and went up to the entrance to the six-storey building on the corner that had been head office of the daily newspaper, to read another, smaller plaque memorializing the Reading of the Riot Act by the Mayor, in 1935, on the steps of the cenotaph, before a thousand or more unemployed men who were refusing to work in labour camps for ten cents a day. The photograph on the front page of the newspaper shows the mayor from above, brandishing a sheet of paper, presumably the Act itself, on the cenotaph steps surrounded by police officers armed with tear-gas canisters and truncheons; junior reporters and photographers had merely to hang out of the windows in the six-storey building to get their materials for the big story. The senior reporters were with the chief of police over in the courthouse on Georgia Street, attending the even bigger story of his trial for corruption and conspiracy, a lurid tale of highlevel cops in low-level dives, joyrides in the police boat with notorious procurers and known white-slavers, late-night feasts of chicken, rolls, whisky, beer, champagne, and the bagpipe-playing of a constable named Johnson—sensational events for a city born in empty silence; for some weeks traces of the lurid, alluring world implied by more shots fired can be found in the newspapers of the day, but not on the memorial plaques. Since that Saturday in September, I am often reminded of the gravellyvoiced man in the Lebanese café by newspaper headlines and radio newscasts. A few days ago the local CBC

news described a jewellery store robbery as a brazen heist, a phrase that belongs with shots fired in a certain lexicon, and indeed, the announcer went on to report both a shot fired and then more shots fired. Closer to my home, during the first week of September 2010, several headlines reported a murdered man found stuffed in trunk in a parking lot miles away from the murder scene identified by police as a warehouse on Victoria Diversion, around the corner from where I live on the east side. Stuffed in trunk: were there shots fired as well, I wondered. On Saturday, the 11th of September, I went for a birthday walk along Victoria Diversion, a two-block stretch of cinder-block and wood-frame warehouses, and found the crime scene, a crumbling single-storey structure housing a liquidation centre identified by hand-painted signs offering bicycles, cans of paint, decorations, tables, chairs and other liquidation items for sale wholesale to the public, at enormous discounts. I approached the entrance and peered into a dark interior lined with wooden shelving and cardboard boxes spilling over onto the floor, and felt my neighbourhood enjoined in the texture of urbanity revealed briefly in the Lebanese café: a world of shots fired, bodies stuffed in trunks, decrepit warehouses, empty bank buildings, corrupt police chiefs; as well as the distant scream of sirens, helicopters throbbing overhead late at night, signs of the real that the gravelly-voiced man in the windbreaker, having emerged from the wilderness accompanied by the dog Alf, had prophesied on my birthday in the Lebanese café.

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Stephen Osborne is publisher and editorin-chief of Geist. He is also the award-winning writer of Ice & Fire: Dispatches from the New World and dozens of shorter works, many of which can be read at geist.com.

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Memory Test

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VERONICA GAYLIE 25

“How are crying and laughing the same?” the brain doctor asks my mother

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n the windowless Brain Centre the doctor sits across from us. “You had an appointment for a memory test two years ago. Why didn’t you show up then?” he asks. My mother, a Glaswegian, the research subject, replies, “Well, I am never late. I always keep my appointments.” “I guess you forgot,” says the doctor. We smile just to be polite. He stares back coldly. (No irony in the brain world.) The doctor says, “I am going to say three words. And then I am going to ask you a question. Do you understand?” “Yes,” my mother replies. The doctor says, “Shirt. Honesty. Brown. What is the middle word I just said?” “Oh, well,” says my mother. “It is a very good personal quality to have.

Sorry, I cannae remember. Emm . . . Honesty is the best policy?” The doctor tries it another way. “Humility. Honesty. Modesty. Please name the second word.” My mother lowers her eyebrows. “Ach. I wouldnae choose. I believe in all of them.” The doctor frowns. He makes a note. I take out my own notebook and make a note. The doctor makes a note of this too. The doctor asks what different parts of the body are for. “For example,” he says, “what are the arms and legs for? How are they similar?” My mother moves her arms, in simulated jogging. “Aye. They both get yehs moving. They get yeh oot and into the world. They’re not the main body. Not near the heart.” The doctor frowns again. He makes

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a note. I make a note. He points to my mother’s hand. “What are these?” “Oh!” she says, laughing. “Yer knuckles.” He lets this one go, leans closer. “How are crying and laughing the same?” She laughs again. “Ha! Well, I donnae understand that question. I mean, I wouldnae want to put it that way in the first place.” “But how are they the same?” “Well, they’re not. They’re not the same. One’s when yer sad and the other’s when yer happy.” He writes in his notebook again. My mother remarks: “Ach. Guess I’m not doing too well on tha test!” Another question. “How are eating and sleeping the same?” “I really don’t look at it like tha.” “But how are they the same?” “They’re not the same.” The doctor tells my mother to take a piece of paper in her left hand and fold it, using only that hand. She takes the paper and begins folding. “Ye have to fold it right. Make the edges meet. I used to wrap presents in a department store when I was a shopgirl in Glasgow. And then in London during the war. I was promoted to supervisor. Ye have to use both hands.” When the doctor asks about her family, my mother replies that she has one sister and a brother who died in the war. Another brother lives downtown. “What does he do?” the doctor asks. “He sings into the phone,” my mother replies. “Mostly Hank Williams. He knows twelve songs and can yodel two.” The doctor makes a note. He asks how far my mother went in school. She answers, “Grade 8. Then I had to go to work in the pop bottle factory.” “Where else did you work?” “In department stores.” “Which one? The Bay? Woodward’s?”

“No, it wasnae in Canada.” My mother looks at me like the doctor is losing it. “I was a shopgirl in London. At Woolworth’s.” After a pause, he says, “Boat. Train. Car. What do these three words have in common?” “That’s how I came to Canada. Ho! And in that order.” “Boat. Train. Car. What was the first word I said?” My mother replies, “The Lady Nelson.” “Mrs. Gaylie,” the doctor says firmly. “What was the first word I said?” “The Lady Nelson,” my mother says firmly. “That was the name of the boat I came to Canada in. It used to be a banana boat in the Panama Canal. I can still see it sitting there waitin’ fer us at the dock in Southhampton. Ach.” He asks my mother to draw circles and boxes as three-dimensional shapes. She draws dotted lines for the inside and the back of the box, the parts she can’t see. The pencil meanders around the page a little bit. It looks like a cartoon box, but it’s good. “I’ve never been an artist,” she laughs. He asks my mother to write a sentence. I tell him that when we were growing up she wrote shopping lists for nine children, wrote our names on paper lunch bags every day, managed the household finances, wrote letters to us when we went to camp, wrote letters to her cousins in Glasgow. I tell the doctor that apart from lists and letters, her literacy was talking. The doctor says, “Okay . . .” “Oh no,” my mother says, with a laugh. “I can do this one. Em. A sentence.” She begins reciting a poem. “Do you know the one, Oh take me down to the sea and sky, Oh take me down to the sea . . .?” The doctor says he does not know the poem.

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“It’s a good one,” my mother says to the doctor. “Yeh should write that one down. Poetry can really cheer yehs up.” She smiles at him encouragingly. He tells us the test is over. As we walk out the door, she gives the doctor and everyone in the waiting room a big wave. “It was nice to meet yehs. Thank you very much. Take good care of yerselves noo!” The door closes. In the parking lot at the Brain Centre, my mother says, “Yeh see. Yehs have to boost them up a wee bit. Ach. They’re bored stiff. They donnae like their jobs. Just give them a few things to keep them goan.” I laugh. “Yes,” she adds, getting in the car. “An’ remember I said tha.”

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Veronica Gaylie’s writing has been published in Grain, Ditch, Room and Lake, as well as in Geist. For more, see geist.com.

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He walked along muttering and cursing, but not at me, I was pretty sure

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he man on the street was wearing a Hawaiian shirt: white background, red flowers. He was yelling at a man and woman who were passing in front of the door I’d just stepped out of. The couple looked sleek and clean. They wore dark tailored coats, and the woman’s hair swung as she turned quickly to look back at the man and then forward again at her mate, who was hurrying along beside her. I couldn’t catch what they were saying. I had just stepped into the street myself, so their passing was more of an impression than a scene. The yelling man’s words were clear: “Fucking yuppies,” he yelled. “Fucking fuck.” He turned and walked in the direction I had to go, muttering to himself. He was far enough ahead that if I walked slowly I might not catch up to him, but if I stayed on that street, I knew that meeting him would be inevitable—as if

there were a string, long and slightly elastic, pulling me into his orbit. I had just come out of the Shebeen, a tiny pub in Gastown, where I had attended a friend’s literary book launch. (Elegant words, friendly company. Add alcohol and stir.) I’d given a little speech at the launch, which had made me excessively nervous, so I’d gulped at my beer afterward as if it were ointment that could settle inflamed thoughts, create ease, turn me into a person I will never be. It didn’t work exactly, but there on the street, even though it was Vancouver’s infamous Downtown Eastside, and it was night, and many people I knew thought of it as a place of such darkness that once one entered, one might never get out again, I felt comfortable. I’d had the beer, and I’d spent enough time there in daylight to know that the dangers, if any, were more inside me than out, and that these

were more likely to threaten me in other settings. Still, it was night. I’m a woman. The street was dark, and my mind was full of its usual tensions. I soon caught up to the man. As I overtook him, he stopped gesticulating and muttering, looked me in the eye and said hello. I said hello back. He wasn’t a big man. His hair was dark and trimmed, so aside from the swearing and the shirt, which stood out mostly because it was winter and not because there was anything especially strange about it, he looked much like anybody. He said, “It’s a weird night out here,” and I said, “I know,” and hoped that would be the end of it. Sometimes people just need the courtesy of acknowledgement, I told myself smugly, comparing myself to the angry couple. I kept walking, and he walked behind me, muttering and cursing again, but not at me, I was pretty sure. We were approaching a busy intersection, a place where the road curves and cars speed around it as if their drivers think they’re in the Indy or are afraid of getting caught at a stoplight in the Downtown Eastside. I stopped a few feet from the curb, and the man continued past me without slowing. A car sped toward us, about half a block away on the inside lane. “Whoa!” I yelled at the man, and “Whoa!” again as he hovered between a lurch forward and a lurch back, inches from the street. His eyes were steady on mine, but not focused, as if I’d interrupted him mid-thought and he was still swimming back from it. I was terrified he’d step out in front of the speeding car, so I opened my mouth and hoped words would come. “You’re all right,” I managed, trying to project confidence at the same time wondering why those words. When my husband said them to me, I usually answered, “How can you tell me I’m all right, and what do you know?” But this man didn’t

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argue. His body grew quieter and he stared at me as if I knew what I was talking about, as if, in fact, I’d given him some necessary information. Then I wondered if my husband had always intended the words as a comfort, not an assumption. Was I understanding this for the first time? The man stayed there on the edge of the curb, cars rushed past, the light stayed red. At a break in traffic, but still against the light, he lurched across the street and seemed to disappear into the darkness on the other side. After he was gone I went back to thinking about the launch and my friend and the things I would do tomorrow and the tomorrow after that. But when the light changed and I crossed the wide street and saw the man leaning in the shadows against a building, I knew he was waiting for me. “What’s yer name?” the man said as I got closer to him. I didn’t answer. He said it again. I turned my head and shook it “no,” worried he’d take offence, but not wanting to give away something so personal. My beer brave was wearing thin. I imagined him using my name the way bullies did when I was young, or my mother, when she was disappointed in me. What if he found the right cadence to make me think in some way I owed him? “You’re not going to give me your name?” he said, sounding nonplussed. I stopped and shrugged. Could I even explain it without feeling small? Then he nodded, and I realized that I had liked him right from the start—maybe his inappropriate shirt and the sleekness of the people he had been yelling at, maybe the slightly submissive posture of his body and the reedy sound of his voice. Did he remind me of someone I knew? Or was he just some manifestation of self out there lurching through the world? We both started walking again, him keeping pace, but far off to

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my left. He called me “ma’am.” Told me he’d had a bad night and just wanted to get out of there, go home. I said I understood. By that time we were in a stretch where there were hunched shadows against the buildings, and the light was especially dim. He walked past the shadows with me, then said, “I just need a twenty to get on the bus.” A twenty? I thought, feeling disappointed, or just stupid. What had I expected? “I don’t have any money,” I told him. “You don’t have a toonie?” He sounded incredulous. His voice went high at the end. “Oh, a toonie. I thought you said twenty. I don’t have twenty.” I opened my wallet. He drew nearer. I handed him a five. “Here, get a coffee. Go home,” I said speaking the way I had at the curb, like a mother, speaking like I had any business telling him what to do. “Thank you, ma’am. God bless,” he said. “If you’re ever here again and need help, I’m here for you.” I smiled, my idea of the relationship restored, and said goodbye. Just before the SkyTrain station, in a section of exceptional darkness, I saw a man bent in apparent agony. Some force twisting his body, and I wondered, in this new Florence Nightingale view of myself, knowing what to say and all, what on earth could I say to him? I worried that he would fall against me or suddenly rear up. I walked faster. Near the station, an old man sitting in the shrubbery called out as I passed, “Can you spare some change?” I said nothing, the way I so frequently do.

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Jane Silcott teaches and writes in Vancouver. Her work has been published in a number of literary magazines and anthologies. Read more stories of adjectival men, and her other Geist work, at geist.com.

Dear Doctor J A NE AWD E GOOD WIN

Please remove the sharks from my forehead

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octor, there’s a bump on my finger and a hole in my forehead, not really a hole but a gap a cave a crater a spot a space that something’s been taken out of. It vibrates sometimes it tingles like a prickly finger is scooping, digging a grey tunnel, a belly button hole on my forehead. Inside it there is cement and three pigeons in a circle vibrating. Regarding the bump on my finger, it is a silver sphere that pops up shiny from the flesh. What’s that supposed to be? I sat looking at it on the train for a while with my bum on the red fabric and my foot touching silver. It moves under my skin like a groundhog. I would like you to cut it out. Carve that thing out and stuff it into the hole in my forehead like a barbed wire fence. I’ve called the Health Hotline but they do not have your mirrors or your lights. They cannot see that other than the cement and three pigeons there are sometimes two sharks swimming in the gap in my forehead. One is orange with spots and the other is transparent,

showing off his organs. They meet in the middle where there is sometimes a magnetic force. (Is there a medication for this symptom?) If possible I would like those sharks removed, their fish beaks are pointy. Past occurrences of this ailment (the hotline nurses told me to give you a detailed medical history) include a store setting up shop in my forehead. It was tethered to the hole with a bungee cord. The roof was the colour of a pear and the door was the colour of a cherry. The shop’s door would swing open and a parrot would greet everyone: “Hello, hello, hello.” Sometimes I stuffed roast ham in there to feed him. I hate to beg but Doctor, please Doctor, can you sew all that shut?

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Jane Awde Goodwin’s writing has been published in Room and Prism International, and her entry in the 3-Day Novel Contest (2008) received an honourable mention. She lives in Toronto.

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You should have explained how bad it was going to get

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ladimir: How dare you tell me to give her bananas when she asked me, two days ago: “This feeds the cancer, doesn’t it?” She knows and she hears everything you say when she seems asleep or resting, with her eyes closed. She’s a very intelligent woman I’ll tell you that right now.

and you throw yourself down the stairs to assist in something that was taught the first day in nursing school. Half of them look at me like I’m supposed to know. So much of this is guesswork, intuition, but I know what mixes with what and I walk a straight, sober line.

Vladimir: How dare you tell her that this is some kind of punishment from past life transgressions? You’re a palliative nurse, for Christ’s sake! Don’t bring us your religion like a present to unwrap, to discover, like pheasant under glass not now.

Vladimir: How dare you come into my house in your clinical way like some kind of Rasputin like you’ve seen it all before?

And to the pretty, dark-haired doctor in the hospital, part of the first team (the ones who never came to the house): You were really kind when we cried with the impact of first learning. And your associate’s sister had the same thing so that must have been hard. I am sorry. But you lied to us when you told us the pain could be kept at bay. You should have explained how bad it was going to get. That things are going to happen when no doctor is at hand in the middle of the night when the fucking useless night nurse wakes you with a phone call and the panic roars zero to sixty

We trusted you when we became really, really scared like animals. We forgave you because you came every day at the same time each morning when we paced outside on the front porch because we hadn’t seen the sun for days or later, when we took you aside, out of earshot, to ask, to implore: “How long?” —only a few times, when we thought we could bear to hear something we mistakenly assumed could bring relief. 100

Megan Mueller is a writer, editor and writing coach. Her poetry has appeared most recently in the Antigonish Review, Dalhousie Review, Misunderstandings Magazine, Toronto Quarterly and Frequent & Vigorous Quarterly. She lives in Toronto, where she also works as a scholarly acquisitions editor.

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From Captain Canuck, writing and artwork by Richard Comely and George Freeman, with contributions by Claude St. Aubin; collected and edited by Justin Eisinger and Scott Dunbier, and published by IDW in 2009. The character Captain Canuck was created by Ron Leishman and Richard Comely in 1974. The first issue of the comic book, Captain Canuck #1, was independently published in July 1975, and several others were produced over the next five years. Captain Canuck (the book) contains issues 4 through 10 and a handful of shorter strips, including “Power Play,” that ran in several western Canadian newspapers in the ’70s. For more on the life of Captain Canuck, go to captaincanuck.com.

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FROM A GROWL TO A SCREAM Joseph O’Connor

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From Brick 85, published in 2010. Joseph O’Connor is an Irish novelist and former journalist. He is the author of Cowboys and Indians and The Secret World of the Irish Male, among other works.

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can remember the moment she came into my life. It was on the afternoon of my fourteenth birthday, September 20, 1977. I was in a record store called Freebird, a murky little basement that reeked of mould and patchouli oil, on the north quays of the Liffey. An aunt who lived in London had sent me ten pounds as a gift, and I didn’t know what to buy. I was flicking through a rack of second-hand punk rock records, with their splatters of graffiti and blackmail-style lettering, when my fingers stopped at an unusual sleeve. It showed an: extraordinary-looking woman of skeletal build. It was like a still from one of those cool French movies. The record was Horses by Patti Smith.

Bang-bang, play A list of battle-themed, hockey-related terms from Hockey Talk: The Language of Hockey by John Goldner, published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside in 2010. Growing up, Goldner’s favourite hockey player was Henry “Pocket Rocket” Richard.

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agitator bang-bang play blast brawl cannon chase around the block collapse enforcer extra-attacker firewagon hockey fly-by gauntlets grinders goon

hack handcuffed heavy shot helicopter job ice breaker laser beam live grenade load up the cannon pulling the trigger radio shot rearguard riding shotgun run-and-gun shoot-in

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shooting gallery shootout silencer slapper smashmouth hockey sniper solo mission staged fight submarine sudden death tomahawk chop x on his back

I had never heard of this Patti Smith. I’d never seen anyone who looked like her either. You couldn’t have called her pretty; she was something much more troubling. Yeats wrote that Maud Gonne had “beauty like a tightened bow,” and the old priest who taught us English (and who had himself once seen Maud Gonne on a Dublin street) would try to explain the phrase. But when I saw that photograph, I knew what it meant. Androgynous, sullen, unconventionally gorgeous, she had the air of a young Keith Richards about to embark on a night of debauching debutantes. Her confidence was enthralling, her raffish self-possession. It sounds mad to say it now, but in the 1970s you just didn’t see women presenting themselves in this way. This was an era when the monthly Top of the Pops anthologies still featured models in crochet bikinis simpering on the covers. Patti didn’t strike you as a bikini kind of gal. On a beach, you imagined she’d be wearing Doc Martens, sipping absinthe, and kicking sand into the faces of passing skinheads. Camille Paglia would later write, of the cover photograph of Horses (taken by Smith’s then lover Robert Mapplethorpe): “lt was the most electrifying image I had ever seen of a woman of my generation . . . It ranks in art history among a half-dozen supreme images of modern woman since the French Revolution.” I confess I wasn’t pondering the art historical implications, but in thirty years of buying records, it’s still the only one I’ve ever bought purely for its cover. In every life there are moments remembered in a kind of emotional slow motion. The first kiss, the first heartbreak; the first time you lost out; that instant when your eyes met across a crowded party. The first time I heard Patti Smith singing is one of my moments. I grew up in a home where there was music of all kinds, but I had never encountered anything quite like this. The band was on fire. They sped up songs to a punkish thrash, then slowed them to a ginsoaked barrelhouse blues. Over this extraordinary sound came Patti’s voice like a whip crack: mischievous, scheming, prowling, transgressive. It was like listening to someone holding their heart in their hand: so stark and raw, so beautiful and yet so violent. It demolished Van Morrison’s

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garage-band classic “Gloria,” wrenching its pieces into intoxicating new shapes. I was at the stadium There were twenty thousand girls called their names to me Marie and Ruth but to tell you the truth I didn’t hear them I didn’t see I let my eyes rise to the big tower clock And I heard those bells chimin’ in my heart Going ding dong ding dong ding dong ding dong ... and I gotta tell the world that I make her mine make her mine

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FAT H E R ’ S DAY Catherine Owen

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From Prairie Fire, Vol. 30, No. 3, published in 2009. Catherine Owen is a Vancouver poet, author of many published books, most recently Seeing Lessons (Wolsak and Wynn). She also plays bass and sings in metal bands, and works as a tutor and editor. Read her Geist work at geist.com.

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r. Woods was never much of a character in the neighbourhood. Not like Lou with his bikes. Or Mrs. Weebes. Always feeding those gulls. Still, once he was gone. u

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In the mid-1970s, women didn’t sing like this. It was the era of Karen Carpenter, Agnetha and Anafried, all swaddled in cheesecloth and lurid batik. But this voice reminded me of Janis Joplin, Howlin’ Wolf, or Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. It also brought to mind the traditional sean-nós singing I had heard with my father on trips to rural Connemara, that realm of Becketty stoniness in the west of Ireland. It would swoop from a growl to a scream in a single phrasing. It soared and hollered, crooned and barked. It could squeal like a saxophone or rumble like an ancient cello; you’d get goosebumps listening to it, and I played it at full blast, loud enough to hurt my teeth. She’d snarl and spit and shriek, but at other times there was a heartbreaking tenderness in the tone. In between singing she’d mutter streams of incantation that were more like crazy prayers than rock ‘n’ roll lyrics. Listening to her was a crash course in popular culture’s rebels. Rimbaud, Bessie Smith, Chuck Berry, The Who, Lou Reed, Allen Ginsberg— all of them were included in Patti’s world view. Maddening, beautiful, pretentious, disgraceful, there had never been anyone like her and there never will be again. No U2 or Nirvana would have been possible without her, no PJ Harvey, no Nick Cave, no White Stripes. As Bob Dylan once remarked of Johnny Cash: “Some people drive the train, but others built the tracks.” I see Patti Smith as one of the truly great track-builders of rock music. The world burst into colour when I first heard her voice. Gloria in excelsis. Patti.

Man, 76, with advanced Alzheimer’s, departed the familial residence sometime yesterday evening. It wasn’t usual for him to go for a walk, say his daughters. u

One daughter was good and rode a pony. The other was bad and wore black eyeliner. Such are the ways we know each other. u

His wife never guessed that he smoked. Just a drag or two. Here & there. Was this the sole extent of Mr. Woods’s rebellion until now? u

In front of their wood-panelled corner lot, the lilacs bloomed & faded, bloomed & faded. u

Two years ago, Mrs. Woods did not return from an Alaskan cruise. She had been feeling a bit unwell. u

Q: Had you seen Mr. Woods lately? A: The back of his head. He was sitting on the living room couch. By the front window. Yes. He seemed to be looking intently at something. u

Making a huge to-do about it. A Big Stink. Was the consensus. Calling in the cops and all. u

So Mr. Woods would not go gentle. Not quiet. Not all as arranged. Consolation. This is what it was. She thought in private.

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BITTER MEDICINE Olivier Martini

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From Bitter Medicine: A Graphic Memoir of Mental Illness, by Clem Martini and Olivier Martini, published by Freehand Books in 2010. The book is a collaborative account, in text and drawings, of a family’s struggle with schizophrenia and the health care system. Clem Martini is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and novelist, and chair of the Department of Drama at the University of Calgary. Olivier Martini’s sketches, paintings and prints have been shown at the Marion McGrath Gallery, published in Alberta Views and included in the Copernicus Project of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

T H E BU T L E R ’ S RO O M Bakir Junaideen From Thursdays: Poems and Prose (thursdayspoemsandprose.ca) published by Otter Press in 2009. Bakir Junaideen is a regular contributor and layout artist for The Main-street Dialogue. You can find him online at 27elements-design.com.

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hen PD comes home in the evening he takes me around the bungalow. He points to a hole in the ceiling of the sitting room. “That’s a bullet hole. A former planter shot himself with a revolver. The bullet went through his skull and through that hole in the ceiling.” I keep watching his face, trying to detect at least a tiny spark of humour. But he is serious. In the front bathroom he points to a red stain in the middle of the bathtub. “That’s blood, blood which can never be washed away.” I touch the red patch on the white porcelain and try to scratch it off with my finger. It’s not paint. It’s not ink. And I can’t scratch it off.

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“My mother slept in this room once and saw somebody standing at the foot of the bed. No one has slept in it since then,” says Uncle Meera, taking me to a beautiful, immaculately neat bedroom. When we come to the door of the room in which I had slept the previous night, he says “This is of course the one where an Appu (butlers in the upcountry are called Appus) hanged himself. See that hook on the ceiling? Appu was found hanging from a rope tied to that hook. His body was half decomposed by the time they took it down. He had locked the room before putting the noose round his neck.” “But I thought that was a hook used for hanging mosquito nets. How could it hold the weight of a grown man?” I ask him in disbelief. He merely shrugs. “Ask Appu if you don’t believe me.” His last words, however, before he leaves me to turn in for the night, are practical. “If you want hot water, keeps the tap running for at least ten minutes. It takes time for the water to come through the pipes from the geyser.”

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H OTCA K E S O N A ST R I N G Edward Hoagland From the book Early in the Season: A British Columbia Journal © 2008, by Edward Hoagland, published by Douglas & McIntyre: an imprint of D&M Publishers Inc. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. Edward Hoagland has written numerous essays and twenty books, including Cat Man and Notes from the Century Before.

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june 13

n Fort St. James, a town of sneakered Indians and booted whites, on Stuart Lake, I talked to Lee Cochran, a packer and former Indian Bureau constable, and also to Harold Smith and Bill Fraser (sixty-five and eighty-three). Fraser’s a thin, dry but kindly guy; Smith, short and hefty. Both were fur traders and freighters, Fraser for the Hudson’s Bay. He came from Scotland to New York to Telegraph Creek in 1908, but left there in 1919 to manage the store down

here, two weeks’ walk southeast. He was the one who used to entertain Luke Fowler at the end of his two-hundred-mile mail run, sledding from Hazelton. His wife had learned to cook from Frank Jap. Now she walks leaning on a metal frame. Harold Smith was meanwhile a competitor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, working for the Takla Trading Company, on a lake halfway back towards Hazelton. But Billy Steele was king of the Manson Creek area, they say. He was the mining recorder and then when each little outfit duly folded, he’d appropriate its grub and equipment for his personal use. Yet he was always hungry. He had a five-hundred-pound cookstove in his cabin that had been brought from Ashcroft, using tripods to pack it on the back of some poor mule. Also had a huge, flowered mirror that he’d salvaged from a ghost-town saloon. He could talk the Indian languages, as well as mimic them well. Billy Steele was around Manson Creek from the age of seventeen to eighty-three, and mined on Slate Creek himself. He married Indian girls several times, but finally would kick

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them out when their sundry relatives came and moved in, as they invariably did. Had an ornery tongue, and several times took a gun to the Indians. He had three dogs and lived so filthy that the blankets on his bed looked as if they were actually made of dog hair. Besides Slate Creek, he worked on Luck Creek, which was named for Sun Luck, a “Chinaman” miner of olden days. For all his finagling, Billy never made more than just enough to feed himself, and not very well by the standards of anybody living outside of the bush. He was on the downhill skids already by World War I. Now, Fred Aslin, of the Burns Lake region later, was a great winter hiker. He would go from Babine Lake all the way to the Bella Coola country on snowshoes, a ten-day walk. He was “a squaw man one hundred per cent,” and ostracized for it. He weighed only 140 pounds, but, boy, there was a lot of it, because he loved to fight. Hard to understand at the table, because he chewed a lot of corn mush when he talked. But he travelled on dried salmon because it was light to pack and expands in the pot, or in the stomach, and he sure “knew the raw gold when he saw it,” says Lee Cochran, the former Indian Bureau policeman.

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uke Fowler had a claim on Blackjack Creek, where he just about made enough to eat. But he used to walk from Hazelton to Fort St. James or vice versa with mail or messages. Point him in the right direction, and give him something to spend when he got there, and he’d go. He used to study the stars and say what he thought was behind them. Rarely stopped along the way when he was travelling, except to eat his fish and rice and tea. Or he’d used to tie up hotcakes on a string between two trees, and let them freeze, and have them there to eat on the trip home. If he came across the old bones of a moose that somebody had killed in the snow, he’d boil up soup–boil out the germs and the smell and boil the marrow out of the bone. He painted his cheeks red (being a ChineseIndian, “a Hazelton half-breed,” according to Cochran), and he grew his hair to his waist, just like a brave or like a woman. He practised

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as a medicine man, making more money that way than on his actual claim. Jimmy Alexander, a strapping six-footer, “about a half-breed,” Cochran tells me, freighted on the riverboats clear down to Quesnel. Ended operating a government ferry on the Fraser. He’d walked in from Winnipeg, taking six months to do it, and accompanied Frank Swannell, who first surveyed the Finlay River. He was like a bear in the bush. Five or ten miles meant simply nothing to him—a matter of an hour or two–travelling always at a jog, living on the grouse, moose, bobcat, or Dolly Varden he got. Went ninety miles nonstop in a day, with the mail, to Fort McLeod, or way north to the Ingenika River, on snowshoes—not bothering with dogs. Died at ninety.

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STR A N GE TI ME Jennica Harper From “Spotlight,” in What It Feels Like for a Girl, published by Anvil Press in 2008. Jennica Harper is a poet, screenwriter and story editor, author of The Octopus and Other Poems. She lives in Vancouver and at jennicaharper.com.

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hen you are thirteen the world is a small room.

A bedroom. A locker at school.

A box. Gym socks, combination locks. Four walls and a roof. For every difficult problem: a proof. But it’s also a complicated room. Doors opening out and in, drawers inside other drawers, closets stuffed with boxes.

A key in every keyhole, but not all of them turning.

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Piles of mattresses. In-between places to slip a finger or a flattened hand. It’s a strange time to be a girl. You observe them all around you:

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wearing bras, A to C. Shaving legs, arms, bikini. They need. They bleed. They’ve heard it all already. AIDS, STDs, how to avoid pregnancy. All in a backpack, shiny and creased. But they act like girls. Shrug, furrow. They play the role, write boys’ initials in liquid paper on binders, keep it simple—put it in a note, fold it neatly. They meet your eye but they don’t sweat the big questions.

F LOW E R S FO R H I T L E R WAS A PECU LIA R BO O K Tim Inkster, Don McLeod, George A. Walker and Frank Newfeld

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From DA 65, published in 2009. Tim Inkster is publisher and printer of DA. Don McLeod is the editor of DA. George A. Walker is a wood engraver, book artist and illustrator, and a designer at Firefly Books Ltd. Frank Newfeld is a well-known illustrator and designer.

FN: Flowers for Hitler [by Leonard Cohen, 1964] was a very peculiar book. I hated the title. TI: Leonard Cohen was not fond of your book design, and you were not fond of his poetic aesthetics? FN: I didn’t object to his poetic aesthetic at all. I

objected to the title and when M&S gave it to me, I said, ‘I don’t want to design this.’ Let me add that I had quite a few relatives who went to concentration camps and didn’t survive Auschwitz and other places. I said, ‘I think the choice of “Flowers for Hitler” is unwarranted at this stage. I think maybe in 200 years’ time people may have forgotten enough that you could call it that. I don’t want to design it.’ This was the one time that Jack put his foot down and said, ‘You have to.’ Hugh Kane said, ‘Frank, do an impossible design—very simple—and don’t come to the board meeting when we discuss the jacket.’ I said, ‘Fine.’ And I designed what I thought was the very worst possible cartouche one could design. And, unfortunately, they said, ‘Yes. We’ll use it.’ TI: Did you try at all to intercede with Hugh Kane to get the title changed? FN: Yes, without success. Both of us tried, definitely. GW: Are these Cohen’s illustrations [on pages 41–42, in the first edition]? FN: Well, they’re not mine. Yes. GW: They must be by Cohen. FN: That’s Cohen. GW: Who claimed to be able to draw better than you . . . FN: Yes, yes. [. . . ] DM: The Laughing Rooster [by Irving Layton, 1964] is another good example of a book with a progression in the preliminary pages. They’re spectacular, with the illustration of the rooster and a dotted photograph of Layton. It just continues on with the rooster’s tail coming up, and so on. FN: Actually, the nice part was the jacket on this. I have a photograph of Irving Layton riding a rooster. When I told Irving that I wanted to do this, he said, ‘Fine, what am I going to sit on?’ And we thought, ‘Now wait a minute. How are we going to do this so it looks as though he’s sitting on something big?’ Finally we decided that we’d take eiderdowns and put them on an upturned chair, and it worked. Layton sat on these eiderdowns, with his feet dangling. They couldn’t reach the floor. [. . .]

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DM: What was it like to work with Pierre Berton [Canadian Centennial Library Series, 1966–67]? FN: He was demanding, but great to work with. Look at the title page [examining Great Canadian Painting: A Century of Art (1966)]. DM: There’s lots of colour. Beautiful. This was a very popular series. Probably all the schools in Canada would have had this. The credits listed are: ‘Editorial Contributors, Paintings:

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EXTINCTION Patricia Young From Here Come the Moonbathers, published by Biblioasis in 2008. Patricia Young is the author of eight books of poetry and one book of short fiction. She lives in Victoria.

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hree hours between flights but we have coffee, magazines, earplugs to muffle the airport, as always, under construction. We stare at photographs of Antarctica, lose track of time. Now and then look up. Passengers arrive in ones and twos. Out comes a laptop, diaper bag, cell phone. A chunk of ice the size of France breaks off without warning. The seas rise dramatically. The banging’s louder now, more insistent. Hammers, drills, some kind of rattling. Turning, we see a man spread-eagled against a glass wall. Like Dustin Hoffman at the church window. In love and out of his mind. How long his pounding, mouth a silent howl, ignored by hundreds, maybe thousands, rushing from terminal to terminal? Through glass he tells us he took a wrong turn after disembarking. A door locked behind him. A fucking labyrinth back here, he informs the pretty custodian we bring over to help. Lacking authority or tools to set him free, she radios someone who radios someone else, a security guard in a golf cart. Get me out of here, I’m gonna miss my flight. The custodian makes soothing motions with her hands while the security guard punches numbers into a keypad. Departure time approaches. The lounge fills with freshly coiffed members of the world’s doomed flying club. A crowd gathers, all eyes on the flailing specimen in a three-piece suit. He loosens his tie, sobs great gulping sobs. Official-looking people appear though no one can access the code that will let the man out, let us in. A voice announces: passengers at gate 33 will not be boarding Flight AC 1742 after all. We have never witnessed such unabashed despair. Never looked at anyone the way we look at the man behind glass.

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Elizabeth Kilbourn, Frank Newfeld; Text: Ken Lefolii; Research: William Kilbourn, Marjorie Harris, Sandra Scott.’ FN: This project was most unusual. We had started on the book and the next thing we knew Elizabeth Kilbourn had some kind of a breakdown. We thought we’d have to cancel the project. Pierre said, ‘No. Frank, pick the paintings. Lefolii, write the text.’ Lefolii said, ‘I know nothing about art.’ And Pierre said, ‘That’s fine, you’ll get notes.’ We had four weeks in which to get it done because of the printing deadline; it was finally printed in Italy. Pierre said, ‘I’ve got a new title page for you.’ I said, ‘My name shouldn’t be on the title page. I’m the designer.’ He said, ‘No, you picked the paintings.’ And that was Pierre Berton. There wasn’t one word about Pierre—he didn’t get any credit at all on the title page . DM: Berton was the editor-in-chief, and you were the art director, for this whole series? FN: Yes. We had one month to do Great Canadian Painting. GW: Oh, it’s beautiful. The reproduction is stunning. FN: It’s excellent. It’s the first thing that Arnoldo Mondadori [of Verona, Italy] printed for us. That story is in Drawing on Type. Weekend Magazine had insisted on printing the thing, botched it completely, and I refused to accept the sheets. I had gone up to Montreal to OK the printing. They wanted to fire me because they were partners in this project. And Pierre said, ‘Fine, fire him. I’ll leave the minute he does.’ They came for a meeting in Toronto because I had refused the printing quality of the sheets. I just said, ‘No, they aren’t acceptable.’ The Montreal people said, ‘They look perfectly acceptable to us.’ And this was in the boardroom. Jack picked up the phone and said, ‘Marge . . .’—that was his secretary. ‘Those sheets I threw into the wastepaper basket. You haven’t thrown them out yet? No? Oh, good. Can you bring them in?’ [Everyone laughs.] He had the sheets brought in. He said, ‘If Newfeld had let it go, both of us would have lost our shirts over the 80,000 printing.’ That’s a big printing.

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C I RCL E T H E WAGO N S : I N I N K 25

Shane Rhodes

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mediatation on Treaty Two

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All text in this mediatation is taken from the Government of Canada 1871 Treaty Two document. No text has been added.

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DRIFTING LIFE 25

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hese two pages appear in A Drifting Life, translated by Taro Nettleton and published in 2009 by Drawn & Quarterly. The book, originally published in Japan as forty-eight episodes in a manga periodical, is an account of fifteen years in the life of Hiroshi Katsumi, a manga artist and writer who is also Tatsumi’s alter ego. Katsumi is barely a teenager in the late 1940s when he begins creating stories for the burgeoning postwar manga industry in Osaka. It’s a fast-moving, competitive business, and Katsumi and his colleagues work in high gear, cranking out as many as fifty finished pages per day. Eventually a few of them break out of the mould and begin creating gekiga manga, a darker, grittier, filminfluenced variety of manga meant more for adolescents than for children, as Tatsumi and his friends did in the late 1950s. To translate a work as long and dense as A Drifting Life seems daunting, to say the least. The book contains 828 pages of graphic narrative, the text of which is a mix of narration, dialogue balloons, sound effects and background words (signs, menus, letters, book and comic pages). The sheer quantity would give most publishers pause, but Drawn & Quarterly rose to the challenge and went further: they translated the cultural and visual aspects of the work as well. For example, the onomatopoeic sound of a cicada in Japanese translates literally to miiiin miiiiiin min, which is nonsense to a reader of English. As well, different dialects of Japanese and English carry connotations of class and status, but the dialects of the two

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languages do not correspond directly. And colloquial expressions are not parallel: as Hiroshi makes love to a bar hostess, he says “Mama!” as he would, in Japanese, at that time—using a term of endearment that would give most English readers an unpleasant frisson. Japanese text is read vertically; English is read horizontally. Japanese panels and pages are read from right to left and (relative to English) back to front. Therefore, in a full translation of a graphic work, all of the panels have to run in reverse order. So does the movement within panels—conversations, for example. Some panels in A Drifting Life were flopped (reproduced as mirror images); but not all of them, because continuity and visual flow had to be maintained from panel to panel and page to page. Tatsumi’s dialogue balloons are clean and spacious, an effect that contributes to the tone and pacing of the work, so the proportion of white space to text in balloons also had to be preserved. A Drifting Life was translated by Taro Nettleton, with contributions and refinements by Chris Oliveros, publisher of Drawn & Quarterly; Adrian Tomine, who brought Tatsumi’s work to the company; Tom Devlin, creative director; and Andrew Wilmot, whose detailed account of the project, “Gekiga into English: Translating the Words, Images, and Culture of Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life,” can be read at http://ir.lib.sfu.ca/bitstream/1892/1058 6/1/etd4226.pdf. The book won two Eisner Awards in July 2010, for Best Reality-Based Work and Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia.

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THE CHEATING GAMBLER 25

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François Mandeville Translated by Ron Scollon From the book This Is What They Say: Stories ©2009 by the Estate of Ron Scollon, published by Douglas & McIntyre: an imprint of D&M Publishers Inc. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. François Mandeville was born in 1878. He worked as a Hudson’s Bay Company trader and learned all the Native languages of the Mackenzie River region, then retired to northern Alberta, where he became known as an expert storyteller. Ron Scollon, a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, focussed his research on Alaska Native and Asian communication.

One after another they played and made their guesses, but none of them was able to guess correctly.

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before he had made his guess, one of them grabbed both of his hands.

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He thought, “I’ll pull my hands out.” But the man who had grabbed him was strong, and he was unable to pull his hands away. The man who had grabbed him looked into his palm. He held a button in each hand.

[PROLOGUE] There was a man named Pierre Dry-Tendon. He won a lot from many people playing the hand game. This is what they say. Many people played against him, one after another, but there was never anyone who could win. He won tobacco, clothing, ammunition, and many other such things. This is what they say. Finally behind his back people started to say, “He must be cheating. That’s how he wins so much at the hand game.” [SCENE I] 100

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The next time they were playing the hand game they watched him carefully. They guessed which hand the object would be in but they guessed wrong.

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They were tied together with a thread. The thread was strung through his sleeve, passed over his neck, and run down the other sleeve. That way he had held a button in each hand. If one side was guessed, by pulling the thread to one side with one of his hands, it went into his sleeve. That way he made it seem to people that there was nothing in his palm. That was how they discovered he was winning so much from people. Everybody became very angry with him. [SCENE II] Then he became ashamed of himself and began to cry like a child in front of everyone. The people who had played with him on his side had also won a lot. But some of them were good people and they said,

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“We thought he was playing fairly, but he wasn’t. We will give back all of the things we have won.” They gathered together all of the things they had won. They said, “You people know which things are your own. Take your own things back.” So they recovered their things.

T H E AG O N Y A N D TH E I M PASSE

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From the table of contents in The Fine Art of Literary Mayhem: A Lively Account of Famous Writers and Their Feuds by Myrick Land, first published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston in 1963. Myrick Land (1922–1998) was the author of several books, including Quicksand, The Search and Writing for Magazines.

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he Cantankerous Dr. Johnson Battles a Lord—and Some Commoners

The cheating gambler then said, “I’ll also give people’s things back.” But people got very angry with him. They told him, “Right now you are lying again. Now that we know how you’ve stolen things we won’t take them back. Go to hell with all of these things you have stolen!” [EPILOGUE] So after staying at the fort for the summer, they set out again. Before they had gone far, Dry-Tendon became sick. He was in pain all summer, and when autumn came he died. 100

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Mr. Pope Confers Immortality upon the Unworthy Mr. Colley Cibber “I Beg You to Forget My Existence,” Cries the Gentle Ivan Turgenev Mr. Thackeray and Mr. Dickens Become Embroiled in a Very Victorian Feud Mr. Wells and Mr. Henry James Reach a Polite but Hopeless Impasse The Patriotic Mr. Jones Protects the British Empire from the Irreverent Mr. Shaw As a Would-be Messiah, Mr. D. H. Lawrence Endures His Sad Lot Among a Host of Friends The “Ridiculous” Mr. Walpole Endures Agonies at the Hands of Mr. Maugham Mr. Hemingway Proves a Good Sport—but Only to Himself

Even in gambling there is no luck for someone who cheats. This is what they say.

Mr. DeVoto and Mr. Sinclair Lewis Call Each Other Fools and Liars

If people gamble, they should do it fairly. This is what they say.

Mr. Norman Mailer Challenges All the Talent in the Room

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WA IT IN G FO R S L E E P 25

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M O N I YAW TR E AT Y 25

Roger Epp

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am a fourth-generation settler on the Canadian prairies, on Treaty Six land, one who wonders what it means to live here and what I must know in order to do so. My father’s family homesteaded in 1894 in the rural district trustingly named Eigenheim, literally, home of one’s own. That same December, my grandfather was born. Not far away, in 1897, Almighty Voice, the Cree who had been arrested for illegally butchering a cow and then escaped the Duck Lake jail, was killed by a barrage of bullets and cannon fire in what the Canadian Encyclopedia calls the “last battle between whites and Indians” in North America. In 1918 my mother’s family came to the same district and farmed near the corner of Beardy’s Reserve. They had left behind a homestead in Oklahoma that had been claimed also in 1894 when Indian Territory was opened up in the great land rush, among the patchwork of allotments chosen by Cheyenne, some of whom had survived the massacre upstream on the Washita River at the hands of General Custer’s Seventh Cavalry. I am, in other words, a product of Indian policy on both sides of the border. My story cannot be told apart from those of Cree and Cheyenne. When I was a child, especially in the first years after my maternal grandfather’s death, we picnicked and I ran along the reconstructed palisades at Fort Carlton, north of Eigenheim, where Treaty Six was first negotiated and signed late in the summer of 1876.

Sixty years later, in 1936, while my great-uncle’s family had turned inward in mourning at the death of a wife and mother, still in her 30s, thousands of people, including the governor general, passed by the farm in a cloud of vehicles to the same site to mark the treaty’s diamond anniversary. She was buried, meanwhile, at the country-church cemetery where all my ancestors who died in Canada are buried. If there is sacred ground for me anywhere on this earth, ground that signifies sacrifices made and remembered, it is there. I have lived most of my life on Treaty Six land. I grew up in a small town in the southeast corner of that vast tract of 120,000 square miles, though I would have no significant contact with aboriginal people before brief stints in young adulthood as a daily newspaper journalist and a government bureaucrat. I now live and teach on the western side of the treaty area. I have driven across it, west to east and back, so that its terrain has become familiar. I have taught introductory politics to Cree students at a cultural college housed in a former residential school, filled with peep holes and bad memories, where I once brought a group of uncomfortable non-aboriginal students for a

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Angsty Tear-Assed Man-Dresses A list of words gleaned from Sarah Boxer’s favourite blogs, listed in “Blogs,” an essay by Sarah Boxer published in the New York Review of Books on February 14, 2008. alternapop angsty anyhoo babe-aliciousness bejesus bitchitude Boo-Ya Nation coffin-snatching consciousness-jumped Daddio dildopreneur droit de senny dudely

Engrish fan-fucking-tabulous fetbryo flava fugly grapetastically haz-mat hole-esque nastified JumboTron malgovernment man-dresses manky mommyblogdaciousness

Nero-crazy nut sac nutters pidginized sexbot tear-assed therapised touzing underwearian vomit-y votenfreude YouTube-ization

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joint session on “self-government” that was a spectacular failure, a mismatch of those who had no sense of themselves as historical beings and those who did. I returned to the same building some years later to struggle as the solitary moniyaw in a Cree-language class. I have brought my children to a pow-wow in the community, after which my daughter confessed surprise that “there were so many of them,” having received an impression in her elementary school curriculum of the demise of a people. I have attended a wake for a suicide. I have heard horrific accounts of local political intimidation and hopes to bring about change whether through ballot-boxes or building occupations. I have sat quietly at a morning meeting—Regis and Kathy Lee on the large-screen TV at one end of the room—while skeptical elders debated a proposal to derive a contemporary watchdog on band government from the traditional concept of “whipman,” thereby demonstrating both the richness of Cree as a language of public affairs and, whenever they reverted to an English word such as “rights,” its limits. I write beneath an eagle’s feather for no other reason than that it was a gift from a friend, an elder in the making, whom I had seen through a degree. I am not sentimental either about real, existing reserve communities, though they contain much more cultural vitality than is commonly imagined, or else about the prospects of racial harmony “if we could only get to know each other.” Even in a self-selected university environment, I am disabused regularly of the latter notion. The class I teach on aboriginal political issues in alternate years, typically a mix of non-aboriginal and aboriginal students, is easily the most difficult on my plate, the most likely to leave me with an unshakable sense of inadequacy, but also, because so much seemingly is at stake, the most likely to produce honest human encounters—the life-changing kind. This is the class I bring to the top of Driedmeat Hill to talk about treaty-making with an eyeful of land in every direction. This is the class from which I learned to venture the unlikely idea that rural and aboriginal peoples on the Canadian prairies might actually be well placed to understand each other—this after a

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non-aboriginal student shattered stereotypes on all sides by describing what was for her an inseparable interconnection of personal identity with the land on which her Ukrainian family had farmed for three generations. She did not have to disavow her own settler-cultivator ancestors in order to understand dispossession. Quite the contrary. It is not too strong to say that she feared such a loss for herself.

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EVOLUTION OF OBJ ECTS Harry Karlinsky From The Evolution of Inanimate Objects: The Life and Collected Works of Thomas Darwin (1857–1879), a novel about the scholarly work of a littleknown son of Charles Darwin, published by Insomniac Press in 2010. Harry Karlinsky is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, the founding director of the Frames of Mind Mental Health Film Series and Festival, and the author of many scholarly articles on public education about mental illness.

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fter attending the lectures of Pitt Rivers, an anthropologist who used Australian aboriginal weapons and other artefacts to illustrate his opinions, Thomas had suddenly realized that his father’s theories could be applied to more than just successive forms of organic life. Thomas now had only one goal—to account for the origin and diversity of artefacts in a manner analogous to his father’s evolutionary theories on biological change. In what seem to be more affectionate moments, Thomas referred to the artefacts under his study as “my special world of inanimate objects.” Thomas’s remarkable and growing obsession with artefacts relied on an unusual paradigm—the changing physical characteristics of everyday eating utensils. After studying a broad array of forks, spoons, and knives during his first year at Cambridge, Thomas continued his research during the summer recess. In

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6. The C Françoi Transla Intro: F 2009 by t McIntyre: permissio 1878. He w all the Na retired to n storyteller University munication 7. Tene Gillian Intro: F 2009. Gill ish Colum Fiddlehea Review, U.S. and C 2010. To r 8. A Ni Bakir Ju Intro: F Otter Pres graphic d and educ 27element 9. Inter Tim In Intro: F published A. Walker teacher. H New Fi 10. Cir Two Shane R Intro: F Shane Rh essays an former ed 11. Hom Renee R Intro: F


FINDINGS

August, 1878, he travelled north to Sheffield, centre of Britain’s cutlery industry. There, during four days of frenetic shopping, Thomas procured a wide range of eating implements, both new and used. He recorded each of his purchases in a small notebook, later submitted to his father for reimbursement. The expense entries in the “Sheffield notebook,” along with accompanying observations and what appear to be six hastily drawn illustrations, are as follows:

shef field au gust 2 n d , 1 8 7 8 — Procured from the Owen foundry a large oyster ?? fork-spoon. Length from end to end 8′′, GIRTH ½′′. Examined it with the Master Cutler, Mr. Robert Owen. It was there left stranded by a dissipated gentryman. A dull silver. Mostly free from use. Hence probably does not inhabit coastal England. The plebs differ whether it should be considered a fork or a spoon. 23 shillings. [Fig.] Small silver olive spoon, 5 7/8′′. Towards one end of the specimen, a yellowish appearance, which upon further exam, appeared to be two rudimentary tines, and remnants of a small olive, possibly Greek. 30 shillings. [Fig.] Examined but did not purchase a large number of hollowware and serving pieces. Carving forks and knifes, etc.

au gust 4 th, 1 8 7 8 — An observation—When scattered freely within the clutter of a drawer, spoons of a variety of makes adhere to the tines of the table fork. Procured some unusual specimens of the <illegible> from the antique shop of <illegible>. I soon perceived <illegible>. 50 shillings. Examined and procured a utensil of this shape [Fig.]—the tines had the appearance of being united, & of an ? shape [Fig.]. The 4 tines were arranged in regular rows—in this manner [Fig.]. To what name does this utensil belong? I am ignorant. 8 shillings. I found also another <illegible>. 6 shillings. The following line of marginalia is also found within the notebook: “Owen—rahnd ended knoife.”

FUNERAL FIRE Susan Telfer From House Beneath, published by Hagios Press in 2009. Susan Telfer is a recipient of the Gillian Lowndes Award, and her poetry has been published in literary journals across Canada.

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tanding room only in the church. Who wasn’t at your funeral? Drug dealers, doctors, real estate agents, welfare recipients, accountants, people I’d never seen before, an aboriginal chief, teachers, church ladies who made sandwiches, your mother, clients, old hippies, healers, your grandchildren, the users you loved more than us. I sat in the front row of the circle, hiding behind a child on my lap. When your cousin spoke, opening the closet, did anyone notice the top of my head lift off? He told of what you’d dredged up at detox, and I wanted to stand up and stop him, but black smoke came and choked me. It was so black, I couldn’t see my hands or feet. I was trying to say goodbye. Inside I felt wind howl, rip bark off trees, swirling embers into a wall of flame. As if I had walked home to find you sitting drunk on the driveway, bottle in hand, laughing, while behind you the house was in flames.

HOME TEAM Renee Rodin From Canadian Literature 202, published in 2009. Renee Rodin is a writer, visual artist and cultural worker who lives in Vancouver. She is the author of Bread and Salt, a book of prose poems, and Subject to Change, both published by Talonbooks.

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From Palilalia, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press in 2008. Jeffery Donaldson teaches poetry, poetic theory and problem-based learning at McMaster University.

hereafter i Is it the man dead a thousand years—only just this week rising out of a bog with a befuddled gulp—or the one who passed away last Tuesday in Sudbury, who knows being dead the best? Or which is it, the man dead a hundred or a thousand years who only now begins at last to understand how they have hardly even started being dead, that they are innocent and naïve still in the breadth and scope of their personal nullity, their burgeoning irrelevance and compromised ubiety.

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Which of them would be free to speak most passionately of how once we die we don’t stop being dead ever, not even once, not even for a little while. Does it follow that we must get better at our deaths after a time, and better still after great amounts of time? For what more have we to do, even now, but improve on the depth and current of our present state, whatever it happens to be, walking to a place, or just sitting about. I think of the man who hanged himself in our nearby woods in 1973. His funny purple feet stuck out from under a sheet.

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He must have despaired of his personal prospects and imagined with relief being free of the hard labours. I never really thought until now of trying to help him be all he could be among the dead by recalling that he was. And I have no idea whether he has got better at it since then or not. Or worse, whether he has given up trying.

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hereafter ii Were we wrong to arrive so soon, full of plans and gumption? Is this neither the time nor the place for us to be dressing up for one another and paying our compliments? Have we come far too soon for our helpings of bread and wine? No one can say. But would we hurry so to our posts if we imagined how dated those who follow after us will think we are? Be honest now. Don’t you have the feeling, though you might never say so, that the peasant farmer who stands looking over his master’s crop of grains in the year 1245 and who even now has his back turned to us was a little naïve or short-sighted to have stood up so long ago to be counted, at a time bound to become the deep past eventually? Was it impatience that made him leap so early? Think of his wife, a plain-looking woman with four children

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who blushes to be told she doesn’t look a day over 30 and turns aside to think with quiet relief of how much future is still left to her (maybe fifteen years). It is centuries since she last got up to see about breakfast. Look at them there, he bends to the earth, parts a chafe in his fingers, tests the wheat for moisture. She must be stomping on the grapes. The grave marker laid for them when they died is dirt now, and their names are not written in any of the sad annals.

in it watch at the window for the first sign of those who now do all their thinking about us for themselves.

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L I K E A BE L LY DAN C E R Soren Bondrup-Nielsen From A Sound Like Water Dripping: In Search of the Boreal Owl, published by Gaspereau Press in 2009. Soren Bondrup-Nielsen is a professor of biology at Acadia University. He is the author of Winter on Diamond and co-author of Winter Nature: Common Mammals, Birds, Trees and Shrubs of the Maritimes.

And what about us? Do we think of those who will live 300 years from now and who know more about our future than we ever will? We tried to look better than our ancestors at just being here, imagined ourselves levitating above the long afternoons and thought about not falling behind any more, god knows, than we already had, and really did make an honest effort to start on the long lists, make headway on the cluttered attic, and this day above all others take time as it came. That is,

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if we hadn’t used it up already, the hour long since spoken for, and set our alarms for first thing the next morning,

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when we would surely rise, dress, and bring up that fresh jar of preserves from the cellar, and this time with our hearts

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hen Granny made a mess it was a major cleanup, but Kay being Kay did on occasion let Granny fly free in the house in the evenings. The evening I brought the young Boreals over was one of these. Granny was possessive of Kay and as Granny sat on the back of a chair across from me in the living room, she kept an eye on me and moved her head from side to side like a belly dancer. Initially I found this disconcerting, but Granny did not move from her perch so I eventually ignored her. After an hour or so Granny suddenly took flight towards me. At first I thought she was just moving to another perch. I should have known better, for Granny looked me straight in the eye as she approached. I had no time to react as she swung her feet forwards and hit me in the face, her talons spread out for maximum impact. I had eight needle-sharp punctures that miraculously missed my eyes. I was in shock. Kay was in shock. Granny was immediately put in her cage and I went off to wash and disinfect my injuries. The blow was so hard it gave me a headache.

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illustration: elisabeth belliveau, don't get lonely don't get lost (conundrum press, 2010) 0

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From Red Nest, published by Nightwood Editions in 2009. Gillian Jerome teaches English at the University of British Columbia. Her poems have been published in the Fiddlehead, Colorado Review, Geist, Grain, Malahat Review, Canadian Literature and other journals in the U.S. and Canada. Red Nest won the ReLit Award for poetry in 2010. To read more of Jerome’s work, visit geist.com.

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ing the song of centuries Sing the song of ninety-degree summers The song of syphilis The song of electrical storms inside us Sing the song of seagulls Sing the song of doors slammed The song of bosoms in our shirts The song of drunken parrots Sing the song of cauldrons bubbling The song of our daughters filing past The song of school kids revving their engines Sing the low song of wolves sharpening their teeth Sing the song of the living Sing the song of mail in their hands Of marbles, keys, envelopes sliced open The song of shoes shuffling past Sing the song of sneezing and coughing and changing direction Sing the song of Theseus’ madness, midsummer The song of hard-working, of happenstance of some tinker’s reliquary The song of tsunamis 100

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The song of our liturgy, the song of the answering machine The song of the alcove, the lean-to the chlorophyll bright in the trees

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Sing the song of Apollo, of Agamemnon The song of Cassandra, the loneliest woman in the world The song of the swan gliding in swamp water The song of the clavicle, the cave dweller Sing the song of our small breastedness, our bordellos Sing the song of our nightgowns, our decrepit teeth The song of our hips, our split feet The song of our thirty-three sails in thirty-three unsailable waters Sing the song of Cecil nailing the shingles to the roof Sing the song of mist hovering in the button trees of Caesarean sunset The song of hydro bills, of snowstorms The song of bottles, of algae, of billy goats Sing the song of Mars, of Mercury, of the Americas The song of our finger bones tapping the locks The song of the pale bow of the moon, the sun Slipping into our song: Dear Landlord,

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Sing the song of pigeons scoring the wind Sing the song of obstacles, of evergreens

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Eye for Detail Annabel Lyon

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Edith Iglauer’s writing career has spanned seven decades, five books of non-fiction and countless magazine articles: she’s been a war correspondent in Yugoslavia, a staff writer for The New Yorker and a finalist for a Governor General’s Award. Sometimes she seems to spring from a world of myth.

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ENT] and k quotes. ed quote to

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dith Iglauer wants to know everything about you. Your first time ever in her living room, you’ve only just sat down with your notebook and your recorder, and already she wants what you might call a nineteenth-century Russian level of detail. By the time she was twelve, she says, she was right deep into the Russians. A librarian had given her Constance Garnett’s translation of Anna Karenina and said “You should read this,” and she loved it. She didn’t know what it was all about but she loved the writing. She also loved Colette, and Joyce; she read Ulysses—her father’s copy, possibly a first edition, with the cover falling off—in high school. Milton, and Blake; Chekhov, too, she would have read around that time. Chekhov, with his eye for detail—the domestic, small details—was so incredible, and she loved that. That eye for detail she picked up definitely from him. She wants to picture everything, just like how she wants to know everything about her interviewer now, she wants to picture that, even though she doesn’t use it all, when she’s writing. At ninety-three, Iglauer lives on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, a forty-minute ferry ride followed by a two-hour drive north of Vancouver; not in the moneyed bohemia of Roberts Creek or the cottagey retirement haven of Sechelt, but farther up the coast, in a place called Garden Bay, where logging trucks haul cedar and Douglas fir, and boats are for work. ReMax and Prudential realty placards (Oceanfront View!)

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give way to quainter signage: B&B By The Sea, Sunshine Zen Centre, Adopt A Road—Women of Wisdom, Wet Coast Computer and Design, Flying Anvil Studio, Nu-Way Builders, Crossroads Grill, P.H. Diesel Repair Shop. Iglauer lives with her third husband, Frank White, in the house of her second husband, John Daly, who died in 1978. The road down to the house is guarded by signs in Daly’s hand: STOP HERE or Backdown Only It is NOT Road to Machine Shop. J. Daly And farther down: Faith in Humanity, NOT $ You follow the path that tucks and turns and ends at a snug one-level house plus addition with a boat’s wheel attached to the wall. There’s an Obama-Biden bumper sticker on the glass window in the door, which leads into the kitchen, where you could be forgiven for mistaking Iglauer for someone a couple of decades younger. She has a deep voice and nice wavy hair, and she wears a blue blouse with a brooch and navy slacks. She’s a little nervous and a little hard of hearing, but only the extreme caution of her walk reveals her true age. In her head, she says, she’s in her twenties.

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Iglauer’s career has spanned seven decades, five books of non-fiction and countless magazine articles. She’s been a war correspondent in Italy and Yugoslavia, a White House correspondent, a staff writer for The New Yorker, a finalist for a Governor General’s Award and an inspiration for the popular History Channel TV series Ice Road Truckers. Sometimes she seems to spring from a world of myth. When Iglauer’s children were small, Harold Ross, the legendary founding editor of The New Yorker, called Vincent Astor—yes, that Vincent Astor—to arrange permission for her to purchase the apartment next door to hers (Astor owned the building) so they could be knocked into one. She’s profiled Eleanor Roosevelt and Pierre Trudeau and Arthur Erickson; she’s written about Inuit co-operatives and the building of the World Trade towers in New York. Jaclyn Smith played her in a movie based on her second marriage. Most recently, she’s written a series of personal essays for Geist that might become her next book. She hopes so. She’s got about ten of them now, with titles like “Snowed In at the Sylvia,” “My Lovely Bathtub,” “Tiens! Croissants!” and “Wait, Save, Help.” But the wonderful part about being her age, she says, is that publishing doesn’t matter very much. Someone asked her recently what was the greatest thing that ever happened to her, and without a moment’s hesitation she said the birth of her two sons, Richie and Jay. There was nothing that could compare to that miracle. She was in terrific awe of the writers she had known, the New Yorker circle; well, they were all so good. She couldn’t imagine that she would be that good. She still doesn’t. She says she has never thought of herself seriously as a writer.

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dith Theresa Iglauer was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1917. Her father, Jay Iglauer, won a full scholarship to the University of Chicago

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but turned it down to support his mother and brother; his father had died when he was nine. He applied for a job at Halle Brothers, the most elegant department store in Cleveland, and told them he knew bookkeeping. The woman sitting next to him taught him bookkeeping over the weekend. By the end of his career he’d risen to executive vice-president and he always kept that woman in his office. He stayed fifty years to the day, and then he said he was through and he quit. On his eightieth birthday, Iglauer asked him if he would have done anything differently. Oh yes, he said, totally differently. He had wanted to be a doctor. This was the first she’d heard of it. Iglauer’s mother, Bertha Good Iglauer, stayed at home with Edith and her sister, Jane, three and a half years her elder. The first thing Iglauer can remember is being held up to the mirror in the bathroom by her mother and her saying, “See the pretty baby.” Both her parents encouraged her to read. She can remember herself and Jane, each sitting on one arm of their father’s chair while he read them Alice in Wonderland, and she can remember when she and Jane were both sick at the same time their mother would sit on a stool between their rooms and read to them. Iglauer recalls a childhood filled with laughter and hospitality. Her heritage was German Jewish on both sides of the family, though they were Reform, and those were the circles she moved in, in Cleveland. She dated boys, most of them German Jewish, and brought them home for lemonade and cookies. Her religious life was less a matter of dogma, though, than of (you might say) landscape; a theme that would recur later in her life. She went to Sunday School until it became too boring. For a while the family went to temple. But Iglauer claims her whole personality was formed at the family cabin in the country, thirty miles from Cleveland, where she used to go with her father. He liked to ride and so Iglauer was taught to ride

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very early. Mr. Halle had given her father a horse he didn’t want any more, and then her father got another horse from an Amish farmer. The farmer had his children crawl under the horse’s feet to demonstrate its gentleness. Edith and her father rode Prince and Happy all over, for miles and miles. The Iglauers only had fifty-four acres but they were surrounded by large estates, thousands of acres, and there would be a riding gate between the properties, and you rode up to it and pulled a rope to open it and pulled a rope to close it again. Her father used to pick her up on Fridays after school and they would ride, and then have supper in a greasy spoon on the way home. Iglauer attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts, and after that studied journalism at Columbia. It was at Columbia that she met Philip Hamburger, her first husband. He came from a Baltimore family and was studying journalism too. Their grandmothers knew each other. His grandmother said You have to meet Fanny Good’s granddaughter and her grandmother said You have to meet Pauline Craft’s grandson. Iglauer was in the library one day when Hamburger came in and said to the librarian, did they have a student named Edith Iglauer? They used to take your picture, she says, with your number across your chest, and the librarian showed it to him and he said, “That’s just what I thought my grandmother would recommend.” But the librarian said, “No, she’s very nice, she’s right over there,” and took him over and introduced him. Hamburger took Iglauer out to Richard III. They sat in the second balcony and he mimicked the whole thing through, and afterwards they went to Child’s Restaurant at the corner of Broadway and 43rd Street and he did the whole show for her and she laughed so hard they got thrown out. When they got married, Iglauer had a trousseau including a luncheon set for twelve with her initials on it, but she never used it. She was brought up to marry a rich man, she says, but she never did.

Celebrity, though, was another matter. Philip Hamburger was hired as a reporter at The New Yorker around the time they met, and quickly joined the magazine’s inner circle. He wrote everything from Talk of the Town pieces (as “Our Man Stanley”), to a first-hand account of Achille Starace being shot and then hung next to the body of his boss, Benito Mussolini, on April 29, 1945, to music, movie and television reviews, to profiles of Toscanini, Truman and Juan Perón. Hamburger worked at the magazine for more than six decades, with every one of its editors: Harold Ross, William Shawn, Robert Gottlieb, Tina Brown and David Remnick. He embodied the New Yorker ethos of informed liberalism, quirky curiosity, whimsical humour and a fierce passion for literary style. Before Hamburger’s influence, Iglauer’s reportage was dutiful but subdued; it’s hard to imagine her beginning a New Yorker piece, as she does a Christian Science Monitor profile from 1941, with “Marian Anderson opened a new chapter in her life last year when she bought the lovely farm at Hill Plain, Connecticut.” Working for The New Yorker was simultaneously a thrill, a challenge and extremely hard work. Iglauer got her start at the magazine selling ideas. She would send in an idea, she says, and if they used it they sent her a cheque. For instance, in 1959 she did one about seats on the stock exchange. She wondered what a “seat” meant so she ran the idea and was told to go ahead, and it turned out to be very interesting. She wasn’t allowed to write; she would do the notes for a Talk of the Town piece and Brendan Gill would rewrite them. She would call him up and ask how many pages he wanted and he would say four and he would condense that into two. Finally she offered them an idea about the last mounted police stable in New York and Hamburger said, “Why don’t you ask to do a long piece?” and that was her first New Yorker publication. Contrast

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the immediacy, the crisp thrill of this opening: “Promptly at ten o’clock Thursday—a cold day—I arrived at the Armory, where the mounted police occupy a stable area set aside for them by the National Guard.” The celebrated journalist A.J. Liebling told her she would never write. He said, “You don’t have the sitzfleisch,” the necessary padding on the rear for long periods of sitting at a desk. When the mounted police piece came out, Hamburger took her to a lobster restaurant where they all ate. Liebling was eating by himself—his double meal, Iglauer calls it: he was a prodigious eater—and when Iglauer came in he stood up and congratulated her. She still remembers how nice that was. Iglauer evokes those years as a blur of hard work, late nights, restaurants, drinks, parties and general sleep deprivation. (Hamburger’s collection of New Yorker writings is tellingly entitled Friends Talking in the Night.) During Iglauer’s most energetic period, she got up at four and wrote until it was time to get breakfast and get her two sons off to school and then she wrote again until they came home at three. And then, she says, they entertained all the time, like all the New Yorker staff. The couple either went out or they had people in, and then Hamburger started doing music reviews, which he did for a year and a half, and they went to a concert nearly every night. Iglauer was so exhausted that she slept through many of the great classics. But Hamburger didn’t want to go without her, so she went. Hamburger and the New Yorker circle were the formative influence on Iglauer’s own writing style. She says marriage to Hamburger made her more aware of perfection. They were each other’s first reader, and while they didn’t really do much to each other’s prose—just a word here or a word there—she learned a lot about technique from what he did. He could remember whole conversations; they’d come rolling out

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onto the page. Iglauer worked much more slowly. She worked consciously to take on the New Yorker style of that period—the pellucid prose, the bubbling humour—and soaked up lessons of craft. Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, for example: the chapter where he shows you how to cut the words and take out the “verys,” that was important to her. Even now, she says, when she’s writing for Geist, she’s very wordy when she starts and then she cleans it up. Four of Iglauer’s five books originated as long New Yorker pieces. The New People, later reprinted as Inuit Journey, traced the development of Inuit co-operatives in the eastern Canadian Arctic. Denison’s Ice Road chronicled her travels with the truck crew building the annual 325-mile winter road from Yellowknife to a silver mine on Great Bear Lake, above the Arctic Circle. Seven Stones: A Portrait of Arthur Erickson, Architect was first published as a profile on June 4, 1979. (Iglauer maintained a friendship with Erickson after the piece was finished, attending a couple of his parties and his recent memorial at the Simon Fraser University Burnaby Mountain campus, which he designed. Once he came up to visit her at the house. Iglauer had just bought a fig tree and he told her where to put it and it hasn’t had a fig since. She remains very angry at him about that.) Her book Fishing with John was published in 1988 and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-fiction. In 1991 she published The Strangers Next Door, a selection of her writings beginning with the 1941 profile of Marian Anderson quoted above and extending all the way to excerpts from Fishing with John, published in 1988. Through all these marvellously thoughtful, detailed works, Iglauer’s reader is struck by a signal absence: Iglauer herself. Suppression of the writer’s own presence is a signature of the old New Yorker style. But Iglauer takes this convention to an extreme, hiding herself so successfully

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that the reader is left knowing everything about her subject and wanting to know much more about the writer. Indeed, the rare paragraphs where she does give the reader a glimpse into her own thoughts are some of her most vivid, such as these passages from Denison’s Ice Road, where she allows herself to imagine going through the ice: Gentle humming smooth comfortable lake driving. That’s the real danger. Sinister. Ready to crack. Cracked. Maybe now. Down through black black black cold cold cold to brown probably soft mud death at the bottom of this lake. Malfait. Badly made. Well named. […] We are rolling over the snow, crushing it down in our little box of sometimes safety. My stiff fingers touch the slender flat cool black expensive radio. Stiff fingers. I rub the joints, touch the warm wolverine rim of my parka hood, the fur that Jimmy Magrum sold me last year, that June sewed on while I was there one day instead of the white rabbit fur that always shed; I touch my forehead, touch the red frame of the windshield, touch the slippery brown leather seat, touch my eyes, tired from straining to see the space not here not there, but maybe here among the trees.

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Interestingly, Iglauer’s biggest commercial success, Fishing with John, is also the book in which she herself is most present. Confidence seems a large part of what makes Iglauer’s more confessional style work. It took the confidence of a great love to write about her relationship with John Daly; it took the confidence of eight decades of writing experience to produce the polished autobiographical gems that glitter in Geist. Iglauer has published a single piece of fiction, a short story called “The Beautiful Day” in the March 19, 1966, issue of The New Yorker. She

originally wrote it as a piece of non-fiction, a memory of her last day with her father. It was rejected. But Bill Maxwell, who was a close friend as well as fiction editor at the time, suggested she put it in the third person, and that’s how it appeared in the magazine. She’s had a lot of people tell her that when somebody died in their family it was helpful to them. It was like a song in her head, she says; the whole thing came out in one big piece. She’d like to write more fiction, always thought she’d be a fiction writer, but she was scared; scared not to be able to do it.

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he house Iglauer shares with her third husband, Frank White, originally belonged to her second husband, the salmon fisherman John Daly, and his presence remains tangible. There’s the boat-like use of walls and ceilings, no storage space wasted; the coziness, a nautical combination of neatness and thrift and warmth; and a general sense of hunkering down against the elements without. (Iglauer tended a wood fire throughout our interview, opening and closing windows and doors to manipulate the smoke that escaped a partially blocked flue.) Yellow windows in the blue dark on warm nights; black dark on the cold ones. A selection of Daly’s clippings and handwritten notes hangs in the bathroom. There are family portraits throughout the house (“That’s Grandpa Good and my sister and me”; “This is Richie, hamming it up”; “That’s a drawing I did of John on the boat”; “Oh, she worked for my mother the last fifteen years of her life. Her name was Armenia Baker. She died before my mother and I told her, I said, ‘How can you do that to me?’ She was the one who pulled me through my divorce, more than anything. She was black and from Texas and part Indian and I adored her. If she had lived I would have brought her out here with me. That’s the family”). She has a huge study decorated with beloved pieces

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of art: New Yorker covers, Mandelbrot photographs, Inuit sculpture and drawings by her friend Hedda Sterne, Saul Steinberg’s widow. On the deck is a working bathtub, because, when it’s warm enough, Iglauer likes to soak outside. After her divorce, Iglauer had come to Vancouver to visit a friend she had met at Columbia, who introduced her to Daly. He took her out and they went to see a performance by some Ukrainian dancers. They had dinner at the Lotus restaurant and he missed the last ferry, so he spent the night on the couch in the living room with his feet hanging about that far off the end of the couch. She started going out with him all the time, and then she came to live with him. First she experimented. She went on his boat, the MoreKelp, to see if she liked it. She didn’t get seasick and she loved it on the boat. And then she went out on the boat for one month that year and then she came back and stayed. Tight spaces—the MoreKelp, or the trailer that was her living space while she travelled the ice road with John Denison’s crew—don’t bother her. She was very well trained, she says, from having been at the shack with her father. It was a small cabin with no electricity and when they first went there was no running water, nothing. She was used to the outhouse out back, very well trained about going to the bathroom, she says, which is vital anyplace. And she wasn’t allowed to complain, so she just got used to following people around, doing whatever they were doing. She got to profile Trudeau by making a deal that if he would let her accompany him on a cross-Canada trip, she wouldn’t ask for personal interviews with him except for one. She watched him for eight days and got a brilliant profile out of it, and (judging from a subsequent piece she wrote for Geist about his unexpectedly taking her up on a dinner invitation) some affection from her subject as well. John English, in his 2009 biography Just Watch Me: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau,

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1968–2000, says Iglauer’s profile “remains the best portrait of Trudeau as he took power and shaped his private self to the new demands of public life.” Iglauer made notes on the Erickson piece on the boat, and when she got underway with the writing, she kept taking sections of it to William Shawn, her editor at The New Yorker. Each time, his response was, “Keep going.” Iglauer revered Shawn, as did many who worked with him during his thirty-five-year tenure at the magazine. In Friends Talking in the Night, Philip Hamburger writes: “To Shawn, words meant thought, civilization, decency. Words were the linchpins of a just and orderly society. He approached words with caution and deep respect . . . Somehow, by encouraging his writers to feel free, to be bold and truthful, he brought them to the peak of their powers.” Shawn was known for his generosity with writers, providing them with offices and salaries even when they weren’t producing, as well as unprecedented leeway in pursuing the subjects that interested them. Shawn also made himself available to his writers for however long it took them to complete their pieces. Hamburger quotes Shawn as saying, of the time it takes to write a good profile, “It takes as long as it takes.” In Iglauer’s case, this could be years: “Seven Stones,” the Arthur Erickson piece, took three years; “The Ice Road” (eventually Denison’s Ice Road) took six. Of Fishing with John Iglauer writes, “On my first regular fishing trip with John, in 1974, while he was delivering our first load of fish to Seafood Products in Port Hardy, I ran upstairs to the cannery office and called Bill at The New Yorker. ‘I have the most wonderful story!’ I said.” Shawn went on to edit the entire book, which was published in 1988, fourteen years after that initial inspiration. Fishing with John displays another signal influence of The New Yorker on Iglauer’s writing style: the absence of pictures. Until Tina Brown

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took over as editor in 1992, magazine articles consisted of text only. Iglauer (and her peers) used thousands of words where a picture might have sufficed: [Daly] prepared a length of monofilament— clear plastic line—which he called a “leader,” with a “lure” to attract the fish. Using a pair of pliers, he crimped a black hook to an egg-shaped piece of shiny brass plate that he called a “spoon,” which he then tied to the leader, explaining that when he clipped the leader into the steel mainline it would do just that—lead the line, with its lure and hook, down to where, one hoped, the fish were.

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This dense, detailed style of description can feel slow, but it also has a quality of almost photographic accuracy and deep care. The impression the reader takes from Fishing with John is of a painstaking portrait—think seventeenth-century Dutch, maybe, or super-realist—of a world and a way of life that will one day be best known through words rather than pictures: Iglauer’s words. Love informs every sentence; there’s passion in her detail. Daly died in 1978; he and Iglauer had been together for just six years, married for four. Marriage was something she had resisted, but he kept buying marriage licences. Finally he said to her, “This is the last one. I’m not gonna spend another five dollars on you.” She had been scared of marriage, didn’t want another divorce; she didn’t think she could survive one. She wasn’t disillusioned with marriage, she just didn’t trust it. But she was very happy; ecstatically happy with him. And she loved the boat, just loved it. She hated to come home at the end of the season. A close friend once asked Iglauer if she knew that Daly was sick when she married him and she said, “Yes, indeed I did. But I thought I loved him so much he couldn’t die.”

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t’s tempting to view Iglauer’s career through the prism of her sex, though she herself dismisses it crisply as of minor importance. Far from a trailblazer (she claims), she was surrounded by women writers at The New Yorker, people like Katharine White, Emily Hahn, Janet Flanner and Nancy Hale. (Though, notably, those women weren’t also staying home raising children and being good hostesses on limited means. White came from money; Hahn’s husband and children lived in England while she lived in New York; neither Flanner nor Hale had children.) Iglauer’s father thought women could do as well as men, took her everywhere with him, and never discouraged her from any pursuit. Iglauer herself doesn’t see the difference between a man’s work and a woman’s work. She believes it’s out there for all of us. She sees her affection for male subjects as having alienated her from the feminists who came a generation or two later; they were all writing about women’s this and women’s that, Iglauer says, and she just really loved working with men. She always has. Certainly, though, she recognizes that her life has been complicated by the demands of the men around her. She grew up in an age where women took a back seat and she certainly did, she says, for a long time. Hamburger, for instance, made sure their domestic roles remained utterly separate. Well, he was an only child and he was inexperienced and no, he never diapered a baby. Once he diapered it all wrong and it was his way of saying to her, “Don’t ask me to do this.” At least that’s how she interpreted it; they didn’t talk about it. For a man with an IQ of 176 to diaper a baby with the rubber pants on the inside and the diaper on the outside, it was ridiculous. And it was very funny but it really wasn’t very funny in the long run. Then there was the matter of professional jealousy. A publisher wanted to make a young people’s book out of the New Yorker piece she’d

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written about the training of the mounted police and their horses. Iglauer was thrilled, but Hamburger told her of another author who’d had a bad experience with the publisher and persuaded her to withdraw the book. The publisher was absolutely dumbfounded; they already had the cover made. Iglauer says it was like losing a baby. And there was no reason; the reason her husband gave wasn’t a reason at all. But she says she could feel the walls of her marriage beginning to go. She thought of it as walls. If ever there was anything that was indicative of the position of a woman in a marriage or a relationship when she came up against competition, if she wanted to stay married… Marriage is a very delicate thing, Iglauer thinks, when both people are working. Even long after the divorce, she never told Hamburger about the fan letters she’d gotten, a couple hundred at least from Fishing with John. She says she just knew to keep her mouth shut. Fishing with John is a chronicle of a love affair, but to those feminists of a generation or two (or three) later, it can also be read as a repository of small humiliations: the fishermen who mock two women for trading recipes on the CB radio, Daly’s gruffness and shouting, the pleasant visit with a fisherman friend of Daly’s ending with an exchange of gifts: “Ken came down to see us in the morning, carrying six cans of his home-smoked salmon and a side of fresh smoked coho. John had presented him with a bottle of scotch when we arrived, and I gave him some paperback books I thought he would enjoy. He looked them over carefully, and then handed three of them to me. ‘You can have these back,’ he said. ‘I never read books by women.’” When I told Iglauer that exchange hit me like a slap in the face, she responded that it was just an interesting side of his character, and that she and Daly had laughed about it afterwards. But when I persisted—to say that to her face, and her a writer—Iglauer insisted that her reaction was

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only one of fascination. Many women were so developed and were conquering the world by that time. It was just interesting a man could be that limited, she said, and still keep his head up. She was sure it was why he was by himself. In her tendency to submerse her own personality and tastes to those of the people she’s writing about, and also in the men in her life (creative, stubborn, larger-than-life), Iglauer’s world can resemble the fictional world of Alice Munro. In length, too, there’s something of a parallel between the long, complex short story form Munro pioneered and the long New Yorker profile, profoundly detailed and intimate but readable in a single sitting. Interestingly, Iglauer’s single published short story captures the two poles of her writing: the love and the brutality. “The Beautiful Day” is Iglauer’s memory of the last day she spent with her father. (You can read it in The Strangers Next Door.) Her character, named Amelia Medford, drives with her husband, father and two sons to a rural Ohio cabin in midwinter: “[I]t was a turning to before the boys were born, when she was her father’s child and not somebody’s mother.” They visit the farmer who is their nearest neighbour, a man named John Barnes; take a picture; wander through the cabin mired in snow; draw snowmen on the blackboard by the door; feed the birds; and then it’s time to leave. A month later her father is dead. But “That last day spent with her father remained suspended in Amelia’s mind, away from other days, vivid and clear, a fragment of beauty to which she could turn whenever she wanted.” Amelia returns to the cabin soon after, a return she’s been dreading in her grief, to find the snowmen still on the blackboard and the stub of her father’s cigarette still in the ashtray. She recalls a conversation with her father where he advised her that “you can’t do anything about the past, so never look back.” Here’s the final paragraph of the story:

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Amelia heard the car honking, and the children shouting for her to come. She shivered and rubbed her arms as she got up from the chair. It really was cold in the cabin. She pulled back the fire screen, emptied the ashtray with its lone cigarette butt into the fireplace, and carefully replaced the screen. Then she went over to the blackboard and erased the drawings of the snowmen. She locked the front door and went outside to wait for John Barnes, who came around the corner of the cabin and joined her. They walked down to the car, and although she had always turned around before for a farewell look at the cabin and the tall swaying sycamore trees when she was going away, this time she did not look back. Iglauer doesn’t like to discuss her divorce from Hamburger. She loved him so much, and when she left they didn’t speak for two years. Once they started again, they spoke often and continued to share their writing with each other right up until Hamburger’s death, in 2004; The Strangers Next Door is dedicated to Hamburger and his second wife, Anna, for whom Iglauer evinces great affection. Hamburger remains the imaginary audience Iglauer writes for when she’s alone at her desk. One of the last things he said to her was that she was such a wonderful writer.

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rank White is ninety-four. Iglauer met him through his son, Howard White, Iglauer’s editor at Harbour Publishing. Frank used to come out and play crib with Iglauer, and then take her out to dinner. That was twenty years ago. White and Iglauer married in 2006. Again, Iglauer wasn’t anxious to be married; she really did it because she wanted to put White on her medical insurance from The New Yorker, and she couldn’t unless they were married. They’d been sitting in

a room together while she was on the phone with the insurer and she said, “Well, we’ll get married, then,” and she looked over and his face was just glowing. She asked him afterwards why it meant so much for him to get married and he said, “You’re mine now.” White doesn’t interfere with Iglauer’s writing. She thinks one of the reasons their relationship has been so successful is that he admires her writing but he’s not involved. He was a logger and then an engineer, without having engineering training; he could make anything, fix anything. (He installed the outdoor bathtub.) And so there was no clash; he just loved her writing and still does. For Iglauer, that was such a relief. I had arrived for our interview with my husband and two small children in tow; the three of them spent the afternoon playing in the woods while Iglauer and I talked, and then returned, at Iglauer’s invitation, for supper that evening. I had been reluctant to accept: Iglauer and White seemed frail, the house was full of special things, and my children were, well, children. I feared all kinds of breakages. But virtually every local hotel and restaurant was closed for the season, and the one pub we found on the drive up was all smoke and beer. It quickly became apparent that my fears had been misplaced. White greeted my two-year-old son by putting up his fists and demanding, “Wanna fight?” He spent the rest of the visit fondling Caleb’s hair and plying him with goldfish crackers. At one point he turned to my husband and said, “I’d love to have one of these again.” Iglauer had laid out a collection of Barbie clothes for Sophie, who was entranced; her enlightened mother had withheld Barbie for complex socio-political reasons that were hard to remember while watching the eyes of those two fashionistas, separated by nine decades, lighting with pleasure at the tiny pink satin princess gown

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and the forest green velvet figure skating outfit. Between them, Iglauer and White had prepared us nothing short of a feast: macaroni and cheese topped with bacon rashers, chicken pot pie, molasses bread made by White, a salade composée with homemade mayonnaise, hard rolls; and for dessert Caramilk ice cream, lemon fairy cake, chocolate profiteroles, mini cinnamon buns, and Earl Grey tea. One of the impressions you get of Iglauer from her books is of a woman who loves food and cooking. Note the mouthwatering “six cans of home-smoked salmon” in the anecdote about the man who wouldn’t read a book by a woman, or the lovingly distraught account of the soggy raspberries in the dinner she served Trudeau in her article for Geist entitled “The Prime Minister Accepts,” or a mutual friend’s description of her surprisingly awesome cream cheese and green olive sandwiches, an Iglauer original. In her Washington, D.C., days, Iglauer says, she had a book called Casserole Cookery. She started with recipe number one and she went straight through to the fiftieth recipe. That’s how she learned to cook. Iglauer’s life seems pretty full these days: children and grandchildren, medical appointments in the city, exercise classes, travel, swimming. Both her sons are now theatre directors—Richie in Dallas as Artistic Director Emeritus of the Dallas Theater Center, Jay at Vancouver’s Theatre in the Raw—and she follows their work with interest. Our interview was arranged for the afternoon because she wanted to visit a local craft fair in the morning. She tries to keep up with her reading, taking in The New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, Inuit Quarterly, Vancouver Sun and Geist. Iglauer became a Canadian citizen in 2009 with her friend Martine Reid, Bill Reid’s widow, at the new Bill Reid Gallery. The only time I saw Iglauer angry was when she began talking about the Bush administration. She votes

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by absentee ballot in every election (she’s a dual citizen), and was passionately for Obama. She thinks it would be hard to name a worse president than George Bush. He ignored the Constitution. And then Cheney she thinks is really walking evil. It’s in his face, she says, like it was in Nixon’s face, the evil. She’s slowed down a little since, oh, the age of eighty, when she was writer-in-residence in the Creative Writing Program at UBC. It was her first experience teaching. The first student paper she picked up started with a man and a woman having intercourse and he looked down and there was blood all over everything and he assumed that it was her but it was his because his penis skin was too tight. There was another one who had multiple personalities, and another one who was looking for her birth mother. Iglauer bought her refrigerator and her stove with what they paid her for that. Or the age of eighty-one, when she was instrumental in forming the Francis Point Marine Park Society to get an area of ecologically sensitive old-growth forest near the village of Madeira Park designated a provincial park. Or the age of eighty-four, when she flew to New York two weeks after September 11, 2001, to visit Ground Zero and write an op-ed for the Vancouver Sun. (She had previously written a long, much-quoted New Yorker article about the building of the World Trade Center towers’ foundation, and now she walked the site with a handkerchief over her nose and mouth, terrified of the asbestos she knew was poisoning the air.) Doctor visits are more frequent now, and she worries a lot about White, who suffers chronic pain. She was astonished to reach eighty; ninety, she says, is just beyond comprehension. She’d like to go to Cleveland, to go out to the shack, but she can’t hike any more and she doesn’t like to leave Frank. Iglauer thought she’d be married to the same

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person all her life. She never thought she’d have three husbands. After all (she says, deadpan), she was brought up on movie magazines. It took her a long time to get over Daly’s death. She loves Frank, too, and Phil, whom she divorced and grieved. She believes you can love more than one person; you just love people differently. Somehow you just have to absorb that other person into your heart so he’s with you all the time. When I draw a comparison between Iglauer’s brilliantly detailed prose and her all-encompassing love—for her parents, her three husbands, her two sons, her grandchildren, her many friends—she acknowledges they might be related. The people Edith Iglauer loves, she loves without any conditions. Her father had that capacity, she says, and she got it from him. Unreserved in his love. Once he loved you that was it. And she has that, too. She’s very glad she does. Her writing continues to evolve. She’s finally torn the third-person veil away in her personal essays and writes of her own life with an elegance worthy of White and Flanner and Liebling and Hamburger and Shawn. It wasn’t easy to get to this point. Iglauer’s editor for The Strangers Next Door, Mary Schendlinger, recalls the difficulty with which Iglauer had to be persuaded to write the brief first-person reminiscences that preface each section of the book. Though she now excels at it, writing about herself was antithetical to her understanding of her role as a writer. Iglauer can’t quite seem to believe anyone would want to read about her. Thinking to be clever, I confronted her with a passage from Seven Stones where she visits the Museum of Anthropology at UBC with its architect. She had written: “I was drawn to a case containing some magnificent Haida masks, dramatic, somber carvings like nothing I had ever seen before. Your superconscious finding what’s relevant to you, Erickson said, smiling.” I

wondered if she felt that was true. He was a brilliant man, Iglauer replied, really wonderful to talk to. I’m wondering about masks particularly, though, I persisted; do they have some kind of symbolism for you? Very interesting tools to express yourself outside yourself, or your inner feelings, Iglauer offered. I haven’t worked very much with them but both my boys have. I’m very interested in the whole business of masks, are you? In a way, I suggested, writing is something you put up between yourself and the world, but it’s also a way of showing something of yourself to the world that you might not have another way to do. I think so, is it for you? For me, yes, but I’m interested in you. I’m fascinated with your writing, Iglauer said, smiling, and offered me another cup of tea.

Annabel Lyon is the author of The Golden Mean (2009), which won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, All-Season Edie (2008), The Best Thing For You (2004) and Oxygen (2000). She has published numerous shorter works in periodicals, including Geist, where she wrote a regular column for three years. Lyon has taught creative writing at the Banff Centre, Simon Fraser University and UBC Creative Writing. She lives in New Westminster, B.C. Visit her at annabellyon. blogspot.com, and read her Geist work at geist.com.

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“Eye for Detail” is the first in a series of five profiles of British Columbians who, in our view, ought to be better known. The profiles were commissioned with the support of Arts Partners in Creative Development.

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Guanacaste Journal Evelyn Lau

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We sit chest-deep in the pool with pina coladas; across the water, thousands of Haitians perish

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orses gallop the beach, flying past like figures in a dream. ~~

We are sheltered from the country at the oceanfront resort. We are miles down a gravel road where black figures loiter under the constellatory trees in a hail of seed pods. Costa Rica passes outside the window of the night bus— small lit homes flaring in the scrubby landscape, doors open in the equatorial heat, bare tiled floors. Coffee farm, cantaloupe farm. Our ghost reflections in the glass, the white gawp of tourist stares. Maids squatting on the curb at the guarded gate, then the hotel rising out of the tropical night like a castle in Las Vegas. ~~ The heat erases everything, like the deliverance of morphine. The walk from the resort to Matapalo Beach a cartoon crawl through the desert— even the palms wilt in this heat, yellow as sunflowers. Flammable skin. Clack of palm fronds, crickets making their orchestral music. Chapel-white hotel against a blue sky strewn with butterflies. Grasshoppers lining the butter-cream corridors. Surely this is no place for sorrow? ~~ Across the water, tens of thousands of Haitians perish in the earthquake rubble. We’d know more if we watched the news, the pleas for aid, the images of children stumbling around collapsed buildings where their whole families are buried, but we have our own grief. What would we do with someone else’s, where would we carry it on our bodies? Already the doctor says I am too heavy.

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We are intent on leisure, teams of tan people at our service, rousing us to water sports and aerobics, salsa and magic tricks on the show stage. In the pool we swim up to the bar, sit chest-deep in water with our pina coladas, this was someone’s idea of paradise. A tangle of toilet paper swirls past in the chlorinated water. A wasp paddles frantically on the chemical surface, unimpressed by this blue heaven. Rum floats on my tongue. We take shelter by the artificial waterfall, in the shade cast by a plastic boulder. ~~ A man who looks like John Updike sits next to me at breakfast. Updike, I am staring at the sea, under the sun that was your psoriatic skin’s salvation. The women, their shapes and sizes, their moles and cellulite you would have detailed in your desire to get it all down, to love it all. The cantaloupe breasts of a young girl on an old woman wearing a gold bikini. The aging men in their unashamed half-nakedness, wrinkly buttocks and pot-bellies, white hairs sprouting from dank crevices. Some days I see you everywhere, you who never once graced my sight while you were alive. ~~ The food! The buffet is an ocean spilling its shores— vats and cornucopias and platters of food, proteins and starches, sweets and tree fruits, seafood prepared a dozen ways, station after station heaped with rainbow choice. Seconds and thirds. A storm in my stomach in the middle of the night; groaning with the consequences of gluttony. The starving North Koreans combed through the manure of farm animals, searching for kernels of corn. They lived on bark stripped from trees, rotten vegetables and handfuls of grass, until they began to die. A day of this life would be a celestial reward beyond imagination, beyond hope. ~~

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The leatherback turtle drags herself to the base of a braided tree to lay her eggs. We are reverent as mourners watching her painful progress up the beach, the hours-long digging of the hole, flippers sending up gusts of dust. The moon has gone missing, though the sky is gasping with stars. Stars reflected in the water like the lanterns

of drowned boats. The next day the eggs hatch, the baby turtles scurry one by one to the sea, past the gauntlet of tourists snapping photos— they make their blind heedless way to their destination, tumbling end over end in their haste to escape that boy’s greedy grasp, that woman’s clumsy feet, our cries and clicking cellphones. A wonder they survive us, anything survives us. The first wave sweeps them off to other perils.

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~~ Float in a boat down the river. Howler monkeys in the treetops, swinging through the leafy canopy. Monkeys with golden faces sipping the silty water at the riverbank, crocodile’s beady eyes above the waterline like air bubbles, pagoda tail. Iguanas in sunset colours, tangerine and lemon, a china bird on legs like flamingo stilts. A row of bats tattooed on a tree trunk, forming a pattern like a snake to scare off predators. They know what to do to survive. Later, we drink guava juice in the cactus garden, provide sustenance for insects with whirring wings helicoptering through the sandstorm. ~~ You start to recognize them at the buffet, along the beach and on the tour bus— these strangers sealed under the dome with us, in this world away from the world. Their paperback novels and Kindles, their holiday clothes blazing with flowers and palm trees. They have earned these carnival pleasures with honest labour, some of them. Beside me, the American on the deck chair poolside busies her hands with a bundle of yarn. I think a gift for a grandchild, but no, she is knitting scarves and toques for the homeless. We gave everything we had, she says of the drive to collect winter clothes, but the need is still there, so now she is knitting her donations. Was I wrong about everyone?

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~~ Aftershocks in Haiti. The storms are moving down the coast. Evelyn Lau’s most recent book is the poetry collection Living Under Plastic (Oolichan, 2010). To read her other Geist work, go to geist.com.

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Letters from Josef Ann Diamond

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Was he a reincarnated Nazi war criminal, as he claimed, or just a twenty-two-year-old American boy in pain?

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ne evening while browsing the internet, I came across a website belonging to a young man in Pennsylvania who said he was the reincarnation of Dr. Josef Mengele. The website, a Gothic-looking memoir with white type on black background, was packed with World War II memorabilia and openly dedicated to “The Greatest War Criminal of the Twentieth Century.” Joseph Meyer (not his real name), a twenty-two-year-old, had put together detailed research, archival photos and his own purported recollections of being Mengele, and it was so bizarre and gripping I spent the evening reading the site from beginning to end. Because of his obsessive attention to detail, it was more ambitious and convincing than what many professional novelists could do. Parts of it were disturbing, to say the least. This boy really believed he was Mengele, and seemed to know what that meant: he was trapped in the overwhelming irony of having to account for deeds that, at their core, were unspeakable. The clinic at Auschwitz remains closed to the public, an indication of how little we really know about Josef Mengele and his ugly career, but here was some kid living in Nowhere, Pennsylvania, trying to bring it out into the open. At times, he might have been Count Dracula writing from Transylvania. Joseph Meyer was obsessed with the superficial details of Mengele’s life—style of dress, slicked-back hair, preference in cars; he even drove a replica of Mengele’s “blood red” BMW, and seemed to bask in the notoriety of a man whose crimes were beyond imagining and perhaps best kept secret. Stubbornly, with an air of preaching, he spelled out his politics in prose that could be colourful, pompous or dry, depending. He was not a neo-Nazi, he said, and had no respect for those who embraced the ideology of the Third Reich without having lived through its madness. On his website, he had posted a photograph of Mengele’s son, Rolf, as a little boy, and a letter he’d written to him asking for forgiveness and understanding, in language that conjured all the defensiveness and self-pity of an aging war criminal whose own son has turned against him. “Being a Nazi war criminal,” he wrote, “is very hard because you’re lonely all the time . . . I will admit that my loneliness has gotten so bad at times that at night I will silently cry myself to sleep.” Whatever his shortcomings as a writer, Joseph Meyer never slipped out of character or veered too far into caricature. He always came across as exactly what he said he was: a young man in Pennsylvania burdened by

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[CALLOUT He was pro and unforgivin

“A Nazi war all the time”

He joked ab kill his enemies

Can trauma time to the nex

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memories of having been a notorious monster. He wrote about how he was born into this lifetime out of wedlock and unwanted by his mother, a young nurse who eventually placed him in a foster home. How, at age eleven, while his history teacher was talking to the class about the Holocaust, he first saw a photo of the famous war criminal and found he somehow knew more about the man than was normal for a kid who had never even heard of Dr. Mengele. Young Joseph, who now called himself Josef, began to write poems and make drawings in school that seemed to him to unearth buried details from what could only be a past life as a doctor at Auschwitz. He could call up horrific scenes, including memories of a field hospital near Stalingrad where, as a young doctor in 1942, Mengele dodged bullets on the battlefield and performed operations to save wounded and dying men. At age thirty he was an SS doctor,

officer and decorated war hero, recipient of the Iron Cross, but he underwent a terrible transformation after the disastrous defeat of the German forces in Russia. This, wrote Joseph Meyer, was when Mengele lost his personality and, having witnessed so much death and destruction, the ability to feel anything for anyone. He became the embodiment of evil, totally indifferent to suffering and bloodshed—probably as a result of posttraumatic stress. By the time his superiors in Berlin dispatched him to Auschwitz to serve as camp doctor in the spring of 1943, he was already a psychopath, albeit a high-functioning one. How could he care about trainloads of Jewish refugees filing past on the railway platform on their way to a quick death? He had already seen so much agony, their lives meant absolutely nothing to him. Many people would recoil at the spectacle of a “reincarnated” war criminal trying to excuse himself by invoking post-traumatic

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illustration: breathing everything in, mike tedder

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stress disorder. At the beginning of the 1945 Nuremberg Trials, psychiatrists weeded out those ex-Nazis deemed too deranged to stand trial, but Mengele never went near the courtroom—his American captors released him, supposedly by mistake. I took young Meyer’s confession with numerous grains of salt, and often with a shudder of distaste, but I could not completely dismiss it. People who have never lived through violent combat are in no position to judge those who have. Of course, Josef Meyer hadn’t really been in combat, either—unless you believe that traumatic experiences can be transferred, or recalled, from one lifetime to the next. I wrote Josef a message. I told him I was fifty-one years old and had just returned from a trip to Poland, and that I had visited Auschwitz and had discovered that the crematorium was identical to the one I had found myself in during a hypnotic regression. I ended it by saying, “Your memoir is very impressive. I believe it will help a lot of people to forgive themselves. Thank you for writing and publishing it.” Then I filled in the hotmail address he had listed on the site, and clicked SEND. An hour later, his reply arrived in my mailbox. I felt a surge of excitement. It was as if I had pressed a button on a coffin, and out popped Count Dracula. He thanked me for my letter and said he had wanted to go back into medicine and science, but because doctors are so limited in what they’re allowed to do in the American system, he had decided to become a professor and teach about the Holocaust instead, to make the best use of his reincarnation. He was also working on his memoirs; the website material was the nucleus of his narrative. He invited me to keep in touch and said, “Ironically, I’ve gotten along better with reincarnated ‘victims’ than one of the other reincarnated Nazis . . .” Reading his email, I was almost won over by young Mengele’s positive attitude and earnest manner. Perhaps this was how reincarnated war

“A Nazi war criminal,” he wrote, “is lonely all the time”

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criminals atoned for the past in the age of the internet. The next day I sent him a reply in which I flirted with his darker side: “Really, apart from my fear of rejection (as an older woman, I have to worry about such things), I’m also afraid that if we got involved and it didn’t work out, you might give me a lethal injection.” In his response he said he would have no reason to give me a lethal injection and added, “Cripes, my criminal record is clean . . . As an SS officer, we were not to have criminal records at all.” After that, we corresponded every day. Often he sent several long, intense messages within the space of a few hours. He complained bitterly of his lonely life in the backwaters of America. He lived in poverty in public housing and, not surprisingly, had few friends other than Michele, a reincarnated German Red Cross nurse. Josef was a complicated fellow, prone to operatic mood swings, hypersensitive to anything that could be taken as a personal slight, unforgiving if crossed: traits that also applied to the real Mengele. He boasted of having superhuman powers: he could murder people just by focussing on them mentally; he said he had used his skill to exact revenge on a teacher in high school; he claimed to feed on electricity from power lines. At a power station near the car wash he frequented, he observed: “just standing next to all that ‘juice’ made me feel like I was drinking high octane coffee,” something he said only reincarnated people could understand. He seemed thrilled that, like him, I was “a reincarnation.” He conjured up a picture of a woman from his past life who resembled me except her hair was darker. I confessed that I was not really blonde in this lifetime, either. He was certain we had known each other, and he described our last meeting, sometime in 1941. The encounter was accidental, he said, and took place in a train station as he was leaving for the Russian front. He described the station interior and the gist of our brief conversation. I was cold to him, he said, and his SS uniform was stiff and uncomfortable. As a result, our parting was awkward. I had come to the station to see off another man who was travelling to the front, and when we said goodbye to each other, Josef knew it was for the last time.

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When he said he had known me at medical school in Leipzig or Vienna in the mid-’30s, I felt another tingle of recognition. On a visit to Vienna, I had passed through Leipzig on the Deutsche Bahn and seen its looming buildings through the train window—so evocative of some lost world. I had felt a powerful desire to disembark and explore those streets. A strong intuition had told me I had been studying psychology in Leipzig when the Nazis surged into power and closed down that “Jewish” faculty. After joining the SS, Mengele had volunteered for the Russian front early on in the campaign, believing that the Nazi war machine would achieve a quick victory. I felt I had been involved in the anti-Hitler resistance that arose at that time. Could I have known a young doctor who would survive the horrors at Stalingrad and, in part through fanatical loyalty to the Nazi Party, go on to become the Angel of Death at Auschwitz? To keep him at arm’s length, I invoked our thirty-year age difference, but he soon let down his defences and sent me a photo of himself dressed as Mengele. He worried about his feminine looks and wondered if any girl of his own generation could find him interesting. A careful dresser whose clothes and hair were always impeccable, he seemed to have stepped out of some bygone era. Though in real years he was only twenty-two, he complained of feeling his “real age,” which was “going on ninety,” probably because he was in constant pain. He had been in a car accident at eighteen and had suffered with fibromyalgia ever since. He began suggesting that we meet, even though I was thousands of miles away, near the west coast of B.C. In the beginning, the Rocky Mountains and the distance had seemed like natural barriers: he lacked the money for a plane ticket, and I was not about to go anywhere to meet him. Josef could be disarmingly sincere and affectionate in his emails, saying he didn’t let biological age get in the way and that friendships like this make people happy, but in a twinkling he could become unbearable, possibly even dangerous. When I suggested that some of the misery he was experiencing in this lifetime might stem from his actions in the past, he exploded in rage.

He called me every name he could think of, ending with “cow pat.” What right did I have to speak of “karma”? Such notions were superstitious horseshit, and he was a man of science. One day, in an instant message exchange, Josef joked about how he planned on psychically killing his enemies—the bureaucrats who had denied him his disability claim. I was getting bored with his histrionics. “You monster,” I typed. In a fit of anger he logged off, shutting down the chat. The next day I wondered aloud why he needed to hang on to the corpse of Dr. Mengele when he had a whole new life ahead of him. He could start over fresh, do and be anything he wanted. That was it. I had crossed a line. “Don’t ever, EVER say I hate something or call me a monster EVER AGAIN!” he shot back. “I’ve had it with your childish way with words and disrespect for me. I WILL DESTROY WHAT I WISH TO DESTROY . . . EVEN IF I MUST DESTROY YOU.” He ordered me never to write to him, ever again. His only friend, Michele, fired off an angry email, repeating his message word for word, in case I had failed to get it the first time. “You do not understand Josef at all,” she added. “You have hurt his feelings very badly. He has been crying all day. Not only that—he says you are always talking about his ‘karma’. Can’t you see this upsets him terribly?” Michele, the former Red Cross nurse, claimed to remember working alongside Josef in his feldlazarett near Stalingrad. In this lifetime, they lived just down the road from each other, in small-town Pennsylvania. Both loved to participate in World War II re-enactments and dress up in old Nazi uniforms. Together they had managed to persuade the local organizers to let them set up a replica of a German field hospital in a field just outside the town of Reading. So this is what happens, I thought, when you investigate a past life. The people who show up

Can trauma be transferred from one lifetime to the next?

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are not always the ones you were hoping to meet. I wished them the best. They deserved each other. What an idiot I had been to let this boy draw me into his insane world. The day after that last exchange, I received a package that had been held up at customs. Two weeks before our final falling out, Josef had painstakingly assembled a few items of memorabilia, including photos of himself in goth makeup, dressed up for Halloween, and another of him in his SS outfit outside his simulated field clinic. In uniform, he looked identical to Mengele at twenty-five. The package also contained a letter from Josef, in Mengele’s spiky handwriting, dated ten days earlier although it might have been sixty years. “I wish that you would drop the subject of my connections to the SS,” it began. “So you were a Polish partisan. So you blew up German trains. We all had our niche in the war.” Our having been on opposite sides in the war, he said, shouldn’t influence our lives—and the possibility of a relationship—now. “I don’t allow the fact that you were an enemy of the Reich to get in the way of my love for you,” he wrote. “Perhaps you should do the same for me.” One line in his letter, “It is hard to stand aside during politically stirring times,” was a direct quote from Mengele’s published writing. The rest of it appeared to be Meyer’s own. He had enclosed several cassette tapes of his favourite music, which also happened to be Mengele’s: Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, “Dies Irae” from Verdi’s Requiem and several preludes by Chopin. I listened to them all, right to the final track by Godsmack, which Josef had included to imply that life does go on. I put the letter, photos and tapes in storage, and I kept to our bargain: I never wrote to him again. Nor did I visit his website—except on one occasion, several months later. In November 2002, it occurred to me that the real Dr. Mengele might have worked for the CIA. An internet search brought up results that mentioned Montreal, where I was born; and the infamous Dr. Ewen Cameron’s experiments on patients at the Allan Memorial Institute psychiatric hospital; and the year 1962, when my father spent six weeks there being treated for “depres-

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sion.” The articles cited witness reports and allegations that Dr. Mengele may have worked with Ewen Cameron on “psychic driving” experiments funded by the CIA. This unusual information sent me spinning down a long tunnel that stretched all the way back to my birth. I had always known something unspeakable had happened to our family while I was growing up. When my brother and I were eleven, the Cuban Missile Crisis coincided with a frightening period when our lives seemed to be falling to pieces. The house was filled with tension and anger that sometimes erupted in open arguing between my parents but most often boiled under the surface of daily routine. In 1962, just as the missile crisis was resolved, my father suffered a nervous breakdown and was admitted to the Allan Memorial. It would be another fifteen years before the truth about Ewen Cameron and the Allan made international news: Cameron’s secret, sometimes lethal, experiments on patients were finally exposed in 1977. By then, my father was dead.

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ow, in November 2002, the terror of that period began to surface in my memory and I became obsessed with finding out what had really happened during those six lost weeks over Christmas when my father stayed downtown in his private room at the hospital. When he finally came home, he barely recognized us. He recuperated slowly and eventually resumed his teaching job. He never spoke about the hospital except to say, “They’re not doing anything good down there.” I remember that his handwriting had tripled in size—a sign that he was “opening up,” my mother thought. He seemed vulnerable and often urged us to spend more time together, playing board games, so that winter we played Monopoly and Clue instead of watching television, and slowly my father’s personality re-emerged from a world into which it seemed, for a time, to have vanished. Bit by bit, more of my memories began to return as I read accounts by survivors who insisted they had met Dr. Mengele at the Allan Memorial that same year, and also at other times in various locations around North America.

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It crossed my mind that Josef Meyer would have an opinion as to whether these stories were true. He had the ability to reach back and recover details, scenes, missing facts and puzzle pieces. Perhaps he would perform one of these feats of recall and bring some resolution to the questions that were keeping me up nights reading hundreds of pages of documents and survivor testimony alleging that Mengele had worked on secret research for the American government during the Cold War. Back in July, Josef had confided excitedly that he was in the process of writing the next chapter of the “true story,” based on his own past-life memories of the aftermath of the war and the thirty-year period when he was on the run and hiding in South America. Perhaps he would come up with an alternate explanation for how Mengele evaded the Nazi hunters and cheated justice for four decades. No, I could not ask him. He had told me never to contact him again, and I was afraid of what I might stir up. After all, he had boasted of his accomplishments as a psychic assassin, even listing former enemies, back in high school, who ended up mysteriously dead. Still, I felt he ought to be told about the living witnesses who claimed to have seen him working for the CIA in Canada and the U.S. Especially since some recalled a man they believed to be Mengele, who had trained them to “kill with their minds.” I didn’t need to contact Josef—I could leave an anonymous “tip” on the message board of his website. He had updated it a few days before and the hit counter now registered over two hundred visitors—not exactly an avalanche of popularity, but a sign of life. I posted a message on the board on the anniversary of my father’s death, November 21. I kept it brief—just a line—and suggested he look at information indicating that Dr. Mengele had worked in North America during the Cold War. I included some links documenting these allegations. Two days later, I went back to see if Josef had answered. He had not. My message had been deleted. Months passed. No word from Josef. In the

spring of 2003, I found out he had departed this world: “On November 24, 2002, during a World War II re-enactment in a field in Reading, PA, the reincarnation of the world’s most notorious war criminal suddenly left his body.” This was how his nurse friend, Michele, broke the news on Josef’s old website. He had fallen asleep in a plastic chair outside his makeshift field hospital and, two hours later, had woken up as someone else: a young man who announced he was no longer Joseph or Josef Meyer, but Jakob Baumer, the reincarnated soul of a World War I German infantryman. This Jakob Baumer, speaking through the body of the departed Josef, explained how the soul of the Angel of Death had migrated back to Brazil and the coffee plantation where Mengele had hidden while being hunted as a Nazi. In its place, another soul had simply walked in and taken over Josef’s body. Of course, this meant that there would be no account of Mengele’s post-war life in Brazil. And no way to find out if Mengele had worked for the CIA.

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t was as if I had lost a friend. Or almost. Suppose you knew someone in their youth, when they were idealistic and ambitious, and later you had to judge them in the light of unspeakable deeds. I felt a lingering regret for the fragile, flawed young man I had read about, who had struggled to be loved by his cold, distant mother, and later won approval from the Nazi Party. Believing he could transcend feeling through the force of his will, he became a mass murderer, hated by everyone. Deservedly. I couldn’t stop thinking how, when confronted with the truth of being a “monster,” Josef had wept like a child. What did that mean? That there is hope in young men’s tears? Even when they are the sticky tears of a war criminal? If only things were that simple.

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Ann Diamond is a Montreal-born writer who has taught creative writing at Concordia University and University College of the Cariboo. Read “The Second Life of Kiril Kadiiski” and her other Geist work at geist.com, and visit her at anndiamond.net.

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Motion Sensitive M.A.C. Farrant

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Horses, squirrels; a beaver or a humped shadow; the dead in their final rocking chairs

A Serious Story

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’ve got stories strung in my head like lines of wash. I remember this one. The time I got a fortune cookie at Ming’s Restaurant that said: “Love is a few moments in the lives of lovers.” I read it to Len and he snorted. “Now what the hell is that supposed to mean?” Summed up an entire marriage. Twenty-six years. Would have been longer but he died. After that there was the story of the singing kettle. I drank a lot of tea and there was always a kettle on the stove ready to boil. When it went off it made me laugh. Made me think of a man at the peak of sex. By then I’d decided all men were alike—a penis and a list of demands. The time we buried Daddy is another story. The grave was too shallow and then it rained. The coffin had to wait overnight for next day’s ceremony to cover it with dirt. It floated to the top, bobbing like a boat. Everyone laughed. The old bugger wasn’t making it easy like always. We had a good party on that.

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This new story concerns a summer afternoon. My bed is beside the open window. A breeze is blowing the lace curtains. Outside everything is white, even the flowers—clematis, alyssum, the late roses. Even the sky is bleached. The important part is the horse. This is a serious story. There’s a white horse with a black star on its

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forehead and it’s waiting for me outside the window—frisky, full of life. When I was a kid I loved riding horses. I have never forgotten that power between my legs. I would like to gallop away from this world on a horse. A request. Is it too much to ask, considering?

What Mattered

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beaver returned to the polluted Detroit River and caused the people of Detroit to rejoice. It was one hundred years since a beaver had been seen in the area. Everyone said the environment was returning to normal. We got behind that. We watched the video a few million times. Workers at the power plant across the river had used a motion-sensitive camera. We stared at the mound of sticks, and then saw a humped shadow moving about. That’s the beaver, we said. For a while it was the beaver that mattered. Even though we knew it was probably some stuffed thing put there by two guys with a camera. And some string.

Along the Way

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got a job working in a burial park. In administration, doing payroll, ordering coffins, urns. On the day I was hired the owner gave me a tour. The grounds were exactly like a park: rolling hills, a meadow, oak trees, benches for sitting; the buildings were low and painted green. The one where the embalming took place had

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finished corpses sitting in rocking chairs along one wall; others were laid out on tables and being worked on by three old men. The men wore grey smocks and didn’t look up. The floor was sawdust, the windows open. It was a warm fall day. The owner lay on a divan and asked me if I could tell the difference between her and the cadavers. I couldn’t. The embalmers were that good. At lunch we ate in another building—roast pork, cherry pie. Besides the embalmers, equipment operators, salesmen and groundskeepers were there. Everyone was jolly. Welcome to the family, the owner said. I was to start the next day. I could bring my dog. It was full-time work. I thought: I’ll do this over the winter; there’ll be stories; I can write them up in the spring. On my way out, I met the caretaker, who lived in a cottage on the grounds. There was

something odd about her—what we used to call “slow-witted.” I thought this because she moved and spoke so slowly. She showed me her garden. In spite of or because of her slowness, she’d made a beautiful display. Every flower was either blue or white, the grass in front bright green. She had a slow-witted dog, as well—slow-witted or old. I began appreciating everything. Overhead there was sky and light and clouds sliding by. There were squirrels, falling leaves, the dead in their final rocking chairs. I thought: Maybe it’s time to slow down. M.A.C. Farrant’s latest book is Down the Road to Eternity: New & Selected Fiction (Talonbooks, 2009). A new collection, The Strange Truth about Us, also from Talon, will be published in 2011. To read her other Geist writings, including “Notes on the Wedding” (No. 71), go to geist.com.

illustration: from a is for alice, george a. walker (porcupine’s quill)

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Postcard Lit

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Winners of the 6th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest

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Death in the Family Ruth E. Walker

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og died Tuesday. Buried him Saturday cuz Addie couldn’t come ’til then. Reef bitched that we always wait for Addie. But we couldn’t have Dog’s burying without music. We agreed on that. It was the best funeral. Dog looked good, considering. Couldn’t hardly see where the bullet went in but Reef said pull up his head and look at the back and you’ll see. The funeral man told Reef to stop and he did but that guy better watch where he parks. Dog knew not to disrespect a guy. That’s what got him there in that box. But I think it would’ve been better if he crapped his pants in the van instead of making a run for the house—cuz Manny seen him. If he’d stayed in the van with Reef and the guys and crapped his pants instead, Dog would’ve seen Manny first and bust a cap in his ass, that’s for sure. Addie sung “My Heart Will Go On” which is a bullshit song but Dog always liked it so I guess that was all right. And then “Hail Mary.” Later on, Reef and Addie had a real bitchup when Reef said we shoulda had the Tupac CD and Addie got all pissed and threw some stuff around. Then we went for Chinese buffet and Reef made her laugh when he stuck chopsticks up his nose. It was all good. Next week we go fix Manny for sure. “Death in the Family” won Honourable Mention in the 6th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Contest. Ruth E. Walker is an award-winning writer whose work has been published in Prairie Fire, CV2, Chapman (Scotland) and River King (USA), among others. Visit her at ruthewalker.wordpress.com.

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y mother and I watch the waves roll in and back and in and back. It’s cold on the beach and she won’t say, but I know what she wants to know. “What happened between you two anyway? You were so lovely for so long, and then it seemed like it was just over. You were calling to say he left. And you seemed fine. You still seem fine.” I can say a number of things. I can say, we just fell out of love. Whaddaya know? I can say: He talked about other women. I stopped cleaning the toilet. He stopped coming home. I put on weight. He quit smoking. I started smoking. He left counselling pamphlets on the kitchen table. I put his shoes outside every time it rained. He talked about what was wrong with me, started a “private creative journal.” I ate potato chips in bed, slept with all the lights on. He painted the living room light yellow. I painted his truck neon green with spray paint. He bought house plants. I bought a strobe light. He bought me sexy underwear, wrapped them in black crepe paper and left them on the bed. I bought a pair of rubber boots, black with orange bottoms, three sizes too big and totally waterproof. He went to the library and took out books about healthy relationships. I took out books about how to survive in the woods. He made a kite for us to fly together, said we would have to lean with one another and steer through the sky. I made a slingshot and broke the window across the street aiming at my own sunflowers. Instead of the lurid details she might like to hear, I say, “He didn’t like me when I was drunk and I didn’t like him when I wasn’t.” I toss a stone to the waves, and wish for my slingshot to show my mother how dead-on my aim has become.

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“How to Survive in the Woods” won two prizes in the 6th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Contest: an Honourable Mention, and a Reader’s Choice Award (in a tie with “Grizzly Bill” by William Farrant). Ursula Twiss is a student who reads, writes, hawks organic food and rides a pink bicycle in East Vancouver.

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ircumstances were such that I had to move back in with my parents. I was thirty-one. My mother informed me that the position of Son had been filled. “We promoted the family pet to Offspring,” she said, “renamed him Bill.” “Bill” is a six-hundred-pound grizzly bear. “The Pet position is open,” she said. “We miss the long walks after dinner. It might be good for you.” Options limited, I had to accept. When I arrived I found Grizzly Bill living in the guest suite, smoking cigarettes out back, watching television. “You’ll have the kennel,” my mother said. It’s a large kennel, granted, but it’s in the backyard. It’s full of old blankets and half-chewed stuffed animals. From the kennel I can hear Grizzly Bill playing my guitar, breaking strings. He’s chumming around with the neighbour’s daughter too. He can’t believe his luck, I bet. The envy of his buddies in the Strathcona Valley! I wake up at six in the morning. I have to go to the bathroom. And I can’t go on my own. “Them’s the rules,” my father says. He takes me up to the boulevard in the rain,

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watches me dig around. “Go on, do your thing. I got the bag. You signed up for this.” I do my thing. Then go chase after a passing dog, sniffing its rear. We go back inside. I eat Kibbles ’n Bits out of a bowl on the kitchen floor. Meanwhile, Grizzly Bill sleeps in, gets up when he wants to and reads Hemingway. Most of the time I just sit on the old white loveseat waiting to be felt sorry for: eyes drooping, heavy sighs now and then. When someone walks by I yell and scream, put my hands up on the window, drool and look menacing. What have I become, I wonder? I try to attack my ear with my foot. “Time for a walk, Dirk,” they say. They leash me up; we go round the block, check for the mail. Dirk is my name now. My mother says to my father, “Grizzly Bill got a story published. Did you hear?” At dinner I sit in my corner by the table. I watch as my parents and Grizzly Bill eat salmon steaks and talk about “pop culture.” My father fills Grizzly Bill’s glass with Shiraz. I edge my way closer to the table. I see the piece of weathered pastrami I’ll get later. Grizzly Bill does the dishes, picks a salmon bone out of his teeth with his claws. My mother warms butter tarts in the oven. My father taps both feet at the same time to Buddha Bar Vol. 2, licking stray Shiraz off his lips. My arm raised slightly, like a paw, my mouth open and tongue out, I wait for the moment my parents look at me and say, “Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy?”

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“Grizzly Bill” won a Reader’s Choice Award in the 6th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Contest (in a tie with “How to Survive in the Woods” by Ursula Twiss). William Farrant is a writer who lives in Victoria, B.C.

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e were supposed to be spotting wildlife for him to photograph. I pointed out pigeons and other everyday animals. He wielded his camera more like a telescope than a machine gun. He gazed through the lens but didn’t fire, didn’t try to catch the heron I spied mid-flight. “It’s got to be something special,” he said. I drew a line in the sand with my big toe. “You can erase what you don’t like.” He looked to the distal end of the spit; I eyed the point still fused to the land. The rocks were cluttered with debris. Beer cans and zip-lock bags, a sandal and some silver fishing thread: twice rejected and doubly lost, objects orphaned by their owners and then by the sea. Suddenly thunder cracked the air. The ocean swelled in anticipation. “We shouldn’t be here,” I said and pulled at his elbow. He stood his ground, dug in his heels until they were buried and said, “Imagine we lived in the Congo.” I coughed, incredulous. It was a callous comment, all things considered. “Their weather never changes,” he continued. “There’s lightning year-round.” “That doesn’t seem fair.” His lips parted and formed a faint smile. “But think of how beautiful it must be.” Then the clouds changed. Molten tones of red and pink replaced the grey. Veins of lightning split the sky. “Here’s your shot,” I said. He nodded but stood still. The camera hung from his neck like cheap costume jewellery. The next strike was so close it may as well have hit us. I caught a whiff of damp campfire. Thought that, maybe, something had ignited. He passed me his gear and waded into the water. The tide crept close and swallowed the sandbar below his feet. His ankles disappeared next, followed by his knees and his hips. His

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shorts ballooned around his waist like a parachute. He was shivering, holding himself with crossed arms. His lips were a hypothermic shade of blue. I thought about a rescue attempt, about asking him to turn back. Instead I shouted, “We’re electric, you know. We aren’t safe in these conditions.” He never considered risk. He didn’t care that our bodies carried currents and the potential to combust. He just shrugged, shucked his T-shirt and left me alone on the shore. The waves heaved against the sand as he swam. Eventually the beach broke in two. The far end became an island, severed from the shore. I peered through the camera’s eyepiece and snapped a few frames. From a distance he could be mistaken for driftwood. The lightning, while startling, lacked the spark of a sub-Saharan strike. I retreated to the car to review the shots I’d taken. The world shrank into a small square, diminished but definitive: a man lost at sea, a woman trapped on land. The forecast had been for fair weather and we’d been foolish enough to believe in it.

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“We Are Electric” won Honourable Mention in the 6th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Contest. Kellee Ngan’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Grain, Ricepaper, Room and Witness. She lives in Vancouver, not too far from the ocean.

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rutus, our multimillion-dollar signing gorilla, slumps behind glass, pining away for my ex-boyfriend, Pete. He hasn’t eaten for days. He shoves all the food we give him to the observation window—offering it back to us in exchange for Pete. Pete’s not coming back, and I’ve gotten used to it. Brutus draws a policeman’s badge, Pete’s symbol, in the dirt of the Outdoor Facility. I want to tell him that Pete broke up with me. I never pushed him away. Primatologists record everything Brutus does to show us he misses Pete. When he draws a badge on the glass with his feces, they say, “Look how he loved him.” “Shelly, maybe Pete could drop by,” Dr. Jim suggests. “Just for an afternoon. You could take the afternoon off if you wanted.” I feel invisible. We all want to know of Brutus’s grief, as if we’re bored by the human version. How blessed to have a team of caring observers!

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“If you don’t want to write the letter, I can,” Dr. Jim says. Well, it’s unanimous then. Everyone wants Pete. Honestly, Brutus is making us write you, I write Pete. He won’t eat. Pete, I’m not asking for me. Just for him. This irks me on a deep level. Like I’m begging. I’m not begging you. One afternoon, then it’s over. Visit a gorilla—save some primatologists. If I were going to ask you back into my life, I’d be more creative than saying The Gorilla Made Me Do It. I picture Pete’s mouth in a smile under his bushy cop moustache. He used to wrestle with Brutus. Yes, wrestle. Brutus was gentle with him, he knew it was play and would sometimes kiss him softly on the forehead after he’d worn Pete out. We’re pretty sure Brutus is gay. Jezebel, the female gorilla shipped over from the Primate Institute, is pretty sure he’s gay too. She went back very disappointed. It’ll make your gorilla happy, and everyone here needs a Happy Gorilla. I picture Brutus giving me a thumbs-up, his leathery eyebrows conspiratorial. I wish I’d had enough dignity to walk out on you first. You called me a “lab rat”! You were embarrassed to be with me in public. I can’t believe I tried to be “worthy” of your affection, I write. But I crumple up the sheet and try again. Hello, Pete. I’m writing on behalf of Brutus, who is holding a hunger strike in our lab. He’s demanding you. Dr. Jim has asked me to write you—see if you’d drop by. It would be good to see you. I erase the last part, suddenly afraid of scaring him off. Again. I look away to see Brutus flipping through a picture album, stopping at pictures of Pete. He sighs heavily. Should I tell him Pete wouldn’t stay? No. I can’t even tell myself. Pete won’t fall for this, I know. Maybe I’ll let Brutus smear some feces on the card for emphasis, for love.

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“Et Tu Bruté” won Honourable Mention in the 6th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Contest. Jerome Stueart is a science fiction/fantasy writer who started out in Texas, immigrated in 2007 and now lives in Whitehorse.

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on, really. How do you always get this tea to taste so fantastic?” Pete asked as he leaned back in his chair. There was as much envy in his voice as there was loathing. “I’m telling you,” Don began, embarrassed by the praise, “it’s all in the tea leaves you choose. Well, that and the temperature.” Salvatore leaned forward on the counter. He was quietly aroused when Don spoke so forthrightly about matters of the kitchen, as was evidenced by the slight bulge in his pants. “The key with green tea is to use water that is slightly warmer than tepid.” “Say, 80 to 85 degrees Celsius?” Pete chimed in. “No. You pour really hot water like that over black tea leaves, Pete. With green tea, and especially for these knock-your-socks-off jasmine dragon pearls, the key is to get water that is right around 75 degrees Celsius.” Everyone let out a sigh of satisfaction, like Don had just told them their children had survived a natural disaster. “Don, I know I don’t have to say this. But you’re rock solid. Good job on the tea.” Roger had a noncommittal grin on his handsome, tanned face. It was a smile that said, I’m proud to know you, but don’t think for one second that I give a damn about you.

“Thank you, Roger.” The men were all quiet as they sipped on their tea. It was Salvatore who eventually broke the silence when he commented on Don’s apron. “You really didn’t think we wouldn’t notice it? I mean, it’s so stylish. It says in no uncertain terms: I’m the man of this house and no one is coming into my kitchen.” Roger chuckled. Pete let out a high-pitched laugh. Don blushed and turned away. “Let me tell you. If Betty ever tried to set foot in this kitchen, she would have another thing coming.” “Pow! Right in the kisser!” Salvatore exclaimed with an awkward motion of his arm, half an upper cut and half a jab. “That’s right,” Don said. “One of these days, Betty. Straight to the moon!” he said in his best Gleason voice, which was pretty much dead-on. This unleashed a roar of laughter from the men. “Speaking of Betty, how is your lovely wife, Don?” “She’s well, Pete. Thanks for asking. “She—” Don began, unable to finish what he wanted to say. The men grew concerned and looked at each other for an answer to their friend’s sudden change in countenance. Roger took the initiative when he said, “Group hug?” before throwing his arms open like Rio’s Christ the Redeemer. Don brightened immediately. The four men came together, patted each other on the back and smiled. “Who’s up for another round of green tea?” Don asked. “Another round of green tea, it is!” Pete seconded. “Health benefits all around!” Salvatore put in. Don offered up a million-dollar grin. “And after I pick up the kids from school later . . .”

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“Men Gone Mad” won Honourable Mention in the 6th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Contest. Richard Harris is the author of two published works of non-fiction and is working on his second novel. He lives in Toronto.

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“You’re a violin teacher?” someone asked Tilly Starblanket. “I thought you were Native!”

Tilly Starblanket has a story about being slapped in the face by her white teacher when she was in grade 1. That would make her, what? Five or six years old? When the teacher hit her, she fell on the floor. This happened in the classroom, in front of all the other students. Smithers, British Columbia. I was maybe in grade 1. My dad was a janitor at Muheim School and my mom was walking me there, it was autumn I remember, up a winding path through the trees. A shortcut! We passed a group of Native men, all resting or sitting by the side of the trail. One of them, possibly to explain their presence there, spoke to my mom. She may have been frightened, this young white woman with her little son, suddenly bumping into these strangers in the forest. I can’t recall why I thought she was frightened, but I do remember that when the man spoke to my mother, he said: “We’re getting a suntan.” Tilly Starblanket worked in a coffee shop. She has a story about two white women who came in and ordered drinks. One of them mumbled, and Tilly couldn’t understand the order. “Pardon me?” asked Tilly. “You have to speak louder,” hissed the woman’s friend. “She doesn’t speak English.” 100

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Once my friend Patrick and I returned from a school field trip and we were thirsty, so we went into Northern Drugs on Main Street to buy something to drink. The man at the checkout counter stopped us and asked to look in our school bags. There he found wet swim trunks, and towels gritty with sand, and big black rubber

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swim fins, but nothing more. We hadn’t robbed his store. Patrick was an Indian. And the man who checked our school bags was a white man, who happened to know my dad and attend the same church my family did. My white friend Sean and I had shoplifted Playboy magazines from Northern Drugs on numerous occasions, right under this same man’s nose, and he had never asked to check my school bag before. Smithers is next to a reservation community called Moricetown. The people who lived there were called Carrier Indians, which we learned was because a woman carried her husband’s bones on her back after he died. I don’t know if this is true. There are small waterfalls, rapids in the river near Moricetown where tourists used to go to watch Native men spear salmon. I remember seeing those men, with dark skin and no shirts, roped around the waist to the rocks so they wouldn’t be washed away. White people in Smithers generally thought that people from Moricetown were messy and they often made fun of the colours of the houses in Moricetown. People who lived there painted their houses bright green, or purple, colours like that, instead of plain beige or grey or white. My older brother’s wife is Indian, by which I mean her family is originally from India. Talk about a colourful family! Her ancestors were taken from India to work the British-owned tea fields of Malaysia, which is where my brother lives. He refers to his circle of Malaysian friends as “cowboys and Indians.” When my brother, who grew up in Smithers, bombarded with racism, refers to his wife and my wife, he says “dots and feathers.” Last time I

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saw him, when we had gone for a hike and left them far behind us, he said: “Where are the dots and feathers?” Dots and feathers! Both kinds of Indians! That joke never grows old. Some of the Native people who lived in Moricetown drank too much. You could occasionally see them making a scene at the SuperValu, or passed out on the lawn of the public library. This is a common enough story. The irony is, most of the white people who told these stories got so drunk themselves every weekend that they forgot who they were married to. Meanwhile, their high-school kids, also white, were at the local gravel pit, listening to AC/DC blaring from the stereo in someone’s truck, and guess what they were doing? Drinking!

Q: Why did the Indian cross the road? A: To get to the other ditch. The implication being that Native people spent time in ditches, because they were very, very drunk. Why else would a person be in a ditch? In fact, sometimes there were people in the ditches of Smithers. They were either blond Christian Reformed schoolkids picking up empty cans and bottles for some fundraiser or another, or else Native people doing the same thing.

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Both my sisters were born in South Korea. They’re Korean, in fact. Talk about a colourful family! Who knows how many times, growing up in Smithers, my little sisters heard this: “Who’s that Chinese kid?”

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Another reason residents of Smithers, who were mostly white people, didn’t like the Native people was something called land claims. I heard about these a lot before I ever knew what they were.

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Q: What’s the most popular wine in B.C.? A: “Give us back our land.” Tilly Starblanket talks about all the times people try to guess her ethnicity. They’re always wrong—for two reasons, Tilly says. One, people only see what they want to see. Two, Natives aren’t exotic. One creepy white man apparently used the word “exotic” as part of a pickup line. “You look really exotic,” he said. “Are you Hawaiian?” Once I took an anthropology course from a professor who had been doing field work in South America. They were unearthing an old settlement that had been buried under layers of sand and soil. “What happened to these people?” one of the students asked the professor, referring to the people who had once lived there, whose homes and belongings they were now digging up. “Where did they go? Where are they now?” The professor gestured with his head around the circle: “What do you notice about all these archaeologists and labourers?” The answer was that the workers were all Aboriginal people. What had happened to these people? Nothing! Where had they gone? Nowhere! How embarrassing. “You can’t be Native,” people tell Tilly Starblanket. “You don’t have a strong enough accent!” One of Tilly’s brothers got married last winter to a girl from Winnipeg. Tilly will be doing the music for the wedding. The pianist is going to be none other than Tilly’s former teacher, the white lady who all those years ago slapped her in the face and knocked her down! What are the odds?

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the way people react to her in other places. When her singing group was in South Africa, for example, a white man from that country grabbed her arm, quite excited, and demanded: “Are you an Indian squaw?” She tells another story about a musical performance in Edmonton. White hippies and drum-circle types, by the way, are always ecstatic to see a performance of real Indian music. After a song was finished at one of these shows, someone from the audience asked Tilly: “Were you praying to your gods?” When I lived in Kelowna, B.C., my friend Glendon and I thought it would be a good idea to go up to northern Saskatchewan. Glendon’s parents and ancestors are Mennonite. My parents and ancestors are English and Irish. People say we look alike, Glendon and I, but the chances of our being related are statistically quite low. There were summer camps in northern Saskatchewan that needed counsellors, and Glendon and I had both worked at summer camps, so it seemed like a great idea.

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On our first evening in Signal River, Saskatchewan, after a momentous drive, we sat down for coffee in a Chinese restaurant. The white lady working there saw our long hair and Glendon’s earrings and asked if we were in town for the folk music festival. We replied that no, we were in town to work at Signal River Bible Camp. She sure looked surprised. She said, “Well, it’s a good thing the Lord looks at what’s on the inside.” This white lady turned out to be the mother of one of the other white counsellors at Signal River Bible Camp. The camp was a dump. Everything was old and worn out. Glendon and I had worked at some fancy summer camps in B.C., camps for wealthy

white church people mostly, with waterskiing and horseback riding and conference centres. Signal River had some musty old cabins and a trampoline. The lake was beautiful, but there were certainly no waterskiing boats. A cousin of mine recently adopted two girls from the United States. She did this because she was fed up with the bureaucracy in Canada, where there is a ridiculous number of Native kids who need homes, but those homes have to be Aboriginal ones. Fair enough— unless you happen to be one of those kids. They just need a home. And if you haven’t yet learned which colour you are, it shouldn’t matter, one tends to think. But don’t worry! They’ll learn soon enough. My cousin also adopted these girls from the United States because she could afford to. My new cousins are African American. Talk about a colourful family! But this serves no purpose in the story whatsoever. It is nothing more than name-dropping—or ethnicity-dropping. The camp’s director, let’s call him Paul, was an energetic fundamentalist Christian white man with thick glasses and a tremendous moustache. He was thrilled to have us there, all the way from B.C. “What do you know about Native spirituality?” he asked us on the first day. “Not much,” we replied. “Well, you have your sweat lodges,” said Paul, “and you have your sweetgrass ceremonies, and you have your powwows. And basically,” he concluded, “we can’t have any of that around here.” Tilly Starblanket has a story of the mostly Ukrainian community she grew up in: one older woman, hearing that Tilly was Cree, expressed disbelief. “All this time, I thought you were just a dark Ukrainian!”

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Paul’s wife was white, but her face was always bright red. We didn’t know if she was in a constant state of anger, or embarrassment, or what. Can you blame her? In reality it probably had more to do with her capillaries, the tiny blood vessels close to the surface of the skin. Her capillaries seemed to be working overtime. Can you blame them? “The kids don’t need showers,” Paul’s wife said, giving us the grand tour. “They go swimming in the lake every day. They can brush their teeth in here,” and she pointed out a row of sinks in a dingy hallway. There was swallow crap in long white streaks down the walls. “If this was B.C.,” Glendon said later, “this place would be shut down.” I agreed at the time, but now I’m not so sure. In southern B.C., places we had worked like Kelowna and Salmon Arm, that would be the case. But if it was up north, a summer camp solely for the use of Indian kids? I don’t know. The kids themselves were a gift. With almost nothing these children came, big school buses from remote communities full of laughing, yelling and shrieking, black hair and brown hands blowing and waving out the windows. If these kids were offended by the fact that they didn’t have proper shower facilities, they certainly didn’t show it. If they were disappointed or insulted by the fact that half of their meals were leftover porridge and bologna sandwiches, they never told me.

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After one concert, a white woman from the audience told Tilly: “I could see spirits of animals dancing around you while you were singing!”

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Glendon and I were shuttled around to several different camps in Saskatchewan. Because we were “expert counsellors”—meaning we were older than fourteen and we had actually worked

with kids before—we had the opportunity to see many places: Stony Lake, Beauval, Meadow Lake, Prince Albert. For some reason, the Cree kids in Saskatchewan called us white people “square-heads,” which was funny. “Do I really have a square head?��� I asked one time, which just made them laugh even harder. Another was “Casper,” which is what the boys in my cabin called me. “Turn out that light,” one of them would snap when another woke him up in the middle of the night with a flashlight. “It’s not me,” would be the reply. “Tell Casper to zip up his sleeping bag!” Everyone would laugh and laugh. At White Sand Bible Camp, an aggressive boy maybe sixteen years old, named Alfred, confronted me and asked if I was Cree. “Do I look like I’m Cree?” I asked him. He responded with another question: did I speak Cree? No, I didn’t. “Then why are you here?” he asked. “This is the Cree Nation.” I said, “You’re right, it is the Cree Nation.” I said I was from such a different place, I hadn’t known before about these things. I said I was surprised to see that so many of these young kids spoke Cree better than they spoke English. I told him that I had assumed only old people would speak Cree, that the language would have been almost completely replaced by English. Alfred laughed in my face. All his friends, who enjoyed breakdancing and dressed like the black hip-hop artists on TV with baggy jeans, bandanas and NBA jerseys, even though they were thousands of miles from New York or L.A., laughed at me too. Alfred’s friend DJ laughed at me. His pretty girlfriend laughed at me. I played basketball with Alfred every day that week. Most of the other counsellors were barely older than the campers. And the white men who were the directors and caretakers and church board members were busy raging against the folk music festival happening nearby, because of the

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presence of evil music there. The music in question was rock ’n’ roll. Country music, according to Paul and therefore according to God, was just fine. And many of these grown men continued to be offended by Glendon’s pierced ears. No, we were all alone there. The White Sand Bible Camp director, who was white, who was not Paul but who resembled Paul in every important way for the telling of the story, gathered his staff together and told us there was some alcohol on the premises. He said some teenagers had smuggled beer into camp, and we had to find it and get rid of it. In my own cabin, with the boys I had been with and laughed and joked with and played basketball with for a full week, I walked over and took the can of Pepsi out of DJ’s hand and sniffed it to see if there was liquor inside. Of course there wasn’t. That was possibly the most shameful and terrible thing I’ve ever done in my life. I saw it in the eyes of Alfred, who never played basketball with me again.

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n Edmonton, I took a job for the Alberta government’s Children and Youth Services. Actually it was a private company that was contracted by the government. Not too many people know that that goes on, the private contracting of things like youth work. I was a “Crisis One-on-One Worker.” A One-on-One Worker has a cellphone, a car with a child seat and a lot of paperwork to back him up. He is a highly mobile, always-on-call youth worker. Counselling troubled kids? Supervising visits with parents? Transporting apprehended children? You name it! Most of those kids are actually apprehended through no fault of their own, but because their parents are deemed by the government to be unfit.

Another thing many people are unaware of, even though once in a while some intrepid newspaper reporter “discovers” it, is that the Alberta government uses motel rooms to house the children under its care and supervision. That is because there is no other place to keep these kids. Group homes and foster homes are almost always filled to capacity. So I spent a lot of time in motel rooms, all over Edmonton and St. Albert and so on, alternating twelve-hour shifts with another worker, supervising a little kid or occasionally a teenager. Sometimes the child had privileges, such as going on outings, and then we could go to West Edmonton Mall, or to a movie theatre or a swimming pool. Some children were so bad that they had no privileges, in which case I had to keep them in the motel room. And sometimes they didn’t want to stay there. In Korea, Tilly Starblanket always had to explain herself. She wasn’t Korean, but she wasn’t Canadian (white) either. What was she? She resorted eventually to the childish hand-to-the-mouth “wah wah wah” Indian war whoop that we’ve all seen on television. This did the trick. Telling Korean schoolchildren you’re an Indian is like telling them you’re one of the Knights of the Round Table, or a Martian. Or a pirate. Once, working some shifts at a group home in the south of Edmonton, I was shocked to see two of the larger and more aggressive teenaged residents playing with a baseball bat. Seeing the danger, and knowing that my name would be on the record if anything horrendous were to happen, I talked to my supervisor in the central office. She pulled the case file. “They’re allowed to have the bat,” she informed me. “It says here they like to go to the park and play baseball. Their social

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worker has granted permission for that.” “But they don’t have baseball gloves,” I said. “There’s no baseball.” She told me her hands were tied. It wasn’t her decision, and it certainly wasn’t mine. The boys with the bat were free to go.

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“You’re a violin teacher?” someone asked Tilly Starblanket recently. “I thought you were Native!” One boy, I’ll call him Donny, was from somewhere in the far North. He was polite and quiet and perfectly behaved. He was clean-cut and well-spoken. For some reason, he was taken from his parents by the government. Donny’s new white foster mother treated him as if he were a serial killer. She shouted at him and criticized him for everything he did. I wasn’t sure if this was because she didn’t like Native people, or didn’t like her job, or what. He had done nothing to deserve this treatment, in fact he reacted to the trauma of being taken from his family and community with a rare and almost beautiful grace. But this foster parent punished Donny constantly. She deliberately tried to humiliate him. Whenever I was called to take him on an outing, I’d try to make it up to him by spending my own money on his snacks and letting him do whatever he wanted to do. I took Donny to the coffee shop where my wife Tilly worked, only she wasn’t my wife then, she was my girlfriend. She tried to make Donny feel at home as well. She always asked her boss for a break when we came in, and sat with us and gave Donny free stuff. I always appreciated that she did that. I guess those are the kinds of things that make one person want to marry another one. One day I walked in on the white foster-parent woman insulting Donny. He sat, as always, meekly at the table. She felt he was drinking too much of her tap water. At least that’s how she explained it to me, with a slightly embarrassed look on her face, when I walked in and surprised her. I caught her in the act of shouting at Donny. She had been threatening him with being sent to a secure-treatment facility, which is basically a prison for kids. In reality he wouldn’t ever be

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sent to such a facility, not in a million years, not unless he either tried to murder that woman or succeeded at it. But he didn’t know this, and I think he was terrified. He never made eye contact, and he didn’t show his emotions to us—why would he?—but this time she was really frightening him. This job as a cog in a big rolling wrecking machine, this robot with no sense of the damage and scars its own limbs were creating, this was too much for me.

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In Malaysia, Indian people thought Tilly Starblanket was Malay. And Malay people thought she was Chinese. And Chinese people thought she was Indian. (Which she is, but not the variety they meant.) I thought this would be annoying to her, but I was wrong. She told me she loved being in a place full of brown people. What do I know? Donny drank too much of her tap water, the white foster-parent woman said. Using every channel and resource and connection I had, and throwing away my blossoming career in the process, I reported this white fosterparent woman and had her investigated. Last I heard, she was being charged and would never care for children again. This is another story that might make me cry if I had to tell it out loud. It fills me up with rage and horror and shame and, I suppose, tears. I came up with a string of words that was going to be the title of this story. Then I relegated it to subtitle, and then I thought it might be the moral of the story, which would put it at the very end. Here is the string of words: “If you think Canada is an enlightened country, marry an Indian.”

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Kelly Shepherd’s poems have been published in chapbooks, at DailyHaiku.org and in the Gwangju News, Writing Companion and other periodicals in North America and Korea. He is a landscaper, ESL teacher and ESL writer. He hails from B.C. and is living in Edmonton.

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Red Scare Daniel Francis

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In 1918–19, left-wing political activity in Canada was either part of a worldwide movement for change or an imminent Bolshevik revolution—depending on your point of view

Improbable as it seems in retrospect, during the winter of 1918–19 the government and the mass media in Canada became convinced that the country was poised on the brink of Bolshevik revolution. Reds were everywhere conspiring to overturn the status quo, or so it was thought. The result was an attack of paranoia known as the Red Scare, when the government removed basic civil liberties and sent labour leaders and left-wing political activists to jail. The following is adapted from Seeing Reds: The Red Scare of 1918–1919, Canada’s First War on Terror, by Daniel Francis, published in 2010 by Arsenal Pulp Press.

“i am a socialist and proud of it. you can call me a bolsheviki if y ou w an t to.”

factions on the left. The Reds felt themselves to be riding a wave, part of a worldwide movement for change. “To be a leftist in the atmosphere of 1917–1920,” writes the historian Ian McKay, “was to breathe a very special atmosphere, one in which a top to bottom reconstruction of society had seemingly gone from being a utopian dream to a real possibility.” Confident that history was on their side, radicals relished thumbing their noses at the authorities. Meetings invariably ended, as one in Toronto did in January 1919, with three cheers for “Bolshevism, Karl Liebknecht, the Social Revolution and Leon Trotsky.” (Liebknecht was a soon-to-be martyred German revolutionary.) No wonder a nervous government thought the Reds were plotting revolution at their meetings.

—R.J. Johns, Winnipeg strike leader

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he so-called Reds did not apologize for their radical views; neither did they accept the government’s right to suppress them. “I am a Bolshevist,” declared the Nova Scotia labour organizer Clifford Dane, “and I will warn these two governments that trouble is coming and the men will have what belongs to them.” The Reds fought back, with results that at times resembled a civil war. From their point of view, they were resisting an oppressive government that had taken away basic democratic rights of free speech and assembly. Indeed, the government helped to create a confrontational situation by providing in its repressive policies a rallying point that united

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n a Sunday afternoon in December, three days before Christmas 1918, the Winnipeg Trades and Labor Council (WTLC) and the Socialist Party of Canada convened a public meeting at the Walker Theatre, one of the city’s largest live-performance venues, on Smith Street near Portage Avenue. (The Walker, which opened in 1907 with a performance of Madama Butterfly, continues in operation as the Burton Cummings Theatre.) The 1,700 people who crammed into the theatre’s main floor and two balconies were in a boisterous, combative mood. “The remarks of the various speakers were frequently punctuated with deafening applause,” reported the Free Press, “particularly the references to ‘the coming revolution in this country’.”

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Perhaps the only person not shouting and clapping was Sgt-Major Francis Langdale, an undercover officer with military intelligence, who was too busy at the back of the meeting furtively scribbling down notes of what was being said. The official business of the afternoon was to pass three resolutions. The first, moved from the stage by Bill Hoop and seconded by George Armstrong, both well-known members of the Socialist Party in the city, protested the federal Orders-in-Council imposed in September: “Whereas, we, in Canada, have the form of Representative Government; and, whereas, Government by Order-in-Council takes away the prerogative of the people’s representatives, and is a distinct violation of the principles of democracy, therefore, we, citizens of Winnipeg, in mass meeting assembled, protest against Government by Orders-in-Council, and demand the repeal of all such orders, and a return to a demo-

cratic form of Government.” “The Order-in-Council is a negation of all that we have fought for and obtained for centuries,” Hoop insisted. “We do not propose for one moment to sacrifice those liberties—not for one moment.” The second resolution accused the government of jailing activists “for offences purely political” and demanded the release of all political prisoners, meaning especially the many men who had been swept up in police raids since the passage of the Orders-in-Council. It was moved by the Reverend William Ivens, the forty-oneyear-old editor of the Western Labor News. During the war the hierarchy in the Methodist Church had expelled Ivens because of his outspoken pacifism and anti-war activism. In response he founded the Labour Church, a nondenominational debating club that held meetings in halls and theatres around Winnipeg and

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illustrations: if we were bolshevists, arthur george racey. courtesy trent university archives

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was a focus for much of the left-wing intellectual ferment in the city. Fred Dixon, a labour member of the Manitoba legislature, seconded the resolution. Unlike most of the other activists with whom he shared the stage, Dixon rejected hard-line socialism. He was a liberal who was as suspicious of collectivism as he was of capitalism. Most socialists viewed him as a moderate, bourgeois reformer, yet his passionate opposition to the war and support for free speech placed him in the same camp with the Reds. Third, the meeting endorsed a motion demanding that Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War end immediately. When the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia they negotiated a separate peace with Germany to end the fighting on the eastern front, a peace that was formalized in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918, leaving the Allied powers affronted at what they considered to be the Bolsheviks’ betrayal of the war effort. With the outbreak of

civil war in Russia, the Allies committed their own troops to help the White Army topple Lenin’s regime and, optimistically, to get the Russians back into the war. Canada had a few soldiers involved in the Caucasus and a few more attached to an expeditionary force sent to Murmansk, ostensibly to secure Allied provisions there. But the most significant Canadian involvement was in Siberia, where the Borden government promised several thousand soldiers. The Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force, announced in August 1918, was not popular with the public, but so long as the war continued Borden felt it was justified. However, by the time the bulk of the men were assembled at a camp near Victoria, B.C., to prepare for embarkation to Russia, it was December, the war was over, and it was harder to explain why Canadian soldiers should be involved in a dubious foreign adventure that seemed to serve no national interest. Still, Borden was adamant the men should

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go. About a third of the soldiers were conscripts from Quebec. Resentful at having to serve in the army in the first place, they were a receptive audience for local leftists who propagandized against the expedition. By December 4, the British Columbia lieutenant governor, Francis Stillman “Frank” Barnard, was so afraid of an outbreak of violence in the military camp over the issue that he petitioned Ottawa to ask Great Britain to send warships to the Pacific Coast to keep the peace. Finally, on December 21, the day before the Walker Theatre meeting in Winnipeg, about 900 members of the force began to move through the streets of Victoria to the docks to embark for Vladivostok. During the march some of the men mutinied, refusing to proceed to the troopship. Officers ordered other soldiers to remove their belts and whip the recalcitrants back into line. Urged along at gunpoint, the mutineers eventually boarded the ship and the expeditionary force sailed for Siberia. At the Walker Theatre the next day, the crowd would not have known about these recent events on the Pacific Coast. Nonetheless, it had been public knowledge since the summer that Canada intended to send soldiers to Siberia, and it was the will of the Winnipeg meeting that Canada not intervene. Russia should be left alone “to work out her own political freedom without outside intervention,” read the motion, which was introduced by Bob Russell, a Scottish-born machinist who had been in Canada less than eight years but already was on the national executive of his union and a leading member of the Socialist Party. (Capitalism was “defunct and must disappear,” he told the audience.) The seconder was Sam Blumenberg, resplendent in red tie and matching handkerchief. Blumenberg, a thirty-three-year-old Jew from Romania, reportedly told the meeting that Russians under Bolshevism enjoyed better living conditions than Canadian workers. He would soon have cause to regret his remarks. The meeting ended with the chairman, John Queen, a city alderman and member of the Social Democratic Party, calling for three cheers for the Russian Revolution, after which the crowd spilled out into the fading light of the afternoon with shouts of “Long Live the Russian

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Soviet Republic! Long live Karl Liebknecht! Long live the working class!” An excited Bob Russell wrote to his friend Joe Knight, a Socialist Party activist in Edmonton, that the meeting “has put new life into the movement. We are arranging meetings now for all Winter.” In Toronto as well, organized labour was fighting back against the mass arrests that had taken place under the auspices of the federal Orders-in-Council. Various activists had been jailed for possessing and distributing banned literature and belonging to illegal organizations, and supporters had formed the Political Defence League of Ontario to demand their release. On January 12, a Sunday evening, 1,200 men and women jammed into the Broadway Hall to listen to a roster of speakers denounce government-by-Order-in-Council. The audience overflowed into a second meeting room upstairs, where another 300 people waited to hear the speakers when they had finished below. Donations were collected to pay the fines of the detainees and a petition circulated demanding repeal of the Orders-in-Council and release of the “political prisoners.” As the meeting dispersed onto Spadina Avenue, people were singing the socialist anthem “Red Flag.”

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Then raise the scarlet standard high, Within its shade we’ll live and die, Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer, We’ll keep the red flag flying here. A winter of protest meetings and street violence culminated in May–June 1919 with the Winnipeg General Strike and a series of sympathetic strikes across the country. Authorities, who thought they were witnessing the outbreak of revolution, sent in armed police and soldiers to clear the streets and intimidate strikers back to work. In the aftermath, the most turbulent period of political protest in Canadian history drew to a close.

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Daniel Francis is a writer and historian who lives in North Vancouver. He is the author of two dozen books, most recently Seeing Reds.

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Sholem Paints Sheila Heti

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For at least one of the contestants in the Ugly Painting Competition, things went from bad to worse

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e were having brunch together. It was Sunday. I got there first, then Misha and Margaux arrived, then Sholem and his boyfriend, Jon. A few weeks earlier, the owners had repainted the diner walls from a grease-splattered beige to a thick, pastel blue and had spray-painted giant pictures of scrambled eggs and strips of bacon and pancakes with syrup. It ruined the place somewhat, but the food was cheap, it was never crowded, and they always had a table for us. I shared a breakfast special and a grilled cheese with Margaux. Jon asked for our fries. I don’t remember what we started off talking about, or who was the funniest that day. I remember none of the details of our conversation until the subject turned to ugliness. I said that a few years ago I looked around at my life and realized that all the ugly people had been weeded out. Sholem said he couldn’t even enjoy a friendship with someone he wasn’t attracted to. Margaux said it was impossible for her to picture an ugly person, and Misha remarked that ugly people tend to stay at home. These are a few of the sordid fruits that led to the Ugly Painting Competition.

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hen Sholem was a teenager, he had dreamed of being a theatre actor, but his parents didn’t want him to go to theatre school. They didn’t think it was practical, and encouraged him to go to art school instead. So he went, and his first year there, up late one night painting, as the sun began rising with the morning, a sudden and strong feeling came up inside him that said, I must be an artist. I must paint for the rest of my

life. I will not settle for anything else. No other future is acceptable to me. It was an epiphany and a decision both, from which there would be no turning back—the first and most serious vow of his life. So this past spring, he completed his MFA thesis and graduated.

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ho came up with the idea for the Ugly Painting Competition? I don’t remember, but I got enthusiastic first, and then suddenly we all were. The idea was that Margaux and Sholem would compete to see who could make the uglier painting. I hoped it would actually happen. I was so curious to see what the results would be, and secretly I envied them. I wanted to be a painter too. I wanted to make an ugly painting—pit mine against theirs and see whose would win. What would my painting look like? How would I make it? I thought it might be fun. I had spent so much time trying to make the play I was writing—and my life, and my self—into an icon of beauty. It was exhausting and all that I knew. Margaux agreed to the competition right away, but Sholem was reluctant. He said he didn’t see the point. The premise turned him off so much—that one should intentionally make something ugly. But I egged him on, pleading, and finally he gave in. As soon as Sholem returned home from brunch, he set about making his entry—so he wouldn’t have to think about it any more, he explained to me later, or have looming before him the prospect of having to make something ugly. He went straight into his studio, having already decided what he would do. He imagined

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it would be like this intellectual exercise that he could sort of approach in a cold fashion. He would just do everything he hated to see his students do. He started the composition smack dab in the middle of a piece of paper, since paper is uglier than canvas. Then he painted a weird, cartoonish man in profile with fried-egg eyes, and he outlined things instead of shading them, delineating each eyelash. Instead of making a nostril, he sort of drew a hole. In the background he painted fluffy white clouds over orange triangular mountains. He made the background a gross pinkish-brownish grey, using mineral sediment dug up from the bottom of the jar in which he washed his brushes. For skin tone he just mixed red and white, and for the shadows he used blue. Though he thought that in the end there would be some salvageable qualities to the painting, it just kept getting more and more disgusting until finally he began to feel so awful that he had to finish it quickly. Dipping a thick brush in black paint, he wrote at the bottom, really carelessly: The sun will come out tomorrow. Then he stepped back and looked at the result, finding it so revolting that he had to get it out of his studio, and left it on the kitchen table to dry. Sholem went to buy some groceries for dinner, but the entire time he was gone he felt like he was going to throw up. Returning home and setting the bags on the counter, he saw the painting lying there and thought, I cannot see that thing every time I walk into the kitchen. So he took it to the basement and placed it near the laundry. From there, the day just got worse. Making

the painting had set off a train of really depressing and hateful thoughts, so that by the time evening came, he was fully plunged into despair. Jon returned home and Sholem started following him around the apartment, whining and complaining about everything. Even after Jon had gone into the bathroom and shut the door behind him, Sholem still stood on the other side, moaning about what a failure he was, saying that nothing good would ever happen to him, indeed that nothing good ever had; his life had been a waste. It’s like you work so hard to train a dog to be good! he called through the door. And the dog is your hand! Then one day you’re forced to beat all the goodness out of that dog in order to make it cruel. That day was today! “Which hand is the dog?” came Jon’s distinctive drawl. Then Sholem plodded into the living room and sent an email to the group of us, saying, This project fills me with shame and self-loathing. I just did my ugly painting and I feel like I raped myself. How’s yours, Margaux? Margaux, the better artist, wrote back: i spent all day on my bed island reading the new york times.

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“Sholem Paints” is act 1, chapter 1 of How Should a Person Be? © 2010 by Sheila Heti, reprinted with permission of House of Anansi Press, www.anansi.ca, and published in fall 2010. Read more of Heti’s work at geist.com and at sheilaheti.net.

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The BookNet Dictatorship The dominance of book sales data inevitably contributes to the disintegration of literary culture

Stephen Henighan

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literary agent and a publisher meet for coffee. The publisher tells the agent that she’s refusing a manuscript he submitted to her. “It’s a big, sprawling novel—we can’t publish it . . .” The agent looks doubtful. He names some big, sprawling novels that her company has published. The publisher mumbles a single word: “. . . BookNet . . .” The agent sits up. “My client’s BookNet figures aren’t good enough?” He thanks her and leaves. This scene, with variations, is commonplace in Canadian publishing. The strangest fact about BookNet Canada, whose sales data program incarnates how corporate imperatives are squeezing the creative juice out of our fiction, is that it was set up as an altruistic, non-profit solution to the eternal Cana-

dian problem of inefficient book distribution. The website booknetcanada.ca proclaims that “we spend our days finding ways to make it easier to buy books, sell books, keep books in print, reach new audiences and ride the ever-cresting wave of new technology.” This knight in shining armour has turned into the dragon it set out to slay. For BookNet also provides those who can afford them with detailed sales figures. Just as our hyper-communicative world instantly transforms counterculture revolts into commercial products that are part of the problem rather than part of the solution, so publishing data, even if provided for the purpose of fortifying our literary culture, inevitably contributes to its disintegration. The figures that publishers and bookstore chains,

among others, acquire by subscribing to BookNet’s online services are clapped onto authors’ careers like leg irons. Once a writer has published a few books, the reception of her work becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. By recording how many copies the author’s earlier books sold, BookNet provides the figures that establish the upper limits for the print run of any future book she may write. Should this figure fall below the standard print run of the publisher to whom her work is submitted, the manuscript, no matter how dazzling it may be, normally will not be published. BookNet’s crass attitude to literature is epitomized by PubFight, an online game on the BookNet website. Based on business-school exercises where students “buy” stock market portfolios and are rated on the performance of the actual stock market, PubFight allows players to pretend to be publishers by “acquiring” real titles, then rates them on how many copies those titles sell in the fall season. Through this game, BookNet trains publishing students to see books as commercial items devoid of cultural value. Above all, though, BookNet figures prevent authors from growing: your previous sales become your ceiling. It used to be common practice for writers to “move up” from smaller to bigger presses. Today, BookNet wisdom will decree that the author who has a track record of more than one or two books with literary presses, where sales are generally measured in the hundreds rather than the thousands, will sell only a predetermined number of copies. Chapters-Indigo, which controls more than 70 percent of book sales in Canada, will order only the copies required for a writer at this level of anticipated sales. The result is to render improbable publication of the author by a large press with a longer print run. Each book the author publishes closes down opportunities by confirming, or even reducing,

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image: vintage metal type, c. 1950. photo by andrew chapman/flexolite.

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the upper limit of his potential sales. Not surprisingly, agents, too, are now using BookNet figures to decide which manuscripts to represent. As one agent said to me, “Everybody wants to get a first novel. There’s no sales history!”

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he dominance of BookNet guarantees that many of the best books of our literature will be buried—either not published, or brought out in circumstances where they will not find readers. No doubt a few writers attain the pinnacle of their achievement with their first novels. But the usual trajectory of a literary career is to begin in untutored intensity and gain skill and style with experience; the best books usually come in the middle of a writer’s career, where residual youthful passion is chanelled by craftsmanship. As Martin Amis wrote of novelists: “They come good at thirty, they peak at fifty (the ‘canon’ is very Page 122 • G E I S T 78 & 79 • Fall/Winter 2010

predominantly the work of men and women in early middle age).” These are precisely the writers that our larger publishers are spurning on the counsel of their BookNet sales data. To envisage our future, we must imagine our recent literary past cleansed of writers whose careers would have been struck down by the iron fist of BookNet. At fifty-seven, Robertson Davies was the author of three novels with unimpressive sales. In spite of his reputation as a journalist, Macmillan of Canada, if relying on BookNet sales data, would not have taken a chance on Fifth Business (1970), the work that launched Davies’s multimillion-selling international career. Timothy Findley was forty-seven and the author of two poorly received novels in 1977, when Clarke, Irwin published The Wars. Would this happen today? Carol Shields was over fifty and had published seven books with a variety of large and small

presses before Stoddart brought out Swann: A Mystery (1987), which gave her an indisputable hit; in the world according to BookNet, Stoddart’s patience might already have run out. Similarly, a career such as that of Matt Cohen, who, in spite of never achieving more than middling sales, published more than fifteen books of fiction with McClelland & Stewart, Doubleday and Knopf Canada (in addition to other books with smaller presses), would be impossible in the BookNet era. Some of our best-known writers of these generations—Atwood, Richler, Laurence—were picked up by the large presses at an early stage of their writing lives. Their large-press successors today write under a pressure, which they did not confront, to produce bestsellers in order to remain in the big leagues. The result is an increasingly commercialized literature. Two hyper-literate friends of mine are fond of playing a vicious parlour game called “Name a Canadian writer over forty who’s writing better than he or she was twenty years ago.” Their claim is that, at least among writers published by commercial presses, there aren’t any. In the land of the BookNet dictatorship, the instant a literary press writer accedes to the commercial high ground, the compromises begin. The novel on a deeply personal subject is shuffled aside in favour of the blockbuster that reflects yesterday’s headlines and promises to sell film rights. The demands of a literary agent anxious to provide the editors she works with on a daily basis with a BookNet- viable “product” flatten the author’s quirky inner vision; the prose that once bristled with originality becomes drably mechanistic or cloyingly lyrical and sentimental.

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his is not just a Canadian problem. In one of his final interviews, John Updike speculated that his literary career might not have flourished had he not begun to write at a time when a


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wealthy man such as Alfred A. Knopf could afford to publish novels, short stories and poems on the basis of their literary merit, without undue worry about financial constraints. The Portuguese Nobel laureate José Saramago published his first novel in his twenties; his second didn’t appear until he was in his fifties. He had published twelve books, only two of them modest successes, before Baltasar and Blimunda (1982), his first novel to receive international attention, appeared when he was sixty. The anti-authoritarian atmosphere of Portuguese publishing in the post-dictatorship 1970s kept Saramago’s career alive. Today, when the Leya conglomerate, which has bought up three of the largest Lisbon publishers, including Saramago’s Caminho, occupies nearly one-quarter of the display space at the annual Lisbon Book Fair, a sixtyish author with a string of failures behind him would not find a home for his new novel. This global lurch toward razor-edge profit margins makes Canadian publishers nervous. The houses that published the breakout books of Davies, Shields and Findley—Macmillan of Canada, Stoddart and Clarke, Irwin—all went out of business between 1984 and 2002. The large Canadian presses that survive are mainly branchplants; they are responsible to a foreign head office that can read profit statements but does not place a high value on the development of Canadian literature. This environment bears some of the blame for the actions of editors who once relied on literary taste, but whose decision-making capacities have now been enslaved by BookNet sales data. To a significant degree, the crisis in Canadian publishing is an identity crisis among the big publishers. Having been the standardbearers of Canadian identity in the 1960s and 1970s, and the vehicle for taking literary bestsellers to the global market in the 1990s, they now lack a sense of purpose. Hemmed in by financial pressures,

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the large publishers retain a pose of high-culture, hardcover artistic authority; yet they no longer have enduring relationships with literary authors, as Alfred Knopf did with Updike, or Jack McClelland did with Mordecai Richler, Margaret Laurence and Margaret Atwood; nor are they as successful as they were in the 1990s at selling foreign rights. The big publishers’ lists are top-heavy with first novels, historical romances and soft-hearted, soft-headed book club wannabe fare; the writers who Martin Amis would identify as hitting their literary peak either dumb down their aesthetic to produce this tripe, or retreat to smaller houses. Yet the smaller presses’ greater flexibility offers no refuge from the BookNet dictatorship. BookNet-generated figures suffocate the display space for literary press titles in the Chapters-Indigo stores, with the result that many literary press authors whose books were selling 800 to 1,200 copies

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ten years ago are now selling 400 to 500 copies, or fewer. And yet, in contrast to the indie musician, who can build a career without dealing with a record company, selling CDs at gigs or through websites, writers still need publishers. Literature, more than music, may require a nurturing process. Neither the indie approach nor online publishing seems likely to provide an all-purpose solution to the current impasse: the endless infancy of ebooks could be a stage, but it may be a signal that electronic publishing will not match the dominance and ubiquitousness of print publishing in its heyday.

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oung writers can still prosper—at first. Their status as BookNet virgins makes them attractive to agents and large publishers; failing that, their comfort with new technologies may give them an advantage in setting up the online identity of blogs, tweets and Facebook postings that now accompany both large and small press publications. The destruction wreaked by BookNet sales data, in tandem with ChaptersIndigo, is in the long term: in publishers’ inability to sustain a literary career through its ups and downs, its routinization and its flashes of brilliance, which sometimes pass unnoticed in the moment when they occur. In the end, few authors are remembered for more than one or two books; but without a publishing environment capable of supporting the full arc of a career, those vital works, which often appear around the middle of an author’s creative life, will fall on barren ground. What is to be done? No Pandora can be returned to her box. The only way to defeat BookNet—and make no mistake, without a significant reduction in the influence of the commericial culture BookNet represents, Canadian literary culture will be mortally wounded—is

through a vigorously articulated consensus to discredit the utilitarian approach to publishing. Writers who have been keeping quiet in the hope of salvaging their careers must speak out. Editors will have to persuade their employers to place a higher premium on their literary judgement; any hack can read a line of data. A world in which BookNet sales data are treated as an annoyance or an irrelevance, rather than with reverence, will foster the development, over time, of prominent literary figures who will be able to follow their artistic trajectories with relative freedom. The presence of such figures will stimulate greater interest in literature, possibly even resulting in higher sales. Contrary to current dogma, instant commercial success is not the literary norm. In a more common pattern, often more engaging, the early years are marked by experimentation, false starts, books that are intriguing in retrospect but not popular when they appear; the works of the middle years gain in richness from this youthful aesthetic meandering. The possibility of this kind of writer, which is to say the majority of writers of substantial literary achievement, has been quashed by the authority of BookNet sales data. Unless we build a strong anti-BookNet consensus, in the future we will not be hearing from writers with the career patterns of Davies, Findley, Shields or Cohen. Our future Updikes or Saramagos, should we have any, will be silenced. A system that sidelines writers such as these, and suppresses countless first-rate books in favour of wooden imitations of last year’s bestsellers, is designed to persuade intelligent readers that Canadian books are not very interesting after all.

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Stephen Henighan (stephenhenighan.com) has published ten books with literary presses, including A Grave in the Air (Thistledown, 2007). Follow him on Twitter and read more of his work at geist.com.

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Revising Mr. Bennett Prime Minister R.B. Bennett: supercilious bloated plutocrat, or tower of caring conservatism?

Daniel Francis

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n the middle of the Great Depression a delegation of working people arrived in Ottawa to meet with Prime Minister R.B. Bennett. The delegates had come from Regina, where police were detaining thousands of their comrades who had been taking part in the On-to-Ottawa Trek. Bennett had ordered a halt to the Trek so that boxcars full of angry unemployed would not descend on Parliament Hill to embarrass his government. Bennett was in a bad mood: imperious, condescending, spoiling for a fight. He was one of those obnoxious, “I’m smarter than everyone else in the room” kind of people at the best of times. Now, faced with what he considered to be an impudent challenge to his prime ministerial omniscience, he was dis-

missive and supercilious. The trekkers were protesting the government’s unemployment policies, or lack thereof. Many of them had spent the past winter living in the work camps that had opened across the country to provide shelter for the homeless. Conditions in the camps were spartan. With their draconian rules and military guards, they felt like internment camps, which is more or less what they turned out to be. It was to protest this situation that thousands of jobless people joined the On-to-Ottawa Trek, which departed Vancouver by CPR freight train on June 3, 1935. The idea was to carry the protest to the nation’s capital, gathering supporters along the way. By the time the Trek reached Regina on June 14, its numbers had swollen to

about three thousand participants. Fearing violence and “communist insurrection,” Bennett told the RCMP to halt the trains. On the advice of two members of his cabinet whom he had sent to Regina, he agreed to conciliate the trekkers by meeting with their delegation. As described in John Boyko’s stimulating new biography, Bennett: The Rebel Who Challenged and Changed a Nation (Key Porter), the meeting began badly and then got worse. Bennett and members of his Cabinet sat behind a long table. The visitors were not offered seats. Slim Evans, the leader of the delegation, was invited to present their demands for reforms to the camps. Then Bennett launched into a long harangue during which he defended his government’s policies, questioned the motives—and the citizenship—of the protestors, dismissed Evans as a common criminal and his fellow protestors as lazy troublemakers, and generally lectured his visitors as if they were not very bright schoolchildren. Two days later in the House of Commons, Bennett reported on the meeting. As far as the prime minister was concerned, the Trek was “an organized effort on the part of the various communist organizations throughout Canada to effect the overthrow of constituted authority,” and he served notice that he was going to end it. Back in Regina on the evening of July 1, trekkers and their supporters gathered in Market Square. Club-wielding RCMP officers sealed off the square and attempted to arrest the leaders and disperse the crowd. Met with a hail of rocks and bottles, the police answered with tear gas and gunshots. More than a hundred people were arrested, thirty were hospitalized and one police officer died after being hit on the head with a club. In the aftermath of the riot, trekkers were marched onto trains and sent back to where they had come from.

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photograph: r. b. bennett with his sister mildred. library and archives canada.

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Eighty years have passed since R.B. Bennett became prime minister and seventy-five since the On-to-Ottawa Trek, so it is past time for Canada’s least favourite political leader and his Depression-era policies to receive a new assessment. Given the rightward shift in the political climate in the country, it should not be surprising that in carrying out this reassessment, John Boyko argues that posterity has maligned Bennett unfairly, that he deserves a far better reputation than the cartoon plutocrat he is usually made out to be. Richard Bedford Bennett, who was born in 1870, grew up in the small town of Hopewell Cape, New Brunswick. At the age of fifteen he began teaching at an elementary school near Moncton, and three years later he was a principal. Tiring of teaching, he returned to law school and in 1893 graduated and joined a firm in Chatham. He was a

workaholic who led a monastic lifestyle: no drinking, little sex (he was a lifelong bachelor), no hobbies, no social life beyond the Methodist Church. “He was a young man of too many negatives,” said his good friend Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook. His one indulgence was food: he avoided all exercise and ate a pound of chocolate creams every day in order to attain the ample girth he considered appropriate to a successful man of affairs. In 1896, Bennett won election as an alderman to the Chatham town council. After three months he was so impatient with the job that he resigned, but it was the beginning of a long career in politics for which, judging from Boyko’s book, he was entirely unsuited. He lacked the patience and tact for dealing with people, preferring to make decisions on his own. (Later, people would joke that when Bennett took a walk by himself he was holding a Cabinet meeting.) Yet whatever he lacked in people skills he more than made up for with a tireless work ethic, a formidable intellect and a substantial ambition. Bennett went west to Calgary in 1897 to become the law partner of James Lougheed. He prospered in real estate and became immensely wealthy. He first won election to Parliament as a Conservative in 1911 but when Prime Minister Borden refused him a seat in Cabinet, or the Senate, he quit in a huff. Eventually he got his Cabinet position and in 1927 he won the leadership of the Conservatives at the party’s first national convention. When the Conservatives won the 1930 election, Bennett became prime minister, but if there was ever a poisoned chalice, this was it. The economy was in a shambles. By 1931 unemployment reached 30 percent, higher in some parts of the country. Per capita income fell by almost one-half. Thousands of jobless young men wandered

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the country looking for work. His policies did nothing to ease the pain; and Bennett had to endure the public’s anger and, much worse for a politician, its ridicule. Camps of the unemployed were called “Bennett boroughs,” and when a motorist could not afford gas he hitched his car to a horse or a cow and called it a Bennett buggy. Even Bennett’s so-called “deathbed conversion” to a set of more progressive policies in 1935 only succeeded in irritating the right wing of his party without winning him much support from the voters. He was routed in the 1935 election. In John Boyko’s view, Bennett has been the victim of an unfair press. “There is more to Bennett than the Bennett buggy,” he writes. Boyko wants his readers to believe that Bennett was a man of vision, a “rebel” who transcended the conservative pieties of his era to forge a new path for Canada. The creator of public radio, the founder of the Bank of Canada, the advocate of a New Deal for the disadvantaged—this is the man Boyko would like us to remember. But he has his work cut out for him trying to paint a sympathetic portrait of such an unlikable egotist. Bennett’s treatment of the On-toOttawa trekkers was typical. He seemed incapable of recognizing any value in an opposing point of view; instead he lashed out like a courtroom lawyer arguing a brief. In the case of the protestors, he dismissed them as communists and loafers instead of acknowledging that they represented a genuine and widespread expression of grassroots discontent, and that people were looking for some compassion from their political leadership. In this instance, and in others, Boyko makes Bennett’s obsessions his own. It seems to matter as much to the author as to his subject that the unemployed activists were communists against whom the country had to be defended

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at all costs. It is beyond dispute that the prime minister mishandled this sorry affair by rebuffing the trekkers so contemptuously and unleashing the police on them for exercising their right to protest. The book makes clear that Bennett turned a peaceful demonstration into a violent riot through his own pigheadedness, yet Boyko tries to shift the blame onto opposition politicians and an unfriendly media—who, we are to believe, misrepresented Bennett’s stalwart defence of law and order. Bennett: The Rebel Who Challenged and Changed a Nation is an example of revisionist history. Boyko wants to revise the prevailing assessment of Bennett and reclaim him as a Red Tory, a Conservative with a social conscience. It is this argument, clearly expressed, that gives the book much of its interest. However, if the right wing is looking to burnish its historical legacy, Bennett may be the wrong place to start. A leader who led an openly racist party (at the convention that chose Bennett as leader, the Conservatives adopted an immigration policy that excluded “Orientals”), who boasted that he would use “the iron heel of ruthlessness” to stamp out political dissent, who as soon as he retired from politics abandoned Canada for England, where, thanks to well-connected friends, he assumed a peerage and a seat in the House of Lords—such a leader hardly seems to be a poster child for caring conservatism. Surely the revisionists can do better than Bennett.

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Daniel Francis is a writer and historian who lives in North Vancouver. He is the author of two dozen books, most recently Seeing Reds: The Red Scare of 1918–1919, Canada’s First War on Terror (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2010): to read an excerpt, see page 77 of this issue. Read more of his Geist work at geist.com.

Going to Hell

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That Other Place is not always one of punishment and reward

Alberto Manguel

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few months ago, I was asked to deliver a short talk on the idea of Hell. It was to be a kind of introduction or prologue to the performance of an opera, A Return, by the Argentinian composer Oscar Strasnoy, for which I had written the libretto, and which was to be premiered at a French music festival. The opera was based on a novella of mine (as yet unpublished in English) in which the protagonist returns home after a thirty-year exile from a military dictatorship, and finds his country transformed into a kind of arrested Hell, because a society that has been unable or unwilling to deal officially and fully with the horrors of its past is condemned to live continuously in that past. I arrived a few days early in order to

rehearse my reading, but after the first technical run-through, the director of the festival asked me, very politely, if I would mind deleting from my text certain references to the present French government. The festival, being financed mostly by the Ministry of Culture, risked losing their grant if we offended any government officials. I said I understood, but that I could not see my way to censoring my text, and that I therefore chose to withdraw from the event altogether. The director thanked me kindly, and my text was replaced with readings from Virgil and other Hell-bound authors. Reflecting on what had happened, I realized that what concerned me most in this episode was not the dismissal of my text (which was no more than a

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illustration: john dennison, vanish, 2009, pen and ink on paper, 25 x 24.5 inches

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COLUMN

[PO This is a a Ride. Can you not involve itali [Also, [STAR


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lighthearted divertissement) but the festival’s self-censoring gesture. And I remembered having witnessed other self-censorships in different contexts, each one, every time, leading to the instauration of some kind of dictatorial regime, hard or soft. In Argentina, in the late sixties, when certain titles were no longer included in publishers’ catalogues and certain films and plays not shown in theatres. In Franco’s Spain, when certain subjects were avoided in conversation. And in Canada? I can think of more than a few occasions on which I didn’t speak out when I should have, about publishing companies that changed their publishing policies, about the CBC (both television and radio) during their many dumbing-down campaigns, in magazines that gradually diminished their critical edge . . . There is, however, one place where no censorship, self- or otherwise, has ever, to my knowledge, been allowed. For the past fifteen-odd years, it has been a pleasure and an honour to be able to contribute to Geist magazine. Geist is everything an intelligent magazine should be: generous without being indiscriminate, provocative without insulting anyone, original without submitting to newfangled fashions, interested in many kinds of intellectual pursuits. So this is the time to express my thanks for Geist’s existence, and to its editors, for having opened their pages to this enthusiastic contributor for so long and with such patience. And now, here is the text I was asked not to read. (A note to readers in Canada: for “President” read “Prime Minister.”)

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Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, all those of you who are here now, like myself, in flesh and bone. And also, good evening to the ghosts, to those

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who once were and who are no more, at least not in the flesh, at least not in the bone. Good evening to you all who share this living space, some in the stalls, some on the stage, some in the area in between. Good evening. And welcome. Welcome to this most convivial of places, to this crossing of paths where past and future mingle in this imagined present. Welcome to this theatre above which is written, or should be written, or was perhaps written, a warning, like those engraved on the entrances to the ancient ossuaries: “You are now as we once were. We are now as you shall be.” That is the only certainty of this world. So welcome. In your beginning is our end. And in your end is our beginning. I know. That end is inconceivable. To imagine the world without us to imagine it. A stage without our presence. A space without our eyes, our hands, our voice. How can that be? What can a life mean in which we ourselves are not living? I know. Inconceivable. That is why we decided, long ago, when time began, that there would be no end for us, no definitive and irredeemable end. On the contrary. We decided that, after the eyes stop seeing and the hands stop touching and the voice becomes silent because the breath is no more, after the flesh and bone have become fruitful dust once again, we would continue to be. In a space beyond this world, in another and different geography, we would continue. Those are the ghosts that are present here tonight, the ghosts of the audience that once was, like you. As these ghosts will tell you, that Other Place is not always one of punishment and reward. In some of our stories, it is simply a place, neither better nor worse than the places we knew when we were alive. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, for instance, that place where we go after our passage

through Earth is nothing more than the Land of the Dead, a land across a sea that no one can cross twice. Immortal beings and the ghosts of the dead live there, but tell us nothing of what they do throughout their obligatory eternity. More than two thousand years later, Hesiod imagined that there, on what he called the Isles of the Blessed, heroes and good men lived untouched by sorrow, enjoying three times a year the sweetest fruits of the earth. Homer was more particular. The Land of the Dead is below the earth, not above it, and there the souls swirl around like autumn leaves, and sometimes stop to talk with those who, like Odysseus, travel there to meet them. The afterlife does not make them happy. When Odysseus tells the soul of Achilles that among the living he is honoured as a god, Achilles answers in a rage that he’d rather be a live slave, toiling for another man, than rule in Hades among the breathless dead. Perhaps this ill-defined place was not enough. Perhaps we felt that after a life of good or bad behaviour we deserved something better or worse than an upscale waiting room, where we are to stand in expectation of a train that will never arrive. And so we began to devise categories and subcategories of afterlife, cities with privileged neighbourhoods and residential districts, as well as slums and shantytowns. In the former, souls who have been good play golf and attend soirées de gala where champagne and smoked salmon canapés are served. In the latter, buses are torched and people are beaten with lead pipes. Let me mention a few examples. For the Hindus, the blessed are allotted a space presided over by the divinity they rightfully adored and who will shower them with pleasures; the sinners, who know that they have done wrong, will endure a particular torture

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for every part of the body, by means of iron, fire, poisonous creatures, wild beasts, carnivorous birds. According to the Taoists, rewards and punishments exist but are illusory, because everything is illusion: the blessed need no reward, and the sinner, deceived by appearances, believes the pain to be real. For the Incas, heaven was a place devoid of the sufferings endured on earth, and hell a place in which they were endured but without either rest or hope. Islam teaches that the faithful will enjoy green forests and pleasant pastures, and their hearts will be satisfied, but the faithless will burn in eternal fire, and when Allah asks Hell whether it is full enough, Hell will always answer: “What, no more?” Dante described Hell as the place in which the sinners construct and suffer their own punishments, and Heaven as a place of equal bliss for all, whatever the degree of their beatitude. To these he added Purgatory, where one willingly suffers a version of the punishments of Hell, knowing that sin is no longer possible and the vision of God is a certain promise. Others have imagined Heaven and Hell as the fruit of our expectations. For Victor Hugo, in La légende des siècles, each one of us creates Hell out of a guilty conscience: The shades are a dark mirror reflecting their dark deeds And regret stares back at them from everything they meet. Everywhere, on their path, Each sees his crime as real. The same ghost has Nero cry out “Mother!” in vain, And “Brother!” to the tortured soul of Cain.

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In this spirit, following Dante and Victor Hugo, it is not difficult to imagine heavens and hells as a kind of prêt-à-porter. “Paradise,” said Saint

Augustine, “is everywhere where we are happy.” To which Aldous Huxley replied that our world is so sick and exhausted that most people conceive Heaven as a resting place. And Hell? For the nights when you lie in bed, raging over the president who lies to you, the ministers who swindle your children out of a humanist education, the financiers who rob you of your earnings, the religious extremists who want to subject you to the whims of their blasphemous madness, the industrialists who pollute the air you breathe and the water you drink, the merchants who gradually undermine your artistic and ethical values, I offer you this consolation: Hell exists. In this wonderful place, the merchants will fall under a rain of fire while being read out, through eternity, endless chunks of Paulo Coelho; the industrialists will sit, with filth up to their eyeballs, at the bottom of a toxic cesspool of their own making; the religious extremists will be made to roam endlessly and alone in the hideous nightmares of their own creation; the financiers, dressed in tight-fitting Armani suits, will starve and thirst while 500-euro bills are stuffed down their throats by producers of foie gras; the ministers, turned into dung beetles, will be made to roll monstrous balls of their own dung to the tops of colossal mountains; and the president—well, I’ll stop here. Even the imagination of Hell has its limits. Our difficulty to conceive the world without us has turned us into cartographers, designing brave and prodigious realms in which we are to live out our future. But the truth is, our only possible future is our past. We are, and will be in the minds of those who come after us, that which we have been and that which we have done. Nothing will define us, except the persons we once were, and the words we once said, and

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the good things and the bad that we once did. From the first moment in which we knew we were alive, we have been constructing the place that will hold us after death in the memory of others, and writing the epitaph by which we will be recognized when we are no longer here. The truth is, we are already our own ghosts. That is why these otherworldly realms are so familiar to us. We never come to them for the very first time. For anyone alive (as so many of us are), every visit to Heaven or to Hell is a return.

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Alberto Manguel is the award-winning author of hundreds of works, most recently A Reader on Reading, Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, City of Words and The Library at Night. He lives in France. Read more of his Geist work at geist.com.

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WINNERS OF THE JACKPINE SONNET CONTEST

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Part Jack Pine, Part Sonnet, All Canadian

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First prize Monica Kidd

a large stake Dear Snappy: I have tried to play for a large stake, and if I succeed all will be well. If I don’t, I shall be happy to pop off in the midst of such an adventure. —from Amelia Earhart’s will, excerpted in the New York Times, June 4, 1928 Night, and the air smells of salt. The men asleep upstairs, their bellies full of unending mutton. Oh, the mutton. I fear I shall begin to sprout hooves. You could lose the houses amongst the potatoes and inevitable cabbages, Pole fences straining against the slanting wind and its calamities. In the quiet kitchen, yesterday’s bread and a crock of butter. Violent purple berries. Three hen’s eggs. Who could turn stone into such plenty? Twenty-nine years have conspired to bring me here to these chill before-dawn gettings up. My breath materializing in the fog as if I were Shackleton marching slowly to his grave. A sliver of June rises beyond the horizon. I stand at the window, singing to the horseman.

“The Jackpine grows to any shape that suits the light, suits the winds, suits itself.”

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he Geist Editorial Board thanks the many writers who entered the contest by taking a run at the jackpine sonnet, a truly Canadian poetry form created by Milton Acorn (1923–1986), Canada’s first People’s Poet. He named it after the jack pine, a tree that seeds itself in fire. We received more than 200 entries, and in Acorn’s absence, we chose these three winners and some deluxe Honourable Mentions that can be seen at geist.com.

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Second prize Fiona Tinwei Lam

stream

The air redolent of rot and bear scat as we pick and clamber our way upstream. Boots slip against the shifting pebbles through the stew of fish shreds, milt, dams of waylaid, bloated chum clotted with maggots. Highways of still spawning pinks, their slick black bodies half out of the shallows, collide, slide back, flail past. Beneath a submerged trunk of spruce, a cauldron teems with hundreds of salmon at journey’s end, stream to ocean to stream, churning and swirling, the way we churn, swirl, colliding into our biology. Year after year, our striving and failing to love or hold love, or even arrive.

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Third prize L.M. Rochefort

gyre

—after Camille Martin’s “box sonnets” and if the molecules and if one binds to that other on the water the water’s currents spin in the oceans that are one water and are not empty but open swirls to all our detritus and when the plastic sun-kissed bits pink as plankton and red as shrimp or masked as krill and the entropy if the fish and if the birds eat the fish and if the birds feed their young and the young die with red bottle caps stuck in their bellies and if the rot of the dead chicks is washed by rain is pushed to the wash to the creek to the sea and the cap kills over and over and the compounds the Bisphenol-A in the cap in the cauldron and the sea-soup mix an open mouth where the gyre spins in the Pacific and the Atlantic and the rest of the one ocean and if we eat the fish and if the molecules 100

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At geist.com: Notes on the winning writers.

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ENDNOTES

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Reviews, comments, curiosa 25

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Rowan Jacobsen is a young writer very

CHALK AND CHEESE

much in the mould of John McPhee—

Michael Hayward

but one who appears to lack McPhee’s discipline: The Living Shore (Blooms-

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ohn McPhee began as a staff writer at

bury) is a slim book that could have been

The New Yorker during the William Shawn years, and during the forty-five

even slimmer. It has the feel of a magazine article that was

years of his association with that maga-

plumped up to book

zine has become famous for his clean, economical prose. In a recent interview

size by soaking it in salt water; you long to

with the Paris Review, McPhee describes

wring it out in order to

the process of writing non-fiction as one of

get more directly to the topic at hand: the

gathering your mate-

Olympic oyster, Ostrea

rial, and then trying to “tell it as a story in a way that doesn’t violate

conchaphila, a native species that “once carpeted the shore from California to Alaska,” but which has now been nearly

fact, but at the same time is structured and presented in a way that makes it interesting to read.” It sounds so simple. Silk Parachute (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is McPhee’s most recent collection of essays, all of which originally appeared in The New Yorker. A few of the essays are purely personal (the title essay recalls a treasured plaything from his boyhood; another describes an incident with a canoe at the age of twelve); others are more broadly rooted in the world (“Spin Right and Shoot Left,” a lengthy look at the game of lacrosse; “Season on the Chalk,” an exploration of “the massive chalk of Europe”; and one of my favourites in the collection: “Checkpoints,” an affectionate description of the legendary fact-checking department at The New Yorker). All of the essays demonstrate McPhee’s trademark ability to make any topic—no matter how obscure—absorbing.

wiped out. In 2008 Jacobsen joined a nine-person expedition to a remote bay on Nootka Island, situated at the mouth of Nootka Sound on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. Their destination: one of the last intact beds of Olympic oysters, discovered there in the late 1990s by Brian Kingzett, a marine scientist who had been commissioned by the provincial government to do a survey of the entire coast. The 2008 expedition to Nootka Island lasted only a week; Jacobsen fleshes out his account with a capsule history of the region and an overview of the state of shellfish aquaculture today. There’s no denying that the story itself has promise, and it was fun to see our Canadian west coast through east coast American eyes. But I had a sense of the text having been padded; Jacobsen’s writing style is over-adjectival (in consecutive sentences the Brooks Peninsula is described as both “vertiginous” and “unassailable”); and he tends to lard his

prose with metaphors: within the space of just two pages oysters are described as “living pool filters,” a “breakwater [...] holding the land in place like a line of rivets,” “ecosystem engineers” and “ecological-service kings.”

GRAB YOUR OWL Dan Post

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hen Soren Bondrup-Nielsen set

out for the forests of northern Ontario in 1976 to become the first Ontarian to locate the elusive boreal owl, he had little knowledge of what the animal looked like, where it nested or how it behaved; all he knew was that he was to listen for A Sound Like Water Dripping (Gaspereau Press). Yet he never faltered in his resolve to realize his dream. Along the way, he had to figure out how to build his own traps (which he eventually did by modifying an old wicker lawn chair), how to track the owls (he engineered his own sonic transmitters with paper clips and small watch batteries), and a lot of other things. As he studied the feeding habits of boreals on wild mice, Bondrup-Nielsen remembered a story his friend had once told him about introducing a pet-store mouse to a snake that was used to eating wild field mice. The snake hesitated because the pet-store mouse showed no signs of fear, or recognition of the snake as predator. The snake took this naïveté for brashness, a potential threat, and so

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did not attack, even when the mouse sat

Gillian Sze. The second book of longing

on its back and groomed. Neither human nor boreal had ever seen each other

is [sic] by Nikki Reimer (Frontenac

before, so when Bondrup-Nielsen even-

House), a three-part poem that breaks down

tually found the owl he was able to reach

the elements of modern

out with his bare hands and pluck it off a

corporate life. The “terminal hipster,” the “cor-

low branch. Sometimes you are the first in your family to go to university, or you sell all your possessions and embark on a travel adventure, or you get a new job that you had no business landing. You are nervous and scared and completely unprepared for the challenges, and you have two choices: admit weakness, or stand tall, feign confidence and reach out for the owl as if you’d been there before. Maybe it will fly away or maybe it will respect you. So it is with snakes and mice, bears and hikers, work, love and life.

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porate whore” and the rest of capitalism’s new generation are laid out in angry, playful, twisted language. Reimer remixes slogans, phrases and sayings to create an absurdist style that perfectly captures the concerns of capitalism and consumer culture. This book is what happens when humour, anger and philosophy run headfirst into each other—the collision that creates an anti-poetry book for a hipster/vegan/ career-driven/lost/ techno generation. In a third re-envisioning of

THE LONGEST POEM Daniel Zomparelli

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he long poem, or poetry as a project, makes readers cringe—it is long,

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and it may require an extended attention span or feel like a “book.” But

several Canadian poets are doing it and doing it well. First is Gillian Sze and her book Fish Bones (DC Books), which takes ekphrastic poetry into the twenty-first century. She muses the museum and builds entire storylines and realities from paintings. She goes beyond detailing the artwork, retelling it through tale. One caution: you will fall in love with Sze, in a love-letter-writing, tears-turning-to-glaciers, my-heart-turned-to- stone kind of way. Every emotion in this book feels like an earthquake or a rainstorm or the changing of seasons. The book was written through artwork, but the stories, the words, the fluidity are all the work of

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the long poem, After Jack by Garry Thomas Morse (Talonbooks), a lineage of poets is being passed down from book to book. From Federico García Lorca, to Jack Spicer’s After Lorca and Garry Thomas Morse’s After Jack, the process feels like a new tradition that will continue, and I await the After Garry book of the future. Morse’s words are cutting. He ravages language, but thankfully maintains a subtle humour throughout. This book is a love story between Jack Spicer, Garry Thomas Morse, language and you. The translations in the first chapter, also named “After Jack,” let the words come first, so the language leads and meaning doesn’t hit you until the next page. The book is serious, with strong undertones of humour. Sometimes Morse slips in a pop culture reference to keep you from drowning in sorrow. And it’s true, sometimes “I feel old Lance/Like Veronica Mars/Too old to solve/Any more riddles.” I like to think that Morse carries a

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double-edged sword with him, but one of

Guy Bennett in 1987. A few words from

the edges is just a wiffle bat.

the book: I like the American [Hotel] because everything I prize about myself is abso-

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OUTLIER LIT 5

Lauren Ogston 0

R

eading Heartways: The Exploits of

Genny O, edited by Rita McBride and Erin Cosgrove (Arsenal), was like being dragged headfirst over a riverbed.

lutely worthless there. head around with the body of the sissors [sic] that Mr. Lui made the right

one now goes to purchase weapons and low grade heroin.

emotional and imagined deflowering. The result is a rocky ride, whose

raises serious questions about where

Now if, as Mr. Bleasby [of Forest Lawn Funeral Home] suggested, money is an issue, there are several cheaper ways to dispose of oneself. A few words from me: read this book.

only continuity is Genny herself and the guarantee that this will be her first time, again. Contributing authors include artists, writers, actors and curators—although the best chapter belongs to the undisputed king of the romance novel, Fabio.

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During the hiatus between the end of our lease on Water Street and the start of our stay in the Woodward’s building, Geist occupied a small, temporary office in what felt like a temporary office building. But it had been there long enough that a strangely interesting collection of books had accumulated along a wall of narrow shelving in the women’s washroom. One of these books is Guy’s Guide to the Flipside—a more-than-candid review of restaurants, bars, strip clubs, barber shops, dog groomers, funeral homes and bridal stores in Vancouver, self-published by

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The conversion of the Old Blackstone into the Six Shooter, and the ensuing

genre by sentencing Genny to a repeated

phorical,

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decision not going into medicine.

attempt at gentrification of clientele,

author), she undergoes sexual, meta-

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I know from the way he pushes my

The novel, a self-styled “faux-mance,” steps outside the traditional romance loss of her virginity. In chapter after chapter (each one written by a different

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IDOLS AND ICONS Michael Hayward

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ank Books is the book-publishing arm of the U.K. magazine Tank. There’s

also Tank TV and Radio Tank: this is a magazine with grand ambitions, but

Tank Books has started small, with a series of six palm-sized books, each in the form of a flip-top pack of cigarettes— “one of the most successful pieces of packaging design in history,” as they point out. The works are all classics (no royalties to pay!): two Hemingway short stories in one volume; three by Kipling in another; Conrad; Kafka; Tolstoy. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde completes the set. Or is it Dr. Jeykyll [sic] who reveals his darker side?

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Or—yet another option—Dr. Jeykll? [sic

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again]. The flip-top package offers all three variants: line editors at Tank Books 25

are evidently in short supply. Once you

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get inside the cellophane, the flip-top box and the foil liner, it is obvious that the

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(hard to handle, with cramped margins and tiny type); it’s the idea behind the thing that captivates. Verdict: 8 for inspiration; 4 for execution. Read Me: A Century of Classic American Book Advertisements (Harper Collins/Ecco) is essentially a clippings file between hard covers, “a visual survey of book advertisements, plucked from yellowing newspapers, journals and magazines large and small, from across the United States during the twentieth century.” And as far as clipping files go, this one is thorough: page after page after page of

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grainy greyscale reproductions of ads for books famous and obscure, grouped together by decade; the kind of thing that quickly disappears and is almost never thought about again. In his introduction, Dwight Garner admits that Read Me isn’t a comprehensive survey: “I’ll leave that to scholars.” But there’s a good index, and a better-than-decent essay on the evolution of book advertising—beginning in April 1647, with what Garner claims is “the world’s first paid print advertisement” for “A Book applauded by the Clergy of England, called The Divine Right of Church Government.” If you’re the kind of reader who’s fascinated by the ways in which publishers have tried to influence your purchasing decisions, you have a narrow window during which to buy Read Me at full price, before it shows up on the remainder tables, deeply discounted.

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In The Portable Jack Kerouac, the material

wrote (bad) poetry in secret notebooks;

fits onto a mere three pages: Kerouac’s two brief treatises on his writing

she dreamed of being Frida Kahlo. Just Kids (HarperCollins/Ecco) is Smith’s

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method, “Belief and Technique for

surprisingly tender-hearted memoir of

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Modern Prose” and “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose.” Both were first pub-

her early years trying to make ends meet and (somehow) become

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famous in New York

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1950s, and the more impressionable fans of Kerouac (and of Beat-era writing gen-

City, where, in the summer of 1967, “a chance

erally) have treated these texts as holy

encounter changed the

writ ever since. The

course of my life. It was the summer I met Rob-

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works haven’t been hard to locate: if you Google “belief and technique for modern prose” you’ll find dozens of copies of Kerouac’s thirty gnomic “beliefs” online. Many of the tips read like Beat-era selfempowerment mantras; for example, number 7: “Blow as deep as you want to blow” and number 5: “Something that you feel will find its own form.” My personal favourite has always been number 9: “The unspeakable visions of the individual.” What does it mean? You’re a Genius All the Time (Chronicle) presents this material in a nice little hardbound edition, with each brief item given its own two-page spread, set in a mishmash of self-conscious typographic styles and seasoned with a scattering of snapshots that add visual appeal. It’s as good an example as I’ve seen of “design” being used to pad minimal content. Not recommended as a guide for serious writers—but if you once loved On the Road or The Dharma Bums, this small volume will provoke a strong nostalgic twinge. 100

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Long before Patti Smith became “the Godmother of Punk” she was a notatypical teenager of the 1960s, living with her parents in suburban New Jersey. She listened to Bob Dylan and John Lennon on the jukebox; she idolized the rebel poets Rimbaud and Baudelaire; she

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ert Mapplethorpe.” The cover photo shows the two young “bohemiansin-training” celebrating their second anniversary at Coney Island. Both are wearing their best finery: Patti in India cotton and a headband, Robert resembling “a character in Brighton Rock in his forties-style hat, black net T-shirt and huaraches.” They look so young; fame was still a distant dream. It all broke open in 1975 with the release of Smith’s first album, Horses, the first track of which features Smith snarling the opening line to her take on Van Morrison’s “Gloria”: “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.” Mapplethorpe took that album’s cover photograph and went on to his own enormous fame (and no small measure of notoriety) as a photographer. By 1989 he was dead of AIDS. Just Kids is Smith’s fulfillment of a promise she made to Mapplethorpe before he died: to one day write their story. It is a darker, punk-era version of the classic Horatio Alger rags-to-riches story: two dreamers from the suburbs who finally succeeded in their goal of becoming artists in New York City, where thousands before and since them have failed.

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From 1995 until 2008 I ran an unofficial website for fans of Van Morrison’s music (a site that Google regularly ranked higher than Van’s official site) and in the process learned that, in order to remain a

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fan of Morrison’s music you must often

cover to cover and coming out the other

turn a blind eye to his widely reported misanthropy; it is far easier to love Van’s

end feeling like you’ve attended an inspiring dinner party hosted by the

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music than it is to love Van the Man. In

author—without leaving the comfort of

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When That Rough God Goes Riding: Listening to Van Morrison (Public

your armchair. Michele Genest’s The Boreal Gourmet: Adventures in

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Affairs) Greil Marcus manages to focus

Northern Cooking (Harbour) is just this sort of cookbook. The narrative that

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almost entirely on Morrison’s music— more specifically, on those transcendent occasions “when Morrison reaches the moments of upheaval, reversal, revelation and mirror-breaking.” Every Van-fan knows those moments: the whole of Astral Weeks (1968) is one for me; the three-song sequence that concludes his 1979 album Into the Music another; Van’s live 1971 cover of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman” (available on various bootlegs) a third. Unfortunately those transcendent moments have been few and far between in recent years (Marcus speaks of “the endless stream of dull and tired albums through the 1980s and ’90s”), and those who made regular pilgrimages to Van’s live concerts in the hopes of being present when Van “transcended” are slowly falling away (I passed on Van’s most recent Vancouver appearance in August of this year; the reviews were mixed). When I want the best of Van Morrison “live” I’ll turn to his 1974 double album It’s Too Late To Stop Now, or to A Night in San Francisco (1994), with that amazing 16:23 medley: “I’ll Take Care Of You / It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World”; sublime. 100

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COOKING FOR SOFTIES Becky McEachern

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’ve always felt the best cookbooks are the ones you open with the intention of a quick browse but find yourself reading

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accompanies the inventive recipes oscillates from bush survival advice to personal memoir to historical anecdote (Klondike hopefuls brought sourdough starter buried in a sack of flour with them over the Chilkoot Pass) and is simply a lovely read. The recipes themselves range from the more gourmdet—Arctic Char Poached in White Wine, Gin and Juniper Berries—to the less gourmet—Moose Lake Lasagna in a Pot (complete with tips on how to cook it in the backwoods)—and are complemented by Laurel Parry’s endearing hand-drawn illustrations. Genest grew up in Toronto feasting on the rich, classically French fare prepared by her mother, a chef. In The Boreal Chef, she blends this culinarily enlightened upbringing with indigenous northern Canadian ingredients. Her relationship with the North evolved over time; after her first hunting trip, which ended in tears, she developed a love for the harsh landscape and the bounty harvested from it that is so strong you can almost taste it. Someday I will actually make one of her recipes and impress everyone I know. I must remember next spring to pick wild roses so I can make Rosehip and Crabapple Ketchup, or use the petals for Rose Petal Sugar. In the meantime, if I happen to meet a misbehaving moose in the back alley, Moose Moussaka may end up on the menu. Realistically, though, I am quite satisfied with the comfort of my

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armchair and the simplicity of the Raisin

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Scones. I am, after all, one of the softies living in what Genest calls “Southern 25

Canada.”

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SUBURBAN AIR GUITAR

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Derek Fairbridge

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or nearly four decades, the phrase

“Rush fan” has served as shorthand for a certain type, or stereotype, of male: suburban, well read in science fiction and the works of Ayn Rand, maladroit at interpersonal exchanges with women, immune to embarrassment when it comes time for a public display of air-guitar skills. In Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, a documentary about the venerable rock trio, the filmmakers Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn explore how three amiable and seemingly bland fellows from Canada, nerdy suburbanites themselves, accumulated so many fans to become

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what Geddy Lee, bassist and lead singer, wryly describes as “the world’s most popular cult band.” The film is filled with insightful interviews with the consistently charming and thoughtful members: Lee, Alex Lifeson (guitarist) and Neil Peart (drummer). But Lee himself warns the filmmakers: “Don’t be surprised to discover how boring we really are.” And, really, if it weren’t for Peart’s struggles with personal tragedy and his brief soul-searching sabbatical from the band, the movie wouldn’t have much of a story arc. Then again, for Rush fans, story arc isn’t the point. The point is to appreciate the music—that heady (pretentious, according to detractors) mix of intense dynamics, shifting time signatures and visceral instrumental virtuosity. Though this film is fun to watch—it

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offers a wonderful overview of the band’s

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various hapless attempts at creating an image: from flowing robes and handle25

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bar moustaches, to Miami Vice suits and beaver- pelt mullets—and is well put together with excellent concert footage, as a documentary it ultimately, and inevi-

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tably, falls short of its goal. As a recovering Rush fan myself (prone to the occasional exultant relapse) I would say the goal is unachievable—there is no answer to the question, what is it about Rush? It’s like the old Louis Armstrong koan: “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.” Consequently, Beyond the Lighted Stage is probably a fans-only documentary. But when you consider that the group ranks third for most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums (after the Beatles and the Stones), the filmmakers need not worry about attracting enough viewers, air guitarists every one of them.

FINDING FARLEY Lily Gontard

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hey’re at it again. The adventuring duo of Leanne Allison and Karsten

Heuer, who brought the life of the Porcupine caribou herd to print and screen, push off by canoe from their home in

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Canmore, Alberta, to explore the great Canadian outdoors and its mythology in Finding Farley, their latest cinematic offering (produced by the National Film Board). With tow-headed toddler and loyal dog along for some scene stealing, the family paddles, pulls, drives, rails, walks, sails and slogs around the country, all in response to an invitation from Farley Mowat. Allison and Heuer map a route all the way to the bearded

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one’s door using his books—all of which, apparently, they have read (and they have space in the canoe for at least half a dozen). I can say without any Christian guilt that I’ve never read a single book by Mowat, even though I’ve done my fair share of wilderness travel. Despite this, I’m aware of the controversy regarding the truthiness of his non-fiction. Allison and Heuer question his interpretation of the facts as they battle through the bush, but they find his descriptions of the landscape to be accurate enough. Allison, the filmmaker of the pair, uses the gifts at her disposal—photogenic family, landscape and wildlife—to create sumptuous shots filled with rich colour and clarity that will make you long for that Canadian dream: travel in the wilderness. Resist. Pay close attention to how tough it is to tow a canoe upriver, for days, or to portage through thickets of bugs and muskeg. Allison and Heuer have about twenty years of wilderness travel between them: they are made of tougher stuff than the average MEC member. They share with Mowat a talent for adventure and storytelling, and with that comes a certain amount of exaggeration. But if the journey is enjoyable, does truth really matter? (While brushing up on my Mowat trivia, I came across a reference to a short film, Farley Mowat Ate My Brother, by the writer-filmmaker Ken Hegan. Now that is a movie I want to see.)

am first and foremost a “real book” person, even though ebooks are said to be their heirs. Yet, ever open-minded, I gave digital audiobooks a try: I downloaded three current titles from audible.com

onto my iPod. Part of the appeal of audio books is that you can “read” them while doing other things: Jean and I thought we’d try listening to them during our commute. Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger (almost sixteen hours) dragged at the beginning, and was never as suspenseful as the blurb promised it would be; but the narrator (Simon Vance) was excellent, giving each character a distinctive voice. Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked (nine hours) proved less successful: the writing itself was pedestrian, and the story (about a reclusive 1980s singer-songwriter) never convinced me: it required too many leaps of faith. Different voice actors took turns reading different sections, and the effect was the audio equivalent of driving over speed bumps. In Stephen King’s Under the Dome, my third pick, an immense dome suddenly seals in a small Maine town. I don’t know what possessed me—at thirty-four hours and change, it is an audio doorstopper (earstopper?)—and neither Jean nor I is a fan of Stephen King. So it should come as no surprise to learn that the thing defeated us after a mere four chapters: the prospect of such paintby-numbers schlock being droned into my tender ears for a full day and (nearly) another half was more than I could bear. Which means that I’ll probably never know whether (or how) the town of Chester’s Mill, Maine, escapes its hothouse fate.

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SCENES HEARD Michael Hayward

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Artists in this issue Colin Beiers is a writer and photographer who lives in Vancouver. Elisabeth Belliveau is a writer, artist, sculptor and animator whose work has been exhibited and produced internationally. She is the author of three books, most recently don’t get lonely don’t get lost. Visit her at elisabethbelliveau.com. Taylor Brown-Evans lives and works in Vancouver. His work has appeared in Matrix, Feathertale and the Moosehead Anthology. Jeremy Bruneel is a Toronto illustrator whose clients include the Globe and Mail, Vancouver Magazine, B.C. Business, Ideas, Edge, Canadian Lawyer, Geist and K-9 Gourmet dog food. Andrew Chapman is a graphic designer and letterpress printer who lives and works in the U.K. Visit him at chapmandesign.net. Matt Cipov is an artist and graphic designer who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and at mattcipov.com. John Dennison has worked as a photographer and designer, both freelance and for an advertising firm. Now he devotes his time to drawing. See more of his work at dianefarrisgallery.com. Steve Dynie is a Vancouver photographer with a special interest in street scenes and heritage architecture. See more of his work at dyniephoto.ca. Brian Howell’s photographs have been shown across Canada and internationally, and published in the Guardian, National Post, Reader’s Digest, Western Living and Maclean’s, as well as Geist. He is the author of five books, most recently Fame Us: Celebrity Impersonators and the Cult(ure) of Fame (Arsenal). He lives in Delta, B.C. John Kha is a photographer with a particular interest in creating and capturing imagery to support social causes. He is also an active advocate for mental health and well-being. He lives in Sydney, Australia. leannej is a writer and artist whose work with business models, scientific process, mathematics and other forms encourages

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readers to look beyond the surface of text. Her flowcharts have been shown in several galleries and published in Front, event, Dandelion and Geist, and by Perro Verlag Books by Artists. She lives in Vancouver and at leannej.ca. Roxy Paine’s sculpture has been exhibited in North America, Europe and Israel, and he is a recipient of the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. He lives in Brooklyn and Treadwell, New York. For more, visit jamescohan.com. Mike Tedder is a photographer, graphic designer and visual artist whose work has been shown in Europe and the U.S.A. He lives and works in Folkestone, on the south coast of England, and at miketedder.com. George A. Walker is a Toronto illustrator, wood engraver and book designer. He also teaches book arts at the Ontario College of Art and Design, and he is a principal of Biting Dog Press. See more of his work at bitingdogpress.com.

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This ad can c necessary

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The GEIST Cryptic Crossword

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Prepared by Meandricus

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Send copy of completed puzzle with name and address to: Puzzle #78/79 GEIST 210-111 West Hastings St. Vancouver, B.C. V6B 1H4 Fax 604-677-6319

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The winner will be selected at random from correct solutions received and will be awarded a one-year subscription to Geist or—if already a subscriber—a Geist magnet. Good luck!

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ACROSS 1 Switch that rhythm around to force the last part (2) 5 I’m afraid there won’t be any commitment if you dim it now 8 To deal with that element and others like it, just rub ’em 9 In the end, the booze will seep out gradually 10 Horsey jacket really dressed up the lyricist 12 In the end, the little boat may be divine 13 Faith alone will get you to the thru lane, Marty 14 The knees are good on these hairy little quilters 15 The object is to imagine you’re playing 16 That’s dull and boring reading, get it son? (2) 18 Those blowhards have had brats of their own to order around (2) 20 Extraterrestrial group could have lived near Plantagenet, Ontario 22 Sounds like those two cobs might make a juicy one 24 At twenty we’re leading by a third 26 In Florence we talk of slanty characters 27 Sounds like the pig might spot the lid 28 You can bet that my dad’s sister contributed a steak 30 Morning, noon and night, we like our supper 31 That sad little rhyme is kinda grey, isn’t it? 32 Make that a 3-foot opening and don’t knock around out there

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DOWN 1 Don’t do business with that fleshy and disreputable little vessel 2 Do any of Adobe’s people know the address? 3 Why? Because my uncle’s kid says so 4 We like to milk ’em next door at Basil’s when Dimitry’s home 5 In fact, there’s nothing but this 6 Not 19 any more? In a small way, that’s more criminal than supernatural (2) 7 Those trawlers sometimes apprehended guys on Friday 9 Joan got them out of it but the new one was very watery 10 Don’t push me around by a bar, Gracie, because I’m more of a stroller (2) 11 One of them is eleven but Pip scores easily 17 It’s great to see how you squeeze in your execution 18 Funny how Robert expected to do well with her faithful sister (2)

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19 Babies owe a lot to Dylan and Victor for music and the number 15 21 Mini true thing, perhaps 22 French fast food, or bits of it, here 23 Direct the report by express 25 Those boys sure were stalwart 29 Save us from the recent liberal one The winner for puzzle #77 is our old pal Bill Kummer of Newmarket, ON. Congratulations, Bill! P E R E U U F A B A A F S O L B O W F I N E G A E K R T I N E I R L I S T I D A H Z I G A E D E N

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