NONA-NUMERATION CONSPIRACY IN THE COLONIES UNDERWATER CITIES SEWER PHOTOGRAPHY MARKETS & MALLS MÉGANTIC REFLECTED
FACT + FICTION NORTH OF AMERICA
NUMBER 90 FALL 2013 $6.95
National Map of Academe
Peter Daglish’s Alphabet Art
Dead Birds in Texas
Hippy Artist Potheads
Long Distance Talk
What the Hell’s an MHA? GEIST Acronymic Sentences
Newfoundland Jacked Up
UJ 3RK 5 ANNALS
THE GREAT BLACK NORTH
ARCTIC FOR LIFE
In Review: Vanguard of the New Age Kate Atkinson Canadian Women Writers and Gardeners bpNichol In this Issue: Alberto Manguel Nicole Brossard David Wisdom Marjorie Doyle Dan O’Brien Stephen Henighan Stephen Osborne on “alleged” crooked senators, crack-smoking mayors, election fraudsters, feckless bureaucrats
· Number 90 · Fall 2013
features Alphabet Art Michał Kozłowski 37
A rabble-rousing grownup colouring book, from Peter Daglish and the Western Front art experimenters of the 1970s.
Postcolonial Bodies David L. Chapman 45
With the “natural superiority” of the ideal western male physique, hunks of the empire set out to colonize the world, one chiselled ab at a time.
Arctic Graffiti Dan O’Brien 50
The war reporter Paul Watson and the poet watch the Inuit hunter butcher a seal. They’re good when they’re cooked, says the hunter. Stomach, heart. My boys just love it.
departments AnnMarie MacKinnon 4 In Camera Letters 5 Eve Corbel 15 True Funnies Geist staff & correspondents 57 Endnotes The Wall 62 Off the Shelf, Noted Elsewhere Meandricus 63 Puzzle Melissa Edwards 64 Caught Mapping
published by The Geist Foundation. publisher : Stephen Osborne. senior editor : Mary Schendlinger. editorial group : Michał Kozłowski, assistant publisher; AnnMarie MacKinnon, operations manager; Lauren Ogston, web editor. circulation manager : Nicholas Beckett. reader services : Jocelyn Kuang. proofreader : Helen Godolphin. fact checker : Sarah Hillier. designer : Eric Uhlich. associate editor : C.E. Coughlan. interns : Jesmine Cham, Meaghan McAneeley, Jennesia Pedri, Jacquelyn Ross, Roni Simunovic. a c c o u n ta n t : Mindy Abramowitz cga. a d v e rt i s i n g & m a r k e t i n g : Clevers Media. web architects : Metro Publisher. distribution : Magazines Canada.
printed in canada by Transcontinental. managing editor emeritus : Barbara Zatyko. first subscriber : Jane Springer. contributing editors : Jordan Abel, Bartosz Barczak, Kevin Barefoot, Trevor Battye, andrea bennett, Jill Boettger, Brad Cran, Melissa Edwards, Robert Everett-Green, Daniel Francis, Lily Gontard, Michael Hayward, Gillian Jerome, Brian Lam, Jill Mandrake, Becky McEachern, Thad McIlroy, Ross Merriam, Billeh Nickerson, Patty Osborne, Eric Peterson, Dan Post, Leah Rae, Debby Reis, Kris Rothstein, Norbert Ruebsaat, Jane Silcott, Paul Tough, Michelle van der Merwe, Carrie Villeneuve, Kathy Vito. support the geist writers and artists fund: geist.com/wafund
fact + fiction since 1990
notes & dispatches
Stephen Osborne 8 Scandal Season Jill Boettger 10 City Under Water Michelle Fost 14 Long Distance Leanne Betasamosake Simpson 17 treaties David Wisdom 22 UJ3RK5
findings 26 Texas Lac-MĂŠgantic Wigrum Small Clothes The Dodgem Derby The Jacked-Up History of Newfoundland Harlem Nocturne What, Me Publish? Geist Sentence Invitational and more
Stephen Henighan Daniel Francis Alberto Manguel
20 52 54
Afterlife of Culture National Dreams City of Words
cover design: Eric Uhlich Geist is printed on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The inks are vegetable based.
cover image: from Universal Hunks, published by Arsenal Pulp Press in 2013. David Prowse in his weightlifting jersey from the 1962 Commonwealth Games. His original passion was for bodybuilding, but in the 1960 Mr. Universe contest he was told by the chief judge that his ugly feet would always count against him in competition, so he took up weightlifting. Later, he went into film and became the body of Darth Vader for the Star Wars movies. He also trained Christopher Reeve for his role in Superman (1978). See darthvader-starwars.com.
c a m e r a
Rosedale Creek Sewer, Toronto, 2007. Photo by Michael Cook.
n the 1860s the French photographer Nadar, well known for his portraiture, took his huge wooden camera and a supply of wet glass plates into the sewers of Paris (newly constructed as part of the city’s modernization) along with a supply of electric lights, Bunsen batteries, the explosive magnesium powder used at the time to provide flash illumination, and lifesized mannequins, which he positioned to simulate men at work in the dark tunnels (a typical exposure might be eighteen minutes long). The resulting photographs were wildly popular; within weeks Parisians were touring
6 Geist 90 Fall 2013
Paris, 1861. Photo by Nadar.
the sewers of their city in boats and on foot. Nadar took the same big camera and a supply of wet glass plates aloft in a hot air balloon and made the first aerial photographs of the city, which gave him a claim on Paris from above and below as it emerged as the primary site and the first subject of the great urban photographers who came after him. Michael Cook is a graduate student of landscape architecture in Toronto and a photographer who has been exploring subterranean cityscapes for the last ten years. His “sewer photography” illuminates the unseen structures that make cities into livable spaces, and
that are generally taken for granted until an event like the Toronto flood of summer 2013 makes us aware of them. Cook uses digital cameras and portable lights of great power, which makes his work “easier” than it would have been in the nineteenth century—although today getting into the sewers requires special permission from bureaucrats and managers, who in many cases retain even the maps of the sewers in private custody. Today the only tourists in the sewers are “urban explorers” willing to risk the dangers of getting lost or arrested. —AnnMarie MacKinnon
r e a d e r s
w r i t e
Geist is published four times a year by The Geist Foundation. Contents copyright © 2013 The Geist Foundation. All rights reserved.
ART FOR LIFE Bravo, Sheila Heti, for “A New Canadian Myth” (Geist 89). Notions of artistic success in Canada are all too often defined by plutocrats, dominant media and the very people who decide to cut arts education to make room for big business. The whole notion of arts in Canada becomes more and more devoid of “artists” when culture is defined by the politically minded business class, the “patrons.” So thank you for redefining patronage beyond the patronizing attempt to support the arts by the award-slapping publicizing frenzies of Western fame. May the art in our country live on for all artists of all ways to a future of sustainable artists’ living, to endless community interconnections and untold voices heard, enlightening all people everywhere toward unity, belonging and love. —Matt Hanson, Calgary Read more of Sheila Heti’s work at geist.com.
READING, OR NOT I so agree with “Not Reading” by Stephen Henighan (No. 89), about reading onscreen. When I close my Kindle, the book I was “reading” disappears into the same space as all the other works in the device. I cannot easily go back and reread a particular page, which is part of pondering the book, the writing or the story. I cannot look at the book, see it on the shelf and consider it in relation to other books there. It has disappeared, and if the Kindle were to fail, the book would be gone. Thus, the book and the story seem less real, less permanent, and my mind works to disbelieve this rather than thinking about the book and the story. —Janet E. Smith, Edmonton
Stephen Henighan makes the case that reading a book or magazine requires the reader’s total attention, without the assault of distractions experienced by the online reader. In fact, he goes so far as to say that one’s interaction with words on a screen isn’t reading at all. So I found it hilarious that at the end of the article, the reader was invited to “read more of his work at geist.com and stephenhenighan.com”! Tongue-in-cheek, or simply a realistic reflection of the sign of the times against which he rails? —Leslie Colucci, Aurora ON I have been reading since long before television. I read my way through the books on our shelves: Trollope, Thackeray, Dickens, Scott, Stevenson, Hardy, and then Conrad and Faulkner—I even read the King James Bible. I also used to read newspapers, but no more. Today I read mostly mysteries written by women and articles, for information, that come from online sources I respect. I read zigzag. I try going back and reading line by line, and can’t. I get more from a good book every time I reread it. The words for what people do online today might be: scanning, skipping or skimming. —Marjorie Stewart, Lantzville BC “Not Reading” and other essays by Stephen Henighan are lodged at geist. com, where they can be… well, let’s say viewed, or downloaded and printed.
Subscriptions: in Canada: $21 (1 year); in the United States and elsewhere: $27. Visa and MasterCard accepted. Correspondence and inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. Include sase with Canadian postage or irc with all submissions and queries. #210 – 111 West Hastings Street Vancouver BC 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 BC Canada v6b 1h4 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: (604) 681-9161, 1-888-geist-eh; Fax: (604) 677-6319; Web: geist.com Geist is a member of Magazines Canada and the Magazines Association of BC. 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 Canada Council, the BC Arts Council and the Cultural Human Resources Council. We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical Fund (CPF) of the Department of Canadian Heritage.
SPOTTED IN VANCOUVER I was delighted to see an image from Eric Metcalfe’s Leopard Realty Postcards (1971−72) reproduced on the cover of Geist 89. Forty years ago Letters 7
New from Borealis Press
HAPPY-GO-LUCKY Silver Islet Shenanigans
the work was prescient, pointing to a Vancouver determined less and less by public participation and more by the relentless—and often brutal— machinations of global market forces. And we still need reminding. —Michael Turner, Vancouver Read (and see) “Spots Before Your Eyes,” by Michał Kozłowski, at geist.com.
The Life & Times Of A Wild Mining Town By Bill MacDonald $18.95
I’ve been reading Stephen Osborne’s essays in Notes & Dispatches for more than fifteen years now, and “Pathfinder Deluxe” (No. 89) was, for me, one of his best. A kind of lucid observation drives the prose. I kept waiting for someone to steal the car, or for Osborne to return to it—only to discover that it was gone. Yet the piece ended quite differently. A detailed, compassionate dispatch and a pleasure to read. I often finish reading his essays and think, “I must
remember to pause and take greater notice of things.” —Tim McLaughlin, Roberts Creek BC Man, Machine, Heart Saw Osborne’s piece about his V8, picture intrigued me, took the bait. Thought it would be about the man, his machine, being happy and gay, driving about from span to span. Then he helps a woman in need, who others would turn away— because of her native creed. His story is about his big heart, insisting, when the hospital said nay, wishing all would also do their part. Only love can cure hate: that’s the story of his V8. —Georgina Yang, Vancouver Read “Pathfinder Deluxe” and other work by Stephen Osborne at geist.com.
SERIOUSLY I wish we had been spared the image of the photographer Arnaud Maggs as Pierrot on the cover of Geist 88. Maggs’s work for me always had a seriousness and clarity that Pierrot really misses. —Mary-Lynn Ogilvie, Victoria Read “After Maggs” and other work by Michał Kozłowski at geist.com.
write to geist Thoughts, opinions, comments and queries are welcome and encouraged, and should be sent to: G
The Editor, Geist email@example.com Snailmail: #210 – 111 West Hastings St. Vancouver BC V6B 1H4 Letters may be edited for clarity, brevity and decorum. Authors of published letters will receive a Geist map suitable for framing.
8 Geist 90 Fall 2013
NOTES & DISPATCHES f r o m
t h e
n e w
w o r l d
Scandal Season stephen osborne
Coffee, newspapers and a stirring of illicit fascination with (always alleged) crooked senators, crack-smoking mayors, election fraudsters and feckless bureaucrats
ast summer in Prince George, a man hit by lightning during a baseball game “rushed out” when he realized that he was unhurt, according to an item in the Sunday paper, to buy a lottery ticket while his luck was still good. The man said, “I thought what the hell, am I burning, am I sizzling. I googled it, and wow I could be dead,” said the Sunday paper, a copy of which I picked up the following Monday in Giancarlo’s Sports Bar on Commercial Drive, where I had gone ostensibly for a bowl of minestrone, but really in search of stories of scandal and corruption boiling over in high places such as the Senate, the Prime Minister’s Office, city halls in Toronto, Montreal and Laval, and the slightly older
10 Geist 90 Fall 2013
almost outdated scandals bubbling up if not exactly boiling over anymore from the Ontario ex-premier’s office and even the so-called ethnic outreach scandal in BC, so I was understandably not much interested in the nonscandalous story of a man struck by lightning in Prince George. I had been following scandal stories for six or eight weeks in newspapers left by patrons in the lunch and coffee joints near where I live and where I work, of which the most reliable for having newspapers on hand whenever more scandal news might be required were, along with Giancarlo’s, with its excellent minestrone: Kyle’s Café, farther south on Commercial Drive, where a few days’ worth of the local
dailies could usually be found; Caffè Artigiano, downtown on Granville Street, an espresso joint where the so-called national papers were always in good supply; and Brioche Urban Eatery, also downtown on West Cordova, where recent papers including the so-called nationals are allowed to accumulate in a pile in the corner. It was there, on an afternoon last May, while munching the excellent BLT Caesar salad with tiger prawns and browsing at random through a stack of newspapers, when the usual trickle of scandal news had swollen to flood level, that I felt the first stirring of a growing and possibly illicit fascination with the netherworld of (always alleged) crooked senators, crooked collage: roni simunovic
mayors, crack-cocaine-smoking mayors, miscellaneous election fraudsters, feckless bureaucrats, etc., not to mention unnamed Mafiosi who “stuffed the profits in their socks,” and as bits and pieces of disconnected narrative, gossip, innuendo and little-known fact accumulated or agglutinated in the pages of the news, I could sense that I might be looking forward to future lunches and coffee breaks not for nourishment of the body but for darker satisfactions of the soul. By the end of May I was entangled in corruption with lunch and coffee: cupidity, avarice, venality, coverups and excuses, not to mention gangsterism, a charge laid against government perps in Laval or maybe Montreal, and who by back formation perhaps were to be considered (alleged) gangsterists. By the end of June a cast of characters revolving in and out of the headlines included the Duffster, the Pamster, Mr. Right, Mayor Ford Nation, Mr. Three Percent and Mr. Sidewalk, along with unnamed supporting characters such as the Million-dollar Bribester, the Car Exploder and the Coffee Change Collector. Throughout it all, reports and charges of robocallers and election fraudsters buzzed or hummed away, much like the background radiation left over from the Big Bang.
candal stories have a tendency to be the same story retold many times, and the stories that I was reading or “following” were the same in all of the papers, often little more than a gathering-up of alleged fact-like bits thinly reported and then the same again, but in fact the repetition was almost as intoxicating as finding a new bit of news or the same or new photographs of fat men looking like perps, the woman with the hair and glasses outfit, the mayor with the cigar and brother outfit, all worth a second look in the cafés where I sat, always with a certain degree of self-consciousness,
not wishing to appear too interested in the shameful or the shocking, or the immoral or salacious. In fact, salacious material was not there in the news per se, but the promise of salaciousness was there, lurking, and perhaps detectable in the photographs of faces that I scrutinized repeatedly for signs of venality, greed, iniquity, profligacy, etc.; the repetition of the images, like the repetition of the headlines and the naming of sins, informed a kind of journalistic catechism of public life in Canada, which had come to resemble or perhaps had always resembled a Hollywood B movie (at last), except for that missing salacious element, the bedrooms, the boudoir, the assignations—when would the debauchery surface? At Kyle’s Café on Commercial Drive, where the traditional national menu is preserved as “Chinese & Canadian Cuisine,” cell phones are rarely seen or heard; at Kyle’s I was often the only one reading the newspapers; the booths were occupied by families with children, and people in wheelchairs were often in attendance at the smaller tables. Most of the patrons were known to the proprietor, who cast a benign aura over her customers. Kyle’s was the safest of cafés; most of the patrons were occupied with their domestic lives: here was where life goes on, as opposed to other places where life takes on a theatrical aspect, so to speak, and one is required to enact a certain savoir faire. I could read the scandal news in Kyle’s at a table in the middle of the room with almost no embarrassment. I was in Kyle’s one afternoon flipping through out-of-date papers when I realized that scandal doesn’t age the way normal news ages: items a day or more old were still fresh, still outrageous, still fun to read. Reading scandal news in semipublic settings tends to call itself into question: one senses that perhaps one ought not be seen enjoying scandal stories; one wants to be seen glancing
at them in passing while searching for the real news elsewhere on the same page, like the story of the man in Prince George struck by lightning, which occupied half a page in the Sunday paper that I picked up on the Monday in Giancarlo’s Sports Bar, and seemed at first glance to be squeezing out news of some possible unknown scandal that I would have preferred to see; and in fact there was no scandal news anywhere in the paper that day, which led me to wonder what had been suppressed. Nevertheless, scandal news seemed to have a different effect in different cafés: in Artigiano’s on Granville, for example, with its stone tabletops and dark wood, and despite or because it offers the best coffee in the city, it is easy to feel out of place, among stylish young people in “business” clothes; middle-aged men somewhat frumpy in their suits and loose ties, conversing vehemently about business plans, marketing plans, employment incentive plans; and everywhere the fierce wielding of cell phones and notebook computers: here the newspaper provides camouflage, and the scandal news gave me a way of staying in the background with my macchiato and my glass of water. But evidently I too was enacting a certain role, for one afternoon I was sitting at a table outside on the sidewalk, scanning a newspaper, when a man holding what I took to be a map came over to me and said, to me and to no one else, “Excuse me, can you tell me,” and he looked down at what was not a map in his hand but a crossword puzzle, “do you know the name of the tennis stadium in New York City?” Stephen Osborne is publisher and editorin-chief of Geist. He is also the awardwinning writer of Ice & Fire: Dispatches from the New World and dozens of shorter works—most recently “Pathfinder Deluxe” (Geist 89)—many of which can be read at geist.com. Notes & Dispatches 11
d i s a s t e r
City Under Water jill boettger
The Calgary floods left behind a stew of knee-deep mud, and waterlogged piles of couches, fridges, books, toys, artworks, chairs, carpet, drywall...
hen Lobi the hippo swam out of his enclosure at the Calgary Zoo, the Bow River had crested its banks and flooded the downtown core—houses, arenas, office towers, parkades, condominiums, homeless shelters, restaurants and St. George’s Island—one of Calgary’s oldest public parks and home to the zoo. The force of the floodwaters had broken a large window in the African Savannah exhibit, giving Lobi open access to the rest of the park. At five o’clock in the morning, in the dark (the power was out because the river had flooded the electrical grid), one of the zookeepers swam into the exhibit to repair the window while another waited outside with a rifle. “We could have had hippos God knows where,” said the zoo’s vet, Dr. Jake Veasey. “They could have
12 Geist 90 Fall 2013
been twenty or thirty miles downstream.” Eventually Lobi got wedged between a wall and a gate, and the zookeepers built a ramp of sandbags to get him out. “It was kind of like squeezing toothpaste back into a toothpaste tube,” Veasey said. “His skin was squeaking against the metal.” A few days later the floodwater receded, and the steps around the hippo tank, where my daughter’s kindergarten class had been sitting two weeks earlier, were littered with dead tilapia—large silver fish with round eyes that shared the tank with the hippos. The kids had been fascinated by the shimmer of the fish and had sat on the steps to sketch them in their notebooks while the hippos lay outside in the sun. Then the kids chased the flamboyant free-roaming
peacocks through the picnic area. After the flood, two of the peacocks were dead and two were missing. Carrie and Richard, the giraffes, were up to their bellies in riverwater, and the lions and tigers had been moved to the animal hospital, now overcrowded from all the evacuations. In June, heavy rain joined the streaming spring meltwater in the Rocky Mountains, and the Bow, Elbow, Sheep, Highwood, Red Deer, Little Bow and South Saskatchewan rivers rose and rose and some breached their banks. Thirtytwo separate jurisdictions in southern Alberta—nations, cities, towns, counties—declared an official state of emergency. In Calgary, twenty-six neighbourhoods along the banks of the Bow and the Elbow were evacuated, displacing 110,000 people. The city set up emergency shelters, which received 1,600 people on the first day, but most residents sheltered with family or friends. The Bow and Elbow rivers begin in the Rockies, flow through the west of Calgary and meet two blocks east of downtown at Fort Calgary, the city’s historical interpretive centre, site of the North-West Mounted Police fort built in 1875. The birthplace of the city is the confluence of the rivers, a community now called Inglewood. When the evacuation order for Inglewood was announced, I tried to reach my friend Mary, who lives there, to ask if she needed a place to stay. She called me back the next day and said that the army, the police and the fire department were going house to house and had been to her home several times, explaining that the evacuation order was mandatory. But her husband wouldn’t leave, and she stayed too, to help him bail their basement and care for their distraught neighbour, now sleeping on their couch—a sixty-year-old man named Frank who rented a small white house across the street. Frank is a hoarder, and when Mary had gone to his home illustrations: from sylvie’s flood book
to check on him, she found him in the centre of his crowded living room weeping over a collection of stuffed animals. “It was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen,” she said. Mary and I were supposed to be giving final exams for the spring semester at Mount Royal University in two days, but exams had been suspended until further notice, and in the absence of further notice I fielded panicked emails from students. I phoned Mary and offered to field panicked emails from her students too, while she managed the chaos at home. While we were talking, the phone died. She called me back on a cell phone. “Our power’s been cut off,” she said. At the peak of the flood, the Bow coursed at 2,400 cubic metres per second, eight times its regular flow, and the Elbow at 1,240 cubic metres per second, twelve times its regular flow. Essential public buildings closed— City Hall, Government of Canada offices, the Court of Queen’s Bench, the Provincial Court—and some flooded, including the Central Library, which lost twenty thousand books to the Bow. The state of emergency was extended for two weeks. When the flood finally subsided and the cleanup began, people hauled out the waterlogged contents of their homes, creating massive wet piles of their ruined belongings on their front lawns: couches, fridges, tables, books, kids’ toys, drawers, wardrobes, artworks, chairs, appliances, carpet, drywall, insulation. The swollen rivers had left behind a heavy stew of mud, knee-deep mud, and the residents and volunteers and emergency services workers who went in to clean out homes resembled swamp creatures trudging in and out of muddy hollows. Every day the mayor and the chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency gave several news briefings that were streamed online, and I found myself glued to the computer while they announced river flow rates
and the status of evacuated neighbourhoods, and listed power outages and road closures. The mayor was steady and frank and well-spoken and reassuring, and his updates were an anchor in the storm. My kids—ages five and three—asked me who he was
centre installed at the community tennis courts. The re-entry centres had been set up in flooded neighbourhoods as places where residents could meet with city staff to figure out whether their homes were safe to enter, and how to get their base-
and why I was so interested in what he had to say. I explained that the rivers had risen, that people who live near the rivers had left their homes and that roads had been closed, that Dad’s work was closed and Mom’s work was closed and Sylvie’s kindergarten would be closed until the water went away, and then I explained that the man in the videos—the mayor—was telling us the story of what was happening, of who needed help and how they were getting it. On the first business day following the flood, my husband Steve, a city planner, met his team in the food court of a hilltop mall—downtown was still closed to the public and City Hall had no power. He was told that anything he did to help with flood recovery would be considered work, so he went to the nearest flooded neighbourhood, a ten-minute bike ride from our house, and spent five days at the designated re-entry
ments pumped, and how to go about restoring power and gas. Steve spent the week handing out masks and rubber gloves, answering questions and receiving volunteers, who arrived one or twenty or three hundred at a time, looking to help. And they did. In homes all along the rivers, strangers arrived and helped residents heft their soggy possessions into dumpsters and trucks, and dig the mud out of their basements. A friend whose kitchen was half submerged in riverwater had an entire rugby team turn up to lend a hand, while more people she didn’t know barbecued burgers on her back porch and handed out beer to those labouring in the mud. One week into the state of emergency, Steve was told that he wouldn’t be able to return to his office in City Hall for at least another five weeks, because the power source had been damaged and the emergency generator would only be used for essential Notes & Dispatches 13
services. City staff who needed to retrieve files from their desks so they could work from home were escorted into the building by security guards with flashlights. Our neighbourhood, just southwest of downtown, was one of many parts of the city cut off by— and from—the flood, so Steve set up a temporary office in our basement. Meanwhile, the mayor continued to broadcast multiple news briefings every day in which he said, over and over, please stay home please stay off the roads please stay away from the river. So I did I did I did, and for three days I watched the footage of the flood stream in, wondering from the periphery of the disaster if it would somehow become less surreal that my city was under water. At home, the kids and I occupied ourselves with colouring and Lego, rented a movie and weeded the garden, as helicopters passed overhead. I was drying dishes in the kitchen when Sylvie appeared with a purse stuffed
with papers and notebooks. “I’m the mayor,” she said, “and this is my mayor bag.” “What’s in your mayor bag?” I asked. “A description of the flood. My flood board. My Red Cross help writer. My flood book to write down what happened. And maracas. The maracas mean ‘come’.” She surveyed a list she’d written out in the flood book. “The names tell me who’s in trouble and who needs my help,” she said. Then she produced a house she had cut out of construction paper: a rectangle bottom and a jagged half-triangle on top. “Some homes, some parts of the roof broke off because of the flood,” she explained, pointing to the ripped triangle. Steve walked into the kitchen as she was describing the state of the paper house. “Hello, your worship,” he said. She looked at him and scribbled something in her flood book. Four days into the state of emergency, I set out to see Mary in
Inglewood, where residents had been allowed to return to their homes. It was an ordeal to sort out how to get there. The bridge I would normally take over the Elbow River had crumbled at the bank, and the road on either side was submerged in water, any visible asphalt cracked and gaping. I could not circle through downtown—it was still closed to the public—and Memorial Drive, usually busy with a steady stream of cars, was quiet except for the drone of the fire department’s rescue boats travelling where cars usually do. Both the Bow and the Elbow flow through the centre of the city, so when the water spilled over the banks, filling roads and underpasses and bridges, what was once connected became fragmented. I drove a wide circle around the centre of the city and arrived in Inglewood an hour later to find Mary on her back porch with a bottle of wine and half a pack of cigarettes. She lives two blocks from the Bow. We shared stories and drank wine in the sunlight, and then she took me for a walk through her neighbourhood. The city had asked people reoccupying their homes to put signs in the windows indicating which services they needed: power, gas, pumping. As we walked, I read the signs in her neighbours’ windows: Need Gas. Need Electricity. Need Pumping. And then, Need Boat. Need Boat Launch. Need Vacation. In another window, Need Hookers. We walked past the cordoned-off Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and on to the bike path, and we followed the path’s yellow centre line to the river, where it dropped off abruptly. A police cruiser guarded the new cliff. We stood behind the caution tape and watched the river, brown and fast, carry on its way. Jill Boettger lives in Calgary with her husband and two kids. After the spring rains, their veggie beds went wild: giant zucchinis and curly kale abounded. Boettger teaches writing and literature at Mount Royal University. Read more of her writing at geist.com.
14 Geist 90 Fall 2013
s u r v e i l l a n c e
Long Distance michelle fost Viv, you’re sitting on your grandmother’s recipe
on’t let it burn, Viv. You better check on it, missy. Weren’t we just saying that the convection works faster? Remember the last one? I remember, I remember. Yes? Yes. And you’re right, but you’re forgetting. I’m turning the oven temp down right now. You’re moving too slowly, missy. I’m remembering. You’re sitting on the counter. Oh, Viv, you’re sitting on your grandmother’s recipe. We don’t need the recipe. Fifty minutes or until golden brown, no? But the last time, the crust completely burned. It was an inch thick of black. Yes, but you’re forgetting that it was still delicious. I’m not forgetting. We scooped the good stuff out with the melon baller. It was delicious. We dished it onto vanilla ice cream when Jack came home! I took it out of the oven and then Jack came in the door. He held up his phone and asked if he should call the fire department. Yes. We hadn’t noticed the smoke. Then we walked through the house with Jack, all of us opening windows. Oh, that put me in a good mood, the three of us sending the smoke back into the night. Was it Jack’s first visit home from school?
16 Geist 90 Fall 2013
Yes. Good-bye, smoke. Hello, phone. I’ll get it, missy. Please check the oven. If it’s Jack, tell him we were talking about him. It’s Emily! Viv says hello. How is everyone? Did he get in? I’ve been thinking of you. It’s perfect for Max. Oh, it’s terrible the way I miss Jack. Viv misses him, too. We’ll get used to it. You’ll get used to it. She’ll find her place. But not yet. Right now we like spending our time together. We’re comfortable together. Doing nothing. Reading books. Watching the fire. Watering the plants. The small things. He’s doing a hundred plays this semester. Viv! How does it look? Viv! Emily’s baking cookies in Canada! What kind? Oatmeal raisin chocolate chip butterscotch! Emily is going to open her oven to find our perfectly baked cobbler. And look, here in our oven in New Jersey, Emily’s oatmeal raisin chocolate chip butterscotch cookies, golden brown, delectable. They’re delicious! They’re delicious. Call me again soon! Michelle Fost’s recent writing has been published in Cleaver Magazine, and she is working on a novel. She works at the Victoria College Writing Centre at the University of Toronto.
t r u e
f u n n i e s
Notes & Dispatches 17
18 Geist 90 Fall 2013
d i m e n s i o n s
treaties leanne betasamosake simpson then it’s halloween and the white kids dress up as the proletariat, and the rheostatics come to town
at this particular point in time, the last thing you need is to be one of the only native kids, instead of the only native kid. you are suppose to be studying biology but you are a horrible scientist—it was a happenstance escapist decision that had snowballed out of hand because of a lack of intervention on your part. after six years of university study, the only thing you know for sure is that “flammable” and “inflammable” both mean the same thing. you are twenty-two. there are a couple of problems with being twenty-two but you don’t know about them yet, because you can only find out about the problems sometime after you are no longer twentytwo. anyway, one of the problems with being twenty-two is you start to get afraid that maybe you’re horrible at everything, mostly because you’re not really good at anything yet, so you decide to stay the course with biology until a sign appears, even though being stoned drunk all the time doesn’t register as a sign. the other problem with being twentytwo at university is that everyone gets mad and becomes a marxist and a buddhist and you are no exception because someone leaves a copy of zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance in the outhouse and you steal it and all of a sudden counting the number of dead alcohol saturated ephemeroptera under a microscope becomes working for the man and capitalist and reductionist and the myth of objectivity
which propels you headlong into the loving uncommitted arms of art students, hippy musicians and pot— they’ve always liked ndns more than scientists do anyway and even fascinating romantic love is better than no love at all, except it’s not that easy to orgasm. ok it is, but still. there’s something missing. but you don’t know what yet, because you don’t know what until you’re thirty or forty or sometimes you don’t get to find out at all. so you sleep with a bunch of the hippy-artist-potheads and some of it’s good and some of it’s bad and some of them give good head and it’s all a nice distraction while you spend the days counting juvenile salmon on the bottom of a stream somewhere north of here. then it’s halloween and the white kids dress up as the proletariat, and the rheostatics come to town and they play steve’s tavern and by the end of the night the floor is a mixture of draft and costume debris and dave bidini wades through it all anyway with his acoustic guitar, long after the last encore, belting out “the wreck of the edmund fitzgerald” as he walks amongst the now dishevelled audience, unconcerned with the fact that he is in land owned by stan rogers. You stand still when he sings “gitche gumee” because it’s the only almost nishnaabemowin you’ve heard since you moved here and you want dave to notice and to rescue you, and to pack you up in the rheostatics van and drive you back to ontario, and set you
back up beside a big lake. but that doesn’t happen. by now one of the hippy-artist-potheads you’ve been sleeping with is calling himself boyfriend which involves: 1. going to the bar and drinking pitchers of oscillating drink specials in a pizza-delight like setting. 2. fucking. 3. telling him the shitty songs he writes are deep. the two of you only deviate from the formula one time, and it was the time you got up and drove down the transcanada towards halifax for no reason. an hour down the highway, well past amherst, the car loses power and you find yourselves on the side of the highway as the winds pick up and the cbc tells you a hurricane is coming. a local in a truck stops and then comes back with a tow truck so he can tow your car to his friend’s garage which he says is a “certified vw repair centre.” the garage is a large rectangular metal shed. along one side, two women, girlfriends you presume, are hanging out on old couches by a wood stove. one of them brings you tea while you wait. your chair rocks back and forth like a meter while the mechanic works in front of you. and now the bad news. “the car is very hard to fix,” he says in a thick german accent, “it needs parts. the switch is broken that shuts the battery off when the car is no longer running. that is the part you need, but it will take three days to get it here from halifax.” Notes & Dispatches 19
he pauses allowing you to feel the full impact of the prospect of being stuck in the living room of his garage for three days during a hurricane. then he comes back with, “there is another option.” he says he can rig something up that can get us home. great. perfect. home. whatever that is. three weeks later boyfriend breaks up with you because “fucking an indian was too much work.” you regret ever looking him in the eye and marxism and biology, and dylan (doesn’t stick) and buddhism and pot all at the same time. you call the only mi’kmaq you know. he’s there in two hours flat and without turning off his car, he loads you into it and hands you a black coffee in a styrofoam cup. you move into the driver’s seat while he kicks the shit out of the white guy that decided to be called boyfriend and then you drive away as soon as he’s back beside you.
20 Geist 90 Fall 2013
you ask him if he was gentle. he shakes his head laughing and says “nishnaabeg.” and then, “of course. hippies are fragile and his mom is probably some famous criminal lawyer in halifax.” you drive north through the bush of the mi’kmaq and maliseet. by dawn you turn your backs to the rising sun and drive along the big river towards mohawk territory. you look to the right, past the long black feathers on the wing, pulsing through the air, dancing through the clouds, thousands of metres above the river. a year passes. courage coalesces. you take the train back, arriving to look things in the eye and leaving with the car and a box of detritus from a past life. by the time you reach thunder bay some white kids from winnipeg offer to buy the car for $2,000 cash they made selling fimo beads at dead concerts. the regular household light
switch the mechanic installed in the dashboard of the car so you “could turn off the battery when parked” is fascinating to them. they ask you if it is for switching dimensions. and you look them in the eye and answer “totally.”
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a writer, scholar, storyteller and activist of Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg ancestry, and a member of Alderville First Nation. She has worked with Canadian and international Indigenous communities on environmental, governance and political issues. She is the author of four books, and many shorter works published in Now, Spirit, Briarpatch, Canadian Art and other periodicals. “treaties” is from her debut collection of short stories, Islands of Decolonial Love, with an accompanying full-length spoken word recording, published in fall 2013 by ARP Books. Visit her at leannesimpson.ca.
Get the 9 year Geist Subscription No renewal until 2023!
9 years of Geist for $90! *Please add $857,291.00 for interplanetary delivery.
The 90th issue, $90, 9 year deal @ geist.com
Save $99! IN THE
a f t e r l i f e
c u l t u r e
The Market and the Mall stephen henighan In the farmer’s market, a quintessentially Canadian setting, much of Canada is not visible
n the downtown core of my southwestern Ontario city, the visit to the market is a Saturday morning ritual. There is no parking at the market, only bicycle racks outside the front door. The walk to the market building passes two-storey red-brick houses that recall the British engineers dispatched to Canada during the War of 1812, who remained in the colony after the war ended and fanned out across Upper Canada, constructing houses in this style wherever they worked. As I cycle to the market, the houses remind me of the red-brick house where I grew up, six hours’ drive away in Ontario’s easternmost reaches; farmers in those rural areas did not hold a market, yet the consistency of architecture over this geographical expanse confirms the coherence of a culture. Many of the family-owned businesses near the market operate out of buildings that date back more than a century. The repertoire of architectural styles, creative variations on a cluster of consistent themes, offers aesthetic pleasure and corroboration of cultural wholeness, reiterating the history that underlies even the most casual Saturday morning outing. As I enter the market, I keep one eye on the cheese, honey, maple syrup and organic meat and vegetables, and the other on the yoga-trimmed middle-aged figures in the aisles. I’m here to buy provisions to take home in my cloth shopping bag, but also 22 Geist 90 Fall 2013
to be recognized as part of the community. I feel at home here. These people fit into the category that the French, with cynical aptness, characterize as bobo—bourgeois bohemians. Some of them are my friends; others I recognize from the audience
at music festivals, literary readings, political speeches. As a student of my city and its neighbourhoods, I know these people’s preferences. Consumers of culture, they volunteer for progressive causes and vote for one of the three political parties—Liberal, NDP or Green—that regularly claim between half and two-thirds of Canadians’ votes, yet, over most of the last decade, have been incapable of forming a federal government. Echoes of this impotence rupture the Saturday morning amiability: next to a stall that offers gluten-free wheatgrass is a table where angry older men solicit signatures against the tar sands (which no one here calls “oil sands”); the guitarist outside the door strums venerable
protest ballads. Yet the most disconcerting feature of the market is not these expressions of frustration, but the fact that in this most quintessentially Canadian setting, much of Canada is not visible. The market is where I find my friends and feel my history and values reinforced; yet how can I not be troubled that everyone here is white? Some weekends I hear French or German spoken, but never Cantonese or Punjabi. The “ethnic” food stalls are Italian or Polish. True, an Eritrean family has opened a stall, a neighbour arrives with her adopted African-American son, and last weekend one of my former students showed up in the company of a ChineseCanadian man; but the market remains overwhelmingly, unrepresentatively white. There are women in starched Mennonite bonnets, but none in hijabs. I know from experience that among the people who surround me are agnostics, atheists, crystal-worshippers, lapsed Catholics and members of the United Church of Canada, but few practising Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus or Evangelical Protestants. Those people are at the mall. In the suburbs on the edge of the city, the visit to the mall is a Saturday afternoon ritual. A few people take the bus, but most drive to the vast parking lots. The drive passes ranks of identical new houses that are rammed up against each other. The sameness obliterates awareness of history, nullifying the
photo: europa boulevard, west edmonton mall, by dylan kereluk
possibility of a shared culture. Traits that undergird the present with a tangible past are dispersed by the cult of material consumption. Even the contours of many customers’ bodies are influenced by this cult. Amid the dank-grease stench of the food court, franchises serve food that is global in provenance yet ersatz: national dishes are pumped up with additives, purged of unfamiliar elements and paired with huge soft drinks. The shops are transnational chains; a few insert a maple leaf—like a fig leaf of respectability turned red with embarrassment—into their familiar logos. People of all ages and ethnic backgrounds carry throwaway plastic shopping bags that announce the brands on which they spend their money. The shoppers illustrate every stage of immigrant adaptation, from Somali women in traditional robes to South Asian-descended teenagers in shorts and T-shirts and sixth-generation
Scottish-Canadian men from the Legion Hall. The teenagers greet their friends; adults pass without speaking. I know from my reading on local issues that many of these adults volunteer with their religious or ethnic communities; they vote Conservative, sometimes Liberal, often not at all. Tables set out along the mall’s main corridor urge passersby to sign up for loyalty cards or buy an apple to support the cadets. Here the scourge of life is taxes: advertising vaunts the allure of not paying sales tax; cubicles promise to process your income tax so that you pay the minimum. At the mall, I may be spotted by my students, but I do not meet my friends. I sometimes forget where I am. The mall, though diverse, is severed from history. All of Canada is here, but Canadian culture and identity are absent. In Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal, the contrast between the market and the mall would be less
stark: the market would be more ethnically mixed; the mall might serve better food. Yet the dilemma posed by the difference between them is present everywhere. Who still assumes that to become Canadian implies integration into a recognizable arc of history, as immigrant families like mine did in the 1960s? If some more recent immigrants are uncertain of where they are, of whether this place means anything beyond freedom to shop, this may be because those of us who got here earlier are no longer sure, either.
Stephen Henighan’s forthcoming books include Sandino’s Nation: Ernesto Cardenal and Sergio Ramirez Writing Nicaragua, 1940−2012 (McGill-Queen’s) and his translation of the Angolan writer Ondjaki’s novel Granma Nineteen and the Soviet’s Secret (Biblioasis), both spring 2014. Read more of his work at geist.com and at stephenhenighan.com.
Afterlife of Culture 23
d i s c o g r a p h y
UJ3RK5 david wisdom The kids thought these one-record wonders were all right
he one official recording made by the Vancouver rock band UJ3RK5— pronounced You Jerk (the 5 is silent)—was a four-song EP produced in 1979. The cover photograph was taken by Jeff Wall, a band member who was also becoming known for his large-format photography and had the equipment to take the photo. All eight of the UJ3RK5 gathered in a Simon Fraser University studio at 21 Water Street in Gastown, where we had been jamming for a year or so, and hung around while Jeff orchestrated the scene, arranged the lights, positioned the band members and took Polaroid test shots. The whole thing took only an hour or two. UJ3RK5 formed in 1978 when a group of friends started to meet at the SFU studio to hang out and jam. At the core of the band was a duo called The Gentlemen Two: Rodney Graham, a guitarist/composer and an artist associated with the Vancouver School of Photoconceptualism, and Frank Johnson, a vocalist/lyricist/synthesizer whose punk rock name was Frankie Ramirez. Frank made up the band name and offered different explanations for it, depending on who was asking. At times he claimed the “RK” in the name stood for Robert Kleyn, the artist and architect. I believe it was just an oddball punk rock way of spelling “You jerk!” Ian Wallace, another photoconceptual artist, played bass and became the calm centre of the band. Jeff Wall and I wrote and sang songs and alternated on the electric organ. Kitty Byrne, Rodney’s girlfriend at the time, learned to play the drums really well, really 24 Geist 90 Fall 2013
quickly. Danice Macleod, a classically trained musician, played the electric violin. From time to time UJ3RK5 included several other members, including the author William Gibson, who was just beginning to make his mark in the world of cyberspace. A cassette recording of a great song called “Bruce Lee’s Leathers” that he wrote and sang with us exists somewhere: a highly sought-after curio in the world of musical-literary ephemera. Most of us had been friends since meeting at UBC during the late ’60s and early ’70s. Ian, Jeff and I with our families had shared a flat in London in 1970−71. We all had a strong passion for music, and the advent of punk culture provided an atmosphere of communal excitement. There were countless examples of do-it-yourself bands outside traditional industry models. As well as the music, the remarkable graphic designs of so many record covers of the time and the close links of many bands to art and art schools were exciting and made forming a band feel natural and inevitable to us. In its early days, UJ3RK5 was as much a social club as a band. We would jam for a while, then go out for drinks, dreaming up pranks and escapades. Jeff Wall devised a UJ3RK5 manifesto, typed on eighteen recipe cards: “This formula is not true/UJ3=RK5,” etc. At some point, after weeks of enjoyable sessions of turning jams into songs, we realized we were ready to go public. What we all lacked was the impetus to get a little more disciplined, organized and stage-ready. The last member to join, Colin Griffiths (punk name Frank Crass), remedied all that. He
Members of UJ3RK5 (L to R): Colin Griffiths (Frank Crass), Rodney Graham, David Wisdom, Jeff Wall, Kitty Byrne, Danice Macleod, Frank Johnson (Frankie Ramirez), Ian Wallace. Photograph by Jeff Wall.
also played a guitar that lit up from the inside and toughened up our sound. Colin was a few years younger than the rest of us and knew everybody in the local punk rock/new wave community. He also knew how to fix things that broke. I was the record collector of the group. We would hang out at my place in a cluster of duplexes on West 4th Avenue that we called UJ3RK5 Hollow, where Rodney and Kitty lived as well, and listen to the latest punk/ new wave singles and LPs from the UK and New York, and we discovered great new bands coming out every week. The Buzzcocks, Talking Heads, The Raincoats and The Fall were particular favourites. We kept up with the very active local music too, but our songs owed little to any of them.
Our band was most often compared to Devo from Akron, Ohio, but the essence of the UJ3RK5 sound came directly from the musical minds of The Gentlemen Two: Frank’s yappy, off-kilter vocal stylings and Rodney’s complex, swirling arrangements and rocking tunefulness. Frank Johnson (Frankie Ramirez) was our main front man. His stage moves were unpredictable and a little bit scary, much as he was in real life, but he sure could whip out a lot of dazzling, unhinged songs. His lyrical fragments pop up in my brain at idle moments: “Our Father who art in heaven / Resides in his parish in Sunny Devon / Move the baboon to David Niven / If you can’t… The Anglican!” Even the songs that Jeff and I wrote and sang conformed to the UJ3RK5
methodology: a snappy blend of the meticulous and the unrestrained. Our first public appearance was at the Helen Pitt Gallery on Pender Street in Vancouver, in March 1979, in a lineup with E, Exxotone, The Generators and The Shades. Joey Shithead of DOA, who had never heard us play, volunteered to be our roadie in exchange for a case of beer. Jeff Wall wore a fake tracheotomy bandage on his neck. Danice and Colin designed a poster for the event, in the form of an eye chart. The audience was heavy with art school kids and students and devotees of the artists in the band. We got a friendly and very respectful reception. There was some punk rock violence later in the evening with a girl and boy from another band, but we were long gone by then. After Joey helped us load Discography 25
26 Geist 90 Fall 2013
our gear we piled into Ian’s Jaguar and went for cocktails at a west side bistro to talk about our band’s bright future. All in all, a great evening. We played perhaps a dozen gigs over the next several months and generally received friendly support. Nobody threw anything or gobbed on us. Most of us were over thirty, usually a few years older than our audiences and all the other bands on the scene, but despite our age and the fact we had real jobs, it was evident we could still rock out. Music made by artists is often greeted with skepticism, seen as a contrived gesture rather than something natural from the heart. The Vancouver Free Press noted that “Ramirez’s semi-psychotic gesticulations… draw away from more static stances adopted by some of the other Jerks.” I’m sure there were some dubious critics but the kids thought we were all right. Our catalogue of recordings is small but potent. “UJ3RK5 Work for Police” and “Naum Gabo” appear on the Vancouver Complication album, a compilation of fifteen of the hottest Vancouver area bands of the late 1970s, including DOA, The Dishrags and The Pointed Sticks. The album was recorded in a basement in Burnaby and captures a great moment in local musical independence and enthusiasm. In 1979 our one record was produced at Little Mountain Sound, one of the best studios in the city. Two of the songs were written by Frank, one by Jeff, one by me. The photo on the cover is the one Jeff Wall took at the SFU studio; it remains his most affordable edition. The record was released as a 12" 45 RPM EP by the Vancouver label Quintessence. A year later it was picked up by the major label Polygram, who confusingly turned it into a 33 RPM mini-album. The company expected us to embark on a career of touring and recording, perhaps to become the Devo of Canada. In their press release we were described as “progressive in the same way Martha and the Muffins are progressive.”
UJ3RK5 diagram, drawn on top of a constructivist diagram by the Soviet artist Naum Gabo, 1977. Artwork by Frankie Ramirez (Frank Johnson).
That’s when UJ3RK5 dissolved. In 1994, somebody spray-painted the word Jerk on the wall of the tennis club across from my house. I felt honoured and happy to be remembered and rushed out and photographed it before it was painted over. A band from Alabama called Man… Or Astroman discovered our record in a budget bin in 1995 and were so impressed that they recorded a version of our song “Eisenhower and the Hippies.” Record companies and art galleries continue to show interest in releasing our material. Jeff Wall is one of the most prominent artists in the world today. Rodney Graham exhibits his artwork internationally, and his band has played at the Louvre. Ian Wallace recently had a major retrospective at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Danice Macleod formed the band Bamff. Kitty Byrne became
a gallery curator. Colin Griffiths (Frank Crass) does installation and production for art galleries all over the world. Frank Johnson (Frankie Ramirez) played in bands and worked in radio. And I continued to work with the CBC, hosting Nightlines, RadioSonic and Pearls of Wisdom. Ian Wallace, Frank Johnson and Colin Griffiths still get together to jam. A UJ3RK5 reunion is unlikely, but most of us are still friends. David Wisdom worked for thirty years as a host and producer of many programs for CBC Radio. He has also played in bands and written extensively about popular music. Wisdom has exhibited his photographic works, curated exhibitions and presented multimedia shows at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Teck Gallery, Charles Scott Gallery and other Vancouver venues. He lives on Salt Spring Island, BC. Discography 27
From Contamination + Addiction, a photographic series depicting the environmental aftermath of the train wreck in LacMégantic on July 6, 2013. It is estimated that more than seven million litres of light crude oil were spilled as a result of the crash,
Texas claudio gaudio From Texas, published in 2012 by Quattro Books. Claudio Gaudio’s work has been published in Exile Literary Quarterly and Rampike. He was born in Calabria and lives in Toronto, and at claudiogaudio.com.
efore we invaded this country the President spoke to his commanders in the field. We are the truth, our mission sublime, he began, I read it in the statement I signed yesterday. Last century, phones were phones and cameras were cameras. Everywhere was far and we were free to do what we do. Tell the embedded correspondents it is important that we have comprehensive and transparent reporting of the welcome and the merriment that will coincide with our arrival. All copy should be written in advance. Fiddling and thighs aflutter is how we’ll usher in the war, said 28 Geist 90 Fall 2013
the President, and finish it. As for the stars and the moon, we’ll turn them back on again during the celebration and then for a few hours each evening. At all other times everyone can write letters to their steady, but if she’s a he don’t tell the Army. After meeting with his commanders the President met with media moguls over dinner and some fine scotch. I started this conflict, he said, it’s up to you to decide its meaning. Let’s not forget the final solution was a media success before they built the death camps. Make sure your editors know, no corpses and no photographs
of those who have begun, but are not finished, dying. War is a catastrophe and it’s abstract. Not for us to understand. These are the Texas arts that mark better days to come. Remember, he added, there are six of you and six is still too many. Before the President left they finished off the bottle. Six, sighed Rupert Murdoch, will only make the message stronger. Let’s open another bottle, said the bigwig from Time Warner, and practice disagreeing. Let’s get this story straight. The future is garbage and a bargain at ten times the price. We send scrap metal to Bangladesh, electronic waste to Ghana while plastic forms a noose at the equator. On the steps of the Kremlin Yeltsin put a flower inside the barrel of a tank that sealed the fate of Gorbachev. Then he went looking for the highest bidder. I was there. So was the IMF, the World Bank and
contaminating soil and waterways as far as eighty kilometres away. Michel Huneault is a documentary photographer. He lives in Montreal. His photoessay “Memory of Winter,” about the 2011 floods of southern Quebec, appeared in Geist 85.
some other people who were not formally introduced. We helped dismantle the union, administered the shock, and the therapy. The worst gives rise to the best of opportunities. The Russian people are finally free to express their newfound hunger. But this is not my concern and much bigger than the things that I’m saying. In New York I used whiskey to backfill the holes inside my brain but in the morning they opened up again, and I had to squint to keep the buildings in Manhattan from melting. Hakim is done with his language lesson and he’s asking about Mexico. Mexicans no longer complain about the Spaniards, I begin, those heady days when Cortez filled his ships and took an interest in Aztec anatomy. There’s less gold now but nobody cares because currency is just a multiple, the underlying does not exist. In
the new economy Mexico buys guns from Texas with dollars from LA and Baltimore. In Bel Air they can’t tell the worm from the hook since they catch their fish in a restaurant. They pay good money for a pig in a poke, but sometimes the pig is just baking soda. In Baltimore it’s more of a volume business, no bricks and mortar just kids on the corner to keep the overhead low. If they run out of product they’ll still take your money. Mexicans understand markets and demographics. Where they go, Wal-Mart follows. Texas television never goes down. They flog the red, white and blue because the other colours don’t matter. At Christmas there’s no snow to smooth out the view, but there’s plenty of kin to holler in the New Year. Hakim listens to everything I say. Many will die but in Texas they
just change the channel, and on the Lord’s birthday they’ll call a ceasefire. Hakim sees his own blood in these blessed fragments, in the curiosity of a knife, a bullet deaf in a sandstorm. But this is not how he’ll die. Death does not take place where it takes place. It is stirred into the lemonade and the step of a marching band on Main Street. Death as remedy, as means, the accrual of an alibi reborn. Death is dreamed behind the walls of a Texas steeple. Hakim told me he killed his dog so that it would not lead the soldiers back to his family. This country is ending, he said. I don’t know why he tells me these things. I suppose he wants me to know something of the man who is speaking. I told him yesterday I had visitors from Texas … really … sometimes I talk to a mouse … oh … and a dead bird … I see … Findings 29
but not at the same time … of course … they don’t like each other … naturally … it makes sense then … yes of course … good … eat something brother … thank you. I have a pen and Hakim brings me writing paper. There are words everywhere and I am disagreeing with all that I’m thinking, and with God, when he arrives unannounced. All I need to know is who sent him. Beethoven wrote the notes between
his ears, he never heard a peep outside the ringing. The interval, he thought, there can be no greater freedom. Everything is, because it disappears— numbers, beats and measures. This is how he received the mountains, bone and snow. This is how the sun fits inside a radio. When I got here my face was waiting for me like a gap. When I pray, the words can’t get past the ceiling, the few that do don’t mean anything. Perhaps the silence isn’t
Story Waiting nicole brossard From White Piano, translated by Robert Majzels and Erin Mouré, published by Coach House Books in 2013. Nicole Brossard is a poet, novelist and essayist, author of more than thirty published books. / I didn’t write the story, you know. It was to start in Montréal, across from Parc Lafontaine, with a woman looking out a hotel window. She’s awaiting a manuscript she’s contracted to translate in the next six months without knowing the author’s name, sex or age. And maybe without even knowing what her mother tongue was, language of childhood and of babbling, of fever, laughter and cries sealed in the invisible. The contract says a manuscript of one hundred pages written by O. R. I’d been promised the story, I was waiting for it. In the distance I could make out my fear. I kept the woman moving, as I do now, watching her walk in a Montréal crowd thirsty for jazz. She strolls down Jeanne Mance Street between the water fountains and the avalanche of sounds entwined in thoughts and the pianos of Satie, Honegger and Malipiero of Venice. Later, at nightfall, under fetish light of lipstick rouge, when we can
make out shoulders and fragile napes, she’ll reappear with her intelligent face and questions for the entire planet. I’d been promised a story, it awaited me. Everywhere prose settled into my notebooks, into thoughts, it positioned its people, wove connections, knotted plots in my bed just before I fell asleep. It seemed able to soothe and give pleasure. I liked its seeming transparency, which compelled me to think with that little bit of cunning and stillness needed to mollify the winged silhouette of death. Then one morning, poetry resurfaced, adapting for a while to the prose that enveloped pretty much every detail in my head. Stories leaking the way water leaks, seeping into the presence or slightest burst of poetry. Time passed. The grammar of the everyday won’t let go. From now on, the poem absorbs the dust of prose and the very special ardour akin to the need to think in the flow of time /
GEIST SENTENCE INVITATIONAL Sentences whose acronym is GEIST, sent by Geist readers, writers and board members for our 90th issue.
30 Geist 90 Fall 2013
big enough. I can wait. Texas reaches behind borders, nouns and predicates, it finds the words it needs. This speaks to their understanding of the particular. It seems I no longer coincide with their point of view and so they have asked me to forget. Forget what ... everything ... I’ll think about it. Secretly I longed for a regiment, generations of offspring and a machine gun in every window. I had a wife, so far well and good. She paraded me on the back of a donkey as though I had a way of making myself understood. I trimmed my eyebrows to look like I was thinking and my mouth took to greeting everyone. Have you been to Pompeii, everyone is so peaceful there and it’s always the middle of the day. My wife kept her head in Paris but, lucky for me, her thighs were still in our New York brownstone. You must work, she said, we will not speak of the consequences. Let’s go and see again that nothing has happened, I suggested, the years to come are already a waste of time. Then I fed her peaches to disguise the days that were growing like tumours on her lips. Falling ordinance and the sun are heating up the courtyard, the peacock takes cover in plain view. When the time comes he’ll be easy to catch. I hide under the table, move to the window in between explosions. Everywhere I touch the beginning. The bricks that built this house will be clay again and then a riverbed. Pay attention or you’ll miss it. A gentle breeze follows every air raid but it does not know the blameless from the wicked. It simply swallows the whole town. I am a hostage. I live instead of some other matter and so I am more than the body I inhabit. I am enormous in my disappearing, bigger than the air that Texas is burning outside my window.
erudite, independent, serendipitous,
toque-worthy. –michael hayward. Geist’s edgy
Wigrum daniel canty, translated by oana avasilichioaei From Wigrum, published by Talonbooks in 2013. Daniel Canty is a writer and film director who works in literature, film, theatre and design, and new media. He lives in Montreal.
crack shot loupe Excerpts from Patience
the Germans had come. Canty lay sunk in the trench, a book pierced open on his chest, shot through the heart.
dead letters, 1988 This scratched magnifying glass belonged to a sniper of the Royal Canadian Rifles of Winnipeg, William Canty. In preparation for combat, the poet-warrior engraved a verse, extracted from the classics of British Romanticism, onto every bullet, using this loupe to measure the proportions. Canty, a young man of melancholic disposition, had the reputation of being softhearted and spent most of his time alone in the trenches reading. One day, he told one of his companions that he’d never wanted to kill anyone and that “the mortal geometry of verse gave grace back to those who should never have died.” He shot with such rigour that, in extracting the bullets from the hearts of the bodies, the poem’s verses could be read in the order written. On a battlefield in Normandy, the regiment, crazed from combat, thus reassembled William Blake’s famous stanza: Tyger, tyger, burning bright in the forests of the night what immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry Ironically, Canty was killed by a stray bullet while his colleagues zigzagged, scouring the bodies with the blades of their bayonets. The shot had been fired by a young farmer from Rubrouck, Jeanne Blédor, who believed
These letters tied with a ribbon, sheets torn out of various notebooks, all appear to be addressed to women known only by their initials. None is dated. None was mailed. They come from the hand of the English collector Sebastian Wigrum. Wigrum intended to assemble them in a manuscript entitled The Last Love Letters on Earth, dedicated “in memory of all that never happened,” with an explanatory fragment on “that sad alchemy which leads to the transformation of feelings into literature.” Also decipherable, among other illegible phrases written in a diluted ink, is this question: “Is there a place where our unresolved and inadmissible sentiments are archived and where these letters arrive at last?”
fate’s armament Collection of the Mirror
This stone was in the possession of a Baptist preacher from the town of Peterborough, Ontario. It was lodged
in the mouth of a possible suicide, one Mr. Staunton, who was found drowned in his automobile at the bottom of Minnewebake Lake. The preacher has chosen to remain anonymous. In the winter of 1907, his wife, let us call her Mary, was hit between the shoulder blades with a snowball containing this stone. She and her husband had apparently stumbled into a kids’ battlefield. Shortly thereafter, Mary abandoned the manners that had made her an icon of virtue. Some of the town’s citizens—particularly the men—called her a saint or a witch. Whether or not he is responsible for Mary’s shocking personality shift, the person guilty of launching this stone has yet to be identified.
mustachios roll-up, 1969 Prague Collection
This rod of rusty iron, abandoned on the road to Cadaqués, belonged to the self-proclaimed genius Salvador Dalí. He would coat his moustache with brilliantine, insert each tip into the ringed part of the device and, with a virile twist of the wrist, curl his whiskers. His neighbour, Étienne Vermil, a sculptor who worked in wood and metal, retrieved the instrument from the village path a few years after the Catalan painter died, while strolling with his Andalusian spaniel, El Buñuelo. Art historians now suspect that Vermil had taken part, with the village tinsmith, in designing the instrument. Two years prior, Vermil was working in his yard when he heard Dalí screaming into the telephone,
ideas subvert tedium. –bev sandell greenberg. Get every issue, smile tremendously. –helen godolphin. Givin’er every inch, subscribe today! –ltg uno. Gee, everywhere I see talent. –jill mandrake. Grants essayists immortality. (Sometimes temporarily.) –piers rae. Geist epitomizes inspirational, scintillating tales. –libby
undoubtedly arguing with Gala, then in residence at the chateau that the painter had restored with her in Púbol. His words were the following: “By the hair of my brushes, Gala! Nothing stands up except my moustaches! 1 Everything I paint is limp!” Yelling, the painter burst out of his house, the instrument in his hand and his moustache, astoundingly, shaved, went up the path towards the village, where a car would drive him to Gala and her chateau in a cloud of dust. Art historians question the truth of Vermil’s claims, an artist of less renown who, in entrusting the sale of this hair roll-up to auctioneers, would
earn more than he would from selling any of his own works. 1
¡Por los pelos mis pinceles, Gala! ¡Nada se yergue aparte de mis bigotes! ¡No pinto más que lo blando!
red string, 1959 Prague Collection
This red string was attached to the foot of Zazie, the heroic canary. The
public transportation system for the city of Paris would send Zazie on tunnel inspections following cave-ins, gas leaks and other catastrophes. While the average life expectancy of its prospecting colleagues was typically three descents, Zazie, renowned to be fortunate, survived over 150 inspections, until a mischievous little girl cut the red string while the road workers were busy chatting, their backs to the mouth of the caved-in subway tunnel. Zazie never resurfaced and the little girl disappeared in the crowd. The writer Raymond Queneau was among the curious onlookers.
Small Clothes michael crummey From Under the Keel, published by House of Anansi in 2013. Michael Crummey is the author of four books of poetry and a book of short stories, and a winner of the Bronwen Wallace Memorial Award and the Milton Acorn People’s Poetry Award, among other honours. He lives in St. John’s. near Corner Brook, Newfoundland ca. 1940 This is where he told me to stand under the washing on the line He’d come up the hill lugging his camera and set it down in the garden, staring out over the harbour with both hands to the small of his back like he’d just bought the place from God Didn’t see me there till I said hello, him jumping and rubbing his palms together then, like someone up to no good, told me to stand over there, never even asked after my name
What do you want me to do I asked him Look out at the water he said I said What’s to look at out there? You just look he said My mother said he was a queer stick to take a picture and not even ask me to smile for it She was hiding in the kitchen all this time and never came out first or last Wouldn’t be caught dead talking to some man who’d seen her small clothes faffering in the breeze
I stood over there like he said my dress billowing out with the washing and I never felt so foolish
simon. Geist: exhilarating, intoxicating, satiating, titillating! –fern g. z. carr. Gobbling every issue; scrumptious text. –d. mahoney. Granting even inanities serious thought… –andy muirhead. Geist enters into spooky territory. –h. ellen. Great. Every interesting sentence, taken. –rohan atkinson. Geist editors impart
32 Geist 90 Fall 2013
What, Me Publish?
The Dodgem Derby jill mandrake From The Dodgem Derby, published by New Orphic Publishers in 2012. Jill Mandrake writes strange but true stories, and also leads Sister DJ’s Radio Band, featuring rhythm and blues covers, postvaudeville original tunes and occasional comedy bits. Drop in: music.cbc.ca/#/ artists/Sister-DJs-Radio-Band.
Collage art found taped to the Geist office door. Alfred E. Neuman, misspelled NEWMAN, has appeared on the cover of Mad magazine since 1955. His head is mounted over a photo of Marcus Dohle, CEO of Random House Penguin, which appeared in the Globe and Mail, July 22 edition, alongside a story investigating whether Dohle could save publishing, a feat achieved by Neuman sixty years before.
arlier that year, I cheated on a Social Studies test, just before mid-term report cards. I knew it was wrong, and I did it anyway. I wrote up some notes on a cheat sheet, but by the time I’d finished writing them, I’d pretty well memorized all those notes anyway, so who needed a cheat sheet? But I had it partially hidden on my lap, anyway, during the Social Studies exam. Mr. Caldecott was patrolling the aisles. He didn’t see it until I shifted in my seat, and then the paper on my lap floated down to the green linoleum floor. He bounded over, picked it up and took it to his desk. I saw him writing something on it. When the lunch hour bell rang, he said, “Georgia, I’d like to see you for a moment, if you please.” He handed me my cheat sheet, with this note on the bottom: “Mr. Meyers, please ask Georgia if she can explain this to you.” Mr. Meyers was our principal, and I’d never had to go to his office before. I can’t say I felt scared, only numb. And my knees were weak as I was walking towards the office door. “Why were you cheating?” is what Mr. Meyers asked, his hands folded on top of his huge desk. “I’m not sure,” I said, in a voice that sounded almost confident. “If I told your parents, how do you think they would feel?”
superb tips. –clare coughlan. Geist essayists inspire sublime thoughts. –patty holmes. Geist expects inspiring submissions—tough-titty! –barbara lambert. Gallivanting enthusiastically into sovereign territory. Geist’s editors insist: succinct; transformative. –michael hayward. Go! Enough interpretation; sense things!
“Bad,” I said; but me, I’d feel worse. Dad wasn’t home; he was up north, looking for work. Mum had a job as a cocktail waitress at the Flaming Zero Hotel. It wasn’t really called the Flaming Zero; the neon sign outside its entrance said “Flamingo”, but the “O” was far away from the rest of the letters. I didn’t want to think how Mum would react when she got home, tired from work, reading a note from Mr. Meyers about her daughter and the ill-gotten answers to these questions: Who were the Vikings? Who were the explorers of the Northwest Passage? Who was the first to sail around the world? Canada is a trading nation: Who are her major trading partners? Who played an important role in the formation of what is now Canada? “Yes, I’m sure your parents would feel badly,” said Mr. Meyers. “I’m not going to tell them, because I have faith in you, Georgia, that this is a onetime-only offence. Do you understand me?” “I think so,” I said. All I understood, for certain, was that I was getting off lightly. “If it happens again, there are going to be serious consequences.” “Thank you, sir.” My face was burning. Rees asked me about it after school. “I saw you coming out of Meyers’ office and your face was all red. I’ve got two words for you: Ha ha.” Then he had the boldness to add, “You were crying, weren’t you? What did he say to you?” I didn’t tell him. But he, and any other kids who saw me, forgot all about this incident soon enough. There was always a new humiliation to focus on, somewhere, with somebody or another.
The Jacked-Up History of Newfoundland marjorie doyle From A Doyle Reader, published by Boulder Publications in 2013. Marjorie Doyle is an award-winning journalist, editor and teacher, longtime host of That Time of the Night on CBC Radio One. She lives in St. John’s. Visit her at marjoriedoyle.ca, and read more of her work at geist.com. “The Jacked-Up History of Newfoundland” was part of The Jack Cycle, presented at the Ship Pub in St. John’s, March 2011. Storytellers and writers were brought together by Chris Brookes to help forge a Newfoundland epic based on the Jack character, the hero of many Newfoundland folk tales.
met Jack. Yes I did. Met him on the way to the festival. And I said to him, Jack: They’re going to change the name of the place. And Jack said, change the name of the place? They can’t do that, Marj. You can’t erase a name after 500 years. People would throng the streets, demand a referendum, clamour for a vote. You can’t just announce some morning that the name of a place has been changed. And we got up one morning and it was announced: The name of the place has been changed. And that was that. And where was Jack? Jack was under the bushes, behind the tree, sleeping it off, gone missing. Jack was in Fort McMurray earning a living, he was at sea, at the hunt. He was in a remote university studying someone else’s problems. And now here I am bi-geographed. I live in two places at one time. My DNA has been divided and where once there was one of me now there is two: I am a Newfoundlander, and Labradorian. And where was Jack when they dissected me? Same place he was when drungs and lanes and lines became loops and trails. Jack was invisible. Jack was mute. But Jack’s like the cat. He comes back. March 31, 1999: Down at the Stadium, you know, where Mister Galen
has his groc and conf, the government got up a party, a soiree I believe they called it. It was a salute, the official salute to 50 years in Confederation. Same night, in a house in the woods on the side of a pond just outside the city a party of patriots gathered for an alternative event. One guest sent regrets. Where could he be? Early morning strollers on the waterfront were the first to spy it: Next morning, April 1, strung across the face of the hills above the Battery looking out over the town for all to see in life-sized letters an S, M, A… SMALLYWOOD. Where was Jack? Resting comfortably. His work was done, he’d left his mark. Now it came to Jack one day wandering the downtown that the most visible point of intersection today between Newfoundlanders and their history is the mermaids—those garish tarts preening around town—feigning a link between us and our past. It was Richard Whitbourne, after all, who saw them cavorting in the harbour and recorded the “fact.” And that it is mermaids keeping our history alive makes Jack uneasy. That’s why he invented The Jack Test, a re-creation of the Grade 5 exam youngsters would have had in the 1960s—that one year we studied Newfoundland history—only now we’re all grown up. And the test is issued by government. (Jack’s got an uncle, an
–antonescu variant. God! Every issue stands tight! –danny christy. Getting everyone in secret thrall. –brandon beasley. Geisters eat intellectual sandwiches (tehehe). –kristin cheung. Gifting each issue sends thoughtfulness, gets everybody into such thrills. –gregory betts. Geist excites! I so think! –pam bustin. Give
34 Geist 90 Fall 2013
Harlem Nocturne teeanna munro From The Great Black North, published by Frontenac House in 2013. Teeanna Munro is a spoken word poet, storyteller, educator and learner. She lives in Montreal. Oh Man! I can still remember the very Night when I first heard the Harlem Nocturnes I can still hear the music
sweet to the ear singing I got it bad and that ain’t no good and you know she don’t lie because in that moment I had it bad but it sure felt good
It was a Friday March 1963 I can remember the month because I just moved in from Oklahoma and the forecast was COLD colder than a lonely woman in heat
forgetting my hunger pains I went to where I could get some real satisfaction 343 East Hastings Street The Harlem Nocturne
and man was I hungry so I headed to a slick chicken joint on the corner of union and main and from three blocks away I swear three blocks away my frozen ears were thawed by Vancouver’s own Thelma Gibson
MHA, and somehow or other Uncle Jack is in Young Jack’s thrall.) Forty-nine questions appear on the test—49—and you have a lifetime to do them. Questions are available when you approach government for services or licences. You can opt to do the whole exam in one go, say when you’re young applying for a driver’s permit. Or you can spread it over your lifetime—amortize it—over all the moose licences and blood tests.
and that scene was Thick! for three dollars you were guaranteed a good time no liquor but everyone was still lookin’ good ’n actin’ bad just sassy and struttin’ that joint was jumpin’ soft lights smoke filled air heavy with fried chicken you don’t even need to eat for that smell was so thick it made you full
You go for an X-ray, you can answer one question. And when you get your marriage licence—every time—you can answer two or three more. To prevent cheating or “helping out” there have to be many questions—thousands of millions and millions of thousands—and to keep crib sheets from circulating there has to be a giant computer that will spew them out randomly, and who’s in charge of the computer
footprints painted all over the ceilings I remember thinking this place must be hot because these dancers ain’t got no boundaries The Band Ernie King Mike Taylor Chuck Logan that place was alive floor dancers dressed to the nine after all my years at Harlem all I can say to you is there was laughter man there was always laughter just thick and light So in the words of the Great Ernie King “Ladies and Gentlemen, that’s all y’all”
is—well it’s a giant computer so who’s in charge but Jack. Where is Jack? Jack is in The Rooms. And here’s why. The Rooms looks like a fishing premises the way the Taj Mahal looks like a dory. Sure if they hadn’t named it The Rooms, people would be calling it The Glooms. And because the name stuck on, it bears no connection with the real thing; it’s the perfect symbol
excited imaginations strange trips! Grand editorial ideals stay true! –jeremy stewart. Great eclectic incisive sentences tempt. –ruth walker. Gathering exposition in signature threads. –mona struthers. Geist extolled immediately scintillating topics. –dave reid. Gives every indication someone’s thinking. –dan post
for the gap between what is true and what is said to be true. An emblem for the fallacies and exaggerations of the record of this place. That’s how it came to be that The Rooms is the repository of Newfoundland history. The Rooms is Jack’s box. It’s a magic box. You can’t see the contents, but it’s all in there: the Newfoundland railway, the ballot box from Sally’s Cove, all the ballads and poems ever written—“The Bastard” is up there. The Churchill Falls contract—that’s in a little cubbyhole, tucked away, you’ve got to have special keys to get in and Term 29 is there. The Amulree report and the Treaty of Paris and John Guy stowed away with that hapless crowd huddled around him trying to make a go of it. (The first reality Survivor show.) Papering the walls of one room are portraits of famous Newfoundland politicians—that’s the Mugs Gallery. On the top floor is a
36 Geist 90 Fall 2013
lovely mural of Sir Robert Bond holding in front of him, as if an offering, a little pouch of coins. And all around the building is the Jack Statuary, or the Jackuary: all the Jacks in Newfoundland nicely sculpted in marble: Jack the Sailor, Jack Hinks, Jack Pickersgill, Jack Harris, Jack Hunt, Jack Wells, Jacks Fontaine, Jack the pro, Jack the anti, and a horizontal bronze plaque with the inscription “Up the line with Jackman and Green.” In the airy foyer, sitting on a huge book and writing in it with coloured pencils—pink, white, and green—and big thick markers (red and black) are all the historiographers, the scribes, the scholars. It looks like a rug or tapestry but it’s a giant book. And at the end of the day, the year, the century, when they are finished, they will wrap themselves up in it, and a room will be set aside for it and it will be called the
Jacked-Up History of Newfoundland. Hiding behind the Jackuary-Statuary—watching every stroke, every word, every letter, swirl and curlicue of their quills, observing all that research and thinking and writing are scientists, political scientists, members of Memorial University’s Political Educators Scientists and Tautologists Society. (You may know them by their acronym: MUNPESTS.) And hovering over MUNPESTS at the very top is Jack. Jack at his best, Jack the vigilant. Because one day Jack found the wires, the mini microchips, and headsets. And he cottoned on: While the scholars toiled in obscurity on the manuscript, the MUNPESTS had a direct line to the media. And they were broadcasting, not what they were reading, not facts or knowledge, but interpretation of it—objective disinterested interpretation of it because, well, they are scientists.
Give the Gift of Geist this Holiday Season
Dear Reader, ng the corner! Geist is the perfect year-lo The winter holidays are just around e r life. And it’s a bargain―you can giv gift for the readers and writers in you $14 each. them the gift of Geist for as little as on the back of this page and send it All you have to do is fill out the form your list an elegant gift card letting back to us. We’ll send each person on them. them know of your year-long gift to st r friends can enjoy the sumptuous Gei Go ahead and order today so that you ix, reviews, maps, puzzles and littlemix of fact, fiction, photography, com known facts of interest. Thanks and warm wishes,
Mary Schendlinger Senior Editor P.S. You can also take advantage of this
-7834 offer at geist.com/gift, or call 1-888-434
Geist Winter Offer
YOUR INFO... I HAVE ENCLOSED $_____ for _____ subscriptions. Cheque enclosed OR please charge my
Credit Card # Expiry Signature GIFT FROM Address City Province
PLEASE START my own subscription
RENEW my own subscription Send gift cards to me by mail Sign cards…
From and mail directly to recipient(s)
GIFT TO: Address
give your reading friends the Gift of Geist Geist Winter Offer ONE SUBSCRIPTION
THREE OR MORE SUBSCRIPTIONS
Your own or a gift
FILL OUT THIS FORM
Email Telephone NEW GIFT
this form to: Mail GEIST #210, 111 West Hastings St.
Address City Prov
GIFT TO: Address City Prov
Vancouver BC V6B 1H4
Email Telephone NEW GIFT
4 easy ways to give Geist
geist.com 1-888-434-7834 firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: gift rates apply to one-year subscriptions only. Postage and tax included.
Email Telephone NEW GIFT
GIFT TO: Address City Prov
Email Telephone NEW GIFT
US & International: add $6US/sub for postage Geist does not share phone numbers and email addresses but we sometimes share snail mail lists with other like-minded organizations. Check here if you do not wish us to share your address. GI86
GEIST Fa c t + Fi c t i o n • N o r t h o f A m e r i c a
l e t t e r
p e r f e c t
Alphabet Art colouring peter daglish’s colouring book
n 1970, while teaching at the University of Victoria, Peter Daglish, a British artist whose work is housed at the Tate Modern, the National Gallery of Canada and other collections, created a set of ten lithographed panels, 21x31", printed on fine art paper and titled My ABC Colouring Book. Each panel illuminates two or three letters of the alphabet—A, B, C on one, D, E, F on another and so on—and each letter is given a simple sentence in the tradition of a child’s colouring book: “A is for Ailie,” “F is for fun+frolic,” “S is 4 ship.” The letters are further “illuminated” by images, words and patterns that make up a kind of “non-alphabetical vocabulary” drawn from lexicons of language, Alphabet Art 39
food, transportation, clothing, animals, art and literature: Ubu, Balthus, Ionesco, a reclining Odalisque as favoured by Ingres, the neo-classical painter of the nineteenth century. Recurring motifs include sailboats, bare-breasted women, zebras, palm trees and parrots, expressed with a minimal deployment of geometric shapes. Some of the images—cow, whoopee wagon, palm tree, for example— also appeared in three dimensions in Daglish’s installation art of the 1960s and ’70s. The resulting My ABC Colouring Book is at once a personal document and a beautiful, layered rendering of alphabet life. Daglish limited the edition of his colouring book to ten copies. Copy number 3, displayed here, was purchased by Herb Donaldson, a highway engineer and art collector living in West Vancouver, at the suggestion of his daughter Sue, who was an art history student and a friend of Daglish. Donaldson then commissioned a number of younger west coast artists to colour individual pages of the colouring book in any way that suited them. Several of these contributing artists were central to the founding of the Western Front, which is still in operation today as Canada’s oldest artist-run space. According to the Donaldson inventory, each artist participating in the project received a fee of seventy-five dollars for colouring a single page. (In the early ’70s, seventy-five dollars could buy 180 bottles of beer or 150 packs of smokes; a veal cutlet dinner with mashed potatoes, peas, Jell-O dessert and bottomless coffee could be had for $1.80, and a full breakfast of bacon and eggs cost a dollar.) Some of the participating artists barely recall the project today (after forty-three years), but they do remember Peter Daglish, whose work they know well. Some recall that it took a day or so to do the colouring once they had settled on a colouring motif. Sue Donaldson recalls that her father made several trips over the next few years from his West Vancouver home to the low-rent areas of Kitsilano and Point Grey in Vancouver (where most of the artists lived) to collect the finished pages, or to check on their progress. Herb Donaldson purchased his copy of the colouring book from Peter Daglish in 1970; all of the pages were coloured by 1975 and the project was complete. The Donaldson copy is an important piece of art history that brings together the work of Peter Daglish, an established, older artist with a major reputation in printmaking, and the work of the participating artists, who were then at the forefront of performance art, visual art, installation art and mail art and went on to major careers in experimental art practice. (They are identified in brief biographies on the following pages.) Alphabet art was a big thing in the early ’70s. The artists Michael Morris (JKL) and Vincent Trasov (VWX) coordinated a project that produced the peanut alphabet, leopard
40 Geist 90 Fall 2013
print alphabet, sponge dance alphabet, a photo alphabet and other alphabets, by Trasov, Glenn Lewis (DEF), Eric Metcalfe (PQR), Gary Lee-Nova (ABC), Paul Oberst, Michael Henry, Gerry Gilbert and other well-known artists. Many of these were printed by Randy Gledhill, who had studied in Winnipeg at the Grand Western Canadian Screen Shop, and who set up a silkscreening studio in Vancouver at the New Era Social Club. Visual poetry had already taken strong hold on the West Coast in the early 1960s with bill bissett, an avant-garde poet producing concrete poetry on a typewriter, and Judith Copithorne, who produced handwritten and hand-drawn poems with shapes, letters and words (as can be seen in her 1964 poem “Eye Alphabet”). In 1966 the American pop artist Robert Indiana issued his silkscreen edition of LOVE, perhaps the most recognizable example of alphabet art today (it was reproduced on the American 8-cent stamp in 1973). In 1969, Concrete Poetry, a major exhibition at UBC Fine Arts Gallery, featured text art and concrete poetry from Canadian and international artists and poets, including Michael Morris, Ray Johnson (a central figure in mail art), Ian Wallace (now associated with photoconceptualism), bill bissett and the Toronto poet Stephen Scobie. Peter Daglish, age eighty-two, lives in London, UK, and continues to produce and exhibit new work. Of the twelve artists who coloured the pages of the Donaldson copy of his colouring book, three were lost to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s; others have gone on to careers in art, and at least one has made public health her life work. Peter Daglish recalls that he kept one set of the edition for himself and gave away a few copies to friends and fellow artists. One copy of the colouring book was covered in hot pink and aqua green sequins and feathers by Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov and is housed in their archive in Vancouver. Trasov recalls seeing a version of the colouring book at the Burnaby Art Gallery some years ago, but the gallery has no record of the showing. The Donaldson copy of My ABC Colouring Book, designed and printed by Peter Daglish and coloured by several contributing artists, represents an important intersection of artists, styles of art and artistic practices. It will be displayed at the Memory Festival at the Roundhouse Community Centre in Vancouver, November 4−10, 2013, with some of the contributing artists in attendance. —Michał Kozłowski Michał Kozłowski is Assistant Publisher at Geist. He is the author of the children’s book Louis the Tiger Who Came from the Sea (Annick Press) and several fiction and non-fiction stories in Geist. Read his work at geist.com. Special thanks to City of Vancouver Cultural Services for their support of this project.
ABC: coloured by Gary LeeNova, who was involved in the Colour Bar Research project and in Image Bank, an organization central to the development of the mail art movement. He participated in the New York Corres Sponge Dance School of Vancouver as Artimus Rat and Art Rat, and he is well known for his work in painting, etching, collage and film.
DEF: coloured by Flakey, real
name Glenn Lewis, a founding member of the Western Front. Lewisâ€™s phallic work Artifact, commissioned for the Canadian pavilion at Expo â€™70 in Osaka, Japan, was prohibited from being displayed, for being too erotic, and was locked away for several years. Lewis is known for his work in ceramics, painting, drawing, film, photography, sculpture and synchronized swimming events, and for forming the Corres Sponge Dance School. His work is featured in Geist 88. Alphabet Art 41
GHI: coloured by Warren Knech-
tel, a Vancouver painter and photographer who operated Chicken Bank, associated with Image Bank. He also worked as a book distributor, representing Pulp Press, Theytus Press and Beatty & Church. He died in 2005.
JKL: coloured by Michael Mor-
ris, sometimes known as “Marcel Dot,” a founding member of the Western Front. In 1969, Morris and Vincent Trasov formed the influential Image Bank, which was also the name of Trasov and Morris’s house, a giant ramshackle place that housed many artists and served as a hub for artists in Vancouver. Morris is known for his painting, photography, video and performance art. 42 Geist 90 Fall 2013
MNO: coloured by “Uncle and Aunt Cat,” real names Gordon Allen and Anne Geach, residents of Image Bank. Geach studied chemistry and worked in a lab at a children’s hospital, then returned to art after twenty years, painting and working with collage, influenced by the work of Robert Rauschenberg. Gordon Allen worked at the Western Front as a handyman. He was known as “Chief” among the Western Front artists, for his interest in First Nations art, craft and culture.
PQR: coloured by Eric Metcalfe, a founding member of the Western Front. Metcalfe was mentored by Maxwell Bates, and taught by Dana Winslow Atchley III and Peter Daglish at the University of Victoria. He is known for his painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, installation art, printmaking, performance, and video and film. In the early 1970s, Metcalfe and his wife Kate Craig created the personas of Dr. and Lady Brute. Their work is featured in Geist 89. Alphabet Art 43
STU: coloured by “Ace,” real name Dana Winslow Atchley III, an artist, musician, storyteller and, according to one obituary, the father of digital storytelling. He was Assistant Professor in Visual Arts at the University of Victoria at the same time as Peter Daglish worked there. He died in 2000.
VWX: coloured by “Mr. Pea-
nut,” real name Vincent Trasov, a founding member of the Western Front. He and Michael Morris formed Image Bank. With Gary Lee-Nova they undertook the Colour Bar Research project at the Babyland “retreat,” a plot of land on the Sunshine Coast of BC, which became a gathering place for experimental artists. Trasov has worked in painting, video and performance art. As Mr. Peanut, he ran for mayor of Vancouver in 1974.
44 Geist 90 Fall 2013
YZ: coloured by General Idea,
the Toronto trio of Michael Tims (“AA Bronson”), Ron Gabe (“Felix Partz”) and Slobodan Saia-Levy (“Jorge Zontal”), collaborators for more than twenty-five years. General Idea worked to turn pop
culture and the mainstream back on itself through beauty pageants, press conferences, performance rehearsals and their involvement in the mail art movement. They participated in 123 solo exhibitions and 149 group exhibitions
around the world. In the late 1980s they turned their art exclusively toward the AIDS epidemic; Ron Gabe and Slobodan SaiaLevy died of the disease.
Alphabet Art 45
h e a r t
t h e
e m p i r e
Postcolonial Bodies david l. chapman A man who could dominate his own body was naturally superior to residents of lands “remote and uncivilized”
From “Discovering the Beauty of the Other,” in Universal Hunks: A Pictorial History of Muscular Men around the World, 1895–1975, by David L. Chapman, to be published by Arsenal Pulp Press in fall 2013.
ale beauty in the West is physiquecentred. Wide shoulders that vee down to a slender waist, peach-sized biceps, narrow hips, and flaring, muscular legs: these are the marks of a well-built western body. We will trace the
origins of this muscular look from its beginnings in the nineteenth century to just past the mid-twentieth century mark in more than seventy countries around the world. Modern muscle-building purely for the purpose of achieving an ideal physique was a practice born in Europe, expanded and organized in North America, brought to Asia and Africa by colonial powers, and adopted in South America and Australasia. Of course, men have been exercising and building their bodies in various ways all around the world since time Postcolonial Bodies 47
previous page (l–r): Sean Connery, c. 1953, the year he entered the Mr. Universe competition. A.J. Chandos, with “muscles” painted on at his request by Artona Studio in Vancouver, BC, c. 1910. George Finsdale Jowett (1891–1969), a blacksmith, who immigrated to Inkerman, ON, from Yorkshire when he was nineteen. He operated a gym above his smithy. 48 Geist 90 Fall 2013
immemorial, but the adoption of a toned and muscular physique as a standard of universal male beauty, the most instantly recognizable and visible marker of virility, is a relatively contemporary phenomenon. Building a muscular body became possible for almost everyone when sport and exercise became more common starting in the 1850s. It was then that new techniques and more efficient equipment were made available on a grand scale. The French, British, and Germans were the first to recognize the political and economic value of regular, systematic physical exercise. Physical education and military gymnastics were indispensable to the maintenance of a healthy citizenry: feeble factory workers at home were no more useful to European ideas of progress than were sickly soldiers abroad. When the sporting movement became widespread in mid-nineteenth-century Europe, national armies were the first to take advantage of it to improve the endurance and strength of their recruits. It did not take long for the great imperial powers to turn “physical culture,” as the various fitness regimens were collectively called, to the support and extension of their territorial expansions abroad. As the colonizers saw it, the white man’s muscular, honed body revealed both his physical and mental “superiority” over those he colonized; mastery of the self translated into control of the world. “The built body and the imperial enterprise are analogous,” Richard Dyer has written. “The built body… [has] submitted to… the planning and ambition of the mind; colonial worlds are likewise represented as inchoate terrain needing the skill, sense and
vision of the colonizer to be brought to order.” The European man who showed command over his own body would surely also be successful in dominating a “savage wilderness”—which was, of course, neither savage nor unpopulated. These two forces—which made it possible for the western European male to lord it over lands “remote and uncivilized” as well as to dominate his own body—met in the person of the Anglo-German physical culturist Eugen Sandow (1867–1925). He began his career in the late 1880s as a music-hall strongman, but after several very lucrative tours of North America and Great Britain, he became the most famous muscleman in the world. In 1902, he embarked from Southampton on the first of two worldwide tours during which he brought his brand of bodybuilding to people not just in the safe, “white” outposts of empire like Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, but to more exotic locales such as South Africa, India, Japan, and China. Sandow’s world tour cannot be overestimated for its influence in spreading the standard of Western male beauty around the world, where he disseminated it with something akin to a religious zeal. A body that is honed by exercise, activity, and sports, believed Sandow, is superior to a “natural” or “native” physique. When he arrived in Melbourne, he published a
synopsis of his philosophy and training advice in a book which he called The Gospel of Strength. It is no accident that Sandow gave his message an evangelical tone; he was searching for converts as surely and aggressively as any missionary in Matabeleland. Sandow promised the salvation of the body; the saving of souls he left to others. His potent “gospel” was that men were not fated to exist with weak and spindly bodies. By using the special information and techniques that Sandow possessed, men could attain health, strength, and beautiful proportions. It was a wonderful promise that would lead to a new and greater life. Of all the countries he visited, it was in India that Sandow was most warmly welcomed; in fact, he was a celebrity on the subcontinent even before his arrival there in 1905. Both native and English fans were ready to accept his message of muscular regeneration, and many impressionable young men later recalled Sandow’s tour as a defining moment in their own and their country’s awakening to physical culture. According to the British press, his sojourn in India had dramatically “incited the emulation of native athletes” and given the men of India a model of strength, courage, and determination. Paradoxically, in India, Sandow’s gospel of personal strength began to be interwoven with the
ideology of political strength, that is, of Indian nationalism. Many young Indian men began incorporating yoga and other homegrown disciplines into their training routines. As they grew physically stronger, they also became surer of themselves as individuals and as Indians. Sandow’s visit to India was meant as a way to spread his exercise system and to drum up business in the remoter parts of the empire, but it also indicated, as Michael Budd notes, “the publicly subversive potential of physical culture as well as its inherent malleability.” Sandow’s message also included encouraging a greater acceptance, among Europeans themselves, of male nudity, either full or partial. When the strongman performed, he usually did so with a bare upper torso. His popular photographs all show him in leopard-skin trunks, sporting an artificial fig leaf, or (if a back view) totally naked. After Sandow popularized the image of the scantily clothed strongman (for how else could viewers see his rippling muscles?), it became standard among proponents of physical culture to pose this way. And yet, Victorian colonizers were often galled by the near-nudity of the men and women they encountered in foreign lands. Henry Morton Stanley returned to England, after tramping across the Dark Continent in search of Dr. Livingstone, all aflame with schemes to reform the state of African natives. Addressing the Manchester Chamber of Commerce in 1884, he told his audience that it was their bounden duty to convert the “misguided, naked savages to Christianity and cloth”—presumably he meant the excellent cotton cloth that was then being produced in the “dark Satanic
images (l–r): Senegalese Colonial Infantry (Tirailleurs Sénéglais), c. 1913. Poster for L’Exposition coloniale internationale, 1931, by Jean Victor Desmeures. Portrait of Habib Benglia by Albert Rudomine, 1927. Label for Sandow Cigars, 1894. Postcolonial Bodies 49
images (l–r): Joseph E. Weider, on the cover of his magazine Your Physique, 1946. Issue of Your Physique featuring an image of a bodybuilder by the artist George Quaintance, 1947. Steve Samson, “Strong Man of the Circus,” 1953. He fought dastardly villains, evil gangsters and those who would annoy the Queen. 50 Geist 90 Fall 2013
mills” belonging to his Manchester hosts. But long before Livingstone and Stanley sought to clothe the natives of Africa, early European explorers (and conquerors) returned from their journeys to the Caribbean, Canada, or the Congo with stories and illustrations of beautiful people who did little but fish, hunt, dance, and make love. John Webber (1751–93) was the talented artist who accompanied Captain James Cook on his third trip to the Pacific in 1776, and his wonderful depictions of Polynesian natives must have convinced many that the terrestrial paradise was real and located in the South Pacific. The people he drew were all attractive and fit, and many of them have a curiously European appearance (suggesting that Webber “improved” the models for his predominantly English audience). Webber and other illustrators and, later, photographers believed that the subjects of their work were living examples of the “noble savage,” of men (and women) living in a prelapsarian state of nature unsullied by modern, industrial, urban corruption. True, these wild men had a few bad habits, like throwing the odd virgin into a volcano or eating one’s enemies, but Europeans could be just as rude and barbaric when they burned at the stake those who had, for example, differing opinions in spiritual matters. The photographs and illustrations brought back by Europeans abroad emphasized the natives’ primitive behaviours, their wildness, or their brutality. When it was inconvenient to travel long distances to see the tropics or the Orient, there was another way for western Europeans to
find out more about their exotic and intriguing colonial subjects. This was through the various world’s fairs that proliferated in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Starting in 1851, these grand expositions showcased goods and technologies from all over the world. The “living exhibitions” or “ethnographic galleries” at these fairs were often little more than human zoos, but at least they gave North Americans and Europeans an admittedly narrow and distorted glimpse of the rest of the world and opened many eyes to the strangeness and beauty of foreign lands and unknown peoples. These “anthropo-zoological” exhibitions of exotic natives were popular from London to Moscow and from New York to Seattle. Men, women, and children were often mixed together in “typical scenes of life in their native lands.” They were exhibited behind bars or in special enclosures where they performed dances, cooked meals, and generally went about their daily business for the edification of the admission-paying spectators; they were displayed like weird and outlandish animals or like living trophies from the wars against the darker races of the world. As Dutch scholar Jan Nederveen Pieterse has explained: “Exoticism is a luxury of the victors, and one of victory’s psychological comforts. The Other is not merely to be exploited but also to be enjoyed, enjoyment being a finer form of exploitation.” We might think of these human zoos as the reality television shows of their day; viewers could look at the savages and laugh at their foolish appearance, recoil from their filthy practices, and generally feel better about themselves.
i d e a s
n o r t h
Arctic Graffiti dan o’brien
A Sign in the Northwest Passage, 2010. Photo by Kevin Schmidt, courtesy Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver.
the war reporter paul watson and the poet go for a walk in the arctic
Blood is scattered like what it is, or jewels around the body of a seal. Belly -up, frozen whiskers, mostly canine snout. Its abdomen is open to the wind like a broken birdcage. Steam rising up. The Inuit hunter’s untangling guts like a bunch of udon noodles. Squeezing the weedy shit onto the ice, slicing out the beet red organs neatly, flopping
52 Geist 90 Fall 2013
them into a plastic tray on the boot of his skidoo. They’re good stuff when they’re cooked, he says. Stomach, heart. My boys just love it when my wife cooks these! Paul asks for a piece of liver. Sliding it off the wide blade of the hunter’s knife, Tastes like sushi! When I ask him if he misses Iraq and places like that, he answers, My body’s been craving raw meat.
the war reporter paul watson
the war reporter paul watson
and the poet try to have fun
pays the poet a compliment
with the usual boys of summer shooting slapshots like rifles. Puck-scuffed Plexiglas rebounding off Paul’s gaze. The Somalian kid in the chopper crewman’s goggles grins at us. The top of another boy’s head’s been sliced open like an egg, his skull wiped clean inside by bullet fire. The infant’s head twists off its chest, topples from the bed to the warped wood floor. Sand is snow. Let’s go okay? This lighting’s for shit and these damn kids keep knocking my camera. How many hands you have? I have two, you have two but what happened to Paul? Oh well, he was born that way. Just like you were born Inuit and I was born with anxiety. Help him! Help him! Why won’t you help your friend? See that hole in the wall, Dan? Most people notice that and think someone’s been drilling. I see a bullet hole. How fucked is that? Fording flumes of snow indistinguishable from celestial dunes. Wondering who is that man following us? Why don’t we try to find a shaman, Paul? I’ve read the Inuit still believe that shamans can turn themselves into animals, seals and bears. Into other people too. All in the pursuit of exorcising ghosts. An Arctic hare like a newborn standing weirdly upright in the skidoo’s sweeping glare. When the light’s gone, hare’s gone also. Oh, which reminds me, Dan, I’m trying to set up a sled ride with these Inuit hunters. 500 dollars but I’ll pay it, or the Star will I mean. While flakes of snow drift down like dust off the high shelf. Wasted men in doorways let us pass. Graffiti warning, Arctic for life! Because the Internet’s calling for snow tonight, but we’ll try to have fun tomorrow if the weather’s any good.
Two strangers emerging from the Arctic ice. Into the cozy horn of smoke-plumed slums. The older one shouldering the camera asks, How do you do what you do? Some days I can barely lift the phone to my face for a story. My arms quake, voice shakes. See that lone figure gaining on us like Death out of the setting, noonday sun? across this shortcut of the frozen bay? That’s Rex the Inuit sculptor. He carves outside in the wind so granite flecks will flurry away from his lungs. I interviewed him yesterday, and now he walks right past me without saying a word! Maybe I should have bought a walrus tusk off him. Stumbling like a revenant or an alcoholic up the driven, alabaster shore. Past the grounded schooner that used to ferry his kids to school. I really don’t know how you can spend your life in a room speaking to nobody. If only I could live without paychecks, pensions, health insurance and remove myself from the world and write something about myself, for myself—that would take some real courage. But that’s something I’ll never do. Two strangers emerging from the Arctic ice. The stupid one asks, Why can’t you?
Dan O’Brien is a playwright and poet whose work has appeared in The Moth, Malahat Review, Grain and many other periodicals. He lives in Los Angeles.
Arctic Graffiti 53
n a t i o n a l
d r e a m s
Colonies and Conspiracies daniel francis When Stephen Harper declared that Canada had no history of colonialism, he was ignoring a long history of regional grievance
our years ago Prime Minister Stephen Harper caused many jaws to drop when he stated, at a press conference ending a Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh, that Canada has “no history of colonialism.” According to a Reuters report, Harper told reporters that Canada “was the one country in the room everybody would like to be,” and part of the reason for this alleged Canuck-envy was our lack of a colonial history, by which I think he meant: we owned no colonies, our hands are clean, we did no harm. Astonished critics of the Prime Minister were quick to remind him of the Canadian government’s dismal history of relations with its aboriginal population. But, as two new books about federal-provincial relations make clear, the argument goes deeper than that. From the perspective of Canada’s regions, the whole evolution of the country reveals a “history of colonialism.” In Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark: The West Versus the Rest Since Confederation (Knopf Canada), the Toronto journalist Mary Janigan revisits the long struggle by the western provinces to gain control of their own land and natural resources and the revenue they produced. With the exception of British Columbia, which negotiated its way into Confederation, the West was not invited to join Canada: it was annexed, purchased, expropriated, occupied. In 1870 the new Dominion took possession of what was then called Rupert’s Land
54 Geist 90 Fall 2013
from the Hudson’s Bay Company in return for 300,000 British pounds. Initially these North-West Territories were denied provincial status. Under the leadership of Louis Riel, the Métis forced Canada’s hand and achieved provincial status for at least a portion of what we now know as Manitoba. The rest were left as dependent territories managed by officials appointed by Ottawa. Even after Alberta and Saskatchewan were created, in 1905, and Manitoba achieved its present size, western provincial governments, unlike their eastern counterparts, did not control their own resources and the wealth that derived from them. In other words, Janigan writes, “the West was Canada’s colony.” This arrangement made sense to eastern Canadians. If the West wished to enjoy all the benefits of Confederation—railways, roads, schools, a police
force, etc.—why shouldn’t it pay for them? In their complacency, eastern politicians assumed that regional grievances would die away once the benefits of development made themselves evident. But westerners continued to chafe under the domineering hand of the Rest of Canada. Were they second-class citizens not to have the same rights as the other provinces? Janigan’s book is a detailed account of this “quarrel that spanned generations” until finally in 1930 Ottawa agreed to transfer resource rights to the prairie provinces. The argument Eastern Bastards presents is familiar enough. Westerners have long complained about eastern domination. More than half a century ago, the Manitoba historian W.L. Morton presented “the subordination of the West” as one of the main themes of Canadian history. “Confederation was brought about to increase the wealth of Central Canada,” Professor Morton wrote, “and until that original purpose is altered, and the concentration of wealth and population by national policy in Central Canada ceases, Confederation must remain an instrument of injustice.” But what Janigan characterizes as the “forgotten story of Canada” is worth remembering at a time when western Canadians are again fighting to preserve their resource revenues from what they see as a predatory central government. In his book Don’t Tell the Newfoundlanders: The True Story of Newfoundland’s
Confederation with Canada (Knopf Canada), Greg Malone makes a similar case that his province was “colonized” more than confederated. The conventional narrative, what Malone, a wellknown actor turned historian, calls the “Joey Smallwood” version of history, holds that in 1949 Newfoundlanders freely chose federation with Canada. But Malone insists this version of events is a myth, that Newfoundland’s entry into Confederation instead was a conspiracy orchestrated by Ottawa and Britain and foisted on the people of the province. A bit of background. In 1934, Newfoundland, then a self-governing Dominion, like Canada, fell victim to the economic distresses of the Depression. With the island near bankruptcy, Great Britain replaced the local legislature with a Commission of Government consisting of appointed officials named in London. After the war, with a revived economy, it was time to replace the unelected government with representative institutions, as Britain had promised it would do. Instead three options were presented: the status quo of commission government, a return to independent Dominion status or confederation with Canada. The debate was long and loud, referenda were held and the people chose, by a narrow margin, to join Canada. But for Malone, the fix was in. In his view, self-government should have been returned to Newfoundland, as promised, before any other decisions were taken. This would have allowed Newfoundland an independent voice in its own future. Instead, Britain and Canada followed “the path of concealment and deception” to get what they wanted. Canada had lent Britain billions of dollars to fight the war and secretly agreed to forgive the debt and to lend even more in return for Britain delivering Newfoundland into Confederation. For its part, Britain warned a Newfoundland delegation that if it returned to self National Dreams 55
rule it could expect no financial help from the Mother Country. The vote, Malone argues, was, if not rigged, at least manipulated and unconstitutional. And after the vote Newfoundlanders had no government of their own to negotiate the terms of their entrance into Confederation. In his view, “Newfoundland was occupied by Canada in 1949 by means of a constitutional coup arranged with Great Britain.” Which is not to say that in the end the new province might not have joined Canada anyway, only that at the time Newfoundland was coerced. “The gains of this conspiracy were all for Canada and Britain; the loss was all for Newfoundland.” Again, this is not a new argument, but it is one that Malone advances with a great deal of evidence and authority. Both Eastern Bastards and Don’t Tell the Newfoundlanders bring new perspectives to long-standing regional
grievances. They also provide counternarratives to the conventional view of Canadian political development. Instead of the gradual extension of equal rights and status to the provinces, Janigan and Malone present a narrative of seizure and expropriation. Confederation becomes the story of a colonizing metropolis reaching out to control the resources of its hinterland: in Morton’s phrase, “an instrument of injustice.” If you are one of those who think, along with Prime Minister Harper, that Canada has no history of colonialism, you might want to read these books and reconsider your opinion. Daniel Francis is a writer and historian who lives in North Vancouver. He is the author of two dozen books, among them Seeing Reds: The Red Scare of 1918–1919, Canada’s First War on Terror (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2010). Read more of his work at geist.com and at danielfrancis.ca.
c i t y
w o r d s
Face in the Mirror alberto manguel What does it mean that I would not be able to identify myself in a group picture, or pick myself out from a police lineup?
The author, age fifteen, Patagonia
I’m looking for the face I had Before the world was made. —W.B. Yeats, “A Woman Young and Old”
have in front of me a photo taken sometime in the early 1960s. It shows an adolescent boy lying on his belly on the grass, looking up from a pad of paper on which he has been drawing or writing. In his right hand is a pencil or a pen. He’s wearing a sort of cap and boots and, tied around his waist, a sweater. He’s lying in the shade of a brick wall and of what seem like stumpy apple trees. A short-legged dog is standing behind him, reminiscent of the dogs that lie on stone tombs at the feet of dead crusaders. The picture was taken somewhere in Patagonia, during 56 Geist 90 Fall 2013
a camping holiday. I am that boy, but I don’t recognize myself. I know it is me, but that is not my face. The photo was taken half a century ago. When I look in the mirror today, I see a tired, puffed-up face circled by greyish hair and a Father Christmas beard. The small eyes, lined with wrinkles and framed by narrow glasses, are of a greenish brown colour with a few orange flecks. Once, as I tried to cross into England with a passport that stated that the colour of my eyes was green, the immigration officer, staring me in the face, told me I should change that to blue, or next time I would not be allowed in. I know that sometimes my eyes look grey. Maybe their colour changes from moment to moment, like those of Madame Bovary, but I’m not sure
if that change of colour, as in her case, has a meaning. Nevertheless, the face in the mirror is me, it has to be me. But it is not my face. Dante, in his arduous ascent of Mt. Purgatory, reaches the Cornice of the Gluttonous shortly before the flaming wall at the top, where those who in life indulged in all the things I like, must now starve themselves to anorexic emaciation. There he is greeted by a throng of pale and silent spirits, the skin stretched over their bones, their eyes dark and hollow like gemless rings. “Who reads OMO in the face of man,” says Dante, “would clearly have recognized there the M.” Pietro Alighieri, Dante’s son, noted that the image was well known in his time: the human eyes form the O’s, the eyebrows and nose an M. This
accords with the tradition of Genesis by which all creatures carry their name inscribed in their appearance, which allowed Adam to identify them correctly when God told him to give them names immediately after their creation. Alberto comes from bear in Old German. Is my name inscribed somewhere in my features? And if so, why don’t I see it? Others recognize me; I don’t. When, inadvertently, I catch sight of myself in a glass, I wonder who that fat elderly man is, walking by my side. I have a vague fear that, if I truly saw myself one day on the street, I wouldn’t know myself. I’m convinced I would not be able to pick myself out from a police lineup, nor would I easily identify myself in a group picture. I’m not sure if this is because my features age too rapidly and too drastically, or because my own self is less grounded in my memory than are the printed words I’ve read. The poet James Reeves wrote: The shadow of a fat man in the moonlight Precedes me on the road down which I go; And should I turn and run, he would pursue me: This is the man whom I must get to know. This thought is not alarming but somehow comforting. To be oneself, to be so utterly and absolutely oneself that no particular circumstance or faulty vision can impeach the recognition, grants me a happy sense of freedom from the obligation of following the conditions of being who I am. Alice, my sister soul, lost in the underworld of Wonderland, asks
herself who she really is and refuses to be who she doesn’t want to be. “It’ll be no use their putting their heads down and saying, ‘Come up again, dear!’ I shall only look up and say, ‘Who am I, then? Tell me that first, and then, if I like being that person, I’ll come up: if not, I’ll stay down here till I’m somebody else’.” Somebody else, certainly, but who? The human body, we are told, renews itself entirely every seven years. Each of our organs, each of our bones, each of our cells is not the same today as it was then, and yet we say, with blind confidence, that we are who we were. The question is, what do we mean by “being” ourselves? What are the identifying signs? Something that is not the shape of my body, neither my voice nor my touch, not my features, not my mouth, my nose, my eyes—something is there that is me. It lies, like a timorous little animal, invisible behind a jungle of physical trappings. I should not be surprised to find that none of the disguises and masks that I wear fail to represent myself to myself, except in uncertain hints and tiny forebodings: a rustle in the leaves, a scent, a sigh or a muffled growl. I know it exists, my reticent self. In the meantime, I wait. Maybe its presence will be confirmed only on my last day, when it will suddenly emerge from the undergrowth and show itself full-faced, only to be no more. Alberto Manguel is the award-winning author of hundreds of works, including The Traveler, The Tower and The Worm: The Reader as Metaphor, A History of Reading and All Men Are Liars. He lives in France. Read more of his Geist work at geist.com.
Read Manguel online In Praise of the Enemy; Van Gogh’s Final Vision; Art and Blasphemy; Dante in Guantánamo; Hospital Reading; Detective Samuel de Champlain; and more.
Read Geist at
City of Words 57
Visit geist.com or call 1-888-434-7834
GEISTONNEUVE GEIST + MAISONNEUVE
TWO GREAT MAGAZINES FOR ONE LOW PRICE
ENDNOTES the canadian new age Theosophy is pretty much forgotten nowadays, but in the early decades of the twentieth century it occupied the same position as, say, Scientology does in our own time: a slightly loopy pseudo-religion with a following of celebrity A-listers, mainly in the arts. Founded in New York in 1875, the Theosophical Society was an amalgam of western spiritualism and eastern mysticism. Internationally the movement was associated with the Russian expatriate Helena Blavatsky, promulgator of “The Secret Doctrine” of ancient wisdom, and her successor Annie Besant. Here in Canada it was centred in Toronto and led by Albert Smythe, journalist, poet and father of the sportsman Conn Smythe. So central was Smythe’s role that Gillian McCann’s book Vanguard of the New Age: the Toronto Theosophical Society, 1891−1945 (McGillQueen’s University Press) serves almost as his biography. In a movement full of cranks and charlatans, Smythe comes across as a level-headed administrator trying, not always successfully, to keep the organization that he led from falling prey to its lunatic fringe. Even in its so-called “golden age” in the 1920s, the movement never attracted more than a few hundred members in the whole of Canada, but it can be argued that Theosophy punched above its weight because of the high profile of so many of its sympathizers. A partial list includes the painters Lawren Harris and Arthur Lismer, the theatre pioneer Roy Mitchell, the writer and Group of Seven publicist Fred
Housser, the political activist Phillips Thompson, the suffragist Dr. Emily Stowe, and the arts maven Flora MacDonald Dennison. History writing has been famously characterized (by Herbert Butterfield) as either “study” or “story”: the former analyzes, the latter dramatizes. Gillian McCann is firmly in the study camp. Her book is an earnest attempt to argue for the important influence of Theosophy on mainstream intellectual and artistic movements. I cannot help feeling, however, that what Canadian Theosophy really requires is someone to tell its bizarre story, replete as it is with suspected pederasty, messianic delusions, seances and reincarnation, the emergence of a bizarre spiritualist from the US known as the Purple Mother and, closer to home, the attempt by the religious con artist Edward Arthur Wilson, better known as Brother XII, to hijack the movement. Theosophy was a mansion with many rooms; McCann’s book does not penetrate much beyond the front parlour. —DANIEL FRANCIS
personhood Most fiction is written from the point of view of the first or third person singular: I put down the Luger and stepped back from the table, for example, or She switched off the light and closed the door. Both constructions are supported by plural formations to indicate a subject accompanied by others: We could hear them; they were running down the alley. But only rarely or perhaps never do we find a narrative written entirely in the first person plural, the subject
being we and not I or she (and not the so-called editorial or royal we, as in We were not amused, which is in fact a form of the singular). A couple of years ago the American novelist Julie Otsuka published just such a work, The Buddha in the Attic (Knopf), a novel of great power. It is expressed wholly (and almost impossibly) in the voice of plural narrator speaking from and of a group of women who left Japan in the mid-1920s as picture brides, intended for marriage to men they had never seen but whose (mostly deceptive) photographs they carried with them. These women emerge singly and in clusters in sentences of great apparent simplicity; the result is a many-voiced narration that begins softly and, over a period of forty years, offers the lives of these women and the families they raise, largely invisible to History (they emerge and then are forced back into obscurity with the internments of World War II), and an epic dignity: “On the boat, we were mostly virgins. We had long black hair and flat wide feet and we were not very tall. Some of us had eaten nothing but rice gruel as young girls and had slightly bowed legs, and some of us were only fourteen years old and were still young girls ourselves. Some of us came from the city, and wore stylish city clothes, but many more of us came from the country and on the boat we wore the same old kimonos we’d been wearing for years—faded hand-me-downs from our sisters that had been patched and redyed many times.” At times the narrative becomes incantatory; for example, when invoking a life of service: “How to light a stove. How to make a bed. How to answer a door. How to shake a hand. How to operate a faucet, which many of us had never seen in our lives. How to dial a Endnotes 59
telephone. How to sound cheerful on a telephone even when you were angry or sad. How to fry an egg. How to peel a potato. How to set a table.” And at other times, after the babies are born, elegiac: “We laid them down gently, in ditches and furrows and wicker baskets beneath the trees. We left them lying naked, atop blankets, on woven straw mats at the edges of the fields. We placed them in wooden apple boxes and nursed them every time we finished hoeing a row of beans. When they were older, and more rambunctious, we sometimes tied them to chairs.” This is the best book I have read this year. —STEPHEN OSBORNE
stories of storeys The Geist staff were a bit taken aback when our request for a review copy of Building Stories by Chris Ware (Pantheon) was turned down. When I got a copy of it as a gift, though, everything came clear. On a computer screen, the thumbnail cover image looks like the front of a conventional book; but in person, Building Stories is a set of fourteen books, booklets, pamphlets, broadsheets, tabloids, a giant accordion-folding game-board-format schematic and more—all brilliantly imagined and designed by Ware, and immaculately produced, and neatly stacked in a plastic wrapper with a belly-band to keep the bits from sliding around, and tucked into a supersize board-game box with the copyright page printed on the inside of the lid. Wow! The contents of Building Stories can be read in any order, so that the connections between them come clear, or not, in the same way that memory works. Many of the elements swirl around a woman who set out to be an artist but went adrift in the sea of life and got married to an apparently nice man and moved into the building, which is also occupied by an elderly 60 Geist 90 Fall 2013
landlady and a youngish twosome who are perpetually locked in combat. Most of the adult characters in Building Stories are sad sacks—lonely, whether or not they are physically alone, with existential trouble that is occasionally relieved by a happy memory or a bit of fun. The building itself speaks a few times, functioning as a sort of Greek chorus, and seeming positively jolly compared to its inhabitants. But never mind. Angst is part of the human drama, and Building Stories is truly a masterpiece. Ware is a wicked good observer of the stuff of domestic life (unlike many male graphic novelists, it must be said): his moment-by-moment sequences of weary parents responding to the baby who wakes in the night (Ware’s drawing of the wee baby in the middle of a full-size crib is a heartbreaker); Mum watching as her little girl, dressed in a leotard, demonstrates newly learned ballet moves; Mum arriving at the girl’s school to pick her up (“Why is she just sitting by herself playing with leaves and dirt?”). And Ware’s brilliance as a writer, artist and designer is powerful evidence that the digital medium isn’t the only home of mind-bending non-linear storytelling. —EVE CORBEL
born again: a cold and snowy night in February 1910, etc. This time, though, the doctor arrives in time, and Ursula survives. Until she drowns, age five, on a visit to the seaside. Hers is a life beset by all manner of hazards, many of which prove fatal; yet Ursula manages to lead a variety of divergent lives, all stemming from the same beginning. She falls victim to the 1918 flu pandemic not once, not twice, but a grand total of four times; sometimes life’s like that. In 1933 (during an “adventurous year in Europe”) she is befriended by Eva Braun, an acquaintanceship which leads (in one variant) to Ursula making an attempt on Hitler’s life. You think of Italo Calvino’s marvellous If on a winter’s night a traveler; you even think of Edward Gorey, whose Gashlycrumb Tinies records the many macabre and banal ways in which life can end. But you also think about the vagaries of fate, and how minor events can have major repercussions. And you think about the teeming possibilities that can still be found in fiction, by a writer working at her peak. Life After Life is a wonderful book: literate, confident and constantly surprising. —MICHAEL HAYWARD
my typewriter’s so old, it uses a pencil
A good friend had been recommending Kate Atkinson’s work for ages, so I decided to give her new novel a try. Life After Life (Bond Street Books) tells the life stories of Ursula Todd, born at home in England—the first of many such arrivals— on a cold and snowy night in February of 1910. Within a few pages, though, she has succumbed—the first of many such untimely conclusions—with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck and the doctor delayed by snow. But Ursula is not done yet, not by a long shot. In the next chapter she is
My first glimpse of concrete poetry was in the pages of 20th-Century Poetry & Poetics, Gary Geddes’s essential textbook for English Lit. Toward the back of the book there was a sampling of experimental poems, including three by bpNichol: one typewriter poem, one typeset poem, and one bit of visual poetry that defies description (it was called “eyes”). I’ll add here that even though a term like “typewriter poem” sounds as obsolete as “reel-to-reel recording,” the skill required to compose these works is enough to make you want to retrieve every typewriter from the landfill. a book of variations (Coach House Books) comprises three out-of-print books by bpNichol, and
includes not only concrete poetry, but also more conventional verse, handdrawings, and even some indefinable work that the editor, Stephen Voyce, calls “plotless prose.” In “commentary 2: autobiographical note,” Nichol explains how he became entranced with the letter H (having spent part of his childhood in a place called H-section, in Winnipeg); from there, he became entranced with the rest of the alphabet, and then on to other probable systems. This is a key to viewing his work. For example, “probable systems 7: base issue for the late Marilyn Monroe” becomes an incredibly touching tribute to the movie star’s ever-presence. (In this case, “base issue” means the twenty-six letters with which we have to work.) Please feel free to read this poem aloud: A+B+C+D+E+F+G+H+I+J + K + L + M + N + O + P +Q + R + S + T + U + V + W + X + Y + Z = MM —JILL MANDRAKE
memoir of a time traveller Rolf Knight is that rare bird, an independent thinker. Knight, an anthropologist by academic training and an outsider by temperament, has written several unorthodox books about BC working people. My own favourite is Along the No. 20 Line: Reminiscences of the Vancouver Waterfront (1980), a combination oral history/memoir evoking industrial Vancouver pre- and post-World War II, but probably the most important is Indians at Work: An Informal History of Native Labour in British Columbia, 1858−1930 (1978), a groundbreaking study of the role of Aboriginal people in the economy of the province. (Indians was updated and reissued by its original publisher, New Endnotes 61
Star Books, in 1996; Along the No. 20 Line got a fresh lease on life in 2011.) Now Knight has published a more formal memoir, Voyage Through the Past Century (New Star Books). His story begins during the first year of World War II, in a logging camp in Haida Gwaii, where both his parents are working. The four-year-old Knight is the only child in camp and the experience might be said to set the pattern for his later life as a participantobserver of the working class. His outsider status is confirmed by his experiences at school on Vancouver’s east side. “Reading, roting and arithmetic, laced with great dollops of tribal mythology and obedience training” is how he bitterly describes his not-veryhappy school days. As an adult Knight travels widely, for work and for education, but he always ends up back in British Columbia, toiling at odd jobs in construction camps and factories.
For me the most valuable parts of the book are these descriptions of the industrial frontier in the boom years of the 1950s and ’60s, when W.A.C. Bennett’s Social Credit government was transforming the province. Knight eventually obtains a PhD in anthropology from Columbia University and teaches at universities in Winnipeg, Burnaby and Toronto, but he becomes alienated from academe and ends up returning to his working-class roots driving taxi in Vancouver, a jaded refugee from the halls of learning. Even as a writer Knight preserves his outsider status, publishing some of his books with New Star, a well-respected small, independent Vancouver press, but also self-publishing others. He seems permanently at odds with the world, unmellowed and unrepentant. Not a bad position for a writer to occupy. —DANIEL FRANCIS
alter ego comics Since the publication of Paul in the Country in 2000, the Quebec comics artist Michel Rabagliati has completed no fewer than eight accomplished graphic novels. All of them follow the daily activities and thoughts of the author’s alter ego, Paul, at some time in his life—Paul Has a Summer Job (2003), Paul Moves Out (2005), etc.— and all were published first in French by Les Éditions de la Pastèque and then translated and published in English. The stories are a lot like accounts of real life, with joys, surprises, coincidences, secrets, loves, hopes and fears, bad decisions, revelations, rites of passage and boring bits. Rabagliati understands the shape and grammar of panels, tiers of panels, pages, sections. His artwork is both loose and sure, with lines so fluid and panel-to-panel flow so smooth that at times it seems almost glib; his use of repeated motifs is occasionally heavyhanded, and there is the odd sentimental moment. But in the latest volume of the Paul stories, The Song of Roland, translated by Helge Dascher (Conundrum Press), Rabagliati is bang-on from start to end in both writing and artwork. It is an account of the last days of Roland, Paul’s fatherin-law, and a look back at Roland’s life. As a youngster he was terrorized by a “no-good cheating bastard” drunken gambler dad, got shipped to an orphanage and a seminary, and then somehow clawed his way to the middle in business because he happened to have English as well as French, and became a husband and dad and grandfather. All of this and more materializes through the memories of Roland’s wife, children and grandchildren, whose own stories come to life in the process. Rabagliati has chosen a subject riddled with exposition and sentimentality traps, but he sidesteps them with ease. Every panel has meaning, 62 Geist 90 Fall 2013
every sequence builds on the ones before, every word belongs where it is. Rabagliati deploys splash panels, overlapping talk bubbles, cinematic cuts from image to image, border-free panels and other cartoon devices in a way that calls attention to a scene or a person or an idea, not to the device. The story is as funny and troubled and sweet and maddening as Roland himself. Although every page is beautiful, and Rabagliati makes each one a shapely “paragraph” (harder than it looks in the comics medium), the power of the book—like the power of life itself—is its aggregation of seemingly trivial moments. —EVE CORBEL
living by the book When I was in my late teens I dreamed of running a used bookstore; to someone who spent part of every weekend scanning the cracked spines of the science fiction paperbacks in Art’s Book Den, it seemed the perfect job. There was no need to search: people brought you books; you paid half what you would later sell them for; and you could read any of them for free! But that was long ago, and what some might call “common sense” prevailed. David Mason’s memoir The Pope’s Bookbinder (Biblioasis) provides a glimpse into the life I might have led. Mason has worked in Toronto as a used and antiquarian bookseller for over four decades, beginning with a position as an assistant in a “tiny shop on Yonge, just south of Dundas … working 23 hours a week at $3.00 an hour.” Somehow or other he has managed to survive ever since, in this now-threatened business of selling used books, and The Pope’s Bookbinder is filled with anecdotes from a lifetime’s work in a career that few would choose today (a phrase from the book’s press release neatly summarizes the perils: the “huge costs,
general indifference, and the disappearance of most of his colleagues”). There is a rough chronology to events, but most of the chapters are topicbased (“Reflections on Scouting”; “Private Collectors”; “Crooks and Cranks”), which allows you to browse through The Pope’s Bookbinder according to your whims. You quickly get a sense of Mason’s personality—gruff and opinionated—but his passion and his expertise are also evident, and before long you realize that here is someone who has truly found his calling: a happy man, despite the meagre financial rewards. The Pope’s Bookbinder reads like a message in a bottle: a transmission from another shore, a vanished time. —MICHAEL HAYWARD
beautiful mess Love & the Mess We’re In by Stephen Marche (Gaspereau Press) is a beautifully designed novel whose text flows in all directions, providing an unusual reading experience as typography competes with plot. The book tells the story of Clive and Viv, old friends who have an adulterous affair in Argentina. When Viv’s husband dies unexpectedly, she and Clive continue their relationship, get pregnant and move to New York to start their family. Different fonts, type sizes, images and page layouts mimic what’s happening in the narrative, providing a delightful subtext to the words. A full-colour fold-out transit map of New York City, plotting significant events in Clive and Viv’s lives, completes the experience. However, the typographic design overshadows and overextends the plot. Scenes are drawn out (seventy pages for an uncomfortable dinner; fifty pages for the sex scene) ostensibly to allow room to play with the type, but compromising the narrative. I love the book’s design, and I wish the story had been as exciting. —KELSEA O’CONNOR
the plots thicken
Shelley Boyd’s compelling new study, Garden Plots: Canadian Women Writers and Their Literary Gardens (McGill-Queen’s University Press), looks at the garden as a site of creativity, resourcefulness and gender reform, in the work of five notable women writers. Literary metaphors abound in the garden, where narrative plot doubles as garden plot, and where palimpsests are everywhere, in the layers of garden mulch and in the gendered narratives it contains. Boyd’s subjects are women working both in and ahead of their times. She explores the nuances of femininity, taste, class and culture that take shape in early written accounts by the Canadian sisters Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill, who attempt to transplant British garden ideals in their new wild frontier; and in Gabrielle Roy’s representations of the cottage bower as both a flowery refuge and a site of creative production. Boyd examines how Carol Shields reclaims the domestic sphere in her writing on women’s everyday suburban experiences in the home and garden, and the poet Lorna Crozier straddles the intersection of writing, gardening and feminist revision in her subversive poems about the sexual agency of vegetables. Garden Plots is more literary analysis than biography, but for these five authors, life and writing are profoundly intertwined. Boyd’s study is a testament to this observation, and the book is sprinkled with images of the authors’ cottage gardens, flower pressings and portraits. A poetic and insightful analysis, Garden Plots will inspire a fresh interest in reading (or rereading) the works of these influential writers. —JACQUELYN ROSS
Silver Islet, thirty kilometres east of Thunder Bay, Ontario, where I was born and raised, was one of the richest silver mines in the world during 1870−1884. Bill MacDonald’s most recent work of creative non-fiction, Happy-Go-Lucky: Silver Islet Shenanigans (Borealis Press, 2013), offers a fantastic new account of the brief but spectacular fourteen years during which silver was mined from deep beneath the waters of northern Lake Superior. A great deal has been written about the historical and cultural significance of Silver Islet—some true, some legend. MacDonald brings us a new voice, that of the islet’s most surprising historian, resident and employee of Happy-Go-Lucky, a young prostitute named Lucy Bessemer, whose diary was “discovered” after renovations to
an old dwelling. On August 12, 1872, Lucy begins her candid diary, recording the mine’s and miners’ intimate secrets, which she learns from men of varying ranks during their visits to the “house of joy.” We meet her co-workers and confidants, who, along with most of the town’s other residents, depart for greener pastures when the mine begins to decline. Unlike her friends, Lucy decides to stay at Silver Islet long after the mine’s steam engine has ceased pumping and the mine is left to flood. In her final entry on July 10, 1884, Lucy recalls the prophetic words of William B. Frue, a mining superintendent who predicted that Silver Islet would one day become a ghost town. Lucy would be delighted to know that the only ghosts there are the ones we invented as children, playing hide-and-seek in the old cemetery and telling spooky stories around camp fires—and perhaps the odd spirit of one of the silver mine’s dearly departed. –JENNESIA PEDRI
t h e
w a l l
off the shelf Citizens in a dystopian society fend off terrorist celebrities and radioactive architecture in Rogue Cells/Carbon Harbour by Garry Thomas Morse (Talonbooks); a man jumps from ancient Egypt to ancient Greece to the Mongol Empire through multiple reincarnations in Tamara Veitch and Rene DeFazio’s One Great Year (Greenleaf Book Group/ Red Tuque Books); an Italian family of anarchists fight the power for 130 years in Cazzarola! Anarchy, Romani, Love, Italy by Norman Nawrocki (PM Press); and a cloned race of aliens engineers a deadly machine that threatens to extinguish all of humanity in The Grey Museum by Lorenz Peter (Conundrum Press). Yiddish-speaking Canadian women establish cultural archives and obtain entry visas for persecuted Jewish refugees in The Exile Book of Yiddish Women Writers, edited by Frieda Johles Forman (Exile Editions). In the final period of Franz Kafka’s life, he avoids military service at the front and develops a relationship with a Czech journalist in the biography Kafka: The Years of Insight, by Reiner Stach, translated by Shelley Frisch (Princeton University Press). Robert Priest waits for the bus and dabbles in grammatical experimentation in Previously Feared Darkness (ECW Press); in Tether by Laurelyn Whitt (Seraphim Editions), dogs bound through snow and mourners recall what was lost. Sandi Doughton interviews scientists about the movements and patterns of long-overdue megaquakes in Full Rip 9.0: The Next Big Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest (Sasquatch Books); in Maxwell Rowe and Suzanne Wheeler’s Wooden Ships & Iron Men: The Story of the Schooner Fronie Myrtle (Creative Book Publishing), the schooner and its fishing crew battle treacherous snowstorms while fishing off the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador. Banyan roots entwine themselves and songbirds flit off into the
64 Geist 90 Fall 2013
noted elsewhere trees in Dark Water Songs by Mary Lou Soutar-Hynes (Inanna Publications); crows take a boy’s first tooth and huddle around chimneys in milk tooth bane bone (Leaf Press) by Daniela Elza. Michel Rabagliati’s semi-autobiographical character draws comics at camp during the FLQ crisis in Montreal, in Paul Joins the Scouts (Conundrum); in a retelling of a First Nations legend, a boy steals daylight from the heavens and brings it back to Earth in Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd’s Raven Brings the Light (Harbour Publishing); the founder of Neoplatonism and the founder of Taoism argue about the universe in the imagination of a mountain woman in Philosopher at the Skin Edge of Being by Susan Andrews Grace (Signature Editions). A little-known BC artist and friend of Emily Carr receives her due in The Life and Art of Edythe Hembroff-Schleicher by Christina Johnson-Dean (Mother Tongue Publishing). A Quebecois boy develops a taste for cocktails at his aunt and uncle’s Michigan bar in Jean-Paul Daoust’s The Sandbar (Quattro Books); an Acadian family debates the evolution of language with the eccentric patrons of a watering hole in France Daigle’s For Sure, translated by Robert Majzels (House of Anansi Press). In the reissue of Stalin’s Carnival by Steven Heighton (Palimpsest Press), Josef Stalin transforms from political poet to cruel despot; Lady Anne Barnard entertains guests at the Castle of Good Hope while apartheid splits the country in Skinned, South African poetry by Antjie Krog (Seven Stories Press). Porn stars gripe about Monday work schedules and storm troopers fall in love in Robin Richardson’s Knife Throwing Through Self-Hypnosis (ECW Press); Bond Girls plot the demise of a strapped-down Agent 007 at the mercy of a deadly laser in The Last Temptation of Bond, a deconstruction of the James Bond mythology by Kimmy Beach (University of Alberta Press).
In a review of Mark Leiren-Young’s Free Magic Secrets Revealed: A Memoir (Harbour Publishing), Quill & Quire writes that it “falls short of dazzling its audience”; according to the Winnipeg Free Press, the book is “a witty, charming look at a bygone era.” Quill & Quire writes that Lynn Coady is a “sharp, insightful writer” whose short-fiction collection Hellgoing (Astoria) shows a “tight, jarring style.” For the Winnipeg Review, Coady’s work has “grown more complex over the years, formally and psychologically.” The Chronicle Herald declares that it “lost all patience with the characters” in Chad Pelley’s Every Little Thing (Breakwater Books); The Coast calls the novel a “riveting, emotional tale”; the National Post describes the writing as “a strain levied on the reader’s imaginative faculties.” According to SaltyInk.com, Lisa Moore’s Caught (House of Anansi) is “character-driven fiction with a ton of plot (and pot).” The Vancouver Sun writes that it’s a “memorably oddball and alluring novel,” and Cult Montreal says that it’s “a brave exercise in genre writing from one of Canada’s best authors.”
artists in this issue Eve Corbel is a writer, illustrator and comix maker. Her drawings graced the covers of several books in the Little Books series (Arsenal Pulp), and her illustrations and true funnies have been published in Geist and in miscellaneous zines, books and periodicals. Kevin Schmidt is an interdisciplinary artist who works primarily in photography and video. He has a strong interest in landscape, music and popular culture. His work has been shown internationally, across North America and Europe, and he is represented by Catriona Jeffries Gallery. He lives in Vancouver. Eric Uhlich, who designs and composes Geist, is an illustrator and graphic designer. He created the art for the graphic novel Green Skies and for several shorter comics. Visit him at oktober.ca.
The GEIST Cryptic Crossword Prepared by Meandricus
Send copy of completed puzzle with name and address to: Puzzle #90 GEIST #210-111 West Hastings St. Vancouver BC V6B 1H4 Fax: (604)-677-6319 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 tote bag. Good luck! ACROSS 1 Earl played so loudly that he gave me a jab on my knee 5 Human ads keep us from feeling guilty 10 Why is there such a commotion when she gets her hair fixed? 11 Yesterday Mr. Smith made the last one perfect (abbrev) 12 Sounds like you could have lots of cheap pothole fun while you’re making calls 13 I agree that you can hold the flat 16 Musical place, and it sounds like it has an alto on a comic 19 Put the marble bowl back in the lane 20 Are Allen and Tomlin familiar with each other? 22 There’s a beauty magazine in the parlour 23 A while ago I met Des’s tricky fellow 24 I ate up everything and now I’m sick of politics 25 Those girls! They’re hilarious 26 Take my coat, I have seven others 30 Several finals end without artificiality (abbrev) 31 In Italy they played a leisurely round 34 At Christmas that little boy drives me nuts with his shag 36 When she heard John sing she voiced her dismay 37 That tiger rot is grotesque 40 Eddie was certainly able to chant and roll his eyes on Saturday 42 In the end you’ll play until you flip into a bad mood 43 I wonder what she does in there when she’s not off playing 46 That neat girl is striking three high notes 49 He writes from an inky prison 50 She’s an old deer but she can be tedious 51 Blow into this and we’ll put it on CD 52 Eat your peas or I’ll have to sing your story DOWN 1 Back in Russia, the four of us liked to hear the triangle ring 2 Let’s join the others before he loses his concentration and says more about his condition
3 That analogist is confused by yearnings about the past 4 Don’t get on a sour one in Florida because of the high frequency (2) 5 Eek! Lulu is making a helluva racket in Hawaii 6 Try to avoid the scales on that piece 7 Hello! Are you mad or do you just like to make disks crash? (2) 8 In Italy, that damn lion kept plucking those strings 9 We heard that you have to send cats in and then pitch them way up high 14 Kenora’s wet body testing station (abbrev) 15 The best way to look for a motor in the world (abbrev) 17 Put your opinion into the ring to help us move forward 18 He fools around with my head when I’m eating 21 For me, I’ll take him (2) 24 I’ll give you a chance to talk over there but don’t knock me down 27 Compress that record so I can decipher it (abbrev) 28 Don’t tell the angels, but that fool used to rush in 29 You can play in the car but it’s not a standard 32 I don’t have much of anything but that TV series 33 Everything is ready but there’s no rider (2) 35 Will that be off-the-rack or custom? (abbrev)
7 I hear it’s stringy, but is it a rug? 3 38 That’s not a mirage she’s making but it’s definitely graven 39 The sweater guy set up the wifi in my neighbourhood 40 When you hear the chorus, stop preaching 41 I can almost smell those negative digits 44 Her first donation to the church soup pot was not private (abbrev) 45 The finish was when Jimmy opened all the doors to my only friend 47 At 21, I’m already repeating myself 48 Sounds like that horse is no longer a maiden There was no winner for Puzzle 89.
K A L E C H I P S G U M M Y
A M U T Q U U M A I M E J U I C N U R A C A O E M P H E A R O P E T E R A C U M O O T H I E P S T R A N O L A H E N D M E N I S O E L S F O G U R T
A R K U D E A Z S O U T E M R E D A G I N R F U P E L A X
M A T A G O E C A F U R W O K C O N E H O L Y I L Y A S E N G E Y O E R D U D I O R S E E D
c a u g h t
m a p p i n g
Town & Gown The National Map of Academe by Melissa Edwards
Oxford Bay Assembly Lakes
modified Geistonic projection
Grant Baldpate Rock
Lac de la Robe-Noire
Les Hauteurs de Thinker
La Sharpie’s Pool
Paper Cove Masters Head
The Lecture Cutters
Tweedie Dean Lake Debate
Argument Shoals Argyle
The Bookworms Fellows Creek
University Park East
Bachelor Pass Sophist Mountain
Hall Ink Pots
Lac Loan Learned Plain
Field Campus Lake Chalk River
Exam Time Rapids Manilla
For more Geist maps and to purchase the Geist Atlas of Canada, visit geist.com.
66 Geist 90 Fall 2013