Oct 202014
 

DSCF9318At the end of the Victoria trip, dg spent an afternoon with the Coast Salish master carver Charles W. Elliott in his studio at the Tsarlip First Nation Reserve on the Saanich Peninsular north of the city. Above is a thunderbird atop of a Charles Elliott totem pole  in front of the ȽÁU, WELṈEW̱ Tribal High School just down the road from the studio.

DSCF9299Charles W. Elliott holding a print he designed as a symbol for the University of Victoria Indigenous Governance program.

Still processing this visit. Charles Elliott is an amazingly generous and intelligent artist, very articulate and personable. He took a lot of time to describe what he does. Coast Salish art is a formalist invention (which, naturally, makes is tremendously interesting to me) — he called it the Salish “system” — that involves the use of a finite set of motifs (e.g. thunderbird, raven, orca, etc.) and design elements (eyes, bracket shapes, lanceolate shapes, etc.). Often the smaller formal elements are fitted into a larger form that derives from a utilitarian space (house fronts, paddles, spoons, bowls, etc.). The print above, for example, is circular, a shape derived from the spindle whorl used by the native women to process wool. The artist fits larger motifs into the overall form and then fills the blank spaces with either smaller versions of a motif (or in inversion) or with repetitions of the abstract design elements. For example, the thunderbird wings contain eyes, brackets and lanceolate shapes. Beneath the thunderbird is an orca, and you can see the bracket shapes used down the whale’s back. The idea, Elliott says, is to bring the spaces “to life.” The large motifs refer to legends, myths, and powers (also, in some cases, clan and social organization elements), so they carry story and meaning to the viewer. But at the same time there is a purely design aspect to the art, a pleasing abundance and vivacity of structure. What’s truly interesting is how the abstract design elements can be used to imply naturalistic details (see the shins on the thunderbird’s legs).

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Here’s the school front. Note the repetition of the structure: thunderbird on top of the pole, thunderbird on the from wall of the building, and the structure of the building as a whole is a thunderbird with wings. What you can’t see from the angle is that before the front door is an entryway in the shape of a bird again. To get into the school, students pass beneath the thunderbird’s wings. Also not the bracket shapes along the roof  line. And then think what a lively public art form this is.

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DSCF9281This is Elliott’s studio with a huge ocean-going dugout canoe made of old growth cedar, a work in progress. On the left is the base of a new totem pole.

DSCF9282Studio again. Note the Che Guevara image, one of several, in the studio, also mentioned by Elliott. You can’t forget that the natives are a colonized and dispossessed people who wake up every morning and look around and see commuters racing up the highway to a city that covers the land that was once theirs spiritually and economically, land they never gave away in any sense proper to their own culture and way of thinking. Put yourself in their shoes. As Elliott said, it’s as if there is a constant cloud or blanket of colonization over the natives. How they could they forget and be pleased?

DSCF9297Little things all over the studio. Here’s a spinning fish lure in the shape of an octopus, the legs scalloped with those bracket patterns. Everything comes to life in this art world, inanimate objects, utilitarian objects.

DSCF9284So here’s a bronze spindle whorl (traditionally they were made of wood) made by Elliott’s 19-year-old son, Chas Elliott, who is learning the art from his father and brought this over to show us. If I remember correctly this is a seal (but I heard so much I might be misremembering). Mouth in the spindle opening. Flippers or paws to the side. Flippers accented with eye and bracket and lanceolate shapes. Here’s a link to show where both father and son appeared a couple of years ago.

DG with a “talking stick” (you would hand this to someone who would then hold the floor whole others listened). By now you should be able to distinguish some of the motifs and design elements.

DSCF9229Outside the studio looking at a totem pole in for repair after about 20 years in the field. Totem poles don’t last forever, obviously. This one needs to be shaved down to fresh wood and repainted. And there is some rot at the top that needs digging out and a plug put in. A sad thing is that native carvers like Elliott can only work with old growth timber. For some reason, the old growth trees grew slower, their tree rings are much closer together, and the wood is harder and more durable. Newer trees seem to grow faster (perhaps because they get more light), the rings are farther apart and the wood between is “punky.” There is hardly any old growth timber left. I won’t go on. This is just a taste of the visit with Elliott, an immense privilege, not to mention fascinating; I could go on and on.

—DG, photos mostly by MF

Oct 122014
 

DSCF8995Surprisingly, there are great swathes of clear cut forest all along the coastal road in the west. Sometimes the lumber companies leave a thin screen of trees along the road and sometimes not. Depressing to see. Most of the logs go straight to China these days.

DSCF9036Sombrio Beach (photo by MF). Behind us, makeshift tents and campsites occupied by surfers trying to dry out in the dense mist.

DSCF9135The Juan de Fuca Trail near Sombrio Beach.

IMG_2248DG at the University of Victoria First Peoples House as a guest of Taiaiake Alfred and the Indigenous Governance department, talking to grad students and faculty in the program. Not a great photo and dg looks particularly self-important, perhaps conducting a symphony, but it’s the only one and it preserves the moment.

First Peoples HouseHere’s the hall (without people). Amazing place modeled on the traditional Coast Salish long house.

tshirtTaiaiake Alfred presented dg with a coveted Indigenous Nationhood Movement tshirt, which meant a lot.

DSCF9172Harbor seal off the marina wharf in Mill Bay. They were playing all along the coast, some far out and diving with dramatic tail slaps. At Mill Bay we heard the tail slaps, saw loons and a kingfisher and then a bald eagle zoomed close overhead, all in about five minutes. DG stopped mentioning the seals to the locals because it marked him as a greenhorn.

DSCF9186Cow Bay, a touristified, single-street, old village on the coast, organic foods, organic baked goods, and one store that sold liquor and tools.

DSCF9214This is the so-called butter church on Comiaken Hill in the Cowichan Reserve, Cowichan Bay in the background to the right. Abandoned, it was the first church in the area, an ancient-looking chapel, on a hill that feels lonely, mysterious and sacred, empty grass field to the left where people were once buried, though most of the markers are down, one lone oak tree, low mountains all around except in the direction of the bay. Also a place of ill-memory because of treaties signed nearby in the 1850s. The church was built in 1870 with the help of natives who were paid with money earned from the sale of butter. Apparently.

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DSCF9192St. Anne’s Church, just down the road from the butter church. Back in Victoria we had run into an ancient beekeeper who said his great- or great-great-grandfather was Chief George Tzouhalem of the Cowichan band. An Irishman who fought with Pickett at Gettysburg apparently came up the coast and married the chief’s 15-year-old daughter — this was the beekeeper’s line. He said to drive up to this place because old chief Tzouhalem is buried here and his grand-daughter bought a pink granite plinth and had it raised over the grave.  We walked all through this sombre place and finally, yes, did discover the plinth, raised by the grand-daughter Ettie George, just as the beekeeper had said. He had known Ettie and had stories.

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DSCF9191Christianity is dissipating perhaps. The crosses all over the graveyard were mostly temporary markers. Occasionally, there was something more indicative of a different way of being. Later, I got to talk to a man who makes the grave markers, a social role passed down through his family, and he said the crosses are just places to put names now, not signs of belief. Alarming number of fresh graves in every native graveyard, signs of hard lives, poverty and the depression that goes with being a dispossessed and colonized people.

Oct 102014
 

© 2014 Open Space Arts Society. All rights reservedReading at Open Space Gallery, Victoria.

© 2014 Open Space Arts Society. All rights reservedPhoto credit: Miles Giesbrecht. Artists’ works: Tommy Ting (London), Dong-Kyoon Nam (Winnipeg).

DSCF8947Mist on the water. Strait of Juan de Fuca near Sooke.

DSCF9024DG on Sombrio Beach.

DSCF9150Port Renfrew otters (just before we saw the bear).

DSCF8791First Nations exhibit, Royal BC Museum.

DSCF8764Douglas Street.

DSCF8742The bookstore founded by Alice Munro and her first husband.

DSCF8907Breakwater (dark by the time dg got to the end).

Oct 092014
 

imram

 

In this month’s Uimhir a Cúig, Like A Rolling Stone: Irish Language Literature and Art in a Modern Cultural Context, Liam Carson writes on how best to place “the Irish language and its literature at the heart of public life within a modern, energetic and multicultural framework.”   To that end, he co-founded IMRAM, a festival fusing poetry, prose and music. “The trick is to find the points where literatures and cultures meet. For me, it was obvious that Bob Dylan should be translated into Irish. His songs draw on a tradition with Gaelic roots, they have traditional themes, airs and lyrics that lend themselves perfectly to translation to Irish. ” As well as Dylan, IMRAM has featured translations of Leonard Cohen, Rilke, Marina Tsvetaeva, Van Morrison, Piaf and Brel. This year’s festival includes The Bob Marley Project featuring the best of Marley’s music translated into Irish by Gabriel Rosenstock and performed by Liam Ó Maonlaí and acclaimed Belfast reggae band Bréag. The concert will feature Natty Wailer, a member of Marley’s original band.

Here Liam Ó Maonlaí reflects on his initial doubts that the project could even work at all.

—Gerard Beirne

Oct 012014
 

Jacob Glover

At the Top of the Page this month: essays and reviews, a selection of Jacob Glover‘s contributions to the magazine. Jacob Glover has been an accomplice, co-conspirator, helpful presence from the magazine’s inception. He’s contributed essays, reviews, translations, poems, blog posts, and contest entries (in the days when we ran contests), also performed as a singer-songwriter with his brother Jonah and allowed dg to post funny pictures of him now and then. He has done background layout and scouted and curated pieces for the magazine, most recently the Wayne Hankey essay on conversion and novel plots in the July issue. He entered into the spirit of the place from the start. He’s one of the old guard at NC. On the current masthead, only Rich Farrell can claim seniority.

Sep 292014
 

HarperStephen Harper

“Ottawa Confidential” is an absolutely hilarious satire on Harper and Canadian politics in general (without actually ever mentioning Harper by name) written from the point of view of the Prime Minister’s “intimate confidant,” his right hand man, a failed novelist (had to be) turned political hack (with a dog named Wags). This story really is brilliant, seething with dry wit. I have a list of quotable lines as long as my arm. “Of course, the Prime Minister was not exactly an old man, or even an adult, but something more along the lines of an enlarged boy.” “The Prime Minister further confided that as a child he had an imaginary friend, but when his parents found out about it they forced him to put it to death.”

via Ottawa Confidential: Fiction — Greg Hollingshead » From the Numéro Cinq Archives.

Sep 272014
 

pilgrim epigraph page

Virginia Woolf, in her diaries, once said that she didn’t know how anyone could read without a pencil in his hands; Anna Maria Johnson doesn’t just use a pencil, she uses lines, paint, a self-created concordance and icons to mark the patterns when she is reading. Johnson is an artist-writer-reader who has an uncanny instinct for making visual and synchronic what in a text seems abstract and sequential. After she is done with a paragraph, a page, a sequence of pages, you suddenly SEE the text come alive as a trembling matrix of vectors, internal references, and visual rhythms; reading, Anna Maria Johnson, renders text into a startling work of visual art. This is a wonderful ability and not just a parlor trick; reading for pattern is a key element in understanding authorial intention. Repetition is the heart of art. Too many readers skim a work once and never get to appreciate the tactile, erotic quality of great prose, the physical impulses of tension, insistence and resolution that form its inner structure. Anna Maria Johnson’s “reading” of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a delightful and astonishing work of hybrid art in itself, but it’s also a terrific lesson in HOW TO READ.

Read the essay @ A Visual Approach to Syntactical and Image Patterns in Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek: Essay & Images — Anna Maria Johnson.

Sep 272014
 

Last spring, Hanif Kareishi took the stage at the Bath Literary Festival to expound on the mysteries of writing practice. He tapped the microphone, cleared his throat, then imparted his wisdom—Don’t Bother. “It’s probably 99.9 per cent who are not talented and the little bit that is left is talent. A lot of my students just can’t tell a story . . . It’s a difficult thing to do and it’s a great skill to have. Can you teach that? I don’t think you can.” Kareishi is the author of Buddha of Suburbia and Professor at London’s Kingston University. Read more of his thoughts here.

In the same vein, here is a pre-1964 gem from Flannery O’Connor, published in Mystery and Manners:

“The ability to create life with words is essentially a gift. If you have it in the first place, you can develop it; if you don’t have it, you might as well forget it. But I have found that the people who don’t have it are frequently the ones hell-bent on writing stories.”

Is Creative Writing the “biggest con-job in academia?” Is Kareishi just spouting the self-protective stuff of smug, vainglorious writers? Should we throw these thoughts out with the trash and quiet our inner critics? Should we listen and accept, finally, our places? I’d like to bring Hanif and Flannery together on my piano bench and teach them scales. The thumb goes under on the F. Keep your shoulder down. It’s a phrase, a sentence, louder at the top, soft at the bottom, like speaking. No need to cry. Listen to how others have done it. Scales can be learned. Sentences can be strengthened. Form can be taught. Yes, some people will always write, play, paint, speak spectacularly better than others. Why is the mystery.

If you are of the .1 percent with “talent” and have the gift to “create life with words,” check out these writing tips  in The Guardian. As for me, I’ve got a Beethoven Sonata to work on (a decade-long project) and a story to revise (three years in the making). After this, I’ll print out John Gardner’s quote and nail it to my wall: “More people fail at becoming successful businessmen than fail at becoming artists.”

—Martha Petersen

 

Sep 262014
 

Savage Love PB cover2 small(Click on the image to read reviews.)

“This was, hands down, the best book I read in 2013.” National Post

“…stories as radiant and stirring as anything available in contemporary literature.” Los Angeles Review of Books

“…demands comparison to McCarthy, Barry Hannah, Donald Barthelme, William Faulkner.” Music and Literature

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Publisher’s web page.

Sep 242014
 

2-Salgado-The Party_180x190cm_2014_oil on canvasThe Party by Andrew Salgado

Art is the human/inhuman attempt to get at what is beyond the words, the thing that cannot be expressed, whether love or sadness or joy or awe. Paradox there, I know. If you’re writing words, how can you be trying to get beyond words? But you are. Think about it.

The amazing Canadian painter Andrew Salgado has a new exhibition going up October 7 in London called Storytelling; storytelling but with paintings, with images, oil on canvas, his medium for what cannot be communicated. We have excellent paintings and an interview curated by Numéro Cinq newcomer JC Olsthoorn.

Fritz at SrebrenicaSrebrenica Genocide Memorial, Tom Simpson Photo

Long story: in 2010 we published a gorgeous sequence of poems by the Bosnian-Canadian poet Goran Simić. Flash forward to this summer: I got in touch with Goran in Bosnia and he said sure but he needed some translation help. Contributing Editor Sydney Lea put me in touch with Tom Simpson at Philips Exeter Academy who knows Goran and has a personal stake in Bosnia. Tom flies to Sarajevo and he and Goran have what I can only say must have been a wonderful time together, sitting in Bosnian bars and coffee houses, mulling over the poems.  The result: We have in this issue a brand new, freshly translated (by Goran and Tom) sheaf of Goran Simić poems, plus a terribly moving, passionate memoir of Thomas Simpson’s travels in Bosnia, his friendships and epiphanies.You will have to read the poems and the essay; words fail, and the story of pain, loss and human will embodied in the word Bosnia can only be re-experienced in their art.

But wait, there’s more (ah, the endless adventure of editing NC): A week and a half ago, Tom wrote to say he’d gone to a Sydney Lea reading (they had never met before), and Syd had read a poem about and for Goran Simić that nearly brought Tom to tears. So I wrote to Syd and got the poem for NC. Much gratitude to Tom and Goran and Syd for combining on two continents to bring this to pass.

My imagination was born from my simple need
To be silent instead of cry
Because silence alone has the colour I am craving
To paint myself,
Which finds no place on the hardware store’s palette.

—Goran Simić

Goran SimicGoran Simić

Samuel Stolton in his brilliant brief essay “Plato, Heidegger, Kant & Habermas Play Pass the Parcel: Poiesis and the Philosophy of Art-Creation” turns the problem of art (the paradox of expressing the inexpressible) on its head: How do you create something out of nothing?  He then does a forensic analysis of the philosophy from Plato to Agamben and Habermas. I adore the concept herein of “weak thought,” the sort of  artistic noodling around that is neither focused or intentional but is a precursor to creation. But there is so much more.

Samuel StoltonSamuel Stolton

And Natalie Helberg (one of our own) contributes a stunningly dense and erudite essay on the great Canadian experimental novelist Gail Scott  (who can forget her first novel  Heroine?), focusing on Scott’s 2010/12 novel The Obituary with its complex overlapping point of view structure. The essay begins with a paradoxical question: “How to do justice to a text so rich that I could only do justice to it by repeating it exactly?”

Author PicGail Scott

And then because I have a dog and have always loved that J. R. Ackerley memoir My Dog Tulip, which, among other things is about love and communicating without words, we have a nice little review (by animal rescue activist Melissa Armstrong) of Han Dong’s new novella A Tabby-cat’s Tale just published by Frisch & Co in Berlin. (I also have a new dog in my life but will restrain myself from adding several irrelevant photos here. Just so you know.)

haystack-rock-e1407876106174-768x1024Melissa Armstrong talking with her dog.

We also have in this issue — at this point in the preview, the writing of the preview, I generally start to hyperventilate and need to breathe into a paper bag (or walk the dog) — scads of new fiction. First and foremost, a brief tale of the grisly and unspeakable (might as well keep the theme going), baby-selling, from Benjamin Woodard.

WoodardBenjamin Woodard

And then a fantastic story by Andrew F. Sullivan, one of my favourite young Canadian writers, a story of, yes, that thing you don’t usual talk about (if it happens to you — for me, only twice, and till now I have kept my mouth shut), of alien abduction called “Nights in the Tractorbeam.”

The first time they floated through the ceiling, Abbie Kirkland was naked. Life was full of constraints, obligations and restrictions—sleep was one chance to abandon all of that. Even in the winter months, she hated sleeping in her clothes. Quilts were piled up on the bed, but she and Derek floated right up through them, their skin lit up blue under in a wide circle of light. Derek wore only a ratty t-shirt, the armpits gaping holes. The clock read 3:00 AM, but Abbie could not speak or cry out. Her body was almost frozen, slowed down so every moment was an ache, an endless task. Her eyes could move, but all they saw was blue light and Derek beside her, his own face stuck half-way through a yawn. There was fear trickling out around the corners of his eyes, but he could not say a word. His teeth looked electric, sharpened in the light. Abbie wanted to scream, but then she passed through the ceiling, through the attic, through the roof of the farmhouse, and nothing could touch her.

AFSullivan-InsideAndrew F. Sullivan (who takes a good picture, too)

Also a gorgeous story by Timothy Dugdale (who has appeared before as a book reviewer): “Back Spin” — a terse, grim, Carver-esque piece on snow, dog-walking, and the thrashing death of a deer.

His father shone a flashlight. The deer was thrashing about, trying to right itself. But it was front legs were destroyed and blood covered its breast. His father gave Nieves the flashlight and took out a sledge hammer from the back of the truck. He stepped smartly to the deer and  swung. The deer wrenched its head from the blow and thrashed again. His father took another swing. The deer made a sound and moved and went still. A car whizzed by and then another.  “Hold that light steady, ” his old man said. Nieves watched his father pause at the top of his next swing, staring at the deer, choosing his place for delivery. The hammer dropped. The deer’s head exploded.

Timothy DugdaleTimothy Dugdale

We have more, much more (and I am past the hyperventilating mode). A lovely interview-with-poems from Ann Ireland who talks to the amazing wife and husband poetry-writing duo Roo Borson and Kim Maltman.

The Collaborators Kim Maltman and Roo Borson in their shared writing roomKim Maltman and Roo Borson in their shared writing space

And a review of the new Murakami novel by Steven Axelrod, a novel excerpt from Gladys Swan, another Numéro Cinq at the Movies by R. W. Gray who has recently been busy premiering his own film Zack and Luc at the Atlantic Film Festival and, yes, even another Uimhir a Cúig (a piece of NC that will always be Ireland) featuring an essay by Liam Carson on Irish language writers.

That should be enough. That should hold you, oh ravening beast readers of NC.

Ok.

DSCF8568New dog at Casa NC.

dg

Sep 212014
 

If fiction is an ordering of experience, point of view can define relationships within that expe­rience. Between readers and author there is the narrator who shapes the telling and manages the way we receive its characters and the story’s message. The point of view established in a text is based on assumptions about what narrators and char­acters understand and are capable of understanding, about what they can and can­not do in the world, and about what the world might offer in return. The concept itself implies, perhaps, that our knowledge of people and the world exists only as it is refracted through a mind. —Gary Garvin

Read the essay at Man in the Holocene: Point of View/point of view/Frisch — Gary Garvin » Numéro Cinq Archives.

Sep 202014
 

BergerJohn Berger

Here’s a review I wrote of John Berger’s early novel Corker’s Freedom 20 years ago, rescued from an old disk. The novel was first published in the UK in 1964 and was finally published in the U.S. in 1993 by Pantheon Books. This review appeared in the Washington Post in February 1994. Berger, as you all know, went on to win the Booker Prize in 1972 for his novel G. and became a famous BBC TV art critic. An amazing, knowing writer. Get the book.

dg

corkers-freedom-frontcover-5a44cf4884f45f8f48187085a26d3304The Verso edition.

Corker’s Freedom
A Novel
By John Berger

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Dostoevsky once said we all came out from under Gogol’s overcoat by which he meant that the roots of modern storytelling all trace back to Nikolai Gogol’s tale of a humble clerk whose great adventure was buying a brand new overcoat which someone immediately steals.

John Berger’s novel Corker’s Freedom is contemporary masterwork in precisely this Gogolian mode — the old-style noble hero is dead, and in his place we have the drama of a little man who throws all his passion and yearning into some minor, shopworn achievement and inevitably fails.

First published in England in 1964, Corker’s Freedom took almost thirty years to cross the Atlantic Ocean, a slow passage by anyone’s reckoning. I won’t say it was worth the wait because a delay like that is unconscionable, though not inexplicable.

Berger went on to win the Booker Prize in 1972 for his novel G., but he also has an immense reputation as a (Marxist) art critic and avant garde film maker, a reputation sure not to make the hearts of commercial publishers flutter with anticipation.

Corker’s Freedom is about the 64-year-old owner of a grubby little London employment agency who one day decides to leave the home he shares with his invalid sister Irene and set up house in the empty flat above his office. William Corker is humble clay. He and Irene are emotionally pinched — what everyone today would instantly recognize as co-dependent. The single relationship that Corker can recall in anything resembling warm tones is his brief childhood acquaintance with a Viennese nanny.

The move from Irene’s house to the agency flat is the great adventure of Corker’s life, his last, desperate bid for freedom before the long night falls. In the midst of rearranging his mother’s old furniture to make a bedroom, he pictures himself as Lancelot holding the Grail. He thinks he has struck a blow for “The right of a man to be himself, the right of a man to find a way out of his suffering, the right of a man to live where and as he wishes — eager, curious, hopeful, experimental — the right of a man to say: I wish to begin again.”

These are brave, rousing words uttered in the cause of personal transformation in a godless modern world. But they come to nothing. In a horrifyingly comic climactic scene, a drunken Corker discourses on the meaning of life, liberty and art in the midst of an ill-attended church hall slide presentation on his recent holiday in Vienna. His sister sits in the audience tapping her canes irritably. His agency assistant Alec fondles his girlfriend. And a pretty young woman with whom Corker thinks he has fallen in love watches cagily while her burgler lover breaks into the employment agency and makes off with the company safe. Ruined, Corker ends up making crank speeches from a Hyde Park soap box and conning tourists for his lunch.

Berger pushes against the constraints of the novel form, using passages of screen-play dialogue and parenthetical stage directions as fictional shorthand to stand for everyday narrative machinery (set-up and background) that might take pages and pages in a normal novel. This is so that he can pay attention to what he wants to pay attention to, which is the gap between the inner thoughts and public statements of his characters, the tragic and ironic distance between what they know or feel and what they can say.

The drama of the book, in Corker’s case, is the gradual narrowing of this gap — at the end of the church hall scene he is saying what he thinks and knows, which, as Berger sees it, is a kind of folly bordering on madness and leads directly to Corker’s downfall. (Hence the irony of the final pages with Corker endlessly exercising every Englishman’s right to free speech to a sparse gathering of unemployed hecklers and baffled tourists.)

Corker is already done for when he announces to his slide-show audience: “To the best of our ability we must choose happiness. That is my choice. I may be interrupted, prevented or defeated by circumstances but at least I know what I want and what I am doing. I am making myself happy.” The final sentence is, of course, untrue, which makes the speech achingly tragic and absurdly funny at the same time.

Berger writes with amazing aplomb, packing his pages with pyrotechnic ethical wisdom, trenchant social criticism (couched dramatically in the life stories of a succession of deftly sketched secondary characters), and sly comedy (Corker getting progressively drunker on Austrian kummel while reflecting on the glories of Vienna and his long-lost nanny).

Corker’s Freedom is an exhilarating achievement, wise, unsettling, and alive with a sense of humanity that is flawed, doomed, yet oddly indomitable.

—Douglas Glover (Originally appeared in the Washington Post, February 27, 1994)

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Sep 202014
 

My old roomie (and frequent NC contributor) Mark Anthony Jarman and I are reading together at the Goose Lane Editions 60th Anniversary party in Toronto, September 30. Many others are reading, too (including David Seymour, reviewed in these pages earlier this year). So you won’t be bored with, you know, just me.

Details: September 30, 7:00 pm at The Supermarket, 268 Augusta Avenue, Toronto, ON.

This is also the launch for six@sixty: Goose Lane Anniversary Collection, a very cool boxed set of six stories by six Goose Lane authors, each story as a separate small book. My contribution is the story “Woman Gored by Bison Lives” from my collection A Guide to Animal Behaviour. It’s a story about love, sex, death, and great steaming herds of charging buffalo. Not to be missed. It begins:

Days, while my husband is at work, Susan and I make love on the couch in her parents’ basement. It is a desperate thing to do, and we are both a little stunned by it. But something has pushed us to the edge of caring.

Gabriela, the baby, is upstairs sleeping, while Susan’s mother does housework or watches soap operas. We keep our clothes on, manacled at the ankles by a tangle of underwear, jeans and belts.  And when Susan comes, I press my palm across her lips to keep her from shouting out her joy.

I don’t know if we are in love. But we are both in need of solace, and our sex is a composition of melancholy and violence, as though we are seeking to escape and punish ourselves in the same act.

This story also contains the immortal lines: “There are certain things you have to know. Suicide is not an option. Life is always better under the influence of mild intoxicants. Masturbation is healthy, the sooner started the better. It’s a sin not to take love where you find it. That is the only sin.”

PLUS!!!!!!!! The paperback edition of Savage Love is coming out. I got copies in the mail this week.

dg

GLE

 

Sep 192014
 

lynne_tillman_by_david_shankbone

Here’s a sly, witty, fiercely intelligent, sexy, hilarious, knowing, playful and wise short story, “The Substitute,” from Lynne Tillman’s collection Someday This Will Be Funny (2011). Lynne is an old acquaintance, “friend” would be a bit presumptuous; though we have known each other and corresponded sympathetically now and then since 1992 when I reviewed her sly, witty, fiercely intelligent, hilarious, knowing, playful and wise novel Cast in Doubt for the Washington Post Book World. Of that book, I wrote in part: “…Lynne Tillman writes with such élan, such spirited delight and comic intelligence that it is difficult to take anything but pleasure….” Believe me, this woman has some moves.

Read The Substitute: Fiction — Lynne Tillman » Numéro Cinq.

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Sep 192014
 

Wendy1Wendy Voorsanger in her novel skin at Burning Man. Click the photo for more.

One of the side benefits of Numéro Cinq is the outrageously extensive network of friends, contributors, passionate readers and interested parties committed to the cause. My son Jonah, himself an NC contributor, is on a work term (from University of  Waterloo) in San Francisco. He moved there late August, but before that, I put out the word to the NC Tribe and got some amazingly helpful responses. Best of all was Wendy Voorsanger (check out her contributions in the Art contents page, or click the photo above, or read her What It’s Like Living Here essay) who offered Jonah a place to stay till he got on his feet, a warm and generous (thoughtful, caring — I could go on) invitation from someone with a family of her own to look after. Jonah moved into an apartment at the beginning of September, but Wendy’s parting gift was a quick & dirty list of the best things to see and do during his four months in San Francisco. The list made me want to move to SF. Hell, the whole thing made me want Wendy to adopt me. I thought it was too good to leave in an email. So here it is. A friend’s advice to my son on what to experience in a new city. I am eternally grateful.

dg

Jonah and sf skylineJonah on Telegraph Hill. Click the photo for his NC Archive Page.

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1. Off The Grid food truck dinner market (http://offthegridsf.com). I suggest the Haight on Thursday night or Fort Mason on Friday night. If you do Fort Mason on Friday, you can pair it with SFBATS improv comedy theater (http://www.improv.org). Super funny, and cheap entertainment.

2. Have pasta and chianti in North Beach.

3. Visit Coit Tower to see gorgeous WPA frescos painted inside (some by Ralph Stackpole, who did the nudes in our dining room of Conrad’s grandmother, when she/they were young). Don’t forget to go to the top!

4. Have cheap Chinese food in China Town, I suggest Hunan Home’s Restaurant.

5. City Lights Books, Green Apple Books, Dog Eared Books.

6. Visit the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and bike through the park (it’s closed to traffic on Sundays) to the ocean beach and have lunch at the Beach Chalet. Upstairs is sit down, out back is more casual. Don’t forget to check out the frescos inside here too.

7. Walk (or bike) from Crissy Field for Ft. Point Cafe under the Golden Gate Bridge on a sunny day.

8. Bike over the GG Bridge.

9. Take a ferry to Tiburon and have brunch at Sam’s Cafe outside on the pier.

10. Get a burrito at La Taqueria in the Mission.

11. Walk behind the MLK waterfall in Yerba Buena Park. Read the wall.

12. See a movie at the Kabuki Theater.

13. Order a California Roll at Sushi Boat Restaurant.

14. Visit the SF Art Institute (a private art school founded by Ansel Adams) and ask to visit the Diego River Mural in the main gallery.

15. Attend a Litquake event, SF’s literary festival in October.

16. Visit Stanford in Palo Alto.

17. Visit UC Berkley across the Bay.

18. Visit Muir Woods in Marin and see the giant Sequoia Redwoods.

19. SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) in Capitola.

20. Climb Mt. Tamalpais all the day to the fire look out on a clear day for a 360 view of the Bay Area.

(21. Visit Steve Jarret at Facebook!)

—Wendy

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Sep 182014
 

Jablonski-Quicksilver-GraphicDesignQuicksilver, Graphic Design

Jablonski

NC Contributor Mary Kathryn Jablonski‘s visual poetry artwork is on display this month in a solo show at Saratoga Arts Center, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY, where she also has a piece in the gallery’s current juried exhibition “Saratoga Sights & Sounds.” Look for her chapbook, To the Husband I Have Not Yet Met, and additional small works in the Gallery Shop. Hours at the Arts Center are Mon-Fri 9-5 and Sat 11-5.

Mary Kathryn’s poem “May 29″ appears this month (September) in Slipstream Magazine‘s “Rust, Dust & Lust” Issue #34.

And don’t forget her interview with artist Michael Oatman, “Ignore Alien Orders,” on collaboration, skin disorders, the perversion of birds and more in the September issue of Número Cinq.

As if that’s not enough, Mary Kathryn will be a featured poet at Saratoga Springs venerable (it opened in 1960) coffee house and folk music venue Caffé Lena, 47 Phila Street. Wednesday, November 5th, 7:30pm — save the date!

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 182014
 

Bonnie Prince CharlieBonnie Prince Charlie bidding farewell to Flora MacDonald on the Isle of Skye after the Battler of Culloden, from the London Illustrated News.

Okay, the referendum is today. A brief memoir: I have Scottish blood, McCall and McInnes. On the McCall side, there was a Scottish soldier who fought with Wolfe at Quebec and then came west along the Lake Erie shore during Pontiac’s Rebellion. He was demobilized in New Jersey, but left the United States after the Revolution and ended up in what became known as the Long Point Settlement in what is now southwestern Ontario. On the McInnes side, there was a fatherless boy, taken up by Sir Walter Scott, educated and sent on the Grand Tour, who then inherited slaves and a tapioca plantation in Curaçao. Later he became the youngest slave owner indemnified by the British government for giving up his slaves. He took the money, moved also to southwestern Ontario, and never worked again. The two families eventually intermarried and my great-great-grandfather Daniel McCall ran a store in St Williams, Ontario, on the Erie shore. At some point, someone in the family cut this illustration from the London Illustrated News, framed it, and hung it in the outhouse (posh outhouse). Later, my grandmother, who grew up with it, took the illustration to live with her. Now it lives with me, hangs above my desk. So now you know which way I’d vote. On the other hand, these things always have a way of disappointing romantics, so I can’t bear to watch the news today.

dg

 

Sep 182014
 

Amy Spain

Amy Spain was a 17-year-old slave who, mistakenly thinking that Union troops had liberated her, looted her master’s house, taking some household goods and clothing. Her master defended her in court, but she was hung anyway. This was in Darlington, South Carolina. Oddly serene drawing for such a horrific act, a little girl waiting for the drop. Only a couple of white guys in front seem excited.

dg

One of the martyrs of the cause which gave freedom to her race was that of a colored woman named Amy Spain, who was a resident of the town of Darlington, situated in a rich cotton-growing district of South Carolina. At the time a portion of the Union army occupied the town of Darlington she expressed her satisfaction by clasping her hands and exclaiming, “Bless the Lord the Yankees have come!” She could not restrain her emotions. The long night of darkness which had bound her in slavery was about to break away. It was impossible to repress the exuberance of her feelings; and although powerless to aid the advancing deliverers of her caste, or to injure her oppressors, the simple expression of satisfaction at the event sealed her doom. Amy Spain died in the cause of freedom.

Read the rest at RUINS: The Hanging of Amy Spain.

Sep 142014
 

Let him who is without sin cast the first severed head.

dg

CaptureChristians tossing severed heads into Nicaea during the siege in 1097. BNF MS Fr 2630 f.22v via Wikimedia

“As many as descended remained there with their heads cut off at the hands of our men; moreover, our men hurled the heads of the killed far into the city, that they (the Turks) might be the more terrified thereat.”

August. C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants, (Princeton: 1921), 101-103 Via Internet History

 

Sep 112014
 

Open Word: Readings and Ideas: Douglas Glover

Artist: Douglas Glover
Reading and interview with local writer: Wednesday, October 8, 2014, at 7:30 p.m.
Genre: Literary

Douglas Glover will read from his new book, Savage Love. He is the author of five story collections, four novels, and two books of essays. In 2007, he was given the Writers’ Trust of Canada Timothy Findley Award for an author in mid-career. His novel Elle won the 2003 Governor-General’s Award for Fiction and was a finalist for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Glover teaches in the MFA in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. He publishes and edits the online magazine Numéro Cinq.

Glover’s reading is sponsored by the University of Victoria’s Department of Writing Orion Series in the Fine Arts.

via Open Word: Readings and Ideas: Douglas Glover | Open Space.