Saturday, June 25, 2016

the James Plays at the Hearn - must see

I spent the afternoon watching the first of The James Plays, part of the Luminato arts festival at the Hearn Generating Station, an abandoned hulk of a building near the lake. The play is brilliantly written and produced and extremely timely, telling of the internecine warring of Scottish factions and their hatred of the British - just as, after the Brexit vote, Scotland may try once more to separate and go it alone. The play is truly a marvel, in plunging us into 600 year old characters and their lives, amid complicated issues of succession and blood, and making it all feel as fresh and urgent and personal as yesterday's newspaper.

So the production is thrilling, but so is the Hearn, a giant of crumbling concrete and shards of steel, with lumpy concrete underfoot and art installations every few yards - extraordinary, unforgettable, including the biggest mirror ball in the world. At the play, I sat next to three elderly ladies - at least in their late seventies - who had come in from Ottawa for this. They'll be spending the entire day at the Hearn seeing all three plays, with a two hour break between each one - 8 hours of performance in a day for the actors. I would have loved to see the two other plays, but hadn't bought tickets because I thought one might be enough. I do not feel deprived by not seeing the others, particularly as it was a stunning day and I was happy to leave the vast wreck of a building, hop on my bike and cycle into the sun. But I know I've missed something spectacular.

Brava to writer Rona Munro, who put as much emphasis on James as a man, a lover and poet and a struggling husband, as on him as a nascent king of a bloody-minded nation. She made Joan, his English wife, perfectly understandable as a very young woman trying her best in an impossible situation. A brutal time. And yet what infuses the story is love of Scotland, love of the land and its people.

I could not recommend this experience more.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Onion and the New Yorker nail it, as usual

And now, since we all need a good laugh right about now, please enjoy this, sent by Bruce. And scroll down to the next piece about the small town throwing a Pride Parade for its one gay citizen.

And here's next week's New Yorker cover - by the brilliant Canadian Barry Blitt:

And this - I have to stop now, this could go on forever ...

Britain and the big no

Woke up to find out that Britain is no longer in the E.U., and felt not just sad, but frightened. Angry white people are in charge now in the western world, and it's not a pretty sight. Racism and profound, vicious intolerance of all kinds are in the ascendance. And all of this adds up to ... Donald Trump.

How could Cameron have made such a fatal mistake as to rip his country apart with this terrible referendum? He deserves to lose his position and his career. The world today feels like a much less safe place than yesterday - and after Orlando and all the other hideous events in the States,  not to mention the rest of the world, it didn't feel very safe yesterday. A student told me about a mutual friend who's moving to Oklahoma, and I thought, why would you do that to yourself? Open carry machine guns, just what a nice Canadian boy wants to encounter at the grocery store.

The same friend told me about visiting family in a wealthy enclave north of Boston, where all the upper middle class guests spoke loudly about their loathing for Obama and Hillary and their admiration of Trump. I have spoken before, jokingly, about the end of the world, but this feels closer. The British vote reminds me of what I say about divorce: that when people are unhappy and unfulfilled in a marriage, all they want to do is throw it over and move on. And when they do, certainly, they have left behind the problems of the marriage. What they now encounter, however, are the problems of the divorce, and these can often be worse. This the Brits - and the rest of us too - are about to discover.

I am even more grateful than usual to live in Canada. Photos the other day of Justin paddling the Rouge River in a canoe with his wife and daughter, wearing his father's fringed jacket - is he real? We are in a bubble of sanity - clarity and open-heartedness - here in Canada. A wonderful article in the Star on the weekend, pointing out that every western country, including the U.S., Britain, France and Germany, has a right-wing anti-immigration party in the ascendancy - except here in Canada.

I wonder if our bubble of generosity and community will last.

Oh it's good to be able to write to you again, even if I'm feeling apocalyptic!

Moving right along. It's the most beautiful day of the year so far, a heavenly June day, the air in my garden scented with roses, camellias, jasmine, lavender, mint. Okay, now I need to get serious. I need to write about facial hair. Yes. It seems truly cruel of nature that just as women reach the age when their sexual allure vanishes along with their waistlines, they start to grow moustaches and beards. I spend a good ten minutes a day, at least, with my magnifying mirror and my tweezers and am now considering more invasive treatment. So readers out there who are middle-aged women - what do you do about chin and upper lip hair? Advice please. Nellie Natural here needs to find another solution.

All right, that's done. Don't say I never tell you my secrets.

Oh - and the good news: I have heard from Colin Thomas, the editor in Vancouver who's reading the manuscript. This is what he said: I’m in the final lap with Loose Woman and I’m having an excellent time. It’s going to be a terrific book. There’s already a whole lot to like in this draft and with more focus—a fair bit of cutting and some new material—the next draft is going to be even better.

Yes. Yes, I hope so. I'd like to think so. Perhaps there's hope. Cutting WHAT? WHAT new material? I can't wait to find out the specifics. 

On the other hand, also received this, below, about a children's board book I've sent to two publishers. It has taken a year to get two refusals. The nice people at Orca took six months to say no to a manuscript that consists of 200 words. Ah well. Onward. 
Thank you for submitting your manuscript to Orca Book Publishers, but we feel, with regret, that this project is not right for us. 
We receive a tremendous number of submissions every month—far more than we could ever publish. While this work doesn’t suit our present needs, it may well be of interest to another publisher with ... bla bla bla. 
I'll say it again: Onward.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

return after a long absence

Sob - I'm back! It has been DAYS since I've blogged. On Sunday, asked for my password, didn't recognize it, and set off a chain of events that led to me being LOCKED OUT of my own blog. Despair. So many things to tell you about, and no way to do so.

I do now have the Facebook page, as well, which I'll use to explore ideas, links and quotes specifically about writing. Whereas the blog on my website is about life generally. I hope I have that difference figured out; it's the young genius Grace who is setting these things up for me, and also who came over today to get my blog back on track. She's a wonder.

So what are these millions of things I have to recount? Not much, in fact. Late afternoon Sunday, at the end of a perfect sunny day - a bike ride to the Toronto Islands with Jean-Marc and Richard for a picnic on the beach, a ride around the island at dusk, a stunning ferry ride home and a stop at a glorious ice cream store on Queen East called Sweet Jesus. And sweet Jesus, their stuff is good.
 My wonderful neighbours and friends, at the start of our gourmet meal with wine.
T Dot. The Six. Trawna. My kind of town.

And now I have to run out for a piano lesson. More anon. Just wanted to say hello, I missed you.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Happy Birthday, Macca

Have spent the last two days at the Canadian Writers' Summit at Harbourfront. My mind is fried. Here's today's bon mot: Poets are obsessed with death and commas.

I will write more about the experience when I've had time to process it  - lots of workshops and encounters, many scribbled notes. The weekend could not have been more beautiful, hot and bright, on the lake - Toronto at its best. And I made a new best friend - Judy McFarlane from Vancouver, whom I'd met at the non-fiction conference at Banff and reconnected with at the summit. She ended up coming here for dinner tonight, and as women do, we flung ourselves immediately into the story of our entire lives. We are born the same year, spoke about our parents and children and our MFA's from UBC, but most of all, about writing. A wonderful bond.

But for now, as I decompress, I have to celebrate something equally important: it's June 18, Macca's birthday. He's 74 today. No doubt singing his lungs out somewhere in the world right now. We love you, Mr. Music. Please don't stop.

A few pictures:
Playing guitar some years ago, and the other day, at a
concert in Berlin, in solidarity with Orlando. LOVE!