Monday, November 28, 2022

nice words for this writer, and disgust for Bill 23

Haven't boasted about kind words recently, so ... today's the day, hooray. 

Nice words about the Star article: Thanks for sharing Beth’s excellent and thoughtful article. Having been apartment dwellers for years when our kids were growing up, I agree it can be an excellent place for kids to live. Almost everyone on our floor had kids and our doors were always open for them to run back and forth visiting their friends. It was a wonderful time of friendship and sharing.

And this from a writer friend: THANK YOU for that wonderful piece you wrote in Brevity. I read it at JUST the right time, before my lectures started and I was fretting about not being an expert & getting imposter syndrome & reading your piece & recognizing that the lectures are an opportunity to share what I DO Know, and that it's a gift, really put things into perspective. (I did the lectures, learned a ton, would do some things differently, but ultimately it was all great!) Also loved your piece in the Star about apartment living. 

Thank you both!

Today's one of those days I wish Mum and Auntie Do, tennis lovers, were here to see Canada's triumph at the Davis Cup. Though she loved her life here, Mum was a bit condescending about Canada, but I'm sure that would have changed with all these hot young Canadian tennis stars. 

Today's thrill: a fat little ovenbird pecking away on my deck. I'm concerned; he should be flying south with his team. Instead, he's hanging around my back door, with his spotted thrush breast and a lovely orange stripe on his bean. He's a warbler but I have not heard him warble. Honoured to host you, little friend. 
Today's disgust: the passing of Bill 23, the decimation of the Greenbelt for more sprawl. Let's hope there's lots of civil disobedience for this hateful government. If the brave souls in Iran and China can take on their loathsome leaders, we can too. 

Just tell me where and when. 

Sunday, November 27, 2022

"It's okay to raise kids in apartments" : Toronto Star op-ed

This article is in the Star today. It's a subject that matters deeply to me, as we battle the dinosaur premier and his henchmen, a pack which now unfortunately seems to include our mayor.

My friend in Vancouver tells me the new B.C. premier started moving instantly on housing; he has proposed a city-provincial partnership to buy old hotels and turn them into housing for marginalized people. Brilliant! He also wants to create a safe space for people who are too mentally ill to be abandoned to the streets. That's the kind of positive, progressive thinking we need. Instead, we in Ontario have: let's turn farmland into expensive houses and make our developer friends, who by the sheerest coincidence have bought those particular plots of land, even richer. 

(Oh, and let's send a $200 cheque as a bribe to families with children, to show them how much we care. My daughter, who could use the bucks, sent her kids to school with the cash to give to their teachers for supplies in the classroom.) 

An assistant Star editor got in touch about the piece. I thought I recognized his name, and we ascertained that his mother once took my course at Ryerson. Feeling old much, Beth? 

Gave myself a Covid test yesterday; it's negative, just a cold and not even much of one. But I cancelled seeing The Fabelmans with Ken and am masking more diligently than usual. Yesterday, riding my bike to the market in the sun, the snow gone, such pleasure. Monique came over to sit by the fire and toast Dad's hundredth birthday with me, Chateauneuf-du-Pape in $1 Rosenthal crystal. Today, the skilful Kingston editor Ellie Barton whom I hire to edit all my work, including this essay, and whom I've never met, comes for coffee, and later, Anna and the boys are here for dinner, to celebrate their great-grandfather who died decades before they were born.

So much of writing is sitting alone with the words, struggling to get them right, then trying to find a place where others can see them too. Especially with books, it's a tortuous process that can take years, and sometimes result in nothing, closed doors, no readers, no outside eyes. I'm grateful another short piece has found its way out into the world. 

And to blog subscribers: this new way of emailing the blog, I now see, means ads are attached. I dislike that but am not sure there's a way to avoid it. We'll try. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Friday, November 25, 2022

toasting a hundredth birthday

My bloggee friends — many of you subscribed to this blog and received it automatically in your inbox via email. And then suddenly, in July, that for some incomprehensible reason stopped, tho' it took ages before I found out. Now my tech whiz Patrick has figured out how to fix it, we think. So I hope this is once more going out to you all. We'll see.

Tonight I'm drinking a special toast. Tomorrow is my father's 100th birthday; he was born Nov. 26 1922. A friend gave me a Chateauneuf du Pape a few years ago, and I just opened it. Normally I'd never drink such a good wine alone, I'd wait for a festive communal occasion, but tonight, tomorrow night, and the next, I'll drink toasts to my dad. 

And in a special glass. I buy my wineglasses at Doubletake for $2 each; this week they had a bunch for $1, and I saw a few nice ones, managed to find three matching. At home I discovered they're Rosenthal crystal, worth $25 each. 

So — a toast to my father's 100th, with a good wine in a nice new glass. And on a nice new tablecloth, which was a $5 remnant at Doubletake.

Yesterday was constant busyness. Patrick came in the morning to work out various tech issues. Robin the roofer came to clear the eavestroughs. I taught a two-hour home class on Zoom at midday and a three hour one in the evening; seven writers came here, two beamed in on Zoom, and eight of them read. Exhausting and marvellous. 

I was recuperating from the day at 10 when the front door opened and Tom arrived; I'd forgotten Tom sleeps here on Thursday nights. We always sit and chat. So I did more talking yesterday than I usually do in a week. My throat hurt and I thought I might be sick. But I think it's a bit of a cold and a lot of talk. 

Just finished Elizabeth McCracken's The Hero of This Book, enjoyed it immensely. It's a memoir about her mother but she has to call it a novel because her mother didn't want her daughter the writer to write about her. Vivid, funny, honest, moving. Recommended.

Every day, when I walk into my house, I think of my brothers and sisters in Ukraine and am flooded with gratefulness for heat, light, water. Their courage and fortitude is unfathomable. 

Monday, November 21, 2022

Tom Stoppard's Leopoldstadt - and So True returns

I knew we'd have to suffer for the glorious warm days we had in October - but not this much! It's bitterly cold here. The sun is shining but the wind is cruel; I was nearly blown off my bike. Luckily, however, I have new lined pants from Uniqlo. So a warm tush.

Thrill on Sunday: the National Theatre Live production of Tom Stoppard's Leopoldstadt, at Cineplex. Stoppard, raised as a proper Brit, was unaware until late in life of the extent of his Jewish roots and that much of his family died in the Holocaust. He has painted a portrait of an upper-middle class Jewish family in Vienna, from 1899 to 1955. You can imagine what happens to them, nearly all. 

The beginning of the play is bewildering, the usual Stoppard flow of dense facts and pithy statements, exposition disguised as dialogue, as we struggle to keep up not only with the river of talk but with the huge 30-person cast - who's that again?  

The play centres around identity, belonging, prejudice, and blood - some characters desperate to assimilate, others to remain true to their cultural and religious heritage. I thought once more of my dad, who rejected everything to do with the religion he was born into yet was most relaxed and himself with Jewish friends and family. 

The last act is devastating. A callow young Englishman, Stoppard's obvious doppelganger, comes to terms with the fate of his ancestors as he hears the litany at the end: "Auschwitz, suicide, death march, Auschwitz, Auschwitz ... " as the cast assembles and stands behind him, like an old family photograph in sepia light - unforgettable. Stunning. Many tears. I hope National Theatre Live puts it on again. 

A seder, early in the play. Even the lighting was sublime. 

Good news for me today: an essay about housing in big cities, and our vile premier's plan to pave over the Greenbelt, was accepted by the Star. I've had a series of no's from various mags and newspapers, so a yes at last meant a great deal. I know, you just have to keep sending out, over and over again, but sometimes there's the impulse to shout, Why bother?! And then someone says yes. 

And more good news - after these long Covid years, I'm getting some of my mojo back and have decided to run another of the So True reading events - where writer student friends read their best work in front of an audience. I'd thought the venue - the Social Capital, above the Black Swan on the Danforth - had closed down, but no, it's running full tilt again. So we will run with it, sometime in February, eight wonderful true stories plus our cheerful and adorable Jason as MC and something from moi. Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

the magic of Jacob Collier

And now for something completely different: do yourself a favour, put down your chores or the newspaper or paintbrush or cleaver or whatever. And watch this doc about one of life's blessed, the immensely talented, joyful young musician Jacob Collier. His mother and two sisters are also radiant and beautiful. 

Sometimes life's lucky ones are those who just know, very early, what they are and what they must do. One of my son's high-school friends was expelled from several schools for constantly drawing graffiti on the walls. He went to art school and now is a wealthy and successful film animator. He just knew. Often young writers just know. I did, though I also wanted to act and was good enough at it, had to get that out of my system first. 

But ye gods, the positive energy of this young man could illuminate a large city. 

Enjoy. Be inspired. "Creative infinity syndrome.""The music will always give me the answers that I need." May that never stop, Jacob. May that never stop.