Tuesday, October 9, 2007

my autumn letter to the World

Next talk date: Vancouver Jewish Book Fair, Sunday November 25.

I've just come back from Amherst, giving a talk at the National Yiddish Book Center. The site is even lovelier than I had expected, luminous, designed to show visitors that it's a working place where books are used, not a museum. It was a joy to make my own working contribution. The Center staff treated me royally; I was shuttled about and put up in the Amherst Inn, a Victorian mansion. At breakfast that morning, I met two Californians, Nadine and Sterling, in town to visit their children. When they heard about my talk they bemoaned the fact that they'd have to miss it because of prior plans, but when I began, there they were, beaming like old friends in the second row.

Of course I visited Emily Dickinson's house. She was a recluse for 25 years, gazing out of her second floor bedroom window and writing nearly 1800 poems, only a handful of which were published during her lifetime, and those anonymously. "This is my letter to the World," she wrote in one, speaking for every writer. My whole visit was made even more extraordinary by the weather - more like August than October, but the famous New England fall colours very much on display.

The book has been favourably reviewed in the "Canadian Jewish News," and I continue to receive heartening notes from readers. I love teaching at the U of T, where my classroom is at the centre of that gorgeous campus, in University College overlooking the Cloisters. We missed Thanksgiving Day this year - I was away - but we'll cook our turkey two weeks late. Anna, Sam and I never miss a chance to give thanks, especially if it involves turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes.