Sunday, June 29, 2014

Proud of Pride

Finished going over the manuscript today, and do not want to see it ever again in my life. Until tomorrow when I discuss changes with the publisher.

I cooked a big dinner while listening to Eleanor interview the fascinating Karl Ove Knausgaard - what a tortured soul, considering that he's a huge bestseller - and Wayson came to dine. And then we walked over to check out World Pride. Mon dieu, it was amazing - hundreds of thousands of people in the streets, the whole downtown core shut down, all manner of folks, costumes, piercings, nakedness. I ran into the local upholsterer who has done a few of my old chairs, wearing a pair of transparent underpants and nothing else. How lucky we are to live in a city this tolerant and diverse - people were here from all over the world, incredulous. Of course, our new premier marched in the parade with her partner Jane and a delegation from the local Catholic school board, defying the ban they'd been handed. So - not totally inclusive yet. But pretty damn close.

Anna and Eli went to the Dyke events yesterday. They went early before it got too crazy, and she said it was beautifully organized with tons of neat stuff for kids.
I hope that one day, the issue of who we sleep with and how we define ourselves sexually will be so utterly inconsequential that all that energy can go into world peace and stopping hunger and saving the planet. But for now - party on, friends.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


Booboo and Blamma play plano. He is talking non stop. "Me do it! Me twy it!" And the best: "I luz you." He notices and is opinionated about everything - what a surprise, given that his mother is a force of nature. He spends lots of time diaperless and has the most adorable bum in the history of the universe. And he did a pee in his pot, for which he received, as reward, a dish of maple walnut "beem." Everything begins with B. He saw a picture of Sam - "Bam!" When he saw my memoir, "Mummy book," he said, because it's beside his mother's bed. Be still my beating heart.

The manuscript of the writing book is here, though the PDF file nearly shut down my computer for some reason and eventually I had to get it printed at Staples. I hope this is not an omen. After an afternoon of playing with Booboo and his mother, I'd just settled down to work when Wayson came by unexpectedly to take me to dinner. I almost said no, another time thank you, and then I said to myself, How lucky I am to have such friends. So we had a nice dinner, and now I've had lots of wine and just want to fall asleep on this hot muggy night. But I'll do a few more chapters, and tomorrow morning, I'll be fresh.

That's the plan, anyway.

Kate Trotter in "Tru Love"

I only agree with the first two. As for the third: if I made a list of Things I Love, lists would be on it.

A gorgeous long weekend dawns. The scent of jasmine pouring in through the screen door is overwhelming. I'm off to stock up at the market and the liquor store, where else? And then Anna and Eli, who are going to check out World Pride on Church Street - apparently there are kids events - are coming to visit. And the proofs of the writing book will appear today, which will take the rest of the weekend.

The scope of the World Pride festivities is incredible; practically every business in town is flying a rainbow flag. How fast things change when businesses realize there's money in tolerance. The streets are jammed with same sex people holding hands, and tourists of many sexes - walking, it's possible to spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out if that person is a boy or a girl or, more probably, somewhere in between.

Wayson and I went to a film at TIFF last night - "Tru Love," a lesbian romance starring my dear friend Kate Trotter, who has won several acting awards for her performance, including one in Berlin. And well-deserved they are - she's spectacular in this sweet if clumsy story (with an infuriating ending) of a middle-aged widow opening up to a new kind of love. Kate is in her late fifties and unlike every other actress of her age, has had no work done - no facelift, no Botox. She told me once she'd eventually be valuable because she'd be the only actress who could move her face. And she was right - the camera doesn't want to leave that marvellously beautiful, expressive, real and open face. Breathtaking. Brava.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

breaking buds

Post-partum. There are a million things to do on my list but I can't quite get to them; I'm sitting a lot and looking at the garden on this heavy grey muggy day. But I just did a very stupid thing - was fiddling with the heavenly rosebush, sniffing and admiring and checking for bugs, when I noticed a big branch hidden behind the others with tons of buds. I tried to move it forward and broke it off. It's in a vase now - 29 buds. Please open. It hurts to look at you, such potential beauty, snapped off, sealed shut.

Luckily I have to go teach or I'd just sink. From too busy to catatonic.

Macca's back(a)!

We were all really really worried about Paul's health, weren't we? So here he is, the perkiest 72-year old on the planet, to reassure us.  He's touring the US for months this year, scores of concerts, and then back to Japan. Phenomenal energy. Inspiring.

Darn, the link doesn't work, I don't know why. Sorry. Well, he says he's fine, and he looks fine too, so we can all stop fretting.

One of my classes ended last night. One student was a wealthy retired developer and engineer originally from the Middle East, who was there specifically because his wife and children had insisted he go to therapy, and his therapist had insisted he write about his childhood. So being a sensible hardworking man, he registered for a course.

And a tough childhood his was too - mindbogglingly tough, by our standards. He not only got the hard stories down on paper, but he learned to write. By the end, his tales were brave and true but also crafted with skill. He told me that at his group therapy session the evening before, he'd read one of the essays he'd written for class, and the entire group decided to take the class. 

I told him he's an inspiration to us all. Men generally, if they take Continuing Ed writing classes - the huge majority are women - tend to take practical courses like travel and screenwriting, not the nebulous painful introspective stuff I teach. So to watch this man struggle and succeed so well was thrilling. It was a wonderful term. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

the best of Monty Python

It's a rainy Tuesday morning, and I'm waiting for the draft to come back any minute, so I can slam through it one more time and get it to the designer. Last night, very tired, I happened on this piece in the Guardian about famous British people's favourite Monty Python sketches and sat laughing my head off. The Spanish Inquisition! The arguing office! So brilliant. Take a few minutes off and enjoy.

A couple of my own favourites are not there: the one where two Cockney charladies go to visit Simone de Beauvoir in Paris and have an in depth discussion about existentialism; and the rugby match between the Bournemouth Gynaecologists and the Sheffield Long John Silver Impersonators. Men in long white coats skilfully kick the ball about while the other team remain stuck in the ground by their peg legs, parrots on their shoulders, saying, "Aarrrgh."

As one commentator says, The only problem with Python was their handling of women - actual actress women, not the women they themselves portrayed so well - which was juvenile at best. But otherwise, they were as good as comedy gets. I remember viewing through a fog of marijuana - ah, the days of my dissolute youth. Apparently there's a reunion about to happen. I wish them, and all their viewers, joy, and thank them for all they've given us.

Monday, June 23, 2014

say cheese

I'm happy to tell you the good news: I just ran into a neighbour who said Power Tool Guy told her he'd just learned he'd been disturbing people and was sorry- he'd try to be more conscious of noise in future. "Good job!" said my neighbour. Yes yes yes! Sometimes being a letter-writing busybody has its benefits.

And more good news: stop the madness. The last draft has gone to the publisher for the final edit. I'm waiting for his comments right now, will review one last time, and then tonight or first thing tomorrow it will all go to the designer. And then onto the conveyor belt to bookdom.

The bad news: the other day was National Giraffe Day, and my own personal giraffe, my six foot eight inch son, walked into the kitchen in his new place of employ and hit his forehead on something. Huge gash and goose egg. It's a tough life for giraffes.

The good news: my old friend Duncan Fremlin, surely the only banjo-playing, kind and nice real estate agent in the world, set up a free photography session for friends and clients with a professional portrait photographer. So Anna, Eli and I went. Terrific, if I do say so myself - my new author photo, a group shot with me awkwardly clutching my grandson and a great shot of Eli. When I look at his face, I see just about everyone in my family - my parents, my own children of course, my ex, myself. An incredible package of DNA, is that boy. And a huge personality too, as perhaps you can see. I know, he has a father who is 50% there too. But Glamma sees her own.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

letter from a crabby neighbour - moi

I have a neighbour - I'm sure a very nice man - we've waved though we've never met - who enjoys his hobby, which is fixing up his house using an array of impressive power tools. He has many kinds of electric saws and drills and power washers; he hammers and staples and God knows what else. The man has a perfect right to do this, and I have a perfect right to curse him, sometimes quite loudly, as I did this afternoon. He started his latest project just after 8 a.m. Saturday and continued all day and all #%$ Sunday too, on and on, hammer and saw and a real screaming saw at that.

When another neighbour stopped by to complain, I decided to do what I do best - write. So I wrote a letter, wrapped it up in a nice bundle with three interesting and current books I was saving for the Little Free Library, and went over. He was in his driveway cutting stone with his circular saw; the noise was so loud, he didn't know I was there for some time. I smiled and gave him the package and left.

Here's the letter. I know my friend Lynn will laugh at my busybody letter-writing ways. I have not heard back, but the sawing did, not long after, stop, and the end of the day was sheer heaven. Am I a horrible intrusive person? Yes. Neurotic too. I hope he likes the books.

Dear neighbour:

Greetings to you on this beautiful Sunday afternoon. I’ve been writing this letter to you in my head for a long time – for years, actually – and now here it is. I’m finally writing it because it’s not just for myself but for other neighbours too.

Your house must be the most beautiful and perfect house in all of Toronto. We all know, because of the amount of time you spend with your power tools and your power washer, cutting and drilling, making and building and hammering and cleaning, especially on the weekend. It’s wonderful that you have work that absorbs you so.

Perhaps you’re not aware, though, that everyone in the neighbourhood knows exactly when you are at work. Yesterday morning I was awakened by the staple gun. Today, a stunningly beautiful Sunday, you have been hard at work from morning all through the day without a break.

Noise pollution is a big issue of concern for me, because tranquillity equals sanity in my book. It’s a joy and a miracle how quiet our neighbourhood can sometimes be, considering that we’re in the centre of the city. I know that the noise of power tools is just the price we pay for living with other human beings. And it could be much, much worse. There’s no loud music, for which I am profoundly grateful.

I cannot ask you to stop doing what you do. Perhaps there’s no solution for a man who loves to use power tools in a crowded city. I’m just asking you to be aware that on this beautiful tranquil Sunday, I and all your other neighbours have spent the entire day listening to you work and praying that soon your house will be perfect, and you will take up reading.  

With best wishes,

Regent's Park's new green space

If I don't unglue my bum from this chair, I may never walk again. I've had it. The manuscript is just about ready to go - my dream was to send it off tonight. But it's 10.30 p.m., I've been at it for days, and still there are things to do. So, tomorrow morning. But it will go off asap, because I can't see it any more.

Did get out a few times, though - to a party on Friday at a very snazzy house where the flower arrangements alone probably cost more than my month's grocery bill. And what was of most interest there? The six baby raccoons trying to climb down the back wall to get to the plates of potato chips on the deck. O Canada.

Monique's Francophone dinner last night, where we discussed the intricacies of the Muslim faith, Jack trying to explain just how many factions there are just in Iraq and why they fight each other. He pointed out that Jewish history is full of stories of people refuting authority figures - that even the great scholars, when they're studying the Talmud, make a point of arguing about its meaning. "Of course they argue," I said. "They're JEWS!" Whereas there is no history in Islam, he said, of argument. There is one final authority, and that's it, it must be obeyed, which is why it's authoritarian. I don't know if this is true or not, but Jack knows an incredible amount about almost everything and says it, of course, in good French.

Best of all, I went for a bit to the opening of the new Regent's Park common green space on Saturday afternoon. Toronto at its best - the most extraordinary assortment of humanity spread out over the brand new grass - women wearing hijab and saris and almost nothing, transgender and gay citizens getting ready for World Pride, First Nations citizens, challenged people of all kinds, people of every size and colour and age.
The Toronto Symphony in the shade under the swimming pool awning playing "American in Paris" - fabulous. I bet most of the crowd gathered around could not have ever imagined the Toronto Symphony playing in their backyard. And that includes me.
 Many marching bands, even very small ones.
I bought a glass of sweet Jamaican sorrel tea from her. Delicious.
 A circle dance under a glorious sky.
The drumming circle.

Before, there were crumbling buildings; now a green space for everyone. A beautiful thing in my 'hood.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Amazon review of "Finding the Jewish Shakespeare"

Please forgive me, more horn-blowing in store. I can't help it - I was just checking the memoir on Amazon, just to make sure it's still there, bless its little heart, when my first book came up, and I saw to my amazement that a review had been posted there years ago that I'd never read. So I read it. And it's quite nice. And so I'd like to share it with you, because I'm a boastful show-offy sort of person.

I don't know Jeff B. Sultanof, but I like him, I really like him.

5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive - well-researched and beautifully written Nov. 14 2012
By Jeff B. Sultanof - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It would be easy to say that the author was driven to write this book because her great-grandfather was once very famous and is nearly forgotten today. Except that Jacob Gordin was one of the most important playwrights of the early twentieth century, and perhaps the greatest playwright of the Yiddish theater. His plays were commissioned by the finest actors and actresses of that world, which included Jacob Adler and Sara Adler, Boris Thomashefsky, Keni Lipzin and Bertha Kalish. In the early Yiddish theater world of songs and dances, he introduced contemporary drama. Audiences, initially reluctant to embrace this new 'controversial' theater, soon acclaimed the actors and the plays. The Yiddish theater became a magnet not only for immigrants, but for some of the most discerning theatergoers and critics from Broadway.

The more I read this incredible book, the more I realized that Adler was perhaps one of the first modern actors of the American theater, and that the dramas from the pen of Gordin later led to the contemporary realism of the Group Theater, which of course revolutionized the art of acting and playwriting. In a very real sense, Gordin was the grandfather of the theater of Clifford Odets, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, William Inge and Arthur Laurents (of course Adler's daughter Stella became one of the greatest acting teachers in the country). While Gordin's plays might be thought melodramatic today, they are still daring, deal with often difficult subject matter, and are often shocking. I was amazed at the excerpts presented in the book. These plays would 'play' today. Many of them still speak to us, even though the plots reflect the times and experiences of the Jewish immigrant.

Anyone interested in the history of the American theater must read this book to fully understand how plays and acting began their ascent from declamation to realistic portrayals. This book is a triumph, and I hope that it leads to Gordin's work becoming far more accessible. Even though a few of his plays have always been popular, more of his work deserves to be seen again.

word wrestling

Sitting here surrounded by pages. Got the copyedit of the writing book manuscript from Don, my publisher, two days ago, and have spent every possible moment with it, starting at 6.15 a.m. yesterday and at 7 today, comparing his edits with my original. Luckily Sam came over and cooked a gourmet dinner of filet of catfish, asparagus, grilled mushrooms and sweet corn for me last night, so I got a protein boost. Cancelled meetings so I could focus, because Don is coming at 3 today to begin the page by page process of going through his edits and my reaction to them. (CUT WHAT?!!)

Don't let anyone ever tell you that writing is not hard work. I am wrestling with words, and I am covered with mud.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Kerry Clare, Paul Girl, writes a review

Writer Kerry Clare, mother of two very young children who somehow finds time to read and review a huge number of books and do her own writing work too, also has a blog, Pickle Me This, which has long been linked to mine. When I first read her, I liked her honesty, humour and immediacy and the fact that she reads so fricking much and comments with warmth and clarity.

Well - she has just commented with warmth and clarity on a book dear to my heart - my own. Her latest blog post, entitled Tomorrow! (scroll down), is a long, thoughtful, appreciative review of All my loving. Kerry, it turns out, is a Paul Girl too. Oh we are a fine breed.

I invite Kerry Clare and all Paul Girls and their children and, yes, grandchildren, to a celebration at my house next year. June 18, 2015, let's gather to celebrate Macca's 73rd birthday, and every year from then on. We are lucky to love a good man, a great musician and citizen of the world. Let's gather, listen to his music and that of his Liverpool bandmates, and eat vegetables.

Thanks, Kerry, for such close reading, for your sensitivity and depth. A gift.

storm shot

There was a very dramatic storm last night. As I sat in the classroom in University College, U of T, I watched the sky blacken, thunder, lightning, lashing rain. By the time the class was over - and a spectacular class it was too, such depth and honesty, made me proud - the sky was pink and red and blue and gold. Very beautiful. Somehow, looking back, UC looked like Disneyworld.

Macca is 72 today

With the strains of "They say it's your birthday/You're gonna have a good time!" in my head, I raise a glass - well, a cup of coffee, actually, as it's 10 a.m. - to my dear Paul, who is, according to the British newspaper I was able to access via Google, recovering from his illness and getting ready to tour again. I recently listened again to his latest CD "New," and marvel anew at his relentless drive and creativity. How many aging rockers are still putting out great new stuff? The Stones and the Who are touring but not making new discs. Paul Simon, yes, another single-minded force of nature.

"New" is a very good record with his usual mix - ballads, screaming rockers and everything in between - songs that stick to your brain and are impossible to get out. Not to mention the highly original videos that accompany the CD, including the latest, a beautiful little film set in the future in which Paul dances with a hauntingly real robot designed by the "War Horse" people.

I do wish he'd let his hair go grey. But otherwise, he's perfect. And I'm as completely objective about him as I am about my grandson, so you know it's the truth.

Here's a group in Liverpool celebrating Paul's birthday his way. I wish you a joyful day, my dear friend. With thanks from us all.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Grace and friends

My invaluable friend and assistant Grace, who spends a few hours every Tuesday helping me with all things computer and technical to do with the book and my website, also works at the breakfast club at the K Club down the street. Here she is with her charges. A true Toronto group.
Here's what we designed this morning, for a postcard about the book to go to bookstores:
I LOVE IT! What do YOU think?

Beth's garden workshop

My garden workshop July 20 is 2/3 full - but there's still room. In case you wondered, here are some pix I just took of the actual garden and its inhabitants.
This is taken from an artful angle, avoiding bare patches and dying ivy.
Oh peonies, full of sound and fury and then lasting only a few days. But so gorgeous while you're there. 
I thought my favourite rose had died over the winter - you've never seen a sadder looking dark brown spindly plant. But ... welcome, beauty! All is well. Meet her for yourself at ...

A one-day writing adventure.
Inspiration, structure and support for those with lots of writing experience and for those with none.

Spend a summer day learning to trust your voice and tell your stories. Listen to your creative self. Gain confidence and perspective from friendly contact with other writers. Write in the garden and enjoy positive feedback, bushy perennials, and lunch.

Who: Writer and teacher Beth Kaplan has taught writing at Ryerson for 20 years and at U of T for 7.

When: Sunday July 20, 10.30 a.m. to 5 p.m

Cost: $150, including food for thought and actual food (and wine). Register early; registration is limited.

Where: Beth’s secret garden in Cabbagetown.

Laughter, camaraderie and insight guaranteed.
For more information -
To register –

“Glorious stories being made, a beautiful setting, great food, a garden to die for.” Kelsey Mason
 Just what I needed to get started writing again.”  Pat Broms
“Beth has a special gift for creating a safe learning environment, with a well of positive things to say without passing judgment. It was a joy to be there with her and the others. Her garden is magical, and she created a magical day for me.”  Ann C.

Monday, June 16, 2014

'nuff said

Alan Johnson is my hero

How exciting is this? This morning, there was a heavy cream-coloured envelope in my mailbox from the House of Commons, London.  Only a few weeks ago, I read an interview in the Guardian with British politician Alan Johnson, who has won several awards with his memoir This Boy. (Choice of Beatle song title not coincidental.) The article was one in a series asking famous people to name their hero. Alan's was ... Paul. My very own Paul.

I immediately ordered his book, which isn't listed in our library system yet, and then I decided to send him mine. Expecting nothing - a book goes off addressed to the House of Commons, London. At best, I thought that in months, I'd receive a form letter of thanks. 

Instead, a very sweet hand-signed and prompt letter, telling me he is looking forward to reading my book! Now, that's not just a skilled politician with an efficient office but an impressive man. I've started his book, and it's wonderful. I will write him back when I've finished it. Thank you, fellow memoirist and Paul lover.

Today is the annual Book Fair run by Doubletake, my favourite store - for only a toony entrance fee, you enter a room packed to the rafters with books and pile them up. Oh heaven and hell. I found tons for me, for my students, for my Little Free Library. I'll go back again to stock up for the latter, as there are some pretty bare days there. Of course, the last thing on earth that I need is more books. And yet - sweeeeet.

Last night, I went to one of my favourite places, the Merchants of Green Coffee cafe and shop on Matilda Street, to an event called Poetry Night in Canada. A former actor called Jeffrey Renn, from Powell River, has chosen great Canadian poems; he tells stories about them and then recites them for us. It was wonderful to sit in a funky sunlit room that smells of coffee, listening to my country's greatest poets - Al Purdy, Ondaatje, Atwood, Scott ... We even got to our feet and recited "Alligator Pie" by Dennis Lee with Jeffrey. "If I don't get some, I think I'm gonna DIE!"

I was informed about the event by my pen pal Theresa Kishkan; we follow each other's blogs and are dear friends who have never met. Jeffrey read some poems by Theresa's husband, the prize-winning poet John Pass, who had the original idea and helped put the event together. And then Jeffrey read a beautiful poem by Theresa herself, which was - of course - my favourite. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

"Shelter," a brand new opera

A beautiful, solitary Sunday. Well, not completely solitary, there was a great Zumba class in the Cabbagetown Youth Centre gym at 11, the last until the fall, great fun, especially when the leader, a very young local woman, called a friend to come help her lead one number - a boy of six, flailing joyfully with long skinny arms and legs, not one shred of self-consciousness. If only we stayed like that.

Back home for the solitude of the day - reading, watering, hanging a load of laundry outside, picking and cooking rhubarb, picking lettuce for dinner, reading. Now listening to Randy Bachman before I go out in a bit.

Last night, I had a moving encounter with a man I fell in love with in 1970, when I was 19 and he about 25. I've been privileged all my life to have loved talented, brilliant, inspiring gay men, though in the early days, I didn't always know they were gay. I didn't know Keith Turnbull was gay, and no one else did either.  I worked as his assistant while he directed a show at the Neptune Theatre, and I loved him desperately, a man of ceaseless energy and insight and humour with amazing taste, a gourmet cook who knew everything about everything - including flowers, for God's sake, later he did all the flower arrangements for our mutual friends Annie and Jim's wedding. I've seen him rarely since then - have heard from mutual friends about his theatre directing career, his time at Banff and then his move into directing modern opera. We met briefly in Montreal a few years ago and I gave him my book about my great-grandfather - found out last night that he actually read it, though he said 2/3 of the way through, it got to be a bit of a slog. "So many productions!" he said. "Here we go again!" But he read it all.

He has been afflicted with something like MS but without an official diagnosis - he gets around in a power wheelchair and has extremely limited mobility in his lower body, though his upper body, and his extraordinarily nimble and ferocious brain, are untouched. He utterly disregards his disability and continues to direct in Wales, Sweden, all over Canada.

Last night, Annie, Jim and I went to see "Shelter," a new opera by two women, produced by Tapestry, a company that specializes in modern opera. Not an easy piece, but a stunning production with glorious singers and lighting, fantastic sets and costumes by another great friend Sue LePage - and direction by Keith. We had a great reunion with him as he hovered over his production and then went out afterwards to a nearby restaurant he has sussed out - wheelchair accessible with very good food and an outdoor patio so he can smoke.

And there he was, the man I loved in 1970 - hilarious, knowledgeable, generous, thoughtful, fierce, wise - impossible as only a great artist can be. He told us about his tie collection - thousands of vintage ties. I KNEW he was a kindred spirit. Wondrous.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

nudes on bikes

The annual nude bike ride down Queen Street. You rock, Toronto! There's so much to do this weekend - the Luminato arts festival, several street festivals, NXNE music festival. Too bad I was just too busy to join these guys, because there's nothing I'd like more than riding my bicycle around town on a cool grey day with no clothes on. LOL.

Friday, June 13, 2014

well said

gardenia breath

Today is the first day in some time that things around here are slowing down a bit. At last. It has been a crazy month, with the book coming out and the huge push to try to get it noticed, which of course is on-going. Followed by the So True reading series to get off the ground - readers to find, their pieces to edit, the evening to coordinate and get through (the next one scheduled for July 27, more info to follow). Followed by getting the last draft of the writing book to the publisher, a long-awaited visit to a too-speedy endocrinologist about my osteoporosis, and a four day trip to Ottawa. Woven around teaching, running the house, bringing the garden back to life, my family and tenants and friends and life.

Every day, it feels like an avalanche of emails to wade through, trying to keep up with correspondence and reading. Sisyphus.

But the book is out, the series is launched, the draft is being edited, classes are great, and the garden is glorious. The gardenia plant has six sweet blooms and the roses are about to burst. And there's a majority Liberal government. Take a breath, girl. Summer is here.

I haven't spoken about the books I'm somehow reading, very slowly, in and around all that. I have just finished the massive, almost overwhelming "The Goldfinch," by Donna Tartt. I confess that though I admired the vast scope of the book, I skipped large chunks. It is brilliant - how does this woman know so much about so much? The writing is at times mesmerizing. But as the French say, un embarras de richesses - an overload of riches. There's too much. Too too much.

Just got two books through the mail: "This Boy," a prize-winning memoir by British politician Alan Johnson who was asked in the "Guardian" if he had a hero and answered, be still my beating heart, Paul McCartney. So of course I ordered his lovely book, and, incidentally, sent him mine. And "Into the Woods: how stories work and why we tell them," by John Yorke, which is fascinating.

And from the library: "Family Trouble: memoirists on the hazards and rewards of revealing family," which is mostly stating the obvious but interesting; "Kayak Morning: reflections of love, grief and small boats," by one of my favourite non-fiction writers, Roger Rosenblatt; and "Good Book," by David Plotz, who read every word of the Bible and has somehow fashioned a book about it, haven't started this one yet.

Those plus the pile in the living-room, which are now stacked on top of each other and reach nearly to the top of the piano.

But summer is coming. Reading time.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


My heart is resting easy - it's 10 p.m., the Liberals are at 57 seats, the PC's at 28, the NDP at 21. It will be a Liberal majority! Oh the fine people of this great province. I know, lots voted for Rob Ford. And lots, some years ago, voted for the loathsome Mike Harris and elected the most destructive politician this province has ever known, not once but twice. But now, many have rejected our version of the Tea Party. Hudak hired right-wing Americans to advise him - and this is what he gets.

I think this is not just anti-a very right wing and unpleasant politician - who was described recently as a man with all the charm of Stephen Harper and none of his brains - but a huge vote of confidence for Kathleen Wynne personally, not just our province's first woman premier, but an openly gay one. Amazing. There are good people and good possibilities in politics still. Not many and not much - but here it is, something good. Thank you, lord. 

a beautiful review

Just got this email from Maggie about the memoir and cannot resist posting. I'll also print it and carry it around for good luck.

I haven’t read a book that I couldn’t put down in such a fashion in a long time.

The story is magic. The voice of young Beth is crystal clear, vibrant, and vital. The humour holds harsh truths together with a strong and inviting thread. I just wanted to read on, read more. The book felt alive, as if I was there with young Beth, learning about the world in Halifax, London, New York, Paris. I could feel her balancing between childhood and womanhood; that scary precarious place. Of course, the music, the love scenes, the devotion to Paul were enchanting. I was fascinated by the original diary entries, sketches, and photographs. They added richness to the story.

I could relate to much of it, yet there was lots for me to learn. A perfect balance for this reader. Congratulations! Keep writing — I want to read more.

Thank you! What a gift.

Another gift - Anna texted out of the blue that a friend had come to babysit, did I want to see "Maleficent" with her? We'd discussed going but thought our schedules are just too crazed to manage. But I did get away, we met, had burgers, saw the film in 3D. As all the reviews say, it is not a great movie - though the special effects are fantastic - but Angelina is hauntingly beautiful and truthful, even in such a silly part. It really felt like playing hookey this afternoon for both of us, sneaking off to a fantasy film. I want cheekbones like Angelina's!

Just voted. If you're in Ontario, PLEASE GO AND VOTE. And keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

the wedding photographer

Just got this from my new sister-in-law's mother Lorraine. Amazing what you can do with a phone. Wait till you see the video of Eli jamming ... no, it's okay, I won't post it.

Fingers crossed - tomorrow is the election. Let us pray. It's a good sign that the woman at the Y who told me last week she would vote NDP to punish the Liberals for various scandals has changed her mind. "It's too close," she said. "I'll vote Liberal." Kathleen Wynne really is a marvel of a politician, tough but personable. She truly loves the game and is very good at it - smart, balanced, in touch.

Let us pray.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Michelle Obama about Maya Angelou

A beautiful speech by one beautiful woman about another.

woke up, it was a Chelsea wedding

Home. Even after four days away, it feels like paradise here. I thank the gods, the powers that be, whoever is up there, out there, for my house and garden, roof, floor. It's so good to be safely back. I've just spent half an hour checking the garden - there are four gardenia blooms out, so the air is scented; I've picked the bugs off the rosebush, checked the birdseed and the veggies, listened to my neighbour Rob doing his daily exercises to hard rock. Yes, I'm home.

Cannot complain about the journey to Ottawa and back - Anna timed it so her son was worn out and fell asleep shortly after we left both ways, so we had an hour of peace. Then when he woke we had CD's blasting, we sang songs, we kept him busy. His vocabulary is increasing daily, and his newest words are "OUT! NOW!" when he'd had enough of the car seat. But he had to wait till the next rest stop.

We went to Ottawa for my brother's 60th birthday party, held in his big house near Chelsea, Quebec. His partner of nearly 10 years, beautiful Emilie, mother of their son 6 year old Jake, had invited all of his old friends, and his homies, his best friends since the mid-sixties, appeared from near and far, including Jeff Mannering who flew in from Fort McMurray. My brother had a band then called Rion and the Zircons, and the Zircons were nearly all there. Mike was Rion. They played later, but I'd gone by then.

And then the surprise - after a few hours of mingling, just before we began to eat,  Mike called us together, dropped to one knee and proposed to Em. We all knew she has wanted to be married for a long time; he, the bachelor dad, was not ready. But now he was. They'd planned this as a surprise - almost no one knew. A JP was waiting to do the very simple ceremony, conducted in both English and French, as Em, though 100% bilingual, is Francophone. There were tears, many of them mine. At one moment, my brother looked so much like my dad, it took my breath away.
Click to enlarge.
The homies gather.
 Just after the proposal.
 During the ceremony, with Jake
 Les mariĆ©s.
I found a harmonica in Mike's music room (an incredible basement hangout full of guitars, amps, drums, instruments of all kinds) and showed it to Eli, who immediately started playing. A friend of Mike's who'd brought his guitar started to play, and the two of them jammed. And then we feasted and ate the Frank Zappa cake.
 Eli's first jam session with harp and guitar
 The cake, for the groom who's a Zappa nut.

Next day - two, thirty-three, ninety-four.

Family - you can't live with 'em and you can't live without 'em.

Friday, June 6, 2014


Dinner yesterday made by my son - this is a hamburger, believe it or not, under grilled red peppers and homemade chutney and avocado and a fried egg, with asparagus and a baked garlic aioli. Mon dieu, c'etait delicious.
Dinner tonight, at our favourite - the Village Cafe in Britannia, Ottawa. After a day in the back seat of the car eating goldfish crackers and cheese, he finished a bowl of pasta in record time. His mother took his shirt off so it'd stay clean.
We were five at dinner, ranging in age from 2 to 94. This is Do - isn't she incredible for that age? With May, a friend of hers and my mother's. I had a cry at dinner, missing my mum. It is so strange to be here without her.


Just have to say that it was hard, outing myself as a Liberal. And it's mostly because my riding, both provincially and federally, is 100% Liberal with very good candidates. My daughter's riding always votes NDP with very good candidates, and if I lived there, I'd vote NDP. So I'm a Liberal by expediency. But in this election, by conviction also.

There, is that clear? Now to pack.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Into the future with Kathleen Wynne

I think next week, things begin to calm down. I hope so, because this last while has been manic. Five minutes ago, I emailed the latest draft of the writing book to my publisher, and now I have to pack for a trip to Ottawa tomorrow morning - renting a car and embarking with Anna and Eli. We will be packing many many snacks and toys, and Anna is planning the trip like D Day - when to come over here so that she can wear him out so that we can leave just as he's about to fall asleep so that we have at least a few minutes of peace on a five hour drive with a very active two year old. Who at his annual paediatric checkup the other day was off the charts in height and weight. And counting to three.

Well no, looking at my daytimer for next week - teaching Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, a private coaching client, various health appointments, and work to get the book out. Not lying on the chaise with the grapes and the chocolates just yet. Luckily my friend John will be here over the weekend keeping the garden going, as it's bursting with life and so heavenly, I hate to leave. But it's important to see Auntie Do, who had her 94th birthday while I was in France, and it's my brother's 60th birthday too. Par Tay. 

Yesterday, at Carole's class at the Y, I talked to Elizabeth, a very bright woman and a lawyer. She told me she has always voted NDP or Liberal, but this time she's so enraged at Liberal incompetency and corruption - i.e. the gas plants - that she refuses to vote for them. "But that's exactly what's going to get Tim Hudak elected," I said, "the whole 'spanking the Liberals' vendetta." 

I missed the leadership debate on Tuesday night, thank the lord, I was teaching, though when I got to College Street to get the streetcar home, I ran right into Kathleen Wynne getting into a big SUV after a campaign stop. Waiting in the car for her was her partner, a lean, attractive woman. And I thought, how incredible, no matter what happens, that Wynne's sexuality is simply not an issue in this campaign. She was a married woman with children who fell in love with a woman and ended up living with both her new lesbian partner and her ex-husband and their kids - who can do that? And in how many countries in the world would that not come up in an election campaign? It's not just that Canada is exceptionally tolerant - though in many ways it is - but that she is an exceptional woman, so hardworking and honest that her worth cannot be doubted, even by bigots. I gather that the debate was not her finest hour, and she has been saddled with huge quantities of grief from her predecessor. But that's no reason to punish her party and thus elect Hudak, a Tea Party thug second only to Mike Harris and Stephen Harper for thuggish hideousness. 

By the end of my harangue, Elizabeth was beginning to waver. I'll work on her again next week.

My parents were 100% NDP, always. I was NDP through my youth, a card-carrying member of the party as a young mother. But now I'm voting Liberal, and in fact, it's been a while since I've voted NDP. Is this the hardening of the idealistic arteries as I get older? Is it just being realistic about what's possible and electable? This time, it's simply that NDP leader Horvath made a very bad call in rejecting a fine budget and forcing an election which might bring the monstrous Hudak into power. 

I beg you out there, my fellow Ontarians, to forget the past and focus on the future. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Beth's book launch talk with Sam

Friend Nicole took a video of my talk at the book launch, and finally my helper Grace is here to help upload it. She has just posted it on Youtube, so that we can link to it here. It's in two parts, the first Sam introducing me and the start of my rambling talk, and the second the continuation and end. Will this woman ever shut up? Stay tuned.

Click here to watch part 1 and part 2.

I have no idea what I said. Hope it's entertaining, at least.

Monday, June 2, 2014

from girl to boy, with the love of his parents

Have spent this lovely day sitting on the deck, reworking my stern lessons for writers, including an admonition not to be distracted by the internet. And of course, after writing that, I stopped to check email and Facebook. Just watched a very moving little film about a transgender child. Quite beautiful. Chris Tyrell, you will cry. And everyone else may too.