Sunday, October 25, 2020

health report: all clear

So many of you have been emailing and texting in concern about my possible exposure to Covid that I need to post immediately: Holly just tested negative, so we are all negative too. Incredible relief. Sam would have had to quit work for weeks; Anna, to isolate with sick boys, or even more difficult, healthy, bouncy boys, while sick herself. Horrendous.

Whereas for me - well, yes, I'm old(er), a senior, definitely in the AT RISK category. But if I had to isolate, not that much would change in my life, because these days especially, I live in solitude. I'm so drawn into this new book, delving into the past, that I do little else but sit all day - what a privilege! Today I had to force myself to do Jane's Zoom class at 1 and then to have aperitif with Monique at 5 - and later to watch 60 Minutes, gazing in fascination at close-ups of one of the most repulsive faces on earth. 

But otherwise — with what hours I can spare from teaching and editing work, housework, trying to get the memoir out, and of course too much blasted social media — I spend my days now fiddling with letters and paragraphs for the story of my parents and their offspring. My mother working to resettle Jewish refugees after the ship the Exodus landed in Germany in 1947. My father nearly dying of polio in 1951, the miracle of him picking up his fiddle again. Mum writing to Dad, a few months after they'd met in France and spent four heavenly days together in Paris and Brussels, about having to have an abortion - in war-torn Germany. 

At the moment, I'm following their love affair just after the war, back and forth, she in Germany, he in New York - in their letters you see them hesitate, then go for it, then pull back again. There was love and desire, but also fear on both sides. And they express it all through the mail.

There's a remarkable confluence here - me, the chronicler, the memoir writer fascinated by family story, helped by my mother the packrat, who saved every letter, every scrap of paper. How many people can delve deeply into the inner lives of their parents before they were born? That's what I'm able to do, thanks to Mum, and it's remarkable. Because luckily, they were fascinating, complex people, and even better - THEY WERE GOOD WRITERS. The letters are amazing. My problem will be cutting. I'll need help with that. 

In other news - I opened the blinds this morning to see a big skunk strolling along Sackville Street. Oh - and I don't have Covid. Otherwise, onward. 

a marvellous review brings the sun on a chilly grey Sunday

Started a quick scroll through FB this bleak Sunday morning, to find this. Happy and beyond grateful. It's all worth it! I had many doubts about this book because it was turned down by every publisher and agent I sent it to, save one who rejected it in the end. I decided to publish anyway, to clear it from my life and move on. The fulsome praise from readers has filled me with astonishment, wonder, and joy. 

Lynn's Reviews > Loose Woman: my odyssey from lost to found


by 
U 50x66
's review

it was amazing

The Oxford Dictionary gives 10 definitions of the word ‘loose’. Beth’s memoir takes the reader along with her on her odyssey through 8 of those definitions. From her growing up with fabulously glamorous but complex parents from whom she strives to break loose, on to the joys and heartbreaks of her years on the Vancouver stage as a very talented actress tasting the sometimes bitter delights of the sexually liberating loose 70s, and through to her stay in a L’Arche community in France, this fast paced, very funny, and poignant account will stay with the reader for a long time. It is thanks to her contact with the mentally handicapped men at L’Arche ( the most gripping moments in the memoir) that Beth - a self described half-Jewish atheist, will slowly discover a looseness that sets her free. She is particularly good at capturing a moment, a character, and a whole ambience in a few quick phrases. You will never encounter a cheese platter in the same way. Not only a Goodread, a very Excellentread. Highly recommended.

Friday, October 23, 2020

a beautiful day, with sadness

Just had to let you know that it's the most stunning day of the year here: 22 degrees feeling like 25 - radiant. The sparrows are splashing in their dish of water on the deck bannister, rainbow drops scattering as they bathe and drink. Awhile ago there was a blue jay at the feeder, then the cardinal family. I'm finishing the ceremonial taking in of the plants, washing geraniums and coleus, taking them to their winter home upstairs. 

Because tonight there'll be a thunderstorm and it's going to feel like 2 degrees, with possibly a tornado further north. The temp is dropping over 20 degrees overnight. Ah, autumn in Canada. The ground is thick with leaves. The burning bush in the garden is glowing yellow and red. 

Yesterday, I went across town to celebrate Thomas's birthday. It probably wasn't a great idea Covid-wise - Ben is now back in school, and though Anna is very careful, the whole family is out and about. But there was no way I'd miss my son-in-law's birthday and Anna's roast beef and Yorkshire pudding followed by chocolate cake made partly, or at least the crunchy sparkles added, by Eli. And, mostly, to see my boys. I will say again, with complete objectivity, they are the finest boys the world has ever seen. They were throwing themselves, shrieking with laughter, at their dad, and he was carefully tossing them upside down and sliding them to the floor. If that's not what fathers are for, I don't know what is. 

Words are starting to escape me. Earlier today I couldn't remember the word 'bureaucracy.' And now I can't remember the word for the sparkly things on the top of cakes - no, not candles, like tiny smarties. It's pathetic. 

I just Googled: sprinkles. Oh oh. Worrisome. Brain disintegrating?

Very sad news: the other day, a lovely young man I knew from the Y was murdered. Shane Stanford was a calm, kind presence in the gym, smiling, helpful; he was hoping to become general manager. Instead, as he sat in his car on his way home, he was victim of an apparently random gun attack. Horrifying and tragic. Far too many guns and gangs, angry young men with no future.

Speaking of angry men with no future - watched the last US debate last night. May we never have to confront that hideous orange human being again, except as he howls on his way to jail. 

Friends, now that I've opened the last bottle of rosé of 2020 and had a glass, it's time to go for a walk in the sun. 

Your smiles for today: The kids are going to do Hallowe'en with friends. Holly and Eli made his Bart costume themselves, with yellow cardboard, styrofoam, and ingenuity. 

And ... my Macca has a new solo album coming out! 

Happy to end with something cheerful.

PS Now not so cheerful. Anna just called because Holly, who works in the school system, just called her. A co-worker of Holly's, someone she works with in the lunchroom, has just been diagnosed with Covid. Holly's going for a test tomorrow morning. But this means I should isolate at least until Holly's test comes back. She and I were side by side last night, inside, without masks. 

Suddenly scary.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

picture ledges save the day

People are saying such nice things about the book, I just might, reluctantly, have to believe them. Debra sent this today: 

God, I loved it, Beth. Wow, can you write. It was a pleasure to dig in with a writer who magically spins her way around a fabulous sentence or paragraph, crafting them so well. And hilarious! I laughed out loud many times. I will definitely be recommending this book to my friends.

Gina wrote, I started reading your book, its wonderful! You’re wonderful. Brave Honest Insightful and Funny. Brava Bella.

And former writing student and friend Pat, whose prose is like poetry:
Finished your book at 5AM this morning .
Had no idea you were so 
Wild and Crazy .
Need I say
Reckless 
In your Youth .

Who knew you weren't always thin ?
Or of your life on the stage (only hinted at before )
Or of your travels ?
But mainly about your amazing time at L'Arche ?
Congrats ! Kudos ! and Mazeltov ! I'm looking forward to the next installment , your next 40 years (be sure to include your Paris Blog )

Thanks to you all. Good thing my friends write beautifully! Not sure about the next 40 years, though, Pat, taking me to 110. 

Pouring and dark this morning, turning into a stunning warm day, the leaves spectacular. A busy day of housework - Dan came to finish the stairs, pictures and explanation to follow. And my dear John had been to Ikea twice to get me picture ledges. Pictures ledges! Found by chance and the answer to my prayers. For years I've had family pix stacked up against a hall wall, intending to find a laborious way to arrange and hang them. And then I discovered pictures ledges! Today John and I put them up.

Heaven: my grandparents, even as small children, my parents and children, others in the family - more to come, they can be rearranged and changed. Here is one of the pictures now on display; visiting my mother in Edmonton in about 1992, my children discovered a party dress and tutu of mine that Mum had kept, and posed. 

Then spent an hour washing plant containers and bringing them in; winterizing is nearly done. Quite a job, just the hardiest, the geraniums and coleus, still to come. No writing work today, except for a pitch to a CBC radio program about the book. Yesterday, I began to dig into my files on my parents and again, had to stop, it was touching too close to home. But that's the job — to touch too close to home. 

To bring the pictures to life.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

"American Utopia," and the brilliant, unforgettable Angela Hewitt

Received two beautiful notes today about the book, one from musician Louise, friend since high school, and one from Shelley, whom I don't know. 

Louise: I love your writing style, fluid and lyrical with a satisfying rhythm. And you can be very funny too! ... Your account of your time at L'Arche made my soul ache. 

Shelley: Having read your blog these last few years, I was looking forward to reading your new book. Absolutely wonderful! There is so much life and joy bouncing off the pages! I especially loved reading about your experiences in France. What a lot of heart goes into your writing. Thank you for what you do!

Thank you both very much. As you know, I can grow profoundly discouraged about this crazy profession or calling or whatever you call something you do all your life that does not provide enough money to live on. And then I'm reminded - oh yes. That's why I do it. 

Two marvellous artistic experiences in the comfort of my home: yesterday on HBO, American Utopia, the musical by David Byrne made into a film by Spike Lee. It was on Broadway in NYC when I was last there and though I wasn't a Talking Heads or Byrne fan particularly I'd heard such great things, I wanted to see it but it was sold out. It's wonderful - the music spectacular, made by musicians, especially percussionists, wearing their instruments on harnesses so they can do choreographed moves while they play - difficult, rhythmic, infectious. Byrne is so good-looking and vigorous at 68 - unfair how some men (and sadly, how few women) get better looking as they age, George Clooney here's looking at you. Byrne is a fascinating performer, and his band is unbeatable. A must-see.

Today, the sublime. One of my students gave me a gift certificate to a Koerner Hall concert as a thank you, and I chose Angela Hewitt playing Bach's Art of the Fugue. It was set for this spring, cancelled, put off until today - and cancelled again. But they sent out a Zoom link. This incredible musician taped an introduction, explaining each of the fugues and the canons, and then, at 3, she walked into an empty concert hall and played the most brilliant concert I've ever heard. What's extraordinary about Hewitt, who's from Ottawa, is the complete lack of ego, of distracting theatrics - no Gould stuff, sitting low or humming or grimacing, she sits straight, her fingers fly, and the music goes straight from Bach's heart to your's. 


Bach always makes me weep, but today - she'd explained that the 14th fugue ends suddenly because Bach died before he'd finished it. Some pianists fill in that gap, but she does not. She plays on and on, the music incredibly complex and layered, we are watching closeups of her slender, powerful hands, seemingly effortless brilliance, and then suddenly she stops in mid-bar and bows her head. It's shocking, a punch in the chest, the sense that this inimitable soul has died, that I burst into sobs, sitting in my kitchen. She played the short piece tacked on by CPE Bach to finish, and then sat, spent, motionless, in a silent, darkening concert hall. Alone in my kitchen, tears streaming, I clapped.

How lucky we are, that artists are creating as fervently as ever and sending their art right into our homes. Today, I loved seeing the closeups of her hands, her face, the music, on Zoom. What I missed was the chance to leap to my feet with hundreds of other people and thank her by shouting "Brava!"

Here, from yesterday's walk -  Brava to Mother Nature too.


Saturday, October 17, 2020

In which Martha Henry writes a review and Annamie Paul says hello.

First, the best news: the magnificent actress and director Martha Henry, the queen of Stratford, read my book and sent me a review. Here it is, condensed:

Beth, I loved it!!  

You’ve led an interesting life. The book is fascinating reading. I adored your parents and your association with them. And of course I found your journey from actor to writer highly intriguing, with lots of the emotions we have all felt. AND the whole sojourn in France, clearly the heart and soul of the book. You are a brilliant, talented lady. I am so proud to know you, even a tiny bit!

I hope it sells like hotcakes.
With love and admiration,
Martha

Talk about being proud to know someone! Thank you so much, Martha. Long may you reign. 

Hotcakes, however ... Sigh. 

Ruth and I did our walkabout yesterday in the sun, discussing whom to vote for - there's a by-election in this leftie riding, and the Green's new leader Annamie Paul is running. We'd heard she's a terrific woman who deserves a voice in Parliament. I've never voted Green because almost everywhere in Canada, they split the leftwing vote without a chance of being elected, often allowing the Cons to slither in. But the Cons don't have a chance here, so perhaps, Ruth and I were saying, we should vote for her this time.

And then there she was in Riverdale Park, talking to voters. She's marvellous - lively, engaged, knowledgeable, with - importantly - a great sense of humour. An intelligent woman who for some incomprehensible reason has entered this crazy arena. She has my vote.

Speaking of crazy arenas, Anna helped a few days ago organize a demonstration against big unsafe class sizes; she was interviewed on television, and the boys were asked to wave at the camera. They're used to that. Screenshot of their TV appearance, below. "I MISS SCOOL."In the middle of Tuesday night I woke up with a raging sore throat and headache and was terrified, not just that I had Covid, but that I'd given it to my son who'd shared Thanksgiving dinner with me - that would mean isolation for him and shutting down the bar, everyone out of work ... But after a couple of days, I felt better. Psychosomatic Covid? Or a bit of a cold. We're all so frightened. At the dentist yesterday, where I went for the first time in almost a year and a half, the technician Angela told me she wears a mask constantly, even alone on the beach with her dog. 

Just to cheer me up, I'm reading an article in the Economist about dementia. A huge ever-growing problem; societies have not begun to prepare for the tsunami that's coming as we boomers hit old age. This concerns me particularly because my grandmother had it. Is it genetic? They don't know. Now that's terrifying. 

BUT for now, the brain is alive, and it's going to be a beautiful weekend. I'm as always drowning in things to do, including too many books and an overflowing inbox, making turkey soup, a bike ride today in the sun. Tomorrow, Angela Hewitt plays Bach, and I have a Zoom ticket. 

My U of T class should have started next Tuesday, but it's cancelled. Eli, I miss scool too. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

celebration

 Blessings. My son was just by for his 36th birthday celebration, combined with Thanksgiving - a turkey with all the fixins for the two of us. But a big container of leftovers went back with him for his sister and another for him. 

36 years ago, I was at the Civic Hospital in Ottawa, where they didn't believe me when I said my first baby had come fast. This one came even faster; my doctor was renovating his kitchen and didn't make it. The birth itself is not a happy memory, but holding my son for the first time is as happy as it gets.  And today, despite our Covid concerns, several big hugs. 

My daughter spent much of yesterday in a church kitchen, part of a team helping to make a huge meal for Indigenous elders and the 'unhoused', as she says. Sam took her boys to the playground and then came over, where he was asked to deal with the carrots, two enormous sacks of carrots that he hauled in, peeled, washed, and cut. My kids spent Thanksgiving making a feast for Indigenous elders. Pardon while I dab my eyes.

Meanwhile their non-Indigenous half-Jewish elder was cooking dinner for THEM. As it should be. The two of them love each other. He loves her children. He loves his work, even with the extreme insecurity of right now, when they don't know from one day to the next if they're going to stay open or not. 

A moment, right now, of peace in my life, after a stressful year. Leaving aside the pandemic and the political situation in this tinderbox of a planet, just thinking in my narrow way about my own tiny life - after the complete nightmare winter and spring of the downstairs apartment, all has been set to rights, and the man down there now keeps telling me how grateful he is to live there. The book, the source of so much stress, is flying on its own power - yes, a source of some anxiety, how to help it fly, but at least it exists. Another book has begun its very slow saunter into the world. And my father did not have an illegitimate child with a student of his. (A friend of Mum's who read the blog wrote to say, "Yes, she told me the story about a student having your dad's baby. Why would she invent such a thing?" Why indeed?)

U of T got in touch today to cancel my class, due to start next week, because of the Stage Two shutdown. The shit show in Washington is devastating, crushing the soul. Spent part of today pruning and closing down the garden, as the days grow shorter and colder. A beloved friend is losing mobility to ALS and has arranged for assisted dying for when she's ready. A ghastly woman who once called herself a handmaid, the polar opposite of RBG, is going to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court for decades. 

But right now, I'd like to take a moment of celebration. They're making their way, my children, my grandchildren, my books. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

an extraordinary revelation, a mystery solved

Because I share most things with you, I need to tell you immediately about something amazing that happened today. Something joyful and welcome involving my extremely complicated parents.

Those of you who've read "Loose Woman" will know that when I went in 1979 to Amsterdam, to stay at the flat of the pseudonymous Kate, a favourite student of my father's, I was given a special task. My mother was convinced Kate and my father had been embroiled in a passionate affair. She told me Kate had had a baby and given it up for adoption; she was convinced the baby was Dad's. I was to look in Kate's apartment for "love tokens" from my father.

There were none. But I've lived my adult life believing I might have a half-sibling somewhere. Though I found it hard to believe my father would allow a child of his to be given away, I did not know. 

Recently I got in touch with a former student of Dad's to ask about his scientific and academic career, and he mentioned he could also put me in touch with other former students, including, as it happened, Kate. Excited, I wrote to her, she wrote back immediately, a friendly email, and so, finally, I asked her point blank, without mentioning the baby, about her personal relationship with my dad. 

She replied instantly. This morning, I found a long, gracious, beautiful note. My dad was like a second father to her, she wrote, warm and funny and encouraging. She knew my mother had accused them of illicit romance, but they were very close friends, never sexual or intimate. An incident reported to me by Mum, to prove their affair, had been completely misrepresented.

The baby, she told me, was the result of a one-night stand. Her son found her in adulthood, and she has a great relationship with him and his young family. 

As you can imagine, I wept. Oh the solving of family mysteries, what an important task it is. 

This forces me, again, to deal with my mother's poisonous paranoia - and why she insisted on divulging every sordid detail of her suspicions to me. But most of all, I feel a joyous liberation. It's not as if I thought of these things often, I did not. But Dad's affair with Kate and their possible baby was one of those questions that nag and haunt. Now the locked door to the story has been blown wide open. 

And I have a new friend. Can't wait to get to know her better.

Giving thanks. 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

In which Beth manages an interview in French

I hope I didn't sound self-pitying yesterday, because I truly was not feeling sorry for myself, just expressing what it's like to live a solitary life. But also very much not solitary - with tenants, family close by, dear neighbours and many other friends in the neighbourhood, and of course the internet full of familiars ... hardly lonely! I Skyped for an hour and a half with Lynn in Provence yesterday, laughing as we always do as our conversation ranges from politics to recipes. She suggested a new way to make ratatouille that I tried - baking instead of mushy stovetop. Excellent.

Didn't get done what I'd hoped but did practice the piano for a bit, do a bit of cooking and seasonal clothes sorting, went for a walk in the sun and ran into a bunch of people - "How's your book going?" "When does your teaching start?" "Happy Thanksgiving!" The 'hood was beyond beautiful as the trees glow. And as always, I was thankful to live in this lovely place.


Today Sylvie-Anne Jeanson sent me the interview we did that aired last week. I'm grateful to Monique with whom I've been speaking French since March during our near-daily aperitif at 5, so was able to get through an interview about the book in French. I don't think this will sell any since the book is in English - but still, there it is, maybe someone will care. 

https://ici.radio-canada.ca/premiere/emissions/l-heure-de-pointe-toronto/episodes/485163/rattrapage-du-mardi-6-octobre-2020/10

Yesterday also I got a review on Amazon by someone I don't know. Now that's thrilling - a stranger liked it enough to give it a good review. Lani asked me to send one to her sister-in-law. "I love the book, Beth," she wrote. "Thank you for writing it." My dear friend - thank you for reading it!

Had planned last night to watch Dame Harriet in the Donmar Trilogy - 3 Shakespeare plays cast entirely with women. Will do so soon, but instead, needing froth, I watched 2 episodes of "Emily in Paris." It's shallow and absurd - an incredibly handsome French chef emerges from the kitchen, unruffled in spotless white, to stand chatting patiently with an American about her "underdone" steak - oh sure. But it's wonderful to see that glorious city. When will we travel again? 

A few tears today - I turned on the last few minutes of the French Open tennis championship and saw Rafa resoundingly beat Novak. Felt my mother and Auntie Do cheering with me - Fed is our favourite but the adorable Rafa comes second. Hooray! As if it matters. But it mattered to them, and so it does to me. Sending love to you both, Mum and Do. 

Now to listen to Eleanor's "Writers and Company" and cook some more. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. 

PS Just got a direct deposit from Access Copyright for my books in the library - $105! Thanks, Gov't of Canada. The money just keeps pouring in. Can vast wealth and fame be far behind?

Saturday, October 10, 2020

on a solitary Thanksgiving, giving thanks

There are times when I think of all of you out there, my bloggees, as my companions. Today is such a day. It's a long weekend; Monique and many others have gone to the cottage for the last time this year. The morning was bright and warm but now it's gloomy and overcast, rain expected. I have a bit of a cold. The house is silent. We in Toronto are now experiencing the much-expected second wave, and things are shutting down again. The Y is shut. Sam's bar will only have patio and take-out service. There are no movies, not that I'd gone to one, but it was nice to contemplate. 

It's also time to shut down the garden; John will come soon to take down the pergola, we'll clean the BBQ, put away the cushions on the deck. Time to prune and cut back the perennials and bring in the potted plants, hoping they'll survive seven long months inside. 

The plan was for the family to come across on Tuesday, Sam's birthday, for a Thanksgiving and birthday meal; the turkey Anna gave me is defrosting in the fridge, and I've bought the huge bag of potatoes for Sam. But my daughter, sensible and cautious as ever, has decided it's too dangerous. This may be the only family where the oldster was urging a get-together and the youngster said no, it's unwise. She said she didn't want to have the guilt on her shoulders of her children, who are probably carriers, killing me. As I said, she's a wise woman. 

But the turkey is defrosting, so now I'll cook a huge dinner on Tuesday for me and Sam and send leftovers across town. Not quite the same.

I'm feeling the solitude and silence acutely, right now. But I'm used to it. There's a ton to do - at Ben McNally's bookstore yesterday I went a bit nuts, bought hard-cover books which I never do - but what else am I buying these days? Jim Carrey for Sam and the others for me. Delicious. 

I have started writing a new book, so far 5500 words I like - will continue this afternoon. Haven't practiced the piano in ages, will do that. Need to cook all the yellow tomatoes I bought at the last local market on Tuesday, make a tomato sauce and a ratatouille. Need to put away all the light clothes and get out all the heavy ones. Should try to exercise, though that will come last. But I can listen to Randy Bachman tonight and dance, as I cook and/or eat. And drink wine - went to the liquor store yesterday, have four bottles to keep me company that should last a day or two. LOL. 

Will not mention the VP debate, except that the fly and Pence's red eye turned into such wonderful endless jokes. And now there's a new meme. Last night on Bill Maher, a beautiful and very smart black woman was addressing an issue when Maher, who can be impossibly rude, interrupted her. "Mr. Pence, I am speaking," she said to him sternly. Woo hoo!

Back to my quiet kitchen. For my daughter with her children always there, for fellow writers with families, this kind of solitude would be a gift. And yes, it is for me too. It's also a weight I carry. 

But lonely as I may be sometimes, at least I do not have a face as sad and weird as Barbara Amiel's, aka Baroness Black of Crossharbour, printed in the Star today in an article on her tell-all memoir. She's 79 and has had so much plastic surgery, she looks like an alien. Ye gods, that must have cost a lot. And hurt.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

"Hamnet and Judith" and unwanted presidencies

Today would have been my mother's 97th birthday. Happy Birthday, Mum. I've started the book about you and Dad - 3300 words or so. I'm not sure if that's good news for you, but I think it is - it's about how you were far from perfect, but you were spectacular. 

Favourite tweet from last night: "I sent the fly. RBG."

I'm feeling hope for the first time in ages, at least about the battered country to the south. Kamala Harris is intelligent, honest, articulate, and forceful. The man "debating" opposite her - actually, interrupting and pontificating, at length - is so creepy and such an unctuous liar, it's hard to believe he has any job at all, let alone one of such visibility and importance. But the fly showed us what he's made of. 

It may be that the U.S. will return to some form of stability and decency. Is that possible? Yes, though it will take time, I actually think it is.

My cousin in Bethesda, Washington, saying at least we here are finding some humour in the situation, sent this:   

Brilliant.

Yesterday's excitement was being driven to Canadian Tire by John. A tenant's very old microwave broke down and he needed a new one. OMG, the excitement of Canadian Tire! So much great stuff! I bought birthday presents for my son and my son-in-law, both with the big event in the next while, and tried to restrain myself from snapping up stuff on every aisle. I haven't been shopping in so long - had almost forgotten how much fun it is.

But how glad I am to be out of the habit. Imagine, I used to buy new clothes on a regular basis, as if I don't have enough clothes already. I now know the few things I actually need and will one day go out to buy. Sometime.

The best news, as I wrote to Mum, is the new work. I'm pleased with it; I think it's a solid start. There's actually even a title, something I didn't have for sure for "Loose Woman" until the day before it went to press. Stay tuned; the downward slide will begin shortly. And then, I hope, we'll rocket up again.

Have finished the novel "Hamnet and Judith" by Maggie O'Farrell; she recreates, in incredible detail, Shakespeare's family life in Stratford, focussing on an imaginative invention of his wife Anne, here called Agnes, and his 3 children including the doomed Hamnet. It's beautifully and vividly written, as was her last book "I am I am I am," this one with a phenomenal amount of research. Any encounter with Shakespeare is welcome. But as with the last book, I found this one overwrought and ultimately unsatisfying. Putting me in the minority. 

Tomorrow I have to go to Ben McNally's to pick up a book I've ordered: "Petra," by my hugely talented friend Shaena Lambert. And then I have to go buy wine. Books and wine - what more does one need? Well - a sane planet, that would be good too.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

researching Dad, revealing the truth

Yesterday I started, again, delving into the mountains of material I have on my parents for the next book. There's so much, it's overwhelming, which has led me for years to stop and start. I just found the address book that was on Dad's desk when he died; inside, a letter I've never read before, a beautiful, funny, loving letter to Mum written in 1950, when she was in NYC with infant me and he was in Halifax finding us an apartment. There are boxes and bags of these treasures - how to sort, how to file, how to figure out what matters most and try to make it matter to others? 

No idea, yet.

I Googled Dad. A research award was created in his name at the U of A, so lots of names come up that have nothing to do with him now. But other stuff does, including, this time, a research paper published in 1980 with a Ph.D. student of his whom I remember well; he spoke at the memorial for Dad in Edmonton a few months after Dad's death. He's now an important scientist at a university in Denmark. I emailed the university, asking them to pass my email address on to him. 

This morning, there he was, happy to hear from me after more than 30 years. He knows other colleagues of Dad's, too. I hope to get another side of the story, the professional, university, scientist side I know little about. Exciting work!

Otherwise - life. The dumpster fire to the south of us. Monique and I will be watching the VP debate tonight - hard to imagine Harris and Pence on the same stage, let alone discussing anything. And I have to say - I think the whole Covid thing with Trump was staged, an attention-getting stunt. No obese 74-year old walks out of hospital like that, no matter how many experimental treatments he's getting. No?  

May he go away forever and soon.  The whole loathsome crew. To jail. 

Went to the Y again - it's sadder there than ever, with the second wave crashing over us they've had to reduce the class sizes even more - maximum of ten people in half the enormous gym. The place is so empty. But I'm there, happily being ordered around, with music. Works for me.

Blustery with sun today. Soon time to shut down the garden for good, and then we're locked inside for months. A good time, it would seem, for a big writing and research project. Onward. 

Finally, a stunning image for you. My friend Annie's daughter Amelia, who took the ballgown photograph I now use as my head shot, was diagnosed this summer with breast cancer. Though the whole experience was terrifying for her and her family, in the end, they found it was Stage 1, low risk, not even needing chemo. But she did have a mastectomy, and in honour of breast cancer awareness month, she decided to take pictures and make them public. I salute this brave and incredibly beautiful young woman, mother of two, photographer, artist. 

Monday, October 5, 2020

More than life

Imagine - that man has insulted and denigrated just about everyone on earth. But when he himself was felled by the virus he mocked, and his opponents had fun with the irony of karma, they were accused of cruelty. Imagine, he got in a limo and was driven around so he could hear some cheers. No, don't imagine, we already know what he is. A few days ago, when he and his appalling cast-mates were all being struck down, I thought, Perhaps there is a god. But apparently he's getting out of hospital today and saying he's better than ever. So perhaps there isn't.

And the fact that we are thinking base things like that is thanks to him. We're all so much more vile than we were.

I'm going to bitch some more. There's a cancer in our society: cellphones wielded by parents. When my grandsons visit we go to playgrounds, and what I see are children playing and parents or caregivers on cellphones. Today, as pushed my boys on a swing, a blank-faced little boy in a stroller watched us as his mother, ignoring him, was absorbed in her cellphone. Last time Eli was over, I watched a father ignore his 4-year old daughter as she played; when she wandered off I kept an eye on her, in case. What are these children doing at home? We can guess. What will they grow up to be, when they get their entire world, including their parents, through a screen? 

Okay, rant over. Had a wonderful time with the boys here for a sleepover. This time, they came Sunday afternoon and I had them for the evening and next morning, just enough time for them to destroy the house and exhaust me, but not to the point that I was ready to scream. Could we have figured out how to preserve Glamma? Oh, they make me laugh. Eli likes to pour milk into his bowl of ice-cream, so I told him, "That's a milkshake - you know who likes milkshakes? Your grandpa," I said. "He loves milkshakes more than anything." 

Eli looked at me cooly. "More than life?" he asked.

Friday, October 2, 2020

the best bartender in Toronto

Very exciting news: a young man of my acquaintance, a certain very tall Sam, has been nominated as the Best Bartender in Toronto. Imagine - he's one of only five nominated in this entire metropolis. He works at a very small bar, so that means quite a concerted effort by his faithful patrons to get him on the list. And you too can vote. So - feel free. 

https://nowtoronto.com/rc?fbclid=IwAR0a-syTFVRQ58-qqNTIi4xyLhFhOOJ5PLjOfsOK0ART0xiajrjsm6VdMa0#/gallery?group=358976

In other news - there's other news?! Someone joked on Twitter that in future, Ph.D. students in History will say, "My thesis deals with October 1 2020, with a bit of overlap on October 2." They'll take it day by day. It's hard to tear away from Twitter, FB, the NYT, wherever news is erupting next. To think, as someone else joked, once there was a scandal on Fox because Obama wore a tan suit.

Since I'm blowing my son's horn, if you don't mind, I will blow mine too, or at least my book's. People still saying nice things. Carole in England, whom I've never met, emailed I’ve just this minute finished reading your superb book, I didn’t want it to end, a total page turner and believe me I read a lot of books ! It was totally engrossing, told with such honesty, heart and openness, well paced and full of beautiful descriptive prose transporting me to the depths of France and the glories of Greece...yum! Your rite of passage really touched me, being of the same age, and made me reflect on my life, the paths we choose at the fork on the road, the self discovery, the repercussions which follow us through our lives and make us who we are. What a life you’ve led, Beth. I had a tear in my eye as it ended; it moved me, particularly your dedication to your family at the end. Loved it. More please.

Thank you so, Carole - you've no idea how much that means. And someone else I've never met wrote, from Vancouver, I finished your book last night - what a wonderful read. It's so beautifully written and thought-provoking. 

But though reading these things brings me joy, none of it means as much as a Best Bartender nomination for my boy. He has the family showman gene, not playing parts but making people laugh and feel comfortable and welcome. It's hard work, and it's a gift. How wonderful that his gift has been recognized. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Beth is interviewed in New York

 Monday was summer - hot and sunny. Tuesday was fall - cool and drizzly. Today is both - this morning grey, this afternoon lovely and bright, with showers of leaves. Autumn in Canada! 

Let's not talk about the debate. I managed half an hour before my stomach was heaving so badly I had to turn it off. A spectacle like no other. Especially appalling because two days ago I made the mistake of writing to my Trump-loving old friend Dan, in New Jersey, assuming the news about Trump's tax returns would be the coup de grâce for him. Absolutely not - he launched into a fulsome defence and, like his idol, an attack on Hunter Biden. When I wrote back with a tiny list of everything wrong with this man, he replied, "Oh lighten up, Beth. Life is short."

The end of one friendship. It's true. Life is short. 

Just did an Arriba class at the Y - a shadow of its former self, so empty and barren, but at least it's there. Today at 3.35, my interview in French will be on Radio Canada. And yesterday, I was checking out the new search engine Ecosia, entered my name, and an interview I'd never seen, done in New York in 2018, popped up. I'd flown in for a production of one of my great-grandfather's plays, and the director interviewed me beforehand. What a nice jacket - one of my best buys from Doubletake. Check it out for everything you want to know about the Jewish Shakespeare, and to see how many different ways Beth can twist her face!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HpQDs2xmjM

Monday, September 28, 2020

Pierre Trudeau made me cry again today.

 Pierre Trudeau died on this day twenty years ago. Not long after, I wrote a short essay about his death which I didn't send anywhere, so am posting it here. And in fact, I did cry again, today.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Musing in the heat

A sublime day - 26 degrees feeling like 31. So much more appreciated than summer sun because - we know why.

A perfect day, though I am sad. Went for a bike ride - Safe Streets Toronto closed Yonge Street down to the lake, so I rode down and then along the lake in the sun and wind. 

Yonge Street as it should look
Sugar Beach with a sugar tanker 
Soon all will be aflame

Home to do Jane Ellison's class on Zoom, only she froze after 20 minutes and couldn't get back. Which was a relief, actually, because after yesterday - riding to the market and then line-dancing with Gina in the Sprucecourt playground as we did in April, a great deal of fun - and then the ride today in a stiff wind, my legs are tired. 

This afternoon, listened to Eleanor interview filmmaker Mira Nair while making ratatouille and braised broccoli and leeks to go with marinated market pork chops tonight. And soon, rosé on the deck. Perfect.

But also, even in the hot sun, I'm a bit melancholy. I'm at a crossroads: my book needs me to spend tons of time learning to navigate social media, posting about myself and the book on FB, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn. I gather that's the only chance it has to find an audience. So, spent hours figuring out LinkedIn yesterday. My practical friend Ellen is urging me to do this, make myself a marketing maven; I just need to Like a lot more people, to Follow all the people the people I'm Following Follow - and then engage with them about my book. For someone like me, almost completely unknown in CanLit with no name to speak of, no writing prizes (except for winning the Canadian Jewish Playwriting competition in about 1998 - not a crowded field), no recent essays in magazines (except a short piece about memoir writing last year in Zoomer) which all equals NO PLATFORM - the only chance for my book to thrive is for me to jump through those hoops. 

Is it laziness to resist, to say, it's not me, I just can't do it? Complete lack of discipline? For that matter, I'd rather write here, in this blog, than start my next project. I'm acknowledging my deficits as a writer, coming to terms with the fact that my books may always languish in obscurity. 

C'est la vie. I would not trade ma vie for another. Many things through the years have taken priority over writing. C'est la vie. 

Speaking of la vie - I did do a CBC radio interview about the book the other day. It was Radio Canada, French CBC, an interview in French with my friend Sylvie-Anne Jeanson that will air next Wednesday, she says. Unfortunately, my book is in English, so this will not help sell it. But still, I wrote to Sylvie-Anne and did an interview. That I can do. 

Yesterday was Celebrate Daughters Day. As the mother of a daughter and the daughter of a mother, I posted this, from 2010, on Instagram. That I can also, with great pleasure and another kind of sadness, do.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Our stories are worth telling and worth telling well

Just came home from errands to find a letter in my mailbox from Ann, a former student. Reading it is a great reminder of why we writers do what we do:

Your book practically broke my heart and restored it. I felt so engaged. Your journey, so intimately described, resonated with me down to my bones. I was in Vancouver in '79, attending the Arts Club and other theatres, and you brought back so many memories and made me feel as if I was there, with you. So thank you for sharing your life with us. Kudos, too, for the diligence in getting it published after all your hard work and perseverance. You epitomize the purpose of your "True to Life" teachings, setting an example for us to aspire to, reminding us that our stories are worth telling, and worth telling well.

Thank you so much, Ann. How kind of you to put these warm words on paper and in the mail.  

At the risk of overkill, here's another email from old friend Peter Blais: Loved it all. I laughed, I cried, looked in the mirror and loved again. What a complicated plot told with such effortlessness. The L'Arche stories were fresh and wonderful for me. And Greece.  And of course life in France. Naturally the theatre thread was at times painfully familiar. It's a wonder you survived to achieve the robust age and personality you can rightly claim as a great success story. 

Thank you, Peter. Okay I can retire now since I have achieved writer nirvana. Not. Got scolded by a savvy friend about my laziness on social media, how I should be increasing my twitter followers by following many myself, working LinkedIn and Instagram... I will try, I promise. 

More importantly, it's a stunning day. I gathered all my basil and made a big batch of pesto. (My mother's milk jug is where I keep my garlic.) And then Ruth and I went for a walk in the 'hood.



O Canada.

PS. Just received 50 more copies of the book. The first shipment - 110 books - has gone. A good sign!

Thursday, September 24, 2020

saying goodbye to Lola

Yesterday a very moving experience: a memorial event on Zoom for Lola, who died this year at 98 - my father's cousin, a painter and jewellery maker, born in New York in 1922 two months before Dad. There were perhaps 40 of us, from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv, some of them family I know a bit and others not at all. A rabbi saying Kaddish in Hebrew brought tears to my eyes, that ancient language soft in his mouth. Some reminisced; I told them Lola meant New York to me, the place my father was exiled from by McCarthy, a huge family visited only once a year and gradually shrinking, until at the end there was only Lola, with the energy of a woman half her age. (I didn't mention Cousin Ted, the other NYC relative I visit, since nobody there speaks to him or he to them.) 

"A culture junkie," someone called Lola - museums, galleries, concerts, theatre, the latest books - she was up on them all. "Grow old in a city," I said, "is one important lesson I learned from her." Until last year, she was out and about, seeing, doing, devouring, criticizing, in typical New York fashion. 

Feb. 2018, our last visit. She was 97, still living alone in her rent-controlled art-filled studio on the Upper East Side. I'm wearing a gold and tourmaline ring she made. 

Afterward, Lola's daughter's daughter Becky, a beautiful young woman I've never met, texted that she hoped I'd come back to New York and get in touch with her. I'd love to, I said. New family. Means everything. Not sure when, tho'.

I just found a calendar I'd drawn up in January to organize my late winter travel: March 21, arrive Paris, stay with Lynn. March 25, EasyJet to Venice to meet Bruce. March 30, Trieste. April 2, Vienna. April 7, Budapest. Good Friday April 10, EasyJet to Paris. April 13, home.

Giant sigh. SIGH. In early March, it was clear Venice was out of the question. Lynn said, Come to Paris anyway, you can come back to Montpellier with me. And I considered it! It was March 10 before I cancelled. March 12 I taught my last classes, March 13 everything shut down. 

Seems another world, doesn't it? Hopping around the world. MINGLING. Hugging. Absorbing all those droplets spewing about us with nary a thought. 

And that was when Trump and his team had shown just a fraction of the vileness that was to come. As always, I try to explain things to my father who died in 1988, 32 years before Lola. But with the current world situation, I don't think he wants to know. I'll leave him blessedly ignorant. He's up there arguing with Lola, and everyone else.

Watched some terrific TV on PBS last night - a doc on the alphabet, and another on social media and the mind. "Writing binds humanity together almost more than anything else," said the doc. "It's the most powerful idea humankind has had." Could not agree more! 

And then another doc discussing "confirmation bias" - how we cherrypick evidence, shaping narratives of what we see to fit what we already believe. "We make decisions based on cognitive illusions, the world our mind creates." They talked about the silos we all live in now, where we are right and "they" are evil. That a survey of young people in the States found a majority of them didn't value living in a democracy and thought the military should take over the government.

Dad, please, don't watch, don't listen, these things would appall you. Rest in peace. And Lola - although peace was not something that interested you much - you too.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

on the deck in the sun

They say there are two seasons in Ontario - winter and road work. So today, for some reason beyond comprehension, the city has decided to repair two minuscule patches in my street's sidewalks. This entails ripping them apart and, presumably, putting them back together. Once more, noise cancelling headphones and bitchy thoughts. 

And on this most stunning day, too - so warm and sunny and bright, the perfect time; it's always more delicious in the sun knowing its days around here are numbered. I'm in a patch on the deck, drinking it in. 

Today, I went to the Y for the second time. It's desolate - empty, lacking its usual conviviality, but it's routine. I did an Arriba class with great Latin music - six other people in the gym, the teacher behind a plexiglass panel. But there was music and there was dancing. I'll take it.The women's change room, usually full of chatty naked women.

Somehow I'm busier than ever - Monday an insane day, three Zoom meetings, a face to face meeting with Jason about the book and our next project - a podcast, stay tuned! Editing for several students and writing a piece for the Creative Nonfiction Collective. And then Lynn came for dinner. Sunday, one of my oldest friends, Ron, from Halifax in the early sixties, came. It's a marvellous thing to see faces we've known all our lives. And of course, what we see is the young face, not the old one. Not reality. 

Yesterday, teaching and editing on Zoom for a U of T class which has kept going. I marvel, once again, at the miracle of Zoom that works so well and has kept us all going.

Treats - a silvery-green hummingbird is frequenting the rose of Sharon, darting about, dipping his or her long sharp needle nose into the blooms. The garden at its most beautiful, because soon to fade. Some fading already. As are we all. Went to the little local farmer's market yesterday for a basket of the last Ontario peaches, the dripping taste of summer. Still here! 

The book is now readily available, I'm happy to report. As I was walking by yesterday, my neighbour Karen called, "I love it!" Two good reviews on Amazon and Indigo. Heard from a friend in France, waiting impatiently for the book I mailed to him, who wrote that the character called Alain in the book "has been absolutely raving about it to everyone he meets." And that means a lot, because he's a major figure in the book, and it's not an easy thing, surely, to read about your own young life through someone else's critical if affectionate eyes.

In an hour, I am attending a Zoom celebration of the life of my father's aunt Lola; this would have been her 98th birthday. Many of the Jewish side of my family, my 51%, will be there, and not a single airplane is involved. A new way to live.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

reviews of the book coming in

This is the strange interlude in the life of a writer, when the book is out and people are still reading. But I'm getting wonderful reviews, even from people who haven't finished it yet. And from those who have. From Pat: Today I’m out of sorts because I finished reading your book yesterday! I miss it. Stupendous! Just wrote this review on Indigo:

"Having taken Beth’s memoir-writing course, it’s no surprise to me that she demonstrates all the characteristics of superb memoir: engaging scene-setting, compelling action, major personal change, believable dialogue. Couldn’t put this book down!"

Thank you very much, Pat.
And from my former acting colleague Peter, now a painter in Nova Scotia, whom I've known since university in 1967:
I'm on page 37. WTF and OMG. Know the song so well. Every note is perfect. Arts Club. Wow. Only a couple of evenings in that thick and boozy place. You have so nailed it Beth Kaplan.  AND I'M ONLY ON PAGE 37. Raw Stuff. Like a box of chocolates  - I'll do a few more pages in bed. Hope it doesn't get so scary I can't sleep. (I sleep like a log - not to worry.)  

Peter, if you stop painting, you should write!

And a French friend who's a character in the book: 
I advertise your book saying the author is like Saint Augustine, leading a depraved life and suddenly completely transformed.

I really enjoy reading your book, I am just half way through… Some very good laughs, some disappointment about the immensity of my qualities which do not seem totally acknowledged…

I wrote to reassure him that the immensity of his qualities are in fact acknowledged, he just isn't there yet. So strange that people are out there, reading about themselves. Anyone who's friends with a memoirist should beware!

Just spent an extremely stimulating hour listening to Eleanor Wachtel talk to Zadie Smith - it wasn't an interview, it was a conversation between two brilliant minds. At one point, Smith says she's reading Pride and Prejudice with her daughter; they came to the section about Darcy's magnificent mansion and she said, Ask yourself, how did the family come by that kind of money? Almost definitely through sugar or cotton. And who provided those things?

I've never thought about the origin of Darcy's money. But then, I've never thought about many, many things. Thank you Eleanor, and the amazing Zadie Smith, who is not only brilliant but stunningly beautiful, a married woman with children, an academic career, and a steady stream of books. How is this possible? Inspiring. Intimidating. Slacker alert: I'm sure she doesn't sit around reading nice things her friends say about her books. She'd be halfway through the next by now. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Mourning RBG, fear for what's next

 NOOOOOOOOOOOO! That was the sound last night from millions of mouths when we heard about RBG. How could such a tiny slip of a woman matter so much to so many? Because she had a giant soul, a great mind, a fierce heart. I saw the documentary about her and came away with even more admiration for her work ethic, her lifelong devotion to her own family as well as to the causes she cared about, chief among them making the world more fair for women. 

And now the hideous situation south of us will grow even more ugly and divided. My only hope is that this galvanizes, more than ever, the Democratic base. Though, yes, it will also galvanize the other side. Someone on Bill Maher last night said, The extreme right doesn't care about Trump's failings because all that really matters to them are 3 things: abortion, guns, and Jesus. And they think Trump is their man. Even though, as was pointed out, the Dems have never said they'd impose severe restrictions on gun ownership or on religious practice, they are pro-abortion, no question, and destroying that is the rightwing cause. 

Hard to believe that a painful issue that's been resolved in just about every other civilized country on earth is still so potent, raw, and explosive in the States. How did that happen? 

As those of you who've read my book know, I write about my own abortion, which happened at a time when I was lost and wild and crazy, and having a child would have been an utter disaster. Thank god - I thank god constantly, whoever he or she may be, for this - that in Canada I was able to have a safe and legal abortion. As I write in the book, It was a grave decision, and one about which I have not one moment of regret. 

There are already millions of hungry children in the world, many in your own country, there are children in cages you fucking hypocritical Republicans - and some rightwing Canadians too. Look after them, for Christ's sake, feed and house and care for them before you destroy your country fighting for the unborn!

Bill Maher pointed out that authoritarian countries pretend to be democracies; they hold elections, but they're meaningless, rigged. And right now the US is headed firmly in that direction, with massive voter suppression and other Republican tactics. Can this benighted country ever recover? Last night Bill and guests thought it's possible it will not. And in a world with an authoritarian China ever rising and Europe ripped apart and in disarray - it's a terrifying thought.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Back to basics

Today things feel joyfully normal - well, not normal, but routine. I went to the Y for the first time since March. They discontinued our membership fees, but I just realized they'd started them again so I'd better get there. It's totally different, of course - you have to book online for very limited spaces, wear a mask except when you're actually working out, there's almost no one there, no water fountains or showers or pool, no coffee and tea and sitting around chatting. But it's the Y. I did a class in the gym and was relieved I wasn't totally winded by the end, after months of sitting in this chair - I guess cycling to the market, line dancing, and gardening have helped. And I saw Margot, Tony, Doris, Art, and my dear friend Lolita, who's the cheerfulest person I know. 

To stay fit, I need someone to order me around in a public place, with music. It really helps.

On the way home, there was no lineup outside Doubletake, so I went in and saw Jasmine, another good friend, a Bengali woman who has worked there for years. My routine is back!

Despair, however: my cousin in Washington ordered the memoir from Barnes and Noble, was told they were out of stock, ordered it from Amazon, was told they were out of stock. As if it's not hard enough to sell books when they're available! My publisher is trying to fix this. Sheesh!!! 

One more thing: I heard back from Ancestry. com, updating my genetic profile with more detail. Still 51% Ashkenazi Jewish, but - on my mother's side - 42% from England and Northwest Europe, 4% Germanic Europe, and 3% Scotland. Her people came from all over, but all from the north. I'm part Scottish!

It's surprisingly chilly - had to cover the gardenia last night, I was afraid she'd freeze. But - I know, here we go again - the garden is as glorious as ever.


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

non-starving artist signs book at Ben McNally Books

Big news - the audiobook is now uploaded to Audible; they will take up to 30 days to check it out and release it. More excitement - another launch to come!

Receiving feedback from readers, very gratifying:
Jane Anderson: Finished your book and loved it right to the last page.  I will post a review and have already talked it up with my friends. Congratulations, your best yet!

Curtis Barlow: A beautiful, funny, poignant chronicle of experience. Highly recommended. Great writer, great story.

Nick Rice: I finished the book tonight. I adored it; I didn't want it to end. Tell me more

Rita Davies: I’ve read Loose Woman with great pleasure. The writing is lovely. It’s entertaining, poignant, funny and moving.

Thank you, dear readers, how good to hear! Had a wonderful experience today - I stopped at Ben McNally's new bookstore on Adelaide St. East to pick up Hamnet and Judith. While I was there, he said, "Your book is here - why don't you sign it?" They'd brought it in to send to some lovely person. So I signed my book. Please, support this fantastic store as they struggle to stay alive. And THANK YOU TO THOSE WHO DO AND HAVE!

An article in the new New Yorker: "Starving Artists: how can we pay for creativity in the digital age?" The answer is: We can't. 
"We have arrived at a situation in which it's easier than ever to share your creativity with the world, and harder than ever to make a living doing so. (William Deresiewicz in his book The Death of the Artist) interviewed roughly a hundred and forty writers, musicians, visual artists, and filmmakers about their experiences working in the so-called 'creative economy.' Most spend a disproportionate amount of their time effectively running a small business, focussing on winning the attention war through 'the overlapping trio of self-marketing, self-promotion, and self-branding.'"

Absolutely true, sad to say. That's what I'm doing right now - rather than starting my next book, I'm trying to promote this one, though I am hopeless at all 3 of those things above. As are most of us. Disheartening. 

But just a walk through this city reminds me how incredibly lucky I am. As I wrote a few weeks ago, there are tents everywhere and people lined up at shelters and food banks. My son says they're wondering if their bar, opened not long ago, will have to shut again as the second wave hits.

And yet - there were children going to school today, what a joyful sight, masked and all. It's a perfect mild day, though the nights are getting colder. I made pesto with my garden basil and will have it tonight with the fresh wild sole I just bought at the St. Lawrence Market, a cornucopia of goodness where I also bought peaches and blueberries, hot bagels right out of the wood-burning brick oven, French cheese. 

Should I feel guilty about my extreme good fortune, when others are suffering so? Is it enough that I am grateful every minute and take nothing for granted?