25 September 2017

Hugh Hood and Me



I'll be in Montreal next week for what looks to be an eventful thirty-eight hours. On the Tuesday, October 3rd, I'll be hosting the ninth annual plaque dedication at the Writers' Chapel. This year we'll be honouring Hugh Hood, author of Flying a Red Kite, The Camera Always Lies, and thirty other books. Andre Fulani, Michael Gnarowski, and Sarah Hood will speak. As in the past, this is a free event and will be followed by a wine and cheese reception.
The Writers' Chapel
St Jax Montréal
1439 St Catherine Street West
(Bishops Street entrance)

Tuesday, October 3rd at 7:00 pm
The next day, Wednesday, sees the launch of my new book, The Dusty Bookcase, at the legendary Word bookstore. I'll be speaking briefly and will at some point hold up a copy of what I now know to be the very first Canadian novel I ever read. Please do consider dropping by to say "hello." I'm told there will be ever more wine and cheese!

The Word
469 Milton Street

Wednesday, October 4th at 7:30 pm


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22 September 2017

'Autumn, 1917' and 'Autumn, 1917'



For this first day of the season, two century-old poems of the Great War, both titled "Autumn, 1917," both written by women on the homefront. The first, by Helena Coleman, the pride of Newcastle, Ontario, is found in her chapbook Marching Men (Toronto: Dent, 1917):

AUTUMN, 1917
(A.L.T.)
               We know by many a tender token
                    When Indian-summer days have come,
               By rustling leaves in branches oaken
                    And by the cricket's sleepy hum. 
               By aspen leaves no longer shaken,
                    And by the river's silvered thread,
               The oriole's swinging cup forsaken,
                    Emptied of music overhead. 
               By long slant lines on field and fallow.
                    By mellowing portals of the wood,
               By silences that seem to hallow
                    Inviting us to solitude.... 
               Are there young hearts in France recalling
                    These dream-filled, blue Canadian days,
               When gold and scarlet flames are falling
                    From beech and maple set ablaze? 
              Pluck they again the pale, wild aster,
                   The bending plume of golden-rod?
              And do their exiled hearts beat faster
                   Roaming in thought their native sod? 
              Dream they of Canada crowned and golden,
                  Flushed with her Autumn diadem?
              In years to come when time is olden,
                  Canada's dream shall be of them — 
              Shall be of them who gave for others
                   The ardour of their radiant years; —
              Your name in Canada's heart, my brothers,
                   Shall be remembered long with tears! 
              We give you vision back for vision,
                  Forgetting not the price you paid,
              O bearers of the world's decision,
                  On whom the nations' debt was laid! 
              No heart can view these highways glowing
                  With gold transmuted from the clod,
              But crowns your glorious manhood, knowing
                  You gave us back our faith in God.
Miss Coleman's poem also features in John W. Garvin's Canadian Poems of the Great War (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1917), in which we find another "Autumn, 1917." This one comes from the pen of Elizabeth Roberts MacDonald, sister to fellow poets Sir Charles God Damn, Theodore Goodrich, and William Carman Roberts.

AUTUMN, 1917 
                       The rain and the leaves together
                            Go drifting over the world;
                       Autumn has slipped his tether
                            And his flag of death unfurled. 
                       'Tomorrow — tomorrow — tomorrow — '
                            Hear how the grey wind cries!
                       Tomorrow the stark bare branches,
                            Tomorrow the steel-cold skies. 
                       The garnet leaves and the golden
                            Are tossed and trampled and thrown
                       As the hopes of man when the trumpets
                            Of crimson war are blown. 
                       Unleashed are the hounds of anguish
                            That hunt the heart of man
                       To tear its dream-bright garments,
                            To rend its valiant plan; 
                       Honour and valour, the priceless
                            Blood of our heroes slain, —
                       Shall their offering all be wasted,
                            Their sacrifice be vain? 
                       No; for the great ideal
                            For which our hearts have bled
                       Lives — by each field of honour,
                            Lives — by our countless dead; 
                       And a wind of Life is blowing,
                            A golden trumpet calls:—
                       'Rally — rally — rally, — 
                            Till the dark fortress falls!'

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19 September 2017

The Honesty's Too Much: Dan Hill's Comeback



My promised review of Comeback, the 1983 novel by singer/songwriter Dan Hill is now available at the Canadian Notes & Queries website. An excerpt:
I hesitate in describing Comeback as an extraordinary novel because it is not very good; what I mean to say is that it’s unlike anything I’ve read. Let’s begin by recognizing that the author modelled protagonist/rapist, singer/songwriter Cornelius Barnes IV on himself. Like his creator, Barnes achieves fame in his early twenties with a hit considered by some as “the most romantic song of the decade,” but his star soon falls into the gutter. Now pushing thirty, it’s been five years since his last hit, and Barnes is without a recording contract. The other characters of note come from the author’s life: Cornelius Barnes III is modelled on his father, Daniel Hill III. Timothy Reynolds, Barnes’ high school friend and musical collaborator, is based on music producer Matthew McCauley. Timothy’s father bankrolls Barnes’ first album, just as McCauley’s did for Hill. Bernie Fiedler, owner of the legendary Riverboat Coffee House, plays himself.
     Sadly, Lawrence Hill, the author’s Giller Award-winning younger brother, does not feature.
You can read the whole thing here:



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13 September 2017

Ten Dusty Favourites from The Dusty Bookcase


Brian shares ten noteworthy finds on his bibliophilic journey, including gossip about the Eaton family, radish-heavy dialogue, and "the worst sex scene in all of Canadian literature."
The good folks at All Lit Up have just posted my overview of ten favourite Dusty Bookcase finds. You can read it through here.

Yep, the worst sex scene in all of Canadian literature – and it wasn't written by Dan Hill.

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11 September 2017

Sometimes When We Touch: Dan Hill Writes Six Sex Scenes (NSFW)



Things have been pretty quiet here, I know. Much of these past two weeks has been taken up by other writing and promotion of The Dusty Bookcase – the book. This is not to say I haven't found time to read. Just yesterday I finished Comeback, the 1983 novel by Dan Hill, brother of Lawrence. It's one of the most unusual books read in this journey through Canada's forgotten, neglected, and suppressed writing. For reasons outlined in my review, which should follow in a few days, it is also one of the most disturbing. A roman à clef infused with self-loathing and sex scenes, at time of publication Maclean's dismissed Comeback as "soft-porn."

Because used copies listed online begin at C$115 ("20 pages throughout the book have splatter stains" – coffee, I hope), I present these excerpts.

You may wish to close your eyes and hide.
1
She felt awkward – no man had undressed her before. Her legs were pressed so tightly together that he finally had to pull off her suit in hurried jerky motions. She felt his warm breath against the opening of her vagina. As his hands opened her legs she shuddered and whispered. "No – please – don't."
     "It's alright," he murmured, his breath pounding into her, "it's alright."
2
Her nipples felt as soft and pliant as the erasers at the tip of a pencil, but her breasts were hard and unyielding – like a pair of Prince Edward Island potatoes
3
She drew my mouth against hers, kissing me with unusual tenderness, but the moment I closed my eyes she slid her hand into the salad bowl, scooped up a handful of grapes, and dropping them down the front of my pants. I squawked indignantly, sliding down the refrigerator and toppling on the floor, pulling her down on top of me as I fell. The salad bowl hit the floor with a crack and I slid it out of our way, leaving Maria and me a good double bed's worth of space to flop around in.
4
"You can touch it if you like."
     I timidly obliged.
     "Now trace your way down...slowly...softly...until you reach the opening.... That's right...hmmmmm...hmmmm...that's right, you're catching on...just a little at a time.... Oooohhhh, that feels like...hmmmm...like you've got the knack of it...."
5
She started running her hand up and down my thigh, as if I were nothing more than an extension of the bedspread, something that needed to be unwrinkled, smoothed over.
6
I felt her hands pull down my pants, felt her mouth take me in – gradually, a little at a time. My body stiffened, coiling itself up for impending release. I tried to step away. But she clasped her hands around my buttocks and drew me closer, deeper, and I lost myself to the sensation sweeping through me like a waterfall. I started falling to the floor – I didn't care – and my hands grabbed hold of her shoulders, pulling her with me. Somehow her mouth stayed fastened to me – my body curled around either side of her face – her mouth still sucking long after the last drop had trailed down her throat.
Sadly, this has now lost its innocence: