13 August 2018

On Empty Bookshelves & the Premier's Health

It's been forty-four days since Doug Ford was sworn in as Premier of Ontario. I didn't predict his election here – not exactly – but I did in a bet made at a dinner party the previous month. Won a pint of German lager as a result. I would've risked public drunkenness in sharing my other predictions:

I was sure that Ford would fire Molly Sachet, Ontario's Chief Scientist, despite assurances that he wouldn't. Ford did that on day five.

I was certain he would cancel the basic income pilot project, though Ford told us he wouldn't. We had to wait until day thirty-one for that one.

I would have wagered much more than a beer that Ford's personal assistant, Lyndsey Vanstone, would continue to draw a paycheque for pretending to be a reporter. She's done just that as the lone voice of Ontario News Now.

Ontario News Now describes itself on Facebook as a "News & Media Website," though it isn't news and has no website. Government propaganda, pure and simple, it hasn't attracted much of a following. ONN's Facebook likes amount to between 0.012% and 0.013% of the province's population. Its YouTube channel has 248 subscribers. I've been paying attention only because, as a taxpayer, I'm funding the damn thing.

Can't say I've been getting my money's worth, though the most recent video, "A day in the life of Premier Doug Ford," has proven interesting. To begin with, it's narrated by the premier himself:
Well, from the second I get up it's go, go, go. From six o'clock in the morning, you get up and you're off to the races. The bell goes off and you're out of the gate. There, there's so many briefings. We have major announcements. And some days we, we go into Question Period. Then I have meetings with caucus.
A bit short on detail, to be sure, but there are two moments that I think are key to understanding his actions of the premier. The first begins at 0:28, at which point we're given a glimpse of his office.

The empty bookshelves should not surprise – this is, after all, the same Doug Ford who, as a Toronto city councillor, voted to slash libraries. He argued that his ward had more branches than Tim Horton's franchises – overestimating the former by a factor of ten – and had this to say about one Torontonian who spoke out against the cuts:
Good luck to Margaret Atwood. I don't even know her. She could walk right by me, I wouldn't have a clue who she is.
No doubt.

The second begins at 0:42, ending the video:

eventually I get to go home.
I actually physically walk through my door about
12:30 - 1:00 in the morning so I try to get
four or five hours sleep and we're back at it.
Sleep deprivation impairs, which may explain the premier's inability to tell time or differentiate between day and night. I like to think so – and that a good eight or nine hours of sleep would lead to better policy. The best book I've read on the topic is Sleep Thieves (New York: Free Press, 1996), in which UBC prof Stanley Coren destroys the myth that great leaders sleep very little. He draws on scientific studies in reporting that lack of sleep impairs concentration, reasoning, and problem solving. He looks at the effects of sleep deprivation on the economy (a recent Rand Corporation study put the cost at 1.35% of Canada's GDP). Finally, Coren warns of health implications, which include obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.

For his own good, and that of the province, I urge Doug Ford to read Sleep Thieves – not only for the information it contains, but because reading has been shown to increase intelligence and empathy.

The Toronto Public Library holds several copies.

The premier need only present his library card.

Related post:

06 August 2018

Vancouver Shakedown

Dick Diespecker
Toronto: Harlequin, 1953
224 pages

Handsome Stoney Martin and his plain wife Jane leave Toronto on a train bound for Vancouver. In middle-age, they've decided to make the West Coast their home. Toronto just didn't take.

The long journey back affords Stoney a good amount of time to reflect upon the past, his memories spurred on by a chance encounter with his alluring ex-wife, who just happens to be travelling aboard the very same train. He casts his mind back to 1928, when he and Jane were neighbours in a boarding house not far from Burrard Inlet. Stoney was a reporter for the Morning Standard back then, as was fellow boarder Lon Welch. Chunky, hard-working Kurt Pelzer would join them at the boarding house dinner table, though his presence was invariably overshadowed by Susan Niles:
     Susan Niles was blonde.
     Or brunette.
     Or red-headed.
     Depending on the fashion of the time and her mood.
A fashion illustrator, Susan had a beautiful figure and really knew how to dress and make herself up. What Jane, a bookkeeper, lacked in looks she made up in personality and a wholesome philosophy of life. Stoney was in love with her. If he'd been making $30 a week, instead of $25, he would have proposed. As it was, Stoney was happy to take Jane out on Saturday nights... until the Saturday night she'd agreed to a date with chunky Kurt.

Stoney didn't take it well, got drunk, and ended up in sexy Susan's bed. The next morning, Jane caught him sneaking out of the fashion illustrator's room.

The corner of Granville & Hastings, Vancouver, 1928
Claude Bissell, who seems to have been the only person to have reviewed this novel (University of Toronto Quarterly, April 1954), describes Rebound as a "piece of naturalism."

It is.

Stoney's tumble with Susan has some effect on the plot – they marry because she thinks she's pregnant – but the journalist's fate is governed more by history. Stoney's stock rises with the market as the Morning Standard gives him a front page column and several salary increases. When Susan's  loveless marriage proves baby-less, Susan leaves and sets out to take Stoney for all she can get:
"You don't want a divorce? Why not, for God's sake? Do you mean you like living this kind of bloody life?"
     "No, I don't like it any better than you do. And I'm not going to continue it any longer. I'm moving out this afternoon. But I don't want a divorce."
     Stoney was losing his patience and his temper.
     "What the hell are you raving about?" he demanded.
     Susan lit a cigarette and blew out a long plume of blue smoke before she replied. Then, not looking at him, but staring straight in front of her at the blank wall, exactly as she had on another memorable and terrible occasion, she said, "This is what I'm raving about, as you put it. I've taken more from you than I've ever taken from any man before, or ever will again. You've insulted me and browbeaten me and made me cheapen myself because I loved you."
     "I don't believe that," grunted Stoney.
     "I don't care a damn whether you believe it or not. It happens to be true. I did love you, or I wouldn't have done the things I did. and yet you, with your sickening moral hypocrisy, were wiling to accept the physical aspect of our relationship, but nothing more. You pretended you wanted to call the whole thing off, and yet the minute I made a pass at you, you were right back in bed with me. And when you were faced with the prospect of assuming some responsibility for your actions, you called me filthy names.
     "Well, Mr. Martin, I've been saving these things for you. You have a few debts to pay off, and you're going to pay them... with interest."
Then comes Black Tuesday. Stoney's salary is cut, cut, cut, cut, and cut, until the newspaper goes under and he joins the ranks of the unemployed.

Recognizing there's no more to take, Susan takes up with Lon, but still won't give Stoney a divorce. Doesn't matter, really, since he doesn't have money for food, never mind a lawyer. After days without a meal, Stoney manages to find work selling insurance. "The depression is a godsend to us," says his new boss. "There are more burglaries and holdups. So we sell more burglary and holdup insurance. People are more afraid of accidents and sickness, because they are afraid they'll lose pay from being away from their work... or perhaps even lose their jobs."

Stoney scrambles to make unrealistic sales targets, lying to customers and bending the rules, in a desperate attempt to please:
It was always the same. A shameful crawling and pleading, like a beaten dog begging to be allowed back into the good graces of its master. After a while Stoney became, like many of his fellow drudges, inured to the hopelessness of the situation. They simply did not care any more. Tramping through the streets in the fall and winter rains, with cracked and broken shoes, their suits wrinkled and their cuffs frayed, they gave up trying. They worked of half a day, perhaps on for an hour, attempting to sell without enthusiasm, or more important, trying to make collections.
It's Diespecker's depiction of Depression-era Vancouver and the struggles endured by Stoney and others that make Rebound worth reading. The novel loses strength with the coming of the Second World War. Curiously, there is less drama, less conflict, and the atmosphere of despair dissipates.

On reflection, maybe it isn't so curious; Susan Niles is all but absent during the war years, and it is she who brings passion and excitement to this novel. This seems to have been recognized by the unknown hand who wrote the back cover copy. Susan's presence in the novel is played up, and the devastation she brings is exaggerated. Stoney isn't really "a man who had to wrestle with his very soul until the end of time" – and even if he were, he'd have only himself to blame.

Even femme fatales deserve fair treatment.

Object and Access: A surprisingly thick mass market paperback, published once and never again. The copyright page is interesting in that it blacks out Harlequin's claim of ownership. My copy was a gift from Bowdler of Fly-By-Night. I'd been hunting for ages!

Rebound is held by Library and Archives Canada and six of our academic libraries.


01 August 2018

Mrs Lowry's West Coast Murder Mystery

"Malcolm Lowry has an entry in The Canadian Encyclopedia, so why not wife Margerie?" This is the question I pose in reviewing Margerie Bonner's 1946 novel The Shapes That Creep for the new Summer edition of Canadian Notes & Queries. As I point out, Bonner lived in Canada just as long as her husband, and published three novels during the couple's Canadian years. The Shapes That Creep, the first, is set in motion by the discovery of a murdered recluse in a community modelled on Deep Cove, British Columbia.

My review of The Shapes That Creep – with argument for Bonner's inclusion in the Encyclopedia – is the subject of my Dusty Bookcase column. Over at the What's Old feature, I recommend reissues of two Canadian classics, Hugh MacLennan's Two Solitudes and The Black Donnellys by Thomas P. Kelley; along with Jimmie Dale, Alias the Gray Seal, a new Gray Seal adventure written by fan Michael Howard.

This being the Genre Issue, Deborah Dundas writes on her relationship with romance novels, Rui Umezawa looks at Enter the Dragon, and Robert J. Wiersema considers Stephen King's It as a work of empathy. Gemma Files, Sandra Kasturi, David Nickle, Andrew Pyper, and Robert Rowe dare revisit their first monsters.

Seth provides a cover that can double as a Halloween mask.

All is overseen by guest editor James Grainger, who also contributes an excellent piece on the disturbing 1972 horror/comedy Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things. Other contributors include:
Myra Bloom
Daniel Donaldson
Justin Donnait
André Forget
Chris Gilmore
Alex Good
Camila Grudova
Sandra Kasturiit
Sibyl Lamb
Annick MacAskill
David Mason
Patricia Robertson
Keven Spenst
Jay Stephens
JC Sutcliffe
Drew Hayden Taylor
Bruce Whiteman

As always, things wrap up with Stephen Fowler. This issue he exhumes the Civil Defence Health Service's Casualty Simulation (Ottawa: Department of National Health and Welfare, 1955).

The horror! The horror!

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30 July 2018

The Dustiest Bookcase: G is for Gotlieb

Short pieces on books I've always meant to review (but haven't).
They're in storage as we build our new home.
Patience, please.

O Master Caliban!
Phyllis Gotlieb
New York: Harper & Row, 1976
244 pages

A childhood enthusiasm, I gave up on science fiction at about the time this book was published, which pretty much explains how it is that I had no idea Phyllis Gotlieb wrote sci-fi novels. Before coming across a copy of her first, Sunburst, at last fall's Friends of the St Marys Public Library book sale. I knew her only as a poet. I've never read her verse, but the fact that it had been published by Oxford University Press holds considerable weight.

O Master Caliban! was Gotlieb's third novel. I found this pristine, seemingly unread first edition one cold January day at Attic Books. The price - $3.00 - encouraged purchase, but I hesitated after reading the first sentence of the front flap:
Esther, an intelligent, articulate, motherly gibbon; Yigal, a large, grumpy white goat who talks; and Sven, a moody young man with four arms, are the protagonists of this fast-paced and delightful novel.
Oh, dear.

I bought it just the same, but can't bring myself to start in on the thing. The cover of the 1979 Seal mass market paperback all but guarantees I never will.

23 July 2018

The Promise of a Man, a Mother in So Much Pain

Blencarrow: A Novel
Isabel Mackay
Toronto: Thomas Allen, 1926
307 pages

The author's final novel, published two years before her death, Blencarrow begins in a sunny, lighthearted manner:
Euan Cameron, aged twelve, sat upon the fence and bent a darkling eye upon his father at the woodpile. The woodpile was in the Cameron's back yard, and the Camerons' back yard was in Blencarrow, and Blencarrow was a small, but exceedingly important, town somewhere around. So now you know exactly where Euan sat.
Do not be deceived. Blencarrow fits in with Mackay's other novels: The House of Windows (1912), dealing with child abduction and worker exploitation; Up the Hill and Over (1917), about mental illness and drug addiction; and The Window-Gazer (1921), in which post-traumatic stress disorder and racism figure.

(I've yet to read Mackay's 1919 novel Mist of Morning.)

Named after the fictitious town in which the action is set (see: Woodstock, Ontario), Blencarrow focusses on four children as they grow into adulthood. Euan is the least interesting. I blame his family.
 The worst that can be said about the Camerons is that grim patriarch Andrew finds no contentment in his achievements. Contrast Euan's home life with that of best friend Garry, who is being raised in the Anglican manse by a benevolent uncle, Reverend James Dwight, and housekeeper Mrs Binns. Garry's mother is dead; there's no mention of his father. Euan and Garry's sometime friend Conway de Beck – Con-of-the-Woods – lives with his aunt, a Theosophist, who is something of an outcast in Blencarrow. Con doesn't care; he's happier in the woods, hence the nickname.

All three boys are attracted to Kathrine Fenwell. She isn't the prettiest girl in Blencarrow – that would be her sister, Gilda – but she has by far the strongest character. Kathrine needs this as the daughter of the town drunk. Owing to his good looks and pedigree, Blencarrow had once considered her father, Gilbert Fenwell, a man of great promise. Shortly after the death of his own father, the respected Colonel Fenwell, Gilbert took his healthy inheritance to the big cities, where he invested in "Big Business." He married Kathrine's mother, Lucia, and began construction of what was to have been the grandest house in all of Blencarrow:
It was not so much a house as a half-house, the front half benign-existent save as a tracing on a blue-print. The back half, arrested abruptly in its normal growth, had remained fixed, as by some strange enchantment, in all the ugliness of outraged proportion. At first, scaffolds had decorated it, but, bit by bit, the scaffolding had disappeared and nothing had taken its place. No steps below, no eaves above, broke the wide flatness of is face. The front door was not properly a front door, but a door leading into a hallway that was not there. The windows were not windows really, but glassed-in entrances to dining-rooms and drawing-rooms – which lived and had their being in a fourth dimension.
The lengthy description, one of my favourite Mackay passages, ends:
It stood well back in its neglected garden, the ghost of something once new and fresh and promising, On its strange, flat face was a negation of all hope. It was a house which had given itself up.
     Blencarrow had given it up also. While the scaffolding still stood, Blencarrow had pointed it out to strangers as "the unfinished Fenwell place." But this they did no longer, for a thing which never will be finished is the most finished thing of all.
The odd appearance of Gilbert Fenwell's house, "the town's only curiosity," serves as a reminder that Big Business "wiped him off the financial map as a child rubs out a name on a plate." Work stopped,
The Globe & Mail
14 December 1926
 and he returned to Blencarrow as a man who had left his money and promise behind: "Gilbert Fenwell, as a possibility, had ceased to be, but Gilbert Fenwell, as an actuality, lived on."

If only he hadn't.

Gilbert doesn't figure nearly so much in Blencarrow as Kathrine, Euan, Garry, and Con-of-the Woods, but his influence on the plot is greater. As a young child, Gilda is sent away to live with her aunt after having being beaten by Gilbert. Her forehead bears a scar that she hides with her long red hair. He takes his failings out on his family. He beats Lucia. He beats Kathrine. His poison is pervasive. All too real, I can't think of another character like him this early in our literature, nor can I think of anything similar to this exchange between Kathrine and her mother:
"Gilda doesn't care for anyone in any way – except you, of course," she added hastily, as she saw the tightening of her mother's face.
     Lucia laid down her sewing. Into her eyes had come the strange blank look which Kathrine had grown to dread.
     "No," she said softly. "You can't have it both ways. If Gilda cares for no one, why would she care for me? And that is justice, too. I hated her you see."
     "You hated Gilda?" – in wonderment.
     Lucia nodded. "Before she was born I hated her. I would have denied her life if I could. I had come to hate life so! To pass it on seemed a horrible thing... horror... all horror –" 
A remarkable passage in a remarkable novel, it leads me to ask again how it is that we've forgotten Isabel Mackay.

Bloomer: As in life, there's humour to be found in even the darkest of tales. Blencarrow is no exception. Its plot is governed by effects wrought of domestic violence, and yet there are chapters reminiscent of Stephen Leacock. My favourite involves the decision of the Presbyterian Ladies' Affiliated Societies of Mariposa Blencarrow to organize a "Festival of Nations." However, the greatest laugh comes in the form of a bloomer found on the ninety-fifth page. This occurs as young Garry begins religious studies with the goal of becoming a celibate Anglican clergyman like his Uncle James. In this pursuit, he finds a role model in Prof Adam Harmon, leading to this, um, exchange, which begins with Harmon's words of advice:
"Keep your mind clear as long as it is clear... Fill it with the spiritual things you love. Hold fast through everything to the decision you have made. Nothing can conquer you – except yourself."
     "Oh, I think I've got myself well in hand," said Garry cheerfully.
Object and Access: A bland green hardcover sans dust jacket (which I've never seen), as far as I know it's the only MacKay book to be attributed to "Isabel Mackay" and not "Isabel Ecclestone Mackay." I purchased my copy in 2013 from bookseller Grant Thiesen. Price: US$7.99. In reading it, I came across this bonus:

The Thomas Allen edition was a split-run with Houghton Mifflin. It appears there were no others. Blencarrow can be found at Library and Archives Canada and sixteen of our university libraries. The Woodstock Public Library excluded, Canada's public libraries fail us.

Related posts:

16 July 2018

The Dustiest Bookcase: F is for Fulford

Short pieces on books I've always meant to review (but haven't).
They're in storage as we build our new home.
Patience, please.

Right Now Would Be a Good Time to Cut My Throat
Paul Fulford
Richmond Hill, ON: Pocket, [1972]

The debut novel by Paul Fulford – commonly, "Paul A. Fulford" – about whom I know next to nothing. True, the book's author bio consumes the back cover, but can it be trusted?

Fulford is described as a magazine editor without identifying the publication. He's said to have written magazine articles, but I've yet to find one. Brochures? Speeches? Haven't most of us written these at one time or another?

Fulford is a subject of further research, which is not to say it hasn't begun. I've managed to track down a copy of Should a Scotsman Take Off His Kilt When He Meets a Lady?, published in 1969 by Young & McCarthy.

It was the publisher's only book.

I've also found seven letters Fulford wrote to the Globe & Mail, the earliest (26 March 1965) concerning a crosswalk accident that involved Toronto's Chief of Police. Others focus on problems with parking at the Canadian National Exhibition, Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin's 1971 Ottawa visit, the Oak Island Mystery, and humorist and columnist Richard Needham (whom Fulford criticizes as unfunny and lazy). The last, published in 6 January 1973, deals with dogs:

Never mind.

Given Fulford's association with Pocket Books, an American mass market branch plant, this letter published on 6 August 1971, is by far the most interesting:

As far as I've been able to determine, Fulford wrote just one paid piece for the Globe & Mail, "Can Penguins Show How To Solve the Generation Gap" (16 March 1971), an op-ed in which he's described as "a supply teacher at Forest Hill Junior High."

It's every bit as funny as Needham.

Barman, labourer, teacher, farmhand, I don't doubt that Fulford had been them all. Initially, I was dismissive about the claim that written of movie scripts, "Unproduced," I'd thought, until I came across a "Paul Fulford" as one of four screenwriters credited in the 1971 Canadian prison drama "I'm Going to Get You... Elliott Boy" (aka Caged Men Plus One Woman).

"Featuring today's bright young stars Ross Stephenson and Maureen McGill," according to the trailer, "this story was torn from today's headlines and actually filmed inside the walls of a modern and active penitentiary." "It seems a rip-off of John Herbert's 1967 play Fortune and Men's Eyes, which happened to have been released as a feature film in the very same month.

I wonder what happened to bright young stars Ross Stephenson and Maureen McGill, just as I wonder what became of Paul A. Fulford. As far as I can tell, he published only one more book, Who's Got the Bastard Pope [sic] (Markham, ON: PaperJacks, 1978). Surprisingly uncommon, I've been looking for it for years, but this small image spotted online is the closest I've got:

As for Fulford being married to a writer named Dorothy Parker... Well, you can't make that stuff up.

09 July 2018

Red Set: The History of Gang of Four is Launched!

I'm honoured to have been invited to interview author Jim Dooley at the Canadian launch of Red Set: A History of Gang of Four, published by Repeater Books.

Jim's an old friend.

The band is an old favourite.

Because I'm old, I was around to take some of the photos in the book.

It'll all go down in the nation's capital:
Black Squirrel Books and Espresso Bar
1073 Bank Street
Thursday, July 12, 2018
Ottawa friends and readers, please come by.
No weak men in the books at home!
Related posts:

05 July 2018

The Great Canadian Lesbian Pulp Novel?

Sadly, no; but I think my expectation was justified. See if you don't agree. Here's the beginning of my review, which was posted yesterday on the Canadian Notes& Queries website:

Strange Desires [?]
Alan Malston [?]
Toronto: News Stand Library. 1949
160 pages
The title of this novel is either Strange Desires or Strange Desire. It doesn't matter which because "Strange" is key. Anyone familiar with post-war paperbacks will recognize the word as code for "lesbian" fiction. Delicate lingerie, gentle caresses, and tender kisses will feature. An insecure, vulnerable, and somewhat unstable young woman (more often than not a blonde) will likely be seduced by a confident, slightly older woman (usually brunette). The young woman will become increasingly insecure, vulnerable, and unstable as a result, until finding safe harbour in the arms of a man. The slightly older brunette may or may not commit suicide. 
Those unfamiliar with that code word in 1949 would’ve been aided by the cover pitch: “WHAT MAN COULD SATISFY HER — STRANGE DESIRES.” But for the truly dim-witted, everything is laid out in the back cover copy: 
Adele was sophisticated, spoiled and reckless, and her inspired strip dance performed with a snake as partner set men's blood pounding and women's tongues to wagging. Her inseparable female companion seemingly did not quench Adele's desire for the conquest of men and for the one man in particular who seemed capable of resisting every trick and every charm.
Am I right or am I right?

Before wasting good money on tracking down a copy, you'll want to read the rest of the review:
Weird, But Not Really Strange
Note: Not to be confused with...

Strange Desire
Wayne Wallace
Hollywood: Brandon House, 1965
Related posts:

01 July 2018

Laura Salverson's 'For Canada' for Canada Day

A poem – and prayer – by Laura Salverson, from Wayside Gleams, her only collection of verse, published in 1925 by McClelland & Stewart.

For Canada 
               Grant us, O Lord, within the coming year.
               Some vision of our noble destiny... 
*  *  *  * 
               Give unto us the strength to face anew
               Adversity and sorrows... or again
               Good fortune, with that valiant humbleness
               Which ever marks a depth of inward grace;
               Grant us, we pray, sincere, courageous hearts.
               Wide sympathies, with minds that seek to see
               In giving joy, and pride in honest toil,
               In beauty, truth, and good for all mankind;
               For every race, for every land, we pray;
               Lift them, O God, from out enthralling thought
               And prejudice, that they, directing, find
               Thy presence manifest on land and sea.
               But last, O Lord, for this is our Canada
               We crave Thy blessing and eternal aid;
               Keep her fair soul unflinching, aye, and true
               That she, among the nations, may arise.
               Made string with the greatness from the fount within,
               Imbued with love that knows not any death,
               This gracious land, so young, so little tried.
               O'er-shadow her with Thy own righteousness.
               That she may stand a New Jerusalem
               Where man, by giving much, may gather more;
               Where thy same speech and creed of kindliness
               At last take root to flourish far and wide,
               Till thereon in very truth become
               The citadel of justice on earth.  
*  *  *  * 
               Grant us, O Lord, within the coming year,
               The vision of our final destiny —
               A nation worthy of her ancient dead —
               A fabric perfected from deathless dreams.
In 2014, I bought this first and only edition of Wayside Gleams for one dollar. The dust jacket features an advert for eight other McClelland & Stewart books.

I haven't read one.

How 'bout you?

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25 June 2018

The Dustiest Bookcase: E is for Eaton

Short pieces on books I've always meant to review (but haven't).
They're in storage as we build our new home.
Patience, please.

Memory's Wall
Flora McCrae Eaton
Toronto: Clarke Irwin, 1956
213 pages

The Bombardier Guide to Canadian Authors places Flora McCrae Eaton as second only to Malcolm Frye. Both writers transcend the boundaries of our literature: Frye rates 6½ out of a possible five skidoos, while Lady Eaton is an even six. According to the Guide, Morley Callaghan is a third the writer she is, and yet I've never read Lady Eaton's work.

Memory's Wall was Flora McCrae Eaton's second and last book. The first, Rippling Rivers: My Diary of a Camping Holiday, was published in 1920 by the T. Eaton Company, the department store headed by husband Sir John Craig Eaton. That just two books propelled her to such heights in the Bombardier Guide speaks to her talent.

Before moving to St Marys, Ontario, our home these past ten years, I'd never seen a copy of Memory's Wall. They're not at all uncommon in this small town. My copy, purchased four blocks down the street, set me back a dollar.

It's signed.

The Eatons were once prominent in St Marys; Lady Eaton's father-in law, Timothy, had a store on Queen Street, as did his brother Robert. They stand with celebrated violinist Nora Clench (Lady Streeton) and Arthur Meighen as the town's most famous residents. The latter, our ninth prime minister, provided a forward to Memory's Wall.

It begins: "This book is truly a Canadian product." 

That's as far as I've made it.

Related posts:

24 June 2018

Root Beer for a Sober Fête de la St-Jean Baptiste

The visage of Louis-Joseph-Paul-Napoléon Bruchési, Italian-Canadian Archbishop of Montreal, dominates the first page of this 1898 Souvenir de la fête de la St-Jean Baptiste, but the most prominent spot belongs to the English firm of Newball & Mason, which placed this ad at the very top of the front cover:

I'd long been aware that root beer was once promoted by teetotals – Hires sold it as the "temperance drink for temperance people" – but had never seen the beverage described as the "Biere de Temperance."

Don't like root beer? Newball & Mason had other drinks to lure one away from that ol' demon alcohol: botanic beer, hop ale, ginger beer, ginger ale, horehound beer, and Devonshire Cider were just six.

Looking through the many ads in the Souvenir, I see no other teetotals.

Newball & Mason's address – 943 St-Laurent – was razed in the 'seventies to make way from the Ville-Marie Expressway. I'm betting the Nottingham, Angleterre firm had long since vacated the building.

Bon fête!

Related posts:

18 June 2018

The Dustiest Bookcase: D is for Daniells

Short pieces on books I've always meant to review (but haven't).
They're in storage as we build our new home.
Patience, please.

Deeper Into the Forest
Roy Daniells
Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1948
72 pages

A thing of beauty, and so a joy forever, I bought my pristine copy of Deeper Into the Forest three years ago for fifteen dollars. That price – less than a can of President's Choice coffee – speaks ill of this country's recognition of its literature.

But who am I to judge? I still haven't read Daniells' collection.

Deeper Into the Forest holds the distinction of being the very first Indian File Book, a series that would include three Governor General's Award-winners: James Reaney's The Red Heart (1949), James Wreford Watson's Of Time and the Lover (1950), and P.K. Page's The Metal and the Flower (1956). The ninth and last last Indian File Book, John Glassco's The Deficit Made Flesh (1958), is the one I know the best. For a time, Leonard Cohen's The Spice Box of Earth was under consideration as the tenth title.

Indian File Books had uniform dust jackets; the series name had to do with the boards hidden underneath each. All nine were adaptations of designs by "West Coast and Plains Indians" by WASP Torontonian Paul Arthur.

Deeper Into the Forest
Roy Daniells

Of Time and the Lover
James Wreford Watson

The Deficit Made Flesh
John Glassco

Cultural appropriation, of course.

Did anyone notice?

Indian File Books had print runs of 400 copies.

The bulk of Glassco's were remaindered for 29¢.

Hardly anyone pays them notice now.

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