Monday, May 17, 2021

The Innocent Traveller (1949)



Years ago, in an effort to broaden the conversation on Canadian fiction (and sell a few books in the process), McClelland & Stewart created the New Canadian Library. Among the titles in this library of reprints is Ethel Wilson's The Innocent Traveller (1949), first published by Macmillan. 

As with all NCL titles, The Innocent Traveller carries a short afterword by a writer and/or scholar who has an interest in, or relationship with, the text. The writer tasked with the "Afterword" for Traveller is the late P.K. Page. Here she is near the end of her afterword:

"But what of the book itself, what of its shape? For it has a shape, this collection of stories (or is it a novel, after all?). So delighted are we by its style, by its characters who have become our friends, that we have altogether forgotten shape. We have been carried along -- like Topaz herself -- absorbed, unthinking, until towards the end, the book gathers itself together, and we see its circularity and lift that is, in fact, a spiral."

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Unit 17


The rear of Unit 17 (looking north) at Bayswater and West 4th Avenue, not far from Vancouver's historic Sound Gallery (1965-66). This could have been what the back of Unit 17 looked like when the Sound Gallery was across the street from it, if not for the red plastic chairs and the science fiction device that took its picture.

Inside the gallery, an exhibition by Tristan Unrau. Below, a small oil of his called Thank You David Park (2021):


Saturday, May 15, 2021

Honey Locust


This from a couple weeks ago. A visit to Catriona Jeffries Gallery, to commune with the Honey Locusts, which appear to be thriving.

Later that day someone asked, "What's a Honey Locust?" and I showed them this picture. Without even knowing it was taken at CJG, they said, "It looks like a Geoffrey Farmer." 

Friday, May 14, 2021

Sylvia Hotel


Among the least remarkable aspects of Vancouver's Sylvia Hotel is a narrow strip of lawn that runs between the hotel's elevated south patio and the Beach Avenue sidewalk. On this strip the hotel has placed eight picnic tables with umbrellas, and you can dine there, as we did yesterday evening, and watch people moving over the mound of grass that leads down to the seawall and beyond, to the sands of English Bay, its waters, and eventually its sunset, which by now is west enough to enter our north facing windows.

The picture atop this post was taken around 8pm yesterday in the Sylvia's "Men's" room. The window is west-facing and allowed a framed picture of the hotel's exterior trees and vines. I thought of Carolee Schneemann's Fuses (1967) when I saw this window, how at any minute it might cut to her or James Tenney or Kitsch the Cat. Fuses, too, was filmed in a room not far from a beach. This was almost 55 years ago. Tenney passed away in 2006, Schneeman in 2019. If Kitsch were still alive he would be the oldest cat, ever.     

Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Wig-Maker (2021)


My pic looks dark. But the original is dark, taken with one of those pocket-sized autofocus cameras that were common in the 1970s. I could have lightened the image with my smart phone, but it's important to know that the original camera, like the transistor radio that was also common to that era, is cheap, practical, barely sufficient. Nothing says the 1970s like the Kodak Pocket Instamatic

We don't have to read too far into this book of remembrances told by co-author Janet Gallant to co-author Sharon Thesen (who transcribed them as poems) to know that the housing Gallant is pictured in front of is part of a Canadian Forces Base, and that the pop-up trailer behind her is symbolic of the army family's nomadic life. Gallant's family moved around a lot, only it wasn't to escape something but to better serve the country her father swore allegiance to.

I admire New Star for selecting a cover image as dark and as blurry as this one. For me, the light is a dusk light, a June night somewhere north of what I am used to. The long day before it could have seen Gallant involved in something where trophies are given out, after which she showered and changed into clothes she thought about wearing on the drive back to the base.

But if this day was such a big deal -- big enough to photograph -- why is Gallant not centred in its picture? Could it be that the photo was cropped to allow space for Eve Joseph's blurb, the book's cursive title and its co-authors? Or that whoever took this picture was more interested in the trailer? After reading The Wig-Maker you might have an idea as to which of these two options was in play. But you have to read it first. And you should read it if you are at all interested in the time, the place and the circumstances in which Janet Gallant came of age.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Door of the Rising Sun


My door to the rear garden is mostly glass. Running the length of it is a venetian blind. At night, after I turn out the lights, I open these blinds in anticipation of the morning light, which I wake up to and love as much as dusk light.

The rear garden is at the north end of the house. A yearly highlight for me is when the rising sun shines through my door.

A wondrous feeling, one that takes me back to my childhood self, when I had a similar sense of wonder after I was told emphatically that the sun rises in the east (and sets in the west). As soon as I knew what north was I noticed how the rising sun entered the northern part of our house first, and how no one could tell me why.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

My Garden an Earthly Delight


Over the years I have endeavoured to make my garden a pleasant place, nothing fancy. After returning from the Okanagan in 2018, I did what I could to make it resonate from multiple perspectives. COVID accelerated this effort, to the point where my garden begins not from my door or the gates but from all four corners, each with a view to and from itself. Now I want my garden to be my heaven, the place I go to when I die. The more time I spend there, the more I will know where to put my bed when the time comes.