Canadian #Play Fest

So glad to hear my script “The Good-bye Play” will be a part of a Canadian Play Festival at a Newmarket high school this week.  Here’s a taste of the big final monologue:

The Good-bye Play

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Raising your Guard

Back from a week in the woods with students. Tired, renewed… yes, all that. Guard down. That’s the part to be careful of. Guard down, feeling fortified by also seeing a movie where, yes, characters have their guard up, and of course, the momentum of the movie escalates as the characters lower their guards.

You crave these moments in movies. In life, they can be your downfall.

Back to work tomorrow. Guard back up. Despite the temptation to play it as it lays. Call a spade a spade.

Safety first.

Yeah, But Do They Have the Penguin #Books Coffee Mugs?

So I’m in an independent bookstore in Toronto, looking for those wonderful striped Penguin books coffee mugs, designed like the 1950’s book covers.

I give them to new members of our English department. When I first did this, I sent the staff a list of the titles, without telling them they were coffee mugs. Just tell me your favourite book.

English teachers. “Are we going to teach these?” “My favourite book to read, or to teach?” Oh, brother.

When they got the mugs, they loved them. So with the arrival of a new staffer, I went looking for the mugs again.

The store I went to didn’t have any. When I asked what other book store might have them, I suggested a competitor. The store owner said, “Screw them,” and recommended a different one. When I asked what he had against the first one, he said they were no longer any good since they got bought out. By whom? By Chapters.

Really?

“They’re a subsidiary”.

The fact that all of this was ridiculous didn’t strike me and make me want to blog as much as the needling question: why have any preferences about the world of independent bookstores at all? Aren’t they all an endangered species these days, to be savoured and celebrated, no matter what their particularities?

Just give me the phone number and let me decide which store is best. Based on the above comments, it might not be the store I went into this morning.

I’m still looking for the coffee mugs. Maybe online?

 

 

 

A Whole Separate #Language

I wandered into a bookstore, and when I told them they were missing Anne Tyler’s best novel, they looked it up and told me it was being rereleased this Tuesday.

So I get to blog about one of my favourite novels. It made Nick Hornby want to write; it made me want to write also.

I’ll tell you enough to entice. Dinner at The Homesick Restaurant (1982) is about the Tulls, after the father leaves the family at the start of the book. The rest of the story is how they fare without him, with each member of the family (except for dad) advancing the story in cryptically titled chapters (“Teaching the Cat to Yawn”).

Son Ezra works at a local Baltimore restaurant and then takes it over. He renames it The Homesick Restaurant, where only one entree is served each night, just like at home, made with love.

Though I am tempted to tell where the book goes, amongst various aborted family dinners at Ezra’s cafe (at Thanksgiving and Christmas), I won’t. Suffice it to say the ending pays off very satisfyingly indeed.

My favourite quote:

“There ought to be a whole separate language for words that are truer than other words- for perfect absolute truth.”

The Original Copy

I love Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World”. It tells a story, and yet the viewer gets to fill in so much about that big landscape that we see, and the landscape of Christina’s mind.

I probably first saw it in an art book. My mother framed a print of it for the family den. It formed part of the landscape of my youth, always there in the background. It now hangs in my apartment.

When I go to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York, I always pay homage to the original. Of course the original is impressive, but a funny feeling struck me the first time I saw it. Along with the sheer delight in locating it (the MOMA is a big museum, and they move the artwork around), there was an almost deflated feeling of- “Oh yes, there it is. I recognize it.” Almost as if the copy I had grown up with were the original, and this version in front of me was a copy- because the copy on my wall was my original. I was used to it.

The dimensions are different. The original is 82 cm by 1.21 m. About twice as big as the framed poster on my wall (45 by 68 cm).

The detail of the original, of course, cannot be rendered in a printed poster. On close inspection, the fine lines of Christina’s hair and the blades of grass in the field stand out distinct, as if raised from the surface of the canvas. As with most original paintings, the colours, though inherently muted in this farm portrait, stand out more vividly.

This idea of what had more value for the viewer- the first created work or its facsimile-  was confirmed as I roamed around the gallery, captured in the endless cell phone picture-taking of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and countless other classic works. People are more interested in creating their copy (sometimes as a “selfie”) than in simply taking in the original with their eyes.

Original or copy- the images are indelible.