Abbie Hoffman, social activist and professional shit-disturber of the nineteen-sixties once said, “The first duty of a revolutionary is to get away with it.” Since my godmother, Karen, is manifestly a child of the Sixties, I’ve decided to blame Hoffman for her recent stealth exercise in social agitation—though Karen says it all began with her Catholic school nuns and their emphasis on civil rights and justice. I support those goals. The problem is that my godmother is unruly and prone to obsession.
Surely, many of us have played the old parlour game of “who would you rather have over for dinner” with literary figures: Virginia Woolf or Jane Austen? Charles Dickens or Ernest Hemingway? William Butler Yates or Bob Dylan? Michael Ondaatje or Ian Binnie?!
It began with a phone call. Peter Baker, a Canadian veterinarian with a small animals practice in Johannesburg, South Africa, wanted me to come to Bookbedonnerd III, a literary festival in the Great Karoo Desert village of Richmond. Peter’s partner in the festival, Darryl David, had located my novel The Great Karoo (about western Canadians fighting in the Boer War) online. I assumed this meant he liked the book, but in fact it was so thoroughly unavailable in South Africa, neither Peter nor Darryl had physically seen it.
The first time I worked through here --see how little I knew– first gorge West of the Livingstone Range, I was calling Into badger holes, poking sticks down the throats For Irish monks. Pitted, pine snow a vinegary bulge against wet rock At 5,000 feet, burnt trees to the top, Turtle Mountain, from Lost Creek Fire, sun A fingernail scrape in bachelor kettle aluminum, And through it, the mountain’s pig neck and back Appeared to move. Now rain bloom bear-sways up The blade of the north hump.
As I write this, CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi is on Twitter tweeting (crowing?) about the success of Canada Reads 2012. For the first time in the eleven-year history of the Survivor-esque best-book competition, every one of the five books under discussion ended up on The Globe and Mail top ten list of Canadian best-sellers.
The first time I went for a bikini wax, I had no idea what I was getting into. Friends with standing appointments and a landmark episode of Sex and the City had prepared me for pain, but—now in my thirties and having survived the various types of pain a feminine life can bring, short of childbirth—I thought I’d be able to handle it.
The DHC-2 Beaver bush plane is often credited with opening up the Canadian North. It was manufactured by de Havilland Canada in Downsview, Ontario, between 1947 and 1967, yet it remains a common sight throughout the country due to its rare abilities. It’s easily recognized by its very loud “Wasp Jr” engine.