Many early readers of Stories About Storytellers have remarked that they finish reading it only to rush to pick up one of the other books Doug has so lovingly described. So to make it easier, this recurring feature revisits some of those books and reminds you why they’re worth a read. Last time, we revisited Man Descending by Guy Vanderhaeghe, and this we’re featuring . . .
The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant (2005)
Not only did I fail to edit this book, I failed to publish it. But in my book I mention it as One That Got Away.
That’s because my visit to James Houston’s cottage in Haida Gwaii (then the Queen Charlotte Islands) had left me so impressed that I had a proprietorial view of the islands, and their stories. So if I had caught wind of the fact that an unknown Vancouver writer was at work on a book about the legendary golden spruce that had been felled at night by a confused conservationist making an obscure point (then disappearing at sea, before his trial exposed him to the wrath of the Haida nation) I would have snapped it up, sight unseen.
Not that the book suffered by being published elsewhere, going on to win the Governor-General’s Award, and just about every other non-fiction prize available. I’ve since visited the scene of the crime, and am sad to report that the once-golden spruce (a freak of nature that made it a source of reverence to the Haida people) is now a grey, shrunken felled tree rotting away quietly in the water where it fell. But the book, which encompasses a history of the Haida, and of the islands, and of resource logging in B.C., is a superb piece of work.
For Doug’s tales of Haida Gwaii see 176-178 of Stories About Storytellers.