I’ve written about my family links with Saskatchewan, with my Granny’s sister leaving Scotland in 1903 with her new husband to try her luck in Canada’s West . This was before Saskatchewan became a province, and Saskatoon was where they landed. Homesteading soon followed.
So I was delighted to be asked to come along and take part in the 2015 Word-On- The-Street (WOTS) celebration of books and authors. I’ve been at WOTS events right beside the salt water in Halifax, not far from it in Vancouver, and in several spots in freshwater Toronto. But in Saskatoon it’s held downtown, just three blocks west of the South Saskatchewan River, with a small tent city cheerfully blocking streets around the Library.
That Library plays a large part in the WOTS celebrations. Indeed, my show was held in the Library Theatre, and I was proud to whizz through all of the authors in “Across Canada By Story” in time for my successor, W.P. Kinsella, to follow on from me with his interviewer, Yann Martel.
Later, I had fun interviewing Guy Vanderhaeghe on another stage. I’ve been his friend ever since I published Man Descending in 1982. I had warned Guy that my questions were likely to begin “How can you seriously expect us to believe…..?”, and so on, but in the end the predicted inquisition proved to be a very warm conversation, one which the audience apparently enjoyed. And they certainly applauded when I finally paid tribute to Guy – as I do in my book – as “one of Canada’s greatest novelists.”
A final note about the Library. Angus Mowat, Farley’s father, was the librarian there. So Farley grew up in Saskatoon, as readers of The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be are well aware. Saskatoon’s pride in him is evident in the statue of Farley, plus dog, that you can find on the University of Saskatchewan campus.
But there’s another link from his early years with Farley’s fame as a writer of gripping non-fiction. Angus was far from being a model father; indeed he even involved his son in hiding his bigamy. But as a librarian, to attract readers of popular fiction to the pleasures of good non-fiction, he would insert copies of the very best non-fiction books among the widely-borrowed fiction titles, in the hope that readers would stumble upon them, like what they saw, and extend their reading range.
Isn’t it interesting that Farley was to pioneer the idea of using the devices of fiction – including scenes, and dialogue – to make his non-fiction books more compelling?



  1. Robert Currie says:

    That was a good session with you and Guy at WOTS in Saskatoon. It was nice
    to chat with you there, and I look forward to your performance next July at the Saskatchewan Festival of Words in Moose Jaw.

    • Douglas Gibson says:

      It was a very nice surprise to come on my old friends the Curries there.
      You’ll be glad to know that, with unusual efficiency, I’ve already filled out the forms for next July. Moose Jaw, here we come!

  2. Susan Jane Griffin says:

    Although I do love reading the great stories about so many colourful authors, repeatedly I find that I cannot help being most tickled by your own charming economy of words, Doug. I smile whenever I come to unexpected pairings, especially. Where they take my imagination is just so much fun. Even in this blog post, for instance: “… a small tent city cheerfully blocking streets around the Library.” Who knew that simple canvas structures could be so naughty as to delight in being allowed to get together and break the rules? Ever since I spent some afternoons learning from you and watching your original show at the Denman Island Writers Festival last year, you have been an internalized mentor, and your little surprises draw out mine. I look forward to catching the second show, and send you warm greetings from Vancouver Island.

    • Douglas Gibson says:

      Dear Susan Jane.
      My apologies for a late response to this kind comment.
      I ‘m glad that my unexpected word pairings tickle your interest bone, and hope that our trails will cross again soon.

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