First, of course, an affectionate word about AVIE BENNETT, who passed away four days ago. Jane and I were in Vancouver when the Toronto Star tracked me down for a phone interview about Avie in Stanley Park. It was strangely appropriate for a man who took the M&S description, “The Canadian Publishers”, so seriously.
I was glad that The Star devoted a front-page story to Avie’s life and death. My own recollections of working daily with him as the Publisher of McClelland & Stewart when he was the Chairman , from 1988 till 2000, are vivid and proud. The Star story ended with my recollection of my May 23 show at the Lieutenant Governor’s Chambers in Queen’s Park. I had begun by thanking everyone for coming, recognising my 10 year-old nephew Alistair (who leapt to his feet with unrestrained enthusiasm), and then noting the presence of 89-year old Avie, who was there on a walker , with the help of his friend Bill Ross. It had taken him a great deal of trouble and determination to come to my show, to support me, and I spoke briefly about his role in supporting Canadian writers.
Without prompting, the audience burst into warm applause. Avie was delighted.
He died ten days later, after this final triumphant public appearance.
I’ll be writing a fuller appreciation later.
Now that I’ve given my Sesquicentennial shows celebrating ” CANADA’S GREATEST STORYTELLERS / LES PLUS GRANDS RACONTEURS CANADIENS 1867 — 2017″ in various places, a few options have emerged.
OPTION ONE: The full show, with an Intermission when we reach 1967. This is the show I have given in Ottawa on April 29, and (in more polished form) at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver on May 31. This is also the form chosen by a number of Literary Festivals across the country for the next few months.
The next such event, running almost two hours, including the Intermission, will be on the roof of Ontario, where so many rivers start, at FLESHERTON on JUNE 9, at 7pm. Tickets are still available. Contact museum@greyhighlands for details about the show in the Kineplex.
OPTION TWO: A condensed 50-minute version of the show, concentrating on the modern era, from 1967 to the present. This is the version that I gave at The Lieutenant Governor’s Queen’s Park Chambers. Susan Swan the novelist was in the audience, and kindly called it ” a witty historical medley of Canadian writerly talent…How fortunate Canada is that you are doing your show across the country. If only there were more Doug Gibsons going out in the world to tell it about our great literary tradition, our wonderful history of writers and writing.”
OPTION THREE: The first 100 Years, from 1867 to 1967. This version, running one hour, has already been chosen by some Ontario groups. In every case, of course, I deal with our major writers in English and in French, and the show is enlivened by bursts of Canadian music, and the work of other Canadian artists from the time. And always, of course, I speak about the author against the background caricature by the brilliant Anthony Jenkins.
I’m still building a National Tour. Please let any interested group (Library/Bookstore/Museum/ Community) know about the shows we can bring to them. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org