ALICE MUNRO 1931– Not Bad Short Story Writer

You’ll be glad to know that I was prepared for Alice Munro to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

(Pause for arm waving, dancing and cheering.)

As I was saying, I was prepared. So thoroughly prepared that late the previous evening I did the full shower and shave thing, so that I could getup very early and sit, perfectly groomed (striped tie and all), in front of my computer before 6 o’clock. This meant that when the wonderful news came in and the ringing phones started to jump across my desk, I was able to say, “Yes, I can be in a cab to come down for CBC TV news right away,” and so on with all of the other stations.

You may have caught me babbling happily on one of the many shows that interviewed me. It was all inspiring, with every single interviewer beaming and delighted. The ultimate good-news story. A wonderful event for all Canadians with a superb author, one of ours, being honoured at last.

I’m very proud to have been part of it.


Letters to the Editor

One week in January I wrote fierce Letters to the Editor of two very different newspapers. My targets were on both ends of the political spectrum: Conrad Black and Rick Salutin. Surely this establishes some kind of record.

In the National Post on Saturday, January 21, Conrad Black assailed a book that I recently published under my imprint: Trudeau Transformed, by Max and Monique Nemni. He made the mistake of mentioning that he had not actually read the second volume of the series he dismissed as “hagiographies” and was relying on the excerpts that he had read.

My letter, which the National Post featured prominently, pointed out that he had broken “the basic law for book reviewers, that it is impossible to review fairly and honestly a book that you have not read.” The letter went on with equal vigour.

In his next column, on Saturday, January 28, Conrad Black began, “I regret offending my cordial acquaintance Douglas Gibson. And I salute him for coming to the defence of his authors, Max and Monique Nemni, biographers of Pierre Trudeau. I think I can set his mind at ease on some points.”

What follows strikes me as coming as close to an apology as Mr. Black can manage. Watch this space to see if he goes on to read and review the disputed book.

By way of contrast, in his Friday, January 21, column in the Toronto Star, Rick Salutin took aim at the respect shown for storytelling skills. His provocative headline “Enough with the Storytelling” was enough to rouse me, the author of a book entitled Stories About Storytellers, to protest in print. In my response, I praised the central role of storytelling, not only in our fiction, but in our non-fiction writers, too, including our politicians. I suggested that history shows that success – in elections, in courtrooms, in contract bids, and in book sales – goes to the person who tells the best story.

I would even go so far as to say that storytelling, like the opposable thumb, is a basic human characteristic. And stories, which allow us to get inside the heads and hearts of other people, are perhaps the original “social media.”

— Douglas Gibson

CBC Stuff

January was a big Scottish month for me, but it was for the CBC, too, and I found myself as “a prominent Canadian Scot” playing two unexpected roles.

First, on Michael Enright’s excellent CBC radio show The Sunday Edition on Jan. 22 I was part of a discussion involving me, a Canadian born in Scotland, and Luke Skipper, a Canadian raised in Alice Munro country (Kincardine) who now works in London for the Scottish Government as they try to arrange a referendum on Scottish Independence. On a recent visit to Scotland I roamed around doing an informal survey of opinion on the matter and found a wide range of responses.

Our discussion was interesting, but I was so busy answering Michael’s last question (if Scottish expatriates were allowed to vote on this, how would you vote) by explaining that I was an outsider and had no fixed opinion, that I failed to make the general point that I do not believe that Canadians should vote in any foreign election.

I’m glad to be able to state that now.

Second, an email on Saturday, January 21 from George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight said that they needed someone to do a funny stand-up talk about Scottish words that might baffle a Canadian visitor.

These Strombo guys work fast! By Monday at 1 p.m. I was standing outside the CBC studio (wearing a tartan shirt . . . the man has no shame) talking into a camera, beginning with the words “Hi, George,” though I never saw him at any point. The two guys running the shoot, Fraser and Andrew, did a great job of spinning straw into gold, producing a passable clip that was apparently seen by every living Canadian between the ages of 20 and 40. You can find it on this blog.