When I found myself paired with Vancouver’s John Vaillant (author of The Golden Spruce and The Tiger) I chose to read from my chapter devoted to James Houston. After Jim’s great deeds in the North, he fell in love with a cottage in Haida Gwaii, where I visited him. My book goes on to talk about the Haida people, and mentions the appalling story of the golden spruce, their magical tree that was felled by a crazed logger-crusader. I then praise The Golden Spruce, wishing that I had had the chance to publish it, and calling it “One That Got Away.”
Reading that passage, of course, made a fine segue into John’s reading Then he revealed that, although he never met James Houston, while he worked on The Golden Spruce (set on the West Coast), for some reason he became fascinated by the distant Inuit art of the far North, and immersed himself in it.
Earlier, when I was talking about James’s key role in spreading Inuit art (“No James Houston, no Inuit art!” as one museum director put it) I was able to demonstrate how Inuit art is now everywhere. As I read, I slyly unbuttoned my long-sleeved white shirt, and opened it wide to reveal – ta-da! – that I was wearing a T-shirt devoted to the The Enchanted Owl, the 1960 print by Kenojuak that became a Canadian postage stamp ten years later.
“And now,” I said, pulling my shirt apart and thrusting out my owl-covered chest, “Inuit art is everywhere!”
I’ve never had such applause for a striptease act before. Something to work on?