Western Canada needs “steel lines of fiction”

March 20, 2016

I am aware that there are hordes of people out there who haave never attended an reading by an author from one of her or his books.

Why do I know this?

I have attended many readings by usually Canadian authors and no matter how well known she or he is or how many Governor General Awards for Literature the scribe has picked up, often there are might be half a dozen or less people sprinkled throughout the bookstore, university classroom or corner of a library.

It happened to me as well when I became an author.

I believe most people think hearing an author read is the quickest route to dozing off. I refer to Canadian authors when I state this. Somehow I think Stephen King is not victim to the same problem.

Personally, I think it is inspiring to hear and watch an author read. I started doing this when I was an undergraduate at the University of Winnipeg. One of the many benefits to getting a post secondary education.

Another one for me was writing aternd copy editing (on marathon all-nighters of putting the paper to ‘bed’) for the student newspaper called The Uniter. I did this during the 1970s when most student newspapers were mouthpieces for the radical student movement of the generation in which I grew up.

Years later when I went on the Caravan to Cuba, I was ecstatic to be able to take a day to tour Berkley University in San Francisco where, on the walls of one café there, the history of the students movement is documented in photographs and quotes from those in the anti-war-in-Vietnam movement.

Way back then the following is one of the articles I wrote at the time. As a wider range of people from different backgrounds besides white men began to appear on the Canadian literature landscape, voices started to be heard to say that really it should be First Nations people who write stories about their history and presence. That came later. Here is Rudy Wiebe as I reported him in 1979:

The Uniter

February 7, 1979

Western Canada needs “steel lines of fiction”

by Tanya Lester

Last Wednesday, Rudy Wiebe, writer in residence at the University of Calgary, was introduced as once saying that Western Canada needs “steel lines of fiction to break up the vast area.” Having lived in all three Prairie provinces, Wiebe’s opinion can be respected as a perceptive one.

By the end of the evening he had proved this point. He had also proved that fiction is not always light and funny.

To a responsive audience at the U of W, Wiebe read and animated two of his short stories to be published in Alberta: A Celebration as well as a more serious piece — an excerpt from his novel The Scorched Wood People about Louis Riel.

Before reading the excerpt, Weibe told the audience while working on his novel, he had obtained permission to look inside the house Louis Riel had lived in during the Rebellion. “I hope you all know where that is,” said Weibe, “and I hope you keep pressuring the government to open it up.” He explained this was important because the house is an historical monument.

Typical of all his writing, the reading from his novel was filled with descriptive phrases. For example, “flames burst like flowers over his body” was the imagery used to describe Riel’s physical feelings during his experiencing of a vision from God. When questioned, Weibe told the audience that the book was his own interpretation of the facts involving Louis Riel’s life.

“I tak e Louis Riel very seriously,” said Weibe. “I think it was absolutely essential that John A. MacDonald hang him.” He said this was necessary because Riel was a much too powerful man. But he believes Riel “was morally correct” rather than insane.

Weibe’s reading of “The Angle of the Tar Sands” was even more enjoyable. “As you all know Alberta has oil,” said Weibe before he went on to read the fantastic story. It was about a foreman and his workers at a tar sand field who, to their astonishment, dig up an angel. Weibe folded his arms over his head as he described the angel rising out of the sands with its winds folded over its head.

It’s very probable that Weibe accomplished the goal he set for himself at the beginning of the evening: to get the audience to “go out and buy some (of his) books.”

— END–

Tanya is also a psychic reader of tea leaves and tarot, etc. as well as a house sitter and reiki master. To access her services, go to her web site at teareading.wordpress.com , to her pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google; or contact her directly at tealeaf.56@gmail.com or call 250-538-0086





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