Monday, May 28, 2007

Congress crooning and connecting

Day 3 of the Congress. It's been a cloudy, rainy day in Saskatoon which is great for driving academics into the Book Fair - and it's been busy! The day started with a terrific author breakfast. Guy Vanderhaeghe and musician Barney Bentall, who have recently collaborated on writing several songs together, chatted about the process and then Barney performed three songs. One in particular, Dance for Me was initially intended for the mini-series of Guy's novel The Englishman's Boy, for which he wrote the screenplay (and appears as a bartender in one scene). Look for it to air hopefully this fall on the CBC. Alas, the song got cut in the final edit, but you can hear it on Bentall's latest album Gift Horse sung with Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo. It's a beautiful, haunting song and I will definately be buying the CD (the few copies Barney brought with him sold out in minutes). It would be a perfect song to use if a movie is ever made of Vanderhaeghe's wonderful WWI play, Dancock's Dance.
Speaking of WWI plays - I was then thrilled to meet Calgary playwright Stephen Massicotte who wandered into our booth. He has written two WWI plays - Mary's Wedding and the recent Oxford Roof Climber's Rebellion about the friendship between Robert Graves and T.E. Lawrence after the war when both men were still so haunted by their experiences. I saw it at the Tarragon Theater last fall and really enjoyed it. It's just been published by Playwrights Canada Press (as has John and Beatrice by Carol Frechette - another fantastic Tarragon production this year, and highly recommended if you want to read about a crazy relationship between two strangers that is partly an urban fairytale, and partly a meditation on obsession and loneliness.) Of course I had to buy copies of both plays. Another intriguing book I've purchased is Mothers of Heroes, Mothers of Martyrs: World War I and the Politics of Grief by Suzanne Evans, who just happens to be the partner of Alan Cumyn, who wrote one of my favourite Canadian WWI novels, The Sojourn.
And then a professor I know who specializes in war literature stopped by to say hello and we enthusiastically caught up on the latest in war-lit. It's just been one of those great days when work so wonderfully complements my scholarly interests. Mind you, I've only purchased eleven books so far, which is remarkably restrained for me. Tomorrow morning Yann Martel will be giving a breakfast talk entitled "Books and Prime Ministers". If you haven't already, check out his great website which charts his ongoing project to entice Stephen Harper to read.

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