Kloppenburg Award 2013
In the fall of 2013, I was the fortunate recipient of the Cheryl and Henry Kloppenburg Award for Literary Excellence. This award was established by Cheryl and Henry six years ago because they love books and wanted to do something to recognize Saskatchewan’s writers. The winners so far have been Guy Vanderhaeghe, Lorna Crozier, Sharon Butala, Sandra Birdsell and me. This fall, another winner will be honoured at a reception and presented with a cheque for $10,000. Just taking a minute here to thank Cheryl and Henry once again for their generous contribution to the literary arts.
Steve Jobs quote: “I’m one of the few people who understands how producing technology requires intuition and creativity, and how producing something artistic takes real discipline.”
Inventors such as Rylan Grayston say things like, “I just want to invent.” Invent, or dance, or write or… this is passion for what you do. (See the above CBC story about his 3-D printer.)
Eleanor Catton, artist, the author of the Booker and GG winning novel The Luminaries, says “…what we’re trying to do is to create things that do not yet exist in the world.” (The National Post) I imagine that’s the same thing Rylan Grayston is passionate about doing.
I’m thinking about this because I fear K-12 education is under threat by politicians who want students to have inventive spirits, but are pushing an education system that encourages the opposite. You can’t encourage innovation without developing the three things Steve Jobs recognized were important: intuition, creativity and discipline, and these can’t be measured easily on a standardized test. They are, though, the things a good inquiry-based arts program brings to the school. If you really believe in innovation, support more arts in schools. If you want more Rylan Graysons (and his 3-D printer is truly amazing) encourage kids to be artistic in the way Steve Jobs saw artistic (intuitive, creative, disciplined).
More arts, more science, more invention, more excitement, more passion about learning. Less panic about standardized testing. Pet peeve.
Did you know that the literary novelist is the frumpiest of all public figures? The Globe and Mail says so in an article with the headline “not a normal literary lady”. Read it yourself (Mar. 31/13) and see what you think, but the main point seems to be that women writers should take care not to wear boring footwear to interviews with newspaper reporters. I’m trying to picture the footwear of some of our most esteemed literary ladies, but unfortunately I haven’t been paying attention. I guess I’ve been too distracted by their books.
(Shoe design by Shoise)
The following is a quote from a NY Times review of Jennifer Haigh’s new story collection, News from Heaven. “Ms. Haigh is a coal miner’s granddaughter…. And although she has established herself as anything but a provincial writer, she is drawn back to coal country over and over again.” It’s a great review that made me want to read the book, but… that troubling word provincial, and its Canadian counterpart regional. When I hear someone say a book is too regional (and I’m not talking about Jennifer Haigh’s book here; the reviewer loved it), I fear the speaker is using a word embodying a certain bias, or perhaps several biases: that rural people are unsophisticated; that contemporary fiction about rural people is unsophisticated; that writers who write about rural people are unsophisticated. And so on. Regional and provincial are words that are applied to someone — we don’t tend to call ourselves that — and so they are condescending. They are not applied to writers such as Richard Ford or Jennifer Haigh because… well, they’re too good to be called regional. My point is, if you’re driven to call a book regional or provincial, you didn’t like it much, so why not criticize the writing rather than dismissing the writer and the people the book is about? And if a book is of high literary merit, as Jennifer Haigh’s new book obviously is, there’s no need at all to include the words not provincial, which read as a caveat even when that’s not the reviewer’s intention, or as an assurance that the book is good even though it’s set in Pennsylvania.
There. Pet peeve. Looking forward to reading News from Heaven.
Recently spent some time going though old slides that were taken by an aunt who died several years ago. I found this one of myself reading on top of a stack of bales at my grandparents’ farm. Took me back to a time when I read, it seemed, almost every minute that I was awake. I read library books and every book we had in the house, including my dad’s entire set of Zane Grey westerns (the book in the photo is The Thundering Herd) and the books in my grandfather’s Reader’s Digest Abridged collection. As all writers do, I still read voraciously but I don’t think I ever experience that total absorption in a book that I did back then. I have no desire to lose myself in a Zane Grey western now, but why is that same experience apparently not there for me in a good and challenging contemporary novel that I admire critically and enjoy immensely? I’ve heard other writers say the same thing. Maybe we go more deeply into our own imagined worlds, and it’s then impossible not to compare the two experiences of writing and reading. I don’t know. Just thinking. Stricken, perhaps, by the evil nostalgia.