On October 12, 2021 Della Mae W. presented on Clive James, continuing the theme of authors of Australia and New Zealand.
Clive James was the prolific author of literary criticism, fiction, non-fiction and poetry as well as being a TV presenter, AND completing a translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. In his obituary, his frient Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker said “appraisal was his greatest gift”.
Della Mae reminded me of his humour, which I remember from watching him on TV in the 80’s and 90’s. After her presentation, I checked out is column in the Guardian, “Reports of My Death” which ran in the latter years of his life, when he had received a possibly imminently fatal diagnosis. His humour and intelligence shines thru that column.
The first meeting of the fall 2021 session was held via Zoom on October 5th. Continuing on the theme of “Writers of Australia and New Zealand,” Kathy M. surprised us by creatively juxtaposing two interesting screenwriters/producers/directors: Jane Campion from New Zealand and Baz Luhrmann from Australia.
Jane Campion won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for The Piano, and numerous Best Director awards for her many films. Kathy showed excerpts from two dark dramas, The Piano (1993) and her upcoming movie The Power of the Dog (2021.)
Kathy then turned to Australia’s most commercially successful and prolific filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, whose style is instantly recognizable. Clips from Strictly Ballroom (1992,) an updated Romeo and Juliette (1996 — and no, Luhrmann didn’t write the rhyming couplets!) and Moulin Rouge (2001.) She left us with a clip from his movie Australia (2008.)
Kathy showed how good writing, which has inspired CWLC members for over 115 years, also is at the heart of great movies.
On October 12, Della Mae W. will present on Clive James.
While we were not able to meet for our normal Spring luncheon, we celebrated the end of our spring 2021 program with a Zoom call featuring a guest speaker, author and historian Shaun Hunter. Ms Hunter’s work as Historian in Residence at the Calgary Public Library included a Literary Map of Calgary (https://www.heritagecalgary.ca/heritage-calgary-blog/yycliterarymap).
Ms. Hunter is a native Calgarian, who has searched the canon of Canadian literature for her book Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers. She started by asking the question “What is Calgary and how has it shaped me?”. Generally Calgary has been considered a barren frontier by the literary establishment (my words, not hers), but when you look a bit further, there is a it is a fruited plain.
Highlight’s from her presentation include references to former CWLC members Flos Jewell Williams, Nellie McClung, Georgina Thompson. She ended with a quote from Johnny Chinook (Robert Gard, 1967): “Calgary people are the children of change”.
A question for members only: What does Peter Carey have in common with Susan Hill, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, George Jonas, and Rex Murphy? If you don’t know, the answer is “Anita.” My tenure in CWLC only goes back to 2012, so this is just an incomplete list of Anita’s eclectic author presentations!
That’s the thing about our “book club with a difference:” Our annual theme takes on a life of its own when one is on the upcoming slate. The presenter has been reading and researching like crazy, quite often an author and/or theme that may not be one she normally reads. The lucky members come home with new insights and another author to add to their ever-expanding reading lists. Horizons expand! With all of us stuck at home this year, our theme of Australia and New Zealand has given us a welcome new literary horizon. Anita selected two-time Booker Prize winner Peter Carey, whose novels, short stories and non-fiction are summed up by Anita as “quintessentially Australian.”
On April 20, 2021 club member Helle K. gave a presentation on the works of Australian (Tasmanian) author Richard Flanagan. The Zoom presentation brought to a close the regular meetings of the CWLC until autumn 2021.
Helle talked about the fictional works of Mr. Flanagan – she has read most of novels. Through readings and discussion, Helle showed his fiction to be complex with intertwined narratives and difficult subject matter. She highlighted her favourite of his works, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, which focuses on the challenges of Slovenian immigrants coming to Australia in the aftermath of WWII. It was described as a sad, poignant book that shows how we hurt the ones we love the most. It ends with the possibility of healing and redemption even after great pain.
I am interested in reading in a more recent work by Richard Flanagan: A Narrow Road to the Deep North, which won the 2014 Man Booker Prize. It is about an Australian prisoner of war forced by the Japanese to work on the Burma Death Railway during WWII. While the book is fictional, the author’s father was one such POW.
The first meeting in April was a guest speaker event, with Canadian playwright Meg Braem. Ms. Braem is currently the Canadian Calgary Distinguished Writer in Residence at the University of Calgary Faculty of Arts. Ms. Braem was introduced by Alexandra Handley, who is a member of the Distinguished Writer program Steering Committee.
Ms. Braem gave an entertaining reading from a production draft of her play The Resurrectionist. The play shows the intersection of two bits of Canadian history: the exclusion of women from medical schools in the 19th century and the stealing of bodies from graveyards by medical students in Kingston.
After the reading, the author answered club members questions about her influences and her writing process.
Via a well-attended Zoom call on March 30, 2021, member Anne T. presented on the New Zealand crime writer Ngaio Marsh. I learned that Ms. Marsh was a rival author to Agatha Christie, writing 32 whodunit’s, mostly set in England. She shared a birthday with Shakespeare, and used that as motivation in a successful backstage career in Shakespearean theatre.
Anne’s favourite of Dame Ngaio Marsh’s novels was “A Surfeit of Lampreys” AKA “Death of a Peer”, which I hope to read in the near future. (I also learned that the Ngaio is a tree native to New Zealand).