Thomas King

On November 15, 2022 member Anne-Marie D. presented the works of an author I am fond of, Thomas King. Dr. King was born, raised and educated in the US, but has lived in Canada for many years, working as a professor at the University of Lethbridge and now the University of Guelph. His life in Southern Alberta near Indigenous reserves is a backdrop for some of his fiction. He is a member of the Order of Canada.

Anne-Marie started her presentation with a video of the author dramatizing his poem: “I’m Not the Indian You Had in Mind”. The short film (see below) presents Dr. King’s viewpoint on Indigenous life in pop culture, in history and in today’s world.

King’s fiction and non-fiction showcase his commitment to Indigenous issues, the environment, his compassion and his wit. Anne-Marie discussed a few of her favourite works from his extensive bibliography. First, Back of the Turtle – a fable like morality tale about the aftermath of an environmental disaster. Next, she discussed Indians on Vacation, a comedic novel about modern indigenous life.

The Inconvenient Indian, on of Dr. King’s most well known works, is a non-fiction history/memoir/opinion piece on the history of Indigenous life after European contact and colonization. In some ways, it is an expansion of the ideas in “I’m Not the Indian You Had in Mind”.

Finally, Anne-Marie talked about King’s recent series of mystery novels, featuring Thumps Dreadfulwater, an Indigenous detective (who has more than a bit in common with the author) in a fictional town that seems to be in Montana. While the novels follow well known mystery plot lines, the setting, the use of Indigenous characters, and Dr. King’s sense of humour set them apart.

As always, members enjoyed a discussion of the author and his ideas about Indigenous affairs following the presentation.

Shawna M.

Next Tuesday, member Natashia H. will present on the works of Malcolm Gladwell. The meeting will be in person at the Memorial Park Library

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“A Writer Creates Their Own World…”

Photo by Jack Anstey on Unsplash

On November 8, 2022 member Robin S. invited members into the many worlds created by Emily St. John Mandel. Ms. Mandel is the author of the novels Last Night in Montreal (2009), The Singer’s Gun (2010), The Lola Quartet (2012), Station Eleven (2014), The Glass Hotel (2020), and The Sea of Tranquility (2022). Station Eleven was the 2015 winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award for best Science Fiction published in the United Kingdom.

Mandel had a unique path to authorship. She grew up in British Columbia, lastly in an island community, leaving to study dance without completing her high school diploma. She became a travelling dancer, then a dancer who writes, then a writer who dances and finally a successful writer. While her island upbringing is reflected in her work, she loves urban life in cities such as Montreal, Toronto and New York City.

Her latest novels are difficult to put in a box: mixing noir mystery, the supernatural and science fiction. Station Eleven solidified Mandel as a genre writer. The book is post-apocalyptic science fiction, exploring celebrity culture, and the importance of art in society even when things fall apart. Robin found this to be a hopeful book (her advice however is don’t read it on a plane trip!).

The author falls in love with her characters, and uses them again. Characters introduced in Station Eleven reappear in The Glass Hotel and The Sea of Tranquility. This most recent book is speculative fiction about time travel and the time traveller’s dilemma: “If you could change history, would you? should you?”.

Robin finds that Emily St. John Mandel’s work is getting better with each book. Since I have no air travel coming up, I plan to try out Station Eleven.

Shawna M.

Next Tuesday, member Anne Marie D. will discuss the works of Thomas King via Zoom.

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When is Conversation Timeless?

four women chatting while sitting on bench
Photo by ELEVATE on Pexels.com

On November 1, 2022 member Sandra E. presented on Irish author Sally Rooney. Ms. Rooney has had early success with her novels Conversations with Friends (2017), Normal People (2018), and Beautiful World, Where Are You?(2020). This success has made Ms. Rooney a celebrity, particularly in her native Dublin – a celebrity that she is uneasy with.

Ms. Rooney’s novels focus on the the relationships people have in their university and early working years. These relationships are presented through extensive passages of dialog between friends, highlighting politics, ideology and gossip. Sandra noted that the author was a successful university debater, a skill that is put to use when characters discuss the issues of the day such as what income is appropriate if you are a Marxist and whether email is now old school. Sandra noted that Rooney believes you can’t write about what people are really like without political adjudication.

In many ways, the views of people born in the 1990’s are reflected in the life circumstances, interests, and ideas of Rooney’s characters. Letters between friends are by email or text, not handwritten on beautiful notepaper. Yet, the love between close friends as they grow into adulthood is still evoked in the notes that they send to each other. Camaraderie is found through talking, debating, arguing and laughing.

So, will people still read these books in the year 2100? Yes, as long as young people discover their own identities through talking with friends.

Shawna M.

Join us this Tuesday by Zoom, when Robin S. presents on the works of Canadian writer Emily St. John Mandel. Robin has been a member of CWLC since 2017 and is currently our Past President.

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Science, Celebrity and Pop Wisdom in the Age of Anxiety

Barbara R. on Timothy Caulfield

On October 25, 2022 member Barbara R. discussed the work of author Timothy Caulfield. Dr. Caulfield is polymath working in law and public health. He is currently the Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta.

“I hope my work to debunk…still has a thread of empathy”

Members may be familiar with Dr. Caulfield through his books (The Cure for Everything: Untangling the Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness and Happiness (Penguin 2012), Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash (Penguin 2015) and Relax, Dammit!: A User’s Guide to the Age of Anxiety (Penguin Random House, 2020); his television appearances as a subject matter expert; or through the Netflix series A User’s Guide to Cheating Death. He can also be found on several social platforms – learn more here.

Barbara has both a professional respect for Dr. Caulfield and a curiosity about his research into how well-worn societal “truths” about health may be wrong. This includes the role of exercise vs. diet in weight management, the value of pre-excercise stretching, and the use of interventions such as acupuncture and dietary supplements. Dr. Caulfield has written and spoken about the rise of the vaccine hesitant and anti-vaccination attitudes in our society long before the appearance of Covid-19.

If you have read his work or you have seen him on tv, you know that Timothy is willing to try the various therapies he evaluates. He follows up his anecdotal evidence with book science. His research is meticulous, and in the cases where Barbara looked into his sources, she found she couldn’t say he was wrong.

Barbara had a chance to speak to Dr. Caulfield – he said that he moved from academic bench studies to his current work because he has always been interested in celebrity and pop culture. He is curious and empathetic to people who want to find a way to make their lives longer and. better. He was influenced by the work Bill Bryson. He feels his work is successful when science and health risk are portrayed accurately.

As always, a lively discussion followed Barbara’s talk.

Next week, member Sandra E. will talk about Irish author Sally Rooney. Sandra has been with the club since 2016.  She has been Social Chair, Program Chair, and is currently the archivist.  Her previous presentations were on Jane Urquhart, Robertson Davies, and Janet Frame.  She is currently reading The Break by Katerena Vermette.  

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Guest Speaker – Poet Leah Horlick

On October 17, 2022 the Club welcomed guest speaker, Leah Horlick, the Canadian Writer in Residence, University of Calgary Distinguished Writer Program. She is the author of several collections of poetry: Riot Lung, For Your Own Good, and Moldovan Hotel.

Image from the author’s website. Photograph by Erin Flegg.

Ms. Horlick started with a brief introduction, relating her personal love for the Central Memorial Library. Then, she gave read a selection of her poems. The first, Amygdala, was from For Your Own Good, a collection of poems relating her experience of intimate partner abuse.

The next readings were from Moldovan Hotel, and included the title poem from the collection. Horlick’s went to Moldova in 2017, seeking insight into her Jewish family’s life before, during and after World War 2.

Following the readings, the speaker answered member questions about her creative process, the barriers to getting published as a poet in Canada, her early love of reading assisted by the Saskatoon library system, and why she was drawn to poetry.

Read more about Ms. Horlick and the University of Calgary Distinguished Writer Program here: https://arts.ucalgary.ca/calgary-distinguished-writers-program/writer-residence/current-writer-residence.

Shawna M.

Next week, member Barbara R. will be presenting the works of Timothy Caufield. Interested in joining us? Click here: https://calgarywomensliteraryclub.com/join-

In Memoriam – Lee Campbell

With sadness, the Calgary Women’s Literary Club informs you of the passing of former member Lee Campbell.

Lee Campbell was an active member of the CWLC from 1997 – 2016. She stepped up as Secretary, 1st and 2nd Vice President, then President from 2010 – 2012. Lee earned a degree in political science later in life and was an active community volunteer with organizations such as “In from the Cold.” Lee was an avid reader. A private service was on held on Saturday, October 15th.

In Memoriam – Pat Klinck

With sadness, the Calgary Women’s Literary Club informs you of the passing of former member Pat Klinck.

Pat Klinck passed away on October 10th, 2022. She was a member of CWLC from 2013-2021. During Covid, Pat was determined to learn how to use Zoom and she was very successful in joining us for several meetings last year.

A member who knew Pat described her as “a seeker of wisdom, adventure, and a life force. She was elegant with a world view and background.” Pat was a published author, writing of her journey on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Each Step is the Journey (2013).

Pat’s obituary can be viewed here:

https://calgaryherald.remembering.ca/obituary/patricia-klinck-1086455442.

Deborah Levy – to be “gentle but not fragile”

On October 11, 2022 member Elaine B. presented on playwright and author Deborah Levy. As an exiled South African living in the UK and as a daughter with an absent father, Levy has felt as an outsider both in South Africa and in England.

Deborah Levy, who is now 63, started her literary career early, working as a writer with a travelling theatrical group – editing scripts on the fly to meet cast and director needs. Later, she wrote her own plays, poetry, non-fiction and fiction. Two of her plays dramatize famous cases of the psychoanalyst Freud, whose work is an influence for the author.

Elaine gave readings and commentary on Levy’s auto-fiction trilogy, consisting of Things I Don’t Want to Know, The Cost of Living, and Real Estate. These books explore the difficult and emotionally messy business of being an outsider, a lonely child, an author, a wife, an ex-wife, a mother and a daughter to dying mother. The trilogy ends with hope that women can find a warm home in the world. Elaine particularly liked The Cost of Living, wherein life is described as speeding up after 50, with end of a marriage and the death of a parent.

Elaine next gave a brief reading from Black Vodka – a collection of Levy’s short stories. Elaine described these works as stories about desire and death.

Levy’s focus on a childhood with an absent father, on shame, on death and on desire show the influence of Freud, who she describes as an artist as well as a doctor. Elaine allowed Ms. Levy to explain this herself, playing a video of Deborah Levy from the Singapore Writers Festival (2015).

In summary, Elaine gave us an author who uses her own experiences to express the complex world of living as a woman in the last 63 years, being “gentle but not fragile”.

Next week, we welcome guest speaker Leah Horlick, Canadian Writer in Residence, Calgary Distinguished Writer’s Program, University of Calgary.

Interested in joining us? Click here.