Richard Wagamese: Building bridges with literature

Dan Harasymchuk / CC BY-SA

Doloris shared with us “an author who understood the fundamental role that storytelling can play in building bridges of cultural understanding.” It wasn’t until age twenty-three that Mr. Wagamese reconnected with his own Ojibway (Anishinaabe) people. Fortunately, he gives us all an opportunity to understand them so much more, through his writings.

Richard Wagamese was part of Canada’s 60’s SCOOP when it was common practice to ‘scoop’ newborns from mothers on reserves, placing them with mostly middle-class Canadians of European descent. His parents, victims themselves of a residential school system that “tried to scrape the Indian out of their insides,” (Richard Wagamese) had abandoned their children. At three, he was separated from his siblings and sent to various foster homes before being adopted at nine. At sixteen, he was living on the streets, escaping an abusive home life.

Doloris has written about so eloquently about this important and incredible Canadian indigenous writer: PLEASE CONTINUE TO READ HERE

HERE’S A TRIBUTE by Shelagh Rogers to her “Chosen Brother,” which Doloris recommended.

The Uncommon Reader and other gems by Alan Bennett

Thanks, Betty, for choosing to present Alan Bennett, a perfect end to our entertaining and thought-provoking season of humour, irony and satire!

Alan Bennett 1973 by photographer Allan Warren [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Betty read from the charming novella The Uncommon Reader, wherein Queen Elizabeth gets hooked on reading after chancing upon a mobile library van while walking her corgis. This book had been the first book Betty had read by Alan Bennett, and thereafter she was hooked. After Betty’s presentation, CWLC members are too!

Many of us had seen — if not read — The Lady in the Van, the funny, poignant story about the actual relationship Mr. Bennett developed with a true eccentric. Betty noted that Alan Bennett’s works have been said to be “too English.” Betty would argue that anyone can enjoy them.


CHECK HERE for the Wikipedia page and note especially the body of work by this actor, playwright, screenwriter and author, and the numerous awards and nominations. It is awe-inspiring to see how much someone can do in a lifetime — and is still active! .

Allan Fotheringham, we miss you!

Canadian Film Centre from Toronto, Canada [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A whole Canadian political news cycle has passed since Helle’s April 9 presentation on the singular and spirited political commentator Allan Fotheringham. Which is exactly why you will want to read or reread Helle’s comments about the author and why she says, “Today, more than ever, we could use more humour, sarcasm and irony to keep politicians and people in the public eye on their toes.” Even writing in times that were relatively easygoing compared to today’s political correctness, Mr. Fotheringham was the subject of 26 lawsuits: He only lost two!

CLICK HERE to read more of Helle’s timely presentation.

Garrison Keillor: Is the pen mightier than the voice?

Ryan Somma [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

How lucky to have grown up without TV! That’s how Denise began her presentation. Her family moved to the U.S. Midwest when she was young, and it was there, listening to public radio, that she discovered A Prairie Home Companion.

Giving us a map for reference, Denise was our charming guide to Lake Wobegon. She read a hilarious passage about the founding of the town and why it’s missing on regional maps. Denise says she has met many “Wobegon” personalities, not necessarily from the Midwest. She then continued to give us so many reasons to appreciate this writer, radio broadcaster and so much more.

Demonstrating Mr. Keillor’s satiric side, Denise asked Kathy to read a parody — Kathy should be a comedienne!
CLICK HERE to read “Sermon on the Mount” by Garrison Keillor.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INSIGHTS FROM DENISE on this multi-talented author and radio broadcaster, Garrison Keillor.

Wade Davis: Cultural Awareness through Literature

Gleilson Miranda / Governo do Acre [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

What an opener to our literary season! Robin shared an intriguing glimpse into Wade Davis’ life as an anthropologist, botanist and ethnobotanist. Ethnobotany, in case the term is new for you too, is the study of the traditional knowledge and customs of a people concerning plants and their medical, religious and other uses. Originally, field work for Harvard and National Geographic drew him to the outermost (innermost?) reaches of this planet. Robin mentioned it would be easier to list where Wade Davis has not been in the world, than where he has gone.

He continues work in areas still almost unknown, living among indigenous communities as a member, and not merely observer. Robin decided to spare us the description of his “dysentery breakfast,” while we were sipping tea and enjoying goodies from the comfort of the Memorial Park Library! He shares his insights through writing, superb photography and speaking engagements. Robin said, “He writes with the soul of a poet.” One of his books is titled The Wayfinders, Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World. Thanks to Robin’s talk, I suspect many of us will be wanting to learn more from this explorer/scientist/author.



The gift of Rex Murphy

How appropriate that one of Canada’s best known newspaper columnists and commentators on radio and TV was brought up in one of the oldest European settlements in North America — which also happened to be in the last province to join Confederation, and barely did!

Fall in Carbonear, Newfoundland
Shhewitt [CC BY-SA 4.0]

For a refresher on Newfoundland, enjoy Mr. Murphy’s Reluctant Union here.

Anita’s presentation about Rex Murphy was sprinkled generously with her own sense of humour. Certainly, Rex Murphy is well appreciated by members of the club, who know him best as host of CBC Radio’s Cross-Country Checkup, commentator for CBC TV’s The National, and journalist for newspapers The National Post and The Globe & Mail. But did you know…

  • Rex Murphy’s mother loved literature and learning and his father was known for “linguistic dazzle.”
  • Rex Murphy was politically active very young, having entered Memorial University at fifteen. He was noticed (not in a good way) by Joey Smallwood, but the students ultimately got what they wanted!
  • In the 1980’s, he ran for political office in Newfoundland. Although he didn’t win, he decided he was better critiquing politics and politicians anyway.
  • He is author of two books, Canada and Other Matters of Opinion and Points of View (Penguin Random House)
  • Lifelong classical literature study underpins his writing. His way with words (& quotes) is like no other.
  • He is a fierce defender of free speech and will jump into messy, controversial topics himself — such as defending Alberta’s and the East Coast’s oil industry, for example!

There is much more to be found in Anita’s Presentation Summary.

The Club received a special gift: a letter from Rex Murphy himself. The letter is a gift to share, and can be read here, with the kind permission of Rex Murphy.

Wouldn’t it be great to have Mr. Dickens writing today?

Dickens has a lot in common with those who came before… that is, those in this year’s line-up of authors who use Humour, Irony and Satire in Literature to expose foolishness and corruption — with a view to pushing reform.

He knew what he wrote about: At twelve, he worked ten hours a day in a rotten, rat-infested “blacking” warehouse, putting labels on shoe polish. His family was thrown into debtor’s prison at this time. When he started writing in serial form, he allowed lower classes to read his work, though this was criticised as “pandering.”

Margaret quizzed us on actual-versus-fictional place names used in Dickens’ works. Hilarious! And then there are the ridiculous proper names and their unforgettable characters.

Along with a fascinating overview of his life and times, Margaret gave us some tips:

  • A Tale of Two Cities best describes the times Dickens lived in.
  • David Copperfield is the most autobiographical novel.
  • The Pickwick Papers, his first book, was written in a popular style in the 19th Century called “picaresque.”
  • Read What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew (Daniel Pool) to understand Victorians.

And last, but certainly not least: