This is a painstakingly researched biography of an Italian immigrant to Canada, one of many from the small northern Italian village of Falmenta, and tThis is a painstakingly researched biography of an Italian immigrant to Canada, one of many from the small northern Italian village of Falmenta, and the lasting contribution Lawrence (Lorenzo) Grassi made to the mountain climbing community and the trails of the Canadian Rockies.
Lawrence Grassi: From Piedmont to the Rocky Mountains[authors:Elio Costa & Gabriele Scardellato] This book may interest historians, professionals and readers of the genre, climbers, hikers, readers interested in working class history and those of us who are descendents of European immigrants who came to the New World with their hands, strong backs and Old World skills. The authors did a remarkable job of historical detective work because their subject, to put it mildly, was not a writer. Thus we see how a reticent kind of life's record is pieced together, through infrequent and perfunctory letters home, the letters-often desperate for money- from his family at home, the minutes of an Alpine Club in Calgary, and the plaques permanently installed to honour the builder.
It is ultimately a very moving story of a man who did not seek the limelight in any way, a proud yet humble man who just wanted to belong and to contribute his climbing skills and his skillfully-made stone walls, which still stand today in his adopted terrain. Lawrence Grassi was truly a legendary figure in the climbing community and once packed an injured colleague down a two mile descent on his back. The number of new ascents and repeat ascents he made in the Rockies and the accounts of the people whom he guided, never for money, up and down the peaks without using modern gear or methods is astounding.
There are questions lingering too...why did he stop writing his family in Italy? We can guess but it would only be speculation. Why did he never marry in Canada? He came to work on the railway, like so many immigrants did, and then ended up working in the dangerous and unhealthy coal mines of Alberta, mines which were often closed due to strikes. The historians who are the authors do not speculate, however, but they have written a book which may inspire novelists and that is already a great contribution in and of itself.
Unlike many readers, I have come to reading science fiction and fantasy decades after devouring all kinds of mysteries, literary fiction from many couUnlike many readers, I have come to reading science fiction and fantasy decades after devouring all kinds of mysteries, literary fiction from many countries, Canadian literature (novels, poems, children's books, histories, political analysis and especially, short stories), and assorted other interests. Initially it was because I found so much of the so-called science fiction writing to be 2-D, filled with metallic gadgets, stick figure archetypes and stilted dialogue, with futuristic premises so imaginatively threadbare, so politically and psychologically juvenile that I wrote off the entire genre and moved on. I have to confess, and this may cause shrieks of dismay, that I have yet to read Tolkien and C.S. Lewis or any of the Harry Potters beyond the first one. I don't know why I haven't and I suspect it's a character flaw. I just have not gotten around to reading these Great Works but I will. Honest!
I haven't read all of Le Guin's impressive output in several genres but it's also on my to-do list, especially after reading the essays in this wonderful collection. They are grouped under the categories of: Personal Matters, Readings, Discussions and Opinions and On Writing. The edition I read came from the library. It is a book I must now buy because like Bredsdorff's timeless book, The Crow-Girl, I plan to read it once a year or so, just to cleanse the mind's palate and remind myself what great writing is all about. For any writer in the doldrums, proceed directly to the essay: The Question I Get Asked Most Often. To cut to the chase, and to repeat what other fine writers like Caroline Adderson say when asked where those story ideas come from, Le Guin writes: "Well, the secret to writing is writing. It's only a secret to people who don't want to hear it. Writing is how you be a writer." She goes on to elaborate the ways in which imagination interacts with life experience, reincarnates the truth as art, in fact. It is simply a wonderful, illuminating, encouraging piece of writing that will elevate any writer who reads it.
Clearly, Le Guin grew up with brilliant, kind, adventurous parents (the kind most writers and artists could only wish they had). This may be why she tackles Tolstoy, in another one of my favourite essays, on his famous quote, one which has undoubtedly inspired tonnes of morbidly introspective novels in which extra-Grimm realism and Ultimate Tragedy is the highest artistic achievement and Humour, Empathy, Courage and the complex and difficult achievement of Happiness are seen as highly suspect and sentimental notions. I cheered as Le Guin ripped up this heavy-handed dictum in 'All Happy Families'. As the stand-up comics like to say, with straight faces: Tragedy is easy, Comedy is hard. So is being patient and trusting one's own material, waiting for the story-statues to emerge from the stones we all lug around as writers.
I'm still pondering the title of the book, which comes from a sentence fragment in a letter Virginia Woolf wrote, describing how she just could not find the rhythm of her next book yet, that she sat "crammed with ideas, and visions and so on, and can't dislodge them, for lack of the right rhythm". It is profoundly interesting and true. I know when I've tapped into the "wave of the mind" like a surfer who leaps onto a magnificent roller that will carry her off to new acrobatic heights. I'm all-too-familiar with what it's like to be chucked off after a few false starts, undignified landings... But I'm always working while I'm waiting in the line-up for the rhythm, the undertow of every story, and I'm always on the look-out for the big one, testing the waters, practicing, always practicing the craft. What an inspiring book!
There is one of those Fate & Publishing stories behind this book, as I discovered when reading the author's acknowledgements. This very funny, ve There is one of those Fate & Publishing stories behind this book, as I discovered when reading the author's acknowledgements. This very funny, very smart, and highly readable book pre-dates the Harry Potter juggernaut. As anyone who has worked in a bookstore or in any facet of publishing knows, the collective unconscious dips into inventive minds around the planet. Voila, along with J.K. Rowling writing in an Edinburgh coffee shop to save money on her daytime gas bill, a British School of Sophistry with a reluctant student and a wacky faculty emerged in Canada, courtesy of a retired homeopathic doctor.Even more eerie is the fact that a form of airborne device which must be mind-activated by the passenger is a featured mode of transportation by all competent members of the imperilled School within a grand post-secondary institution, along the lines of an Oxford or Cambridge University.
Meanwhile Harry found a good publisher in Bloomsbury UK and went on to World Domination while this manuscript, equally talented in my opinion, was set aside. Finally in 2014, Mary Lou's Brew was self-published.(Why? Why? If I still worked in publishing, I would have pounced on this manuscript, championed it and then sold it to those of us who are sick to death of unicorns (should be shot on sight to prevent pastel imaginations from spreading like pink jello across the land of childhood), vampires (hand me a sharpened stake and a braid of garlic please) and those relentless, rotting-on-the-hoof zombies.)In contrast, this book is very well-written and science, pseudo-science, and the politics of academia are all skewered with great good humour and word play (look for JIM Beam technology).
For smart older teens (a hookah in the hands of a Dean is involved, but then a hookah appears in Alice in Wonderland as well) and especially fans of all ages pining for the sheer imagination of Harry Potter ...this book is for you. Adults who have not lost their sense of humour will be delighted as this book is often laugh-out-loud funny. The author knows her Greek philosophical sects and creates memorable characters, zinger dialogue and a brilliantly-paced plot. What a movie this would make as well! Dame Maggie Smith is a shoo-in for Octavia.
That said, Paul Wells is a terrific journalist and writer who has a great sense of humour (considering his beat for MacLean's magazine, federal politics, it's either that or leap off the Bell Tower) and the ability to synthesize a staggering amount of research while moving the narrative forward in a compulsively readable fashion. The reader isn't weighed down with every documented conversation or pelted with a dizzying array of names dropping from great heights.
It's best read in the clear light of day and will confirm what most political junkies already know, that the Prime Minister is overly-controlling about all aspects of governance and especially his contact with media, and that his aim is, above all, to hang on to majority government power (which he currently does with only 39% of the vote). This means curtailing the colourful outbursts of wing-nuts from the Reform Party in the merged ranks of Red Tories, fusty regular Tories and Reformers who line-danced their way into power by peddling right-wing umbrage on everything that was was immoral and/or involved paying too many taxes during the 20th century. I was counting on them reminding the four minute voters, the ones who managed to get to the polls with the latest political ad in their uncritical minds, that the quality of federal legislation was dependent on a lot of whack-job seat-warmers on the Conservative side of the house. But that's lazy, if hopeful, thinking on my part. What's even more sickening is the account of smear tactics used against NDP leader, Jack Layton, and the Robo-calling fiasco which directed dithering voters to the wrong polling station in hopes of nullifying their vote. There are an awful lot of unethical mean little trolls working for the Conservatives in this country at all levels. And that goes for the "Liberals" in British Columbia as well, an unholy assortment of opportunists from God-only knows what political beliefs spectrum.
The recent announcement of a bunch of gerrymandered ridings (at least, I assume they are ridings with much-studied borders and prior voting patterns with this micro-managing PM in charge)will undoubtedly bear even more Conservative fruit. The progressives on the left'ish side of the House seriously need to consider strategic voting or else we citizens will not recognize this country as our home within a decade or two. This PM and our country will continue to be international pariahs where once we were honorable world citizens and some us wish to be a great deal more honorable than we ever were before in the areas of aboriginal, environmental, chronic homelessness/poverty, immigration criteria, and women's issues in this country.
Now I'm going to read some murder mysteries just to recover from the trauma of reading this book...I comfort myself by knowing that when Stephen Harper dies, and he will someday, as we all will, there will never be a funeral for him like the one Jack Layton had. I'm sure the PM was taking notes while he attended, stoney-eyed as ever, but even the Master Micro-Manager will never be able to command an outpouring of genuine affection, admiration and love. Consider the way that he/his underlings botched the G-8 meeting in Toronto several years ago, the one with police brutality and fake lighthouse and lake? The one where those of us watching television could not believe we were watching Canadians being corralled in our own civilized streets? There are certain issue of finesse far beyond the pedestrian power-hungry mind.
That he is highly disciplined, hard-working and true to his own beliefs is also undoubtedly true and this book is balanced in that the pros and cons of the PM's mind-set and approach are all handled in a transparently, even-handed way. I may not like what I read because I am a left-wing-leaning citizen but I feel I've read an entertaining, well-documented and honest appraisal.