Committing career suicide, whether deliberately or accidentally, has figured in all three of Mark Sampson’s novels to date. In the very serious and aptly titled Sad Peninsula, first-person narrator Michael finds himself teaching English to children in Korea after knowingly sabotaging his livelihood as a journalist back home in Eastern Canada. In The Slip, first-person narrator Philip Sharpe shares with us, his dear readers, the gaffe he unknowingly commits on live TV and the week-and-a-bit of mayhem, both hilarious and sad, that ensues.
How does a woman’s abduction affect a small community? Rebecca Rosenblum’s So Much Love explores the multi-faceted aspects of this horrendous act through the eyes of the people most affected by Catherine Reindeer’s disappearance, including her mother, her husband, her co-workers, a university professor and, of course, Catherine’s own eyes.
One Saturday night when I was a science student at the University of Ottawa, I was in my room listening to the radio while doing a lab report – you know, writing my observations and conclusions in one of those hard-cover notebooks.
I sat in the dark except for a desk lamp when the song, Madame George, came on, the quiet strumming of the guitar, then Van’s voice breaking through. The emotions. The vulnerability…
I knew right away that I had to listen, really listen, so I turned off the light to give my ears a chance to absorb as much as possible.
The song poured right into my soul.
Even though I knew nothing about the world Van was singing about, I felt his longing and how it lingered long after he left wherever it was that he was leaving – Belfast, as it turned out.
For me it was a mystical experience, a communion with something sacred and enduring. And 40 years on, reading comments online, I see that I’m far from alone in cherishing this particular song from Van’s 1968 album, Astral Weeks.
The quote in the title is from the lyrics to Madame George, which can be found here.
Listen to Jazz FM91‘s Nightlab, hosted every Sunday night from 10 to midnight EST by the wonderful Dani Elwell, and you might hear this story and this song in the not so distant future.
Bob Dylan’s star is shining bright since the announcement that he has been chosen as the 2016 laureate for Nobel Prize in Literature. Congrats, Bob! Well deserved, and thrilled that literature, in the eyes of one of the most visible literature prize committee, has been expanded to include song composition! Readers of these pages will know that I often use examples from song lyrics in my posts because I find that they connect us more tightly than words that live only (mostly) on the page.
Which brings me, in a round-about way, to a strange ear-worm of mine, strange because I’ve heard the song only a handful of times in my life. Oh, but what a powerful song Dylan’s Ballad of a Thin Manis, with it’s dirge-like tempo and angry insistence!
Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?
(Pa-pa-pam pam pam!)
It comes to me at odd moments, a stray thought about a misunderstanding big or small, and the lyrics will pop into my head and stay there for a day or two, pa-pa-pam pam pam!
Less noticeable than who steers the narrative – a first person narrator, say, or an omniscient third person narrator – is the point in time from which a story is told. Have years passed and is the storyteller, older and wiser, revisiting her youth, as in Lee Harper’s To Kill a Mockingbird, or is the story unfolding in present time with no hindsight to call upon – except for portions told in flashback? Something to ponder as we go about crafting our stories.
Meanwhile I’d like to invite everyone in the Toronto area to Draft 12.1 on Sunday October 23rd, 3 pm, at the Flying Pony, an artist-run gallery at 1481 Gerrard Street East, west of Coxwell. The event will include readings by:
This will be my second reading at Draft. Thank you, Draft collective! My first was on October 31st, 2010 – Halloween – and the theme was Death! Back then my novel was entitled Intersection rather than The Fifth Season, and the excerpt I read hereand herewere narrated from a different point in time. The set-up is explained in the first video but what counts here is that my male protagonist, Adam, was in North America and had recently met female protagonist, Joanne, before he flash-backed to an earlier love interest and a dramatic event connected to it.
In the current version of the story, Adam is back in his home country, South Korea. The flashback occurs a whole year later and is motivated by trying to grapple with the novel’s central dilemma more than Adam’s poor track record with relationships.
In any event, I’m not planning to read the re-imagined version of this scene but, rather, the opening chapter of The Fifth Season narrated by Joanne. The temporal point-of-view should be be obvious in the first minute or two. If you come, let’s talk about it at the break!