By Anne Kingston - Friday, February 15, 2013 - 0 Comments
A riveting portrait of an artist as a young — and old — woman
Maclean’s presents part three in a series with the five Charles Taylor Prize nominees. The prize for literary non-fiction, which recognizes excellence in Canadian non-fiction writing, will award $25,000 to the winning author on March 4.
- Join Maclean’s and the five finalists Feb. 27 for a panel discussion at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto.
When the respected scholar, author and critic Sandra Djwa embarked on Journey With No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page more than a decade ago, she had no inkling of how challenging or far-flung the expedition would be. It’s the first biography of the charismatic, convention-defying female poet and painter who inspired a generation of writers, including Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and Alice Munro. The St. John’s, Nfld. native, whose prior studies of CanLit include acclaimed biographies of Roy Daniells and F.R. Scott, calls it “the most difficult book I’ve ever written.”
By Bookmarked and Brian Bethune - Friday, February 1, 2013 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
The Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction, which recognizes excellence in Canadian non-fiction writing, will award $25,000 to the winning author on March 4. Join Maclean’s and the five finalists Feb. 27 for a panel discussion at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto.
Ross King, 50, may have a Ph.D. in English literature, a couple of novels and six critically acclaimed books on art history to his credit, including Leonardo and the Last Supper, nominated for the Charles Taylor prize. But as a boy growing up in Saskatchewan, what King really wanted to be was a political cartoonist. A certain Prairie realism—“I had no ability to draw or paint,” he says—sent him to university for 14 years. Next, unable to find an academic job, he tried his hand at historical novels. They did “well enough,” says King, who has lived in Britain since 1992, but he still wanted to write about actual history, particularly art history. “What I took away from novels were the basics of writing them—plot, character, action, atmosphere. I wanted to put all that into books that read like novels except that everything was true.”
King may not be able to draw, but craft well-researched, beautifully written, novel-like illuminations of key moments in the history of Western art? That he can do like few others. Since 2003, three of King’s books have been nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award, with two of them winning it, including Leonardo.
By Jessica Allen - Monday, March 5, 2012 at 3:00 PM - 0 Comments
Author Madeline Sonik learned to interpret art with her father—one gas station painting at a time
The Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction recognizes excellence in Canadian non-fiction writing, awarding $25,000 to the winning author on March 5.
Madeline Sonik’s fourth book begins with the circumstances surrounding her conception on-board the Queen Mary in 1959; that same year, she writes, American Airlines started its 707 service from New York to L.A., and the U.S.S.R. photographed the far side of the moon. Several of the 17 first-person experimental essays in Afflictions & Departures effortlessly sway between these offbeat historical details that read like curious non-sequiturs and the author’s memories growing up in the chaos of the 60s and 70s. Clearly, even though Sonik digs deep personally, she—and everyone—is part of a much larger picture.
Often with beautiful brevity, the 52-year-old author recalls memories that drip with sweet, youthful innocence; scenes of riding bikes down suburban roads, smoking cigarettes in trees and first kisses play out with cinematic effects. And even though the stories are brutally honest, many anecdotes still manage to elicit laughter: when a 14-year-old Sonik asks some neighbourhood boys why they don’t like her, they explain that she’s not like the other girls. And, “Other girls wouldn’t ask. They’d just go home!”
By Katie Engelhart - Thursday, October 8, 2009 at 10:40 AM - 1 Comment
L.M. Montgomery’s dark years gave us the poetry of Anne
Jane Urquhart’s biography of Lucy Maud Montgomery opens with the Anne of Green Gables author on her deathbed—her body failing, her mind wracked by grief, rage, and a “crushing disappointment.” From the start, this is a poetic work: we are guided through the emotional terrain of Montgomery’s “dark side,” her frustrations and disappointments.
“I don’t write non-ﬁction,” says Urquhart. The celebrated Canadian author began the task with some misgivings: “I didn’t know whether I was going to be able to manage with facts alone—and rein in my own imagination.” But she has succeeded. And it is ﬁtting that these two noted female novelists have been paired together—especially given what Urquhart describes as her “multi-generational” connection with Montgomery. Urquhart credits Anne with having “opened [her mother] up to a world of books and literature.” Later, the book enlivened her own literary passions.
Urquhart often reads her copy of Anne of Green Gables, a ﬁrst edition that was passed down by her grandmother and made its way through all the women in her family. “What I think about Montgomery,” she explains, “is that she was responsible for giving us a kind of permission . . . And that permission had to do with being a creative young woman who wanted to achieve something in the world of the imagination.” Continue…
By Michael Ignatieff - Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 3:20 PM - 9 Comments
AN EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT FROM MICHAEL IGNATIEFF’S NEW BOOK
Michael Ignatieff, 61, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, is also an eminent writer. His family memoir, The Russian Album, won the Governor General’s non-fiction award in 1987, and his 1993 novel Scar Tissue was shortlisted for the Booker prize. In 2000, Ignatieff and his wife, Zsuzsanna, retraced the journey his great-grandfather George Monro Grant undertook with Sandford Fleming in 1872. Grant and Fleming were mapping out the railway line that would link Canada from ocean to ocean. Ignatieff’s aim was to see the country through his ancestor’s optimistic eyes and trace how four generations of his prominent family—including his uncle George Parkin Grant, author of Lament for a Nation (1965)—had grappled with the idea of Canada. Grant’s despairing view of Canada’s fate, that the nation was destined to dissolve into the American orbit, has made his book an icon of Canadian nationalism. His nephew’s view of our future, as set out in True Patriot Love (Penguin), is far more confident.
The Canada of the Grants was a small-town nation of modest brick houses with white verandas, Protestant and Catholic churches on wide, leafy streets and the railway station within walking distance. George Parkin Grant’s Lament for a Nation was a cry of grief and rage at its passing. But that Canada is still there. Just go to Richmond, Que., or London, Ont., or Halifax, N.S. There are beautiful streets in each of these towns where this Canada still remains. But there is a palpable sense that time is passing this Canada by.