(Inkshed 18 tells you how it ought to have been written)
Shortly before the Inkshed 18 conference in Canmore, Marcy Bauman posted a request on the CASLL list that generated great discussions and efforts in creative writing. Marcy wanted suggestions for reading material, specifically a novel set in Alberta to read on the plane.
The suggestions she received were several and can be found in the CASLL archives for May (Search for "Alberta Novel"). The creative writing came as a short course in the literature of the Canadian provinces, delivered by a motley crew on talent night. Printed here, for the first time, and by request, are the quintessential short novels of Canada written in Canmore for Marcy. Thanks to Leslie Sanders for the idea conceived in a hilarious conversation on the plane.
The novel of British Columbia, by Anne Hungerford and Wendy Strachan:
Unfortunately, the new BC novel entitled The Adventures of Lavender Land, by Betty Treehugger, who wrote this book while in prison after being arrested for hugging a tree a few minutes longer than the RCMP deemed appropriate, is unavailable as only half the text is extant.
An Alberta Story, by Doug Brent
When he woke up that Spring, Gonzo the Bear was hungry and grumpy. At bedtime the previous Fall, all he had been able to find to eat was the last remaining group of socialists in Alberta - a meagre meal indeed.
In search of more substantial fare, Gonzo cashed in some of his oil company shares and bought a bus ticket to Edmonton. However, he was still sleepy and got on the wrong bus.
After three days on the road, he got off the bus in Ottawa. Everyone ran in terror from such a hulking example of Western alienation - everyone except a group of Canadian Alliance caucus members who were looking for a more powerful leader.
Considering Gonzo’s inability to speak French irrelevant, and his inability to speak English even more of a plus, the caucus members immediately acclaimed Gonzo as leader. After eating the previous leader, Gonzo returned to hibernation for the rest of his life, and lived happily ever after.
The Saskatchewan novel, by Nanci White, was in fact a one-woman play delivered extemporaneously and with marvelous acting skills. You should have been there to see this one.
As For Me and My House .Essentially it's a woman, covering her nose and coughing(sand) and monologuing, in front of her husband's closed study door. Growing increasingly agitated and deranged, she mutters imprecations against wind, drought, Eastern superiority in art (Group of Seven) and culture generally. She says HE fears going to Hell but SHE knows Hell is Saskatchewan (laughs maniacally).
The quintessential Manitoba novel is represented by a poetic synopsis of Larry’s Party, by Amanda Goldrick-Jones and Janice Freeman.
This is the story of Larry Weller(With thanks and apologies to Carol Shields)
An extraordinary Winnipeg feller
Who fumbles through life, lost in a maze
Unable to think or to find his ways.
See Larry walk in the wind all alone
He’s wearing a jacket that isn’t his own.
When he notices the fabric so fine -- he can’t pay
His guilt is so strong that he throws it away.
See Larry married to Dorrie, so young.
Their honeymoon journey to England is fun
Except she is pregnant, three months gone.
In their Winnipeg house, they pretend to belong.
See Larry’s mum and her small misdemean-
She poisoned her mother-in-law with some beans;
His Dad remains silent; his sister’s got angst,
Dorrie’s convinced the whole family are cranks.
See Larry dig; gone are garden and drive
To carve out mazes that keep him alive
Wife and babe are neglected, and Dorrie’s revenge?
To bulldoze the borders of Larry’s henge.
See Larry divorced, in Chicago he dwells;
Builds mazes for corporate magnates and swells,
Living with Beth, in whose dissertation
Are women of saintly imagination.
See Larry at forty. Mars with Venus,
He could be wild, if not for his penis,
Lying low for a long time, not to be found.
Larry’s lost soul also struggles for ground.
See Beth wave goodbye; see little boy growing,
Larry and Ryan share few words of knowing.
Dorrie’s successful but hollow inside,
Larry’s old dad has just up and died.
See Larry move to Toronto, and there
Meet Charlotte, a kinder and gentler affair.
Imagine the shock, in the midst of this peace
When Larry goes into a coma for weeks.
This story does end, and a part occurs
When ironically, present and past are unfurled.
The truth is that Larry at last must resign
To unravel a maze of his own design.
This was the story of Larry Weller
An extraordinary Winnipeg feller
Who fumbles through life, lost in a maze,
Yet surprisingly able to find his ways.
The Ontario Novel, by Leslie Sanders (read in a doleful monotone).
I was an edible Woman,
Surfacing, I became a
Lady Oracle who
Took the Handmaid’s
Tale to Bluebeard’s Egg
Where I found a
Cat’s Eye giving Wilderness
Tips to a Blind Assassin
To save her from Bodily
Only the Robber Bride,
who is the real author
Of The Journals of Susannah Moodie is
She is playing Power
Politics for Survival.
In Her Life Before Man
(and with the Animals in
I am Margaret
I am Canadian
The Quebec Story, or history revised, by Sharron Wall and Jean Mason.
Le Chandail de Hockey, a play.
Characters: Mme Carrier, son Roch
Props: string-and-brown-paper-wrapped box, labelled “Eaton’s,” pad of paper, pencil.
Roch is writing intently in the corner; Mme Carrier picks up a package and calls her son.
Mme. C: Roch …..Roch ……Roch ….. ton chandail!
Roch is oblivious, lost in his writing.
Mme C.: waves package at him, finally taps him with the box.
Roch, ton chandail de hockey est arrivé.
Roch opens the package excitedly, lifts out a Canadiens hockey sweater, and tosses his pencil and paper away.
A Nunavut Novel, by Linda McCloud-Bondoc
(missing - sorry folks but this one was time-based art)
On the Right Side of the Causeway, a Cape Breton Story, by Jane Milton.
The laundry snapped in the breeze behind Mary Sean MacDonald as she
looked down at Billy Joe and Jimmy Dan throwing rocks at the gulls on the
beach below. Michael was thumping about in the kitchen like a moose with
a sore head. The byes had been into the shine last night and Big Francis
Xavier Gillis had played the spoons until Mary Sean thought she’d go crazy.
Michael stumbled into the yard.
“Yer friggin’ cut off,” said Mary Sean.
“Ah,” he said. “An’ you’ve got a face on yer like a wet Monday.”
He turned and slunk back inside.
Mary Sean went back into the kitchen and checked on the boiled dinner bubbling on the stove. The smell of cooked cabbage and laundry soap filled the small house.
“I’m going down to Tim’s to see the picture of the Holy Virgin that’s appeared on the wall,” she said.
“Judas Priest,” Michael mumbled. “Why would the Virgin want to show up in this jeezley place? There’s enough young maids up the pole without her adding to it.”
“You’d better get cleaned up by the time I get back,” said Mary Sean. “We’re to be at the church for Mary MacIsaac’s lunch at noon. She was a lovely woman. Wouldn’t a put up wi’ the likes o’ you. And don’t touch the asparagus and cheeze whiz roll-ups I made.”
Mary Sean pulled on her coat and headed down to Tim Horton’s.
The sky was darkening and the wind whipped at her hair. I should have brought
the wash in, she thought.
At Timmy’s a small crowd had gathered.
“That’s never the Virgin,” said Willy McInnes. “It’s only the bricks.”
“An’ yer a tool,” said Annie MacLean. “She’s there, and Father Murphy is coming by to splash the holy water.” Annie turned to Mary Sean, “Mrs from across the way is after asking for some tinned milk for the lunch teas.”
“I’ll bring a drop,” said Mary Sean.
“Did ya hear Murdoch’s girl, young Maggie, has a bun in the oven?” asked Annie.
“Yeah. Big Angus caught her and that stunned bugger, Lochie McDermott, doin’ it under a dorey down on the wharf,” replied Mary Sean.
“Ah well, she’ll be getting the cheque now. Aye, and Lochie’ll be heading down north before you know it,” said Annie.
Mary Sean opened the kitchen door. Nan was lolling in the tin
tub, her arms like dried sticks hanging over the edge. The kids gave her
roman therapy bath beads for Mother’s Day. Now the kitchen stunk like a
cat house on Sunday morning.
“Get outa there, Nan; you’ll be late for the lunch,” said Mary Sean.
Michael walked in. “Those lawyers from Halifax have been back
up to Johnny The Boot’s place. They want the mineral rights on his land.
He’ll be richer ‘n the pope if ‘e plays ‘is cards right,” he said.
“Ah, don’t fool yerself,” said Mary Sean; "Those fella's are so sharp they can cut hailstones wid their neckties."
As Mary Sean, Michael, Nan, and the kids all trooped down to the
church hall carrying trays of sandwiches and squares, the rain began.
“The angels are crying,” said Nan. “Mary MacIsaac was a lovely woman.”
At the church, Mary was laid out in her best dress, a splashy
red number she’d bought at the Woolco before it closed and had been saving
for a special occasion. This was it. Everybody from miles around was there.
Young Maggie and Lochie McDermott were snuggled up against the wall. Father
Murphy came in and made his way straight through the crowd to Lochie.
“Young Lochie,” he said, “You have the burden of desire on your soul. You’d better fall on your knees and make an honest woman of this New Waterford girl.”
“Ah,” said Murdoch. “It’s no great mischief; there’s more ‘n one merrybegot around here.”
The Prince Edward Island Story, a musical, By Linda Meggs with backup vocals from the Inkshed participants.
Sung to the tune of "Mame":
You came right across the strait to us,
Those Nova Scotians mistreated y’s,
You joined a non-traditional family and a phenomenon began,
We know you're not a lesbian
You’re just a flaming thespian,
We think you're quite the Aryan,
You charmed the spuds right out of the field,
Your kindred spirit makes you so real,
Your red pigtails and your pinafore look so sweet on all the girls from Japan,
Why they all love you, we don't know,
But keep them coming Tokyo,
We think their yen's sensational,