Archive for September, 2011

“You Could Believe In Nothing”

I was thrilled to see this almost entirely glowing review of St. John’s author Jamie Fitzpatrick’s new (and first) novel, You Could Believe in Nothing, in the Globe and Mail’s online books coverage yesterday. I had the pleasure of working with Jamie on the manuscript and it’s satisfying to see it so well received.

“Seven Rivers of Canada”

I found this at our neighbourhood used bookstore early in the summer and was really taken with the design. The cover stripes (seven blue ones for seven rivers) I think are a subtle way of illustrating the subject without being too literal or, alternatively, having to choose one river to stand in for all. Can we please have more of this again in cover design?

The interior is equally simple but well thought out. Each chapter start includes a map of the respective river – running to two pages if the river requires it, one page if it’s more compact. The book’s designer was Leslie (Sam) Smart, one of the founding members of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada, and whose name I know mainly because of Canadian type designer Rod McDonald’s font Smart Sans, created to commemorate Smart after his death in 1998.

In his introduction MacLennan says: “A knowledge of the Canadian rivers will recover this earlier sense of time in Canada. It will bring the old experience of the people out of the subconscious regions where it lies buried.” And by old experience he means not just pre-air travel but pre-railroad, although I have to say that while I’ve travelled more slowly (by bicycle) cross country, it’s mainly been during long train trips that I’ve felt any real inkling of what the whole project of Canada might mean to anyone at a personal level. Maybe I’m just softheaded about trains.

For each river (Mackenzie, St. Lawrence, Ottawa, Red, Saskatchewan, Fraser and St. John) MacLennan combines his own experiences of it with its history, including some of the earlier explorers to navigate it, the settlers who became dependent on it and what it brought, and the gradually changing role of each one in settlement patterns and economics across the country.

Some of the history was fairly engrained in me, some I was a bit rusty on, but to look at it all through the lens of rivers – the ability to travel them and how speedily and carrying what – is fascinating.

I read this back in July, but writing about it on the edge of fall feels appropriate somehow because for reasons I haven’t quite figured out, apart from trains fall always puts me in a slightly patriotic mood. All in one week I’ve found myself signing out a stack of Glenn Gould cds from the library, roping a bunch of people into going to a Massey lecture and being invited to visit a friend up in Yellowknife. Solomon Gursky lurks on the nightstand. It’s getting really disgusting.