Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bookishness in the city

Many weeks ago, my inbox pinged with an email from The Wheeler Centre, a marvellous and still relatively new institution involved with all things bookish in this city. They were bringing E. Annie Proulx to town, did I want to come? Yes, please. Here's my 20 dollars, and 12 for Lovely Husband, because he's still lucky enough to have a student concession card. I printed off the tickets and they sat in the back of my diary, forgotten, until I looked through my diary and saw the little Friday notation: Proulx at the Capitol, 730pm.
The moment I stepped inside the theatre, I'd wished I'd brought the camera. This poorly lit and poorly framed phone photo doesn't capture the overwhelming interior, like walking inside a strange medieval beehive. It's all projected angles, patterned pockets of shadows and more detail than the eye can handle. I wonder how well the poor souls of RMIT do in their studies, when they have to draw their attention away from these walls, this ceiling, to take notes during lectures. No ugly 1970s concrete bunker for them.

Lovely Husband comes to these things because he either doesn't want me to have to go alone or because he feels guilty for not doing more 'going out' things. He has no interest in Proulx's books or in the literary life, the bookish scene, but even he was entertained for the hour we had her on stage, talking about her newest book, the autobiographical Bird Cloud, and life in Wyoming. We both laughed. A lot.

The epigraph at the front of the book:
"a very curious dish of Viennese sausages which were sizzling hot at one end and frozen at the other-- at striking example of the non-conductivity of sausages at high altitudes" - H.W. Tilman

After the talk, Proulx agreed to sign books and I rushed to buy copies of Bird Cloud and The Shipping News. It's J.'s birthday in a few weeks and the present I've ordered most likely won't make it in time. So to make up for it, I had spent the 20 minute wait in the queue, scouring The Shipping News for our favourite line in the book, the line we laughed over when we first read it many years ago, the line we both occasionally remember and titter over again. So on her birthday, she'll have the book to open and a card, which will tell her to turn to page 57. And there will be Proulx's signature and the message 'For J-', right under the line 'Dog Farts Fell Family of Four'.


  1. I love this story! I really liked The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain. (I've just come here from the ThisBook post)

    1. Thanks, Michelle. I wasn't sure what she would be like as a speaker, but even Lovely Husband had a good time (and he wasn't at all interested in the books).


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