Bookmark #13 Winnipeg, Manitoba

The Republic of Love, by Carol Shields


...Fay has only a vague idea who the noisy quarreling couple on the floor above her are, and no idea at all who lives in the crumbling triplex next door, though she knows, slightly, two of the tenants in the building across the street. Her widowed Uncle Arthur lives one street over on Annette Avenue, but she knows no one else on that street. Some days she can wait anonymously in the bus shelter at River and Osborne and speak to no one, and the next day she’ll run into any number of acquaintances. These surprises used to drive Peter crazy, the oppressive clannishness they implied and the embarrassments, but Fay again and again is reassured and comforted to be part of a knowable network.
— from The Republic of Love, by Carol Shields, published by Random House Canada. Bookmarked at Winnipeg, October 24, 2013.

Winnipeg Councillor Jenny Gerbasi and Don Shields, husband of the late Carol Shields, unveil Bookmark #13. Photo by Leif Norman.

Winnipeg Councillor Jenny Gerbasi and Don Shields, husband of the late Carol Shields, unveil Bookmark #13.

Photo by Leif Norman.

Project Bookmark Canada Founder and Executive Director Miranda Hill, Winnipeg Councillor Jenny Gerbasi, Gas Station Arts Centre Executive Director Nick Kowalchuk and Don Shields. Photo by Leif Norman.

Project Bookmark Canada Founder and Executive Director Miranda Hill, Winnipeg Councillor Jenny Gerbasi, Gas Station Arts Centre Executive Director Nick Kowalchuk and Don Shields.

Photo by Leif Norman.

 

The Republic of Love by Carol Shields is the 13th Bookmark in our cross-Canada series of sites and stories, and the first in central Canada. It can be found at the corner of River Avenue and Osborne Street in Winnipeg's Osborne Village, near the bus stop referenced in the passage. The host for Bookmark 13 is The Gas Station Arts Centre, a multi-disciplinary space for artists that owns the land the Bookmark stands on. Bookmark 13 was unveiled by Don Shields, husband of the late Carol Shields, and Winnipeg city councillor Jenny Gerbasi, and was made possible through the support of The Metcalf Foundation and the Carol Shields Literary Trust, along with contributions from individual donors around the country.


About Carol Shields and The Republic of Love

Photo credit: Neil Graham

Photo credit: Neil Graham

Carol Shields (1935-2003) grew up in Oak Park, Illinois. While attending university in the United Kingdom, she met Canadian engineering student Don Shields. They married in 1957 and Carol moved with Don to Canada. Together, the couple raised five children.

Shields wrote poetry, plays and non-fiction. But she is probably best known for her fiction, for which she won numerous awards, including the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Pulitzer Prize and the Orange Prize. Shields was also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, served as Chancellor of the University of Winnipeg and was named a Companion of the Order of Canada.

The Republic of Love is published by Random House Canada. The Bookmarked excerpt is used with the kind permission of the Shields family. The installation is generously hosted by the Gas Station Arts Centre.


The Passage

“I know Molly Beardsley,” Beverly Miles told Fay at lunch. “Jim Beardsley’s first wife was my sister’s best friend.”
This kind of thing is always happening to Fay, circles inside circles. Last week Hannah Webb told her she’d attended an evening seminar on menopause given by a marvelous woman, a Dr. McLeod. “That’s my mother,” Fay said. “Peggy McLeod? That’s my mother.” 
The population of Winnipeg is six hundred thousand, a fairly large city, with people who tend to stay put. Families overlap with families, neighborhoods with neighborhoods. You can’t escape it. Generations interweave so that your mother’s friends (Onion Boyle, Muriel Brewmaster, and dozens more) formed a sort of squadron of secondary aunts. You were always running into someone you’ve gone to school with or someone whose uncle worked with someone’s else’s father. The tentacles of connection were long, complex, and full of the bitter or amusing ironies that characterize blood families.
At the same time, Fay has only a vague idea who the noisy quarreling couple on the floor above her are, and no idea at all who lives in the crumbling triplex next door, though she knows, slightly, two of the tenants in the building across the street. Her widowed Uncle Arthur lives one street over on Annette Avenue, but she knows no one else on that street. Some days she can wait anonymously in the bus shelter at River and Osborne and speak to no one, and the next day she’ll run into any number of acquaintances. These surprises used to drive Peter crazy, the oppressive clannishness they implied and the embarrassments, but Fay again and again is reassured and comforted to be part of a knowable network.
When her former lover, Nelo Merino, was transferred to Ottawa and wanted her to come with him, she had to ask herself, in the sternly analytical style she favored in those days: Do I love Nelo more than I love these hundreds, thousands of connections, faces, names, references and cross-references, biographies, scandals, coincidences, these epics, these possibilities? The answer, and it didn’t take her long to make up her mind, was no.
Geography is destiny, says Fay’s good friend Iris Jaffe, and Fay tends to agree.