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#5 Garbo Laughs


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#5 Garbo Laughs


BOOKMARKS 6–10     |      BOOKMARKS 11–15    |    BOOKMARKS 16+


Bookmark #5 Ottawa, Ontario

Garbo Laughs, by Elizabeth Hay


Cars whizzed by, the wind picked up. Lew felt waves of fatigue roll off Dinah as she leant into him. There was another bench next to the iron railing, he helped her over to it and she sank down, and then he knelt at her feet. “Enough already,” she said. “I’ll marry you.”

from Garbo Laughs Elizabeth Hay, published by McClelland & Stewart. Bookmarked at Bronson Place, West side (near Fulton) at Colonel By Drive, Ottawa on October 26, 2010.


 

About Elizabeth Hay and Garbo Laughs

Elizabeth Hay was born in Owen Sound, Ontario, the daughter of a high school principal and a painter, and one of four children. When she was fifteen, a year in England opened up her world and set her on the path to becoming a writer. She attended the University of Toronto, then moved out west, and in 1974 went north to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. For the next ten years she worked as a CBC radio broadcaster in Yellowknife, Winnipeg, and Toronto, and eventually freelanced from Mexico. In 1986 she moved from Mexico to New York City, and in 1992, with her husband and two children, she returned to Canada, settling in Ottawa, where she has lived ever since.

Hay has won many awards for her works of fiction and non-fiction, including The Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-fiction, and the Marian Engel Award. Hay’s second novel, Garbo Laughs (published in 2003) won the Ottawa Book Award and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award. Garbo Laughs is the story of the intimate connections between neighbours living in Ottawa South around the time of the 1998 ice storm.

Garbo Laughs is published by McClelland & Stewart.


The Passage

Seated on a bench near the Laurier Bridge, Lew watched perfect stars, six-pointed and filigreed, land on his black corduroy pants. For several minutes he was completely absorbed by the tiny, weightless complexity of one snowflake, then another, then another. A dozen pairs of boots were beside the bench, all innocence and trust, and he felt a burst of affection for a city where you could leave your boots for several hours and return to find them untouched. It was almost Islamic, as if people had gone of to say their prayers in stocking feet, just as it was almost Japanese, the custom of shedding your shoes whenever you entered someone else’s home. It was four o’clock. He stuffed his boots into a gym bag (he was skating home) and slung it over his shoulder. The ice was rough and uneven, but it would get better; the season was only beginning. By the time Lew reached the Bronson Street Bridge, half an hour later, the sun was down and light emanated from the surrounding city and from the snow and ice itself. Somebody was searching among the boots around the bench to which he was headed. He swerved over and came to a halt.
                  It was Dinah, and her boots were gone.
                  “I can’t believe it,” she said. “They’ve stolen my boots.”
                  “No.”
                  “They aren’t here.” And she laughed in uproarious amazement.
                  “Sit down,” he said, taking her by the arm. “What do they look like?”
                  “Last year they stole my snow shovel off the front porch. I thought that was as low as you could get.” Her voice was its usual raucous, sexy self. “Navy Sorels, size six.”
               He searched around the bench, holding on to the back with one hand to keep his balance, then farther afield among the snowbanks. “I’ll help you get home,” he said, sitting down to unlace his skates.
               She looked with gratitude at his reliable face. “You’re a darling. I’ve always said so.” And when he offered her his arm, she took it. They made their way across the few yards of trodden snow to the wooden staircase, and up the steps to the sidewalk. Cars whizzed by, the wind picked up. Lew felt waves of fatigue roll off Dinah as she leant into him. There was another bench next to the iron railing, he helped her over to it and she sank down, and then he knelt at her feet. “Enough already,” she said. “I’ll marry you.”
               He unlaced her skates, pulled them off, shoved them into his gym bag. Then he got her to stand on the bench and climb onto his back. “I’m too heavy,” she said into his ear. She had her arms around his neck as he set off with a lurch, adjusting his walk to her weight, which was heavier than he expected. “I’m too heavy,” she said again. He grunted. Soon he was sweating. They had to wait for the traffic to thin before crossing Colonel By. And then two more blocks. He had his arms around her legs and the gym bag in his locked hands, a lean, wiry, surprisingly strong man who managed to carry her 131 pounds on his back like a voyageur, she thought, on a portage between canal and home.

#4 Essentialist


#4 Essentialist


Bookmark #4 Toronto, Ontario

“Essentialist, by Ken Babstock


Surfacing at St. George, I cupped my hands
and blew—bodies scattering among museums,bank towers, campus rooms, and shops, each
                       
              to where they’re thinking of or not, seemed
to prove a law we’re locked into, demonstrable
with iron filings, magnets and clean tabletop.
— from “Essentialist” from Airstream Land Yacht,  by Ken Babstock, published by House of Anansi. Bookmarked at St. George and Bloor Streets, Toronto on October 21, 2010.

 

About Ken Babstock and Essentialist

“Essentialist” is from Ken Babstock’s third collection of poetry, Airstream Land Yacht, which was a finalist for the Griffin Prize for Poetry, the Governor General’s Literary Award and The Winterset Award, and won the Trillium Book Award for Poetry. The italicized lines in “Essentialist” are from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay Nominalist and Realist.

Ken Babstock is also the author of Mean, winner of the Atlantic Poetry Prize and the Milton Acorn People’s Poet Award, and Days into Flatspin, winner of a K.M. Hunter Award and finalist for The Winterset Award.

Airstream Land Yacht is published by House of Anansi Press.

Photo credit: Carolin Seeliger.

Photo credit: Carolin Seeliger.


The Poem

Sung underground in the civic worm burrowing
                  west, I was headed to class when a cadet
                                    in full combat dress got on my train.

                                    But for a pompom sprucing up the beret,
                  his age, the fact he was alone, and here,
this boy could’ve been boarding amphibious

landing craft. I checked for guns, grew pious
                  of this spinning orb’s hotter spots. He
                                    was all camo, enactment-of-shrubbery, semblance

of flora in varying shades, hues, mottlements
                  of green. A helmet dangled on his back, a hillock
in spring, sprouting a version of verdant grasses

in plastic. I got past enjoying a civilian’s recoil
                  from things military, brutal, conformist, and took
                                    a peek at what my soldier was so engrossed in—

                                    Thoreau’s Walden—imagine him, rubbing oil
                  into a Sten gun’s springed bolts, working through
his chances at a life away from men: berries

plumping in among their thorns, night’s
                  curtain drawn across the window of the lake…
                                    We must reconcile the contradictions as we

                                    can, but their discord and their concord
                  introduce wild absurdities into our thinking
and speech. No sentence will hold the whole

truth, and the only way in which we can be just
                  is by giving ourselves the lie; speech is better
                                    than silence; silence is better than speech;—

                                    All things are in contact; every atom has
                  a sphere of repulsion;—Things are, and are
not, at the same time;—and the like.
There are other

minds. Surfacing at St. George, I cupped my hands
              and blew—bodies scattering among museums,
                                    bank towers, campus rooms, and shops, each

                                    to where they’re thinking of or not, seemed
                  to prove a law we’re locked into, demonstrable
with iron filings, magnets and clean tabletop.

I can watch their faces go away. The singing’s not
                  to record experience, but to build one viable
                                    armature of feeling sustainable over time.

                                    The stadium’s lit, empty, and hash-marked
                  for measuring the forward push. On the surface
of the earth are us, who look in error, and only seem.

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#3 Mexican Sunsets


#3 Mexican Sunsets


Bookmark #3 Kingston, Ontario

“Mexican Sunsets, by Bronwen Wallace


Nothing’s the same any more.
Here in Kingston, even limestone forgets itself
and the staid Protestant church towers
succumb to gothic fantasies, windows ablaze
with dragons’ fire and the pink screams
of captured damsels…
— from “Mexican Sunsets” from Common Magic by Bronwen Wallace, published by Oberon Press. Bookmarked at the corner of Clergy and Princess Streets, Kingston on September 23, 2010.

 

About Bronwen Wallace and “Mexican Sunsets”

Bronwen Wallace was born in 1945 in Kingston, Ontario, where she spent most of her life. A dedicated community activist and feminist, Wallace began writing seriously in the mid-1970s, while working as a secretary, teacher and crisis counselor. She published five collections of poetry, numerous essays and newspaper columns, the short story collection People You’d Trust Your Life To, and also co-directed two documentary films. Wallace received the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, a National Magazine Award, the Du Maurier Award for Poetry and was named regional winner of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize. Bronwen Wallace died in 1989, and the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers was established in her memory.

“Mexican Sunsets” is from the collection Common Magic, published in 1985. Like much of Wallace’s writing, the poem uses a recognizable Kingston backdrop to make empathetic connections between neighbours, strangers and all humanity.

Common Magic is published by Oberon Press.

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The Poem

Mexican Sunsets

Somewhere in Mexico, a volcano erupts
spewing dust that drifts northward
disturbing the atmosphere of Southern Ontario
so that all this autumn, small, grey
English-speaking towns are startled
by inordinate sunsets: shameless
fuchsias, brazen corals flaunt
their outlandish origins in a country
where anything can happen.

Nothing’s the same any more.
Here in Kingston, even limestone forgets itself
and the staid Protestant church towers
succumb to gothic fantasies, windows ablaze
with dragons’ fire and the pink screams
of captured damsels; while the bare, old
branches of trees are elegant filigrees,
burnt black and delicate
by so much colour.

It’s November, but no-one believes it.
Winter’s a crass rumour like the threat
of a layoff or a government’s economic policy.
And the people inhabiting the lavender streets
have the stature of fabled creatures
from that land we all believe in, somewhere
between imagination and nostalgia.

You could call it
a state of grace, although
it’s only for a season, like the love
we risk for each other
on the first fine day in March,
or during the perfect anarchy
of a heavy snowfall
when everyone’s late for work
and doesn’t give a damn.

A kind of conspiracy
we let ourselves get caught in,
half-bewildered, half-encouraged
by the sky’s extravagance, this
fragile crust of earth
pulsing beneath us.

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#2 Rogues' Wedding


#2 Rogues' Wedding


Bookmark #2 Owen Sound, Ontario

Rogues’ Wedding, by Terry Griggs


Wagons jammed the road as passengers spilled out of them to join the milling throng on the dock. Children streaked through the crowd, dogs, a chicken on the loose; a young man barged through carrying a skeletal white-haired woman in his arms who was dressed in purple satin from toe to bonnet as though rigged out in her own coffin lining.

— from Rogues' Wedding by Terry Griggs, published by Random House of Canada. Bookmarked at Owen Sound’s Waterfront Trail on September 2, 2010.


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About Terry Griggs and Rogues' Wedding

Terry Griggs was born in 1951 on Manitoulin Island and grew up in a tourist camp her parents owned and operated outside Little Current. Lake Huron is a recurring setting for her novels and short stories for adults and children. Griggs’s work has been nominated for the Governor General‘s Award and in 2002 she won the Marian Engel Award.

Rogues’ Wedding is the story of Griff Smoulders, a Victorian-era bridegroom who runs away on his wedding night, touching off a series of accidental adventures. Meanwhile, his bride Avice refuses to be scorned and sets out to track Griff down. Rogues’ Wedding was published in 2002 and was nominated for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.

Rogues Wedding is published by Random House of Canada.


The Passage

Why Fenwick had chosen the dock for their assignation was a mystery that would come clear, Grif supposed, when he found him. If he found him. Grif was late, and the place was packed. He didn’t think there could be a busier spot in all of Owen Sound, with one steamer arriving and another preparing to depart. The harbour was dotted with tugs, sailboats, fishing boats. The dockside was even busier, and traffic on the land just as thick. Wagons jammed the road as passengers spilled out of them to join the milling throng on the dock. Children streaked through the crowd, dogs, a chicken on the loose; a young man barged through carrying a skeletal white-haired woman in his arms who was dressed in purple satin from toe to bonnet as though rigged out in her own coffin lining.

It was a carnival of apprehension and excitement. Hoots, shouts, shrieks, braying both animal and human. Deckhands were loading cargo onto one of the boats: mailbags, crates of flour and sugar for the northern settlements and the lumber camps, horses and cattle, all sensible beasts, and sensibly terrified. He was aware of the fear in people’s voices, too, although it was less straightforwardly expressed, diverted into chatter or a strained, shrill laughter almost painful to hear. True, these steamers did have a bad habit of catching on fire, and you wouldn’t want to be dwelling on that if you were a passenger or had a loved one on board. In his search for Fenwick, the man’s inscrutable features hidden somewhere in this crowd, he glanced into many faces more readable, several taut with worry, even premature sorrow. There were families gathered here who were about to be broken open by a great distance, a wound of space inflicted that would never be healed. So much talk about the sanctity of home and family, yet the truth was, people couldn’t stay put, couldn’t wait to leave. Free land out west, gold in the Yukon, factory jobs in the city. Material betterment might be the excuse, but restlessness was the drover.

For a time Grif was wedged between two stout fellows, one sniggering to himself, the other quietly weeping—both solid as bookends. Being stuck, he took the opportunity to gaze up at one of the steamers, the Northern Belle. She was a beauty, too, with her burnished brass and fancy mouldings, decorative as a birthday cake. And he thought, why not line up for his share, his serving of the journey? Fenwick had insisted he was a free man…insofar as that is possible, he had added. Philosophy aside, this boat could further that freedom, stretch the bounds of what was possible. It was what he wanted, wasn’t it: to stoke the fire in his breast that his impulsive departure had ignited? He had to go forward, on and on, and dare not look back where he knew she was standing, staring after him, granite-eyed and unforgiving. He did not believe that she was to be found in Europe enjoying a tour of forgetfulness. She was at his back, always at his back, waiting, like death itself.

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#1 In the Skin of a Lion


#1 In the Skin of a Lion


Bookmark #1 Toronto, Ontario

In the Skin of a Lion, by Michael Ondaatje


Then there was no longer any fear on the bridge. The worst, the incredible had happened. A nun had fallen off the Prince Edward Viaduct before it was even finished. The men covered in wood shavings or granite dust held the women against them. And Commissioner Harris at the far end stared along the mad pathway. This was his first child and it had already become a murderer.

— from In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje, published by McClelland & Stewart. Bookmarked at the Bloor Viaduct, April 23, 2009.


 

About Michael Ondaatje and In the Skin of a Lion

Michael Ondaatje was born in Sri Lanka in 1943 and moved to Canada in 1962. His fiction and poetry have received Canada’s most prestigious literary awards, including The Giller Prize and multiple Governor General’s Awards. In 1992, Ondaatje received the Booker Prize for The English Patient.

In the Skin of a Lion is set in Toronto in the 1920s and 30s, and imagines a place shared by the immigrants who build it, the powerful men who plan, execute and dream of its possibilities and the outsiders who stamp their own impression on the landscapes and landmarks. Using recognizable locales across Toronto, including the Bloor Street Viaduct and the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant, In the Skin of a Lion blends real and invented histories to create a mythical and mysterious portrait of Toronto as it might have been.

In the Skin of a Lion is published by McClelland & Stewart.


Discover the Bookmark and the story behind it online with a special exhibit featuring readings and interviews with Michael Ondaatje, and an audio walk inspired by the poem. The exhibit is produced by Angela Shackel of Accounts and Records and was made possible with the generous contribution of the Good Foundation Inc. 


The Passage

Then there was no longer any fear on the bridge. The worst, the incredible had happened. A nun had fallen off the Prince Edward Viaduct before it was even finished. The men covered in wood shavings or granite dust held the women against them. And Commissioner Harris at the far end stared along the mad pathway. This was his first child and it had already become a murderer.

The man in mid-air under the central arch saw the shape fall towards him, in that second knowing his rope would not hold them both. He reached to catch the figure while his other hand grabbed the metal pipe edge above him to lessen the sudden jerk on the rope. The new weight ripped the arm that held the pipe out of its socket and he screamed, so whoever might have heard him up there would have thought the scream was from the falling figure. The halter thulked, jerking his chest up to his throat. The right arm was all agony now — but his hand’s timing had been immaculate, the grace of the habit, and he found himself a moment later holding the figure against him dearly.

He saw it was a black-garbed bird, a girl’s white face. He saw this in the light that sprayed down inconstantly from a flare fifteen yards above them. They hung in the halter, pivoting over the valley, his broken arm loose on one side of him, holding the woman with the other. Her body was in shock, her huge eyes staring into the face of Nicholas Temelcoff.

Scream, please, Lady, he whispered, the pain terrible. He asked her to hold him by the shoulders, to take the weight off his one good arm. A sway in the wind. She could not speak though her eyes glared at him bright, just staring at him. Scream, please. But she could not.

During the night, the long chutes through which wet concrete slid were unused and hung loose so the open spouts wavered a few feet from the valley floor. The tops of these were about ten feet from him now. He knew this without seeing them, even though they fell outside the scope of light. If they attempted to slide the chute their weight would make it vertical and dangerous. They would have to go further — to reach the lower-deck level of the bridge where there were structures built for possible water mains.

We have to swing.  She had her hands around his shoulders now, the wind assaulting them. The two strangers were in each other’s arms, beginning to swing wilder, once more, past the lip of the chute which had tempted them, till they were almost at the lower level of the rafters.  He had his one good arm free. Saving her now would be her responsibility.

 

BOOKMARKS 6–10     |      BOOKMARKS 11–15    |    Bookmarks 16+