LONDON, ONTARIO – About fifteen months ago I was invited to contribute an essay for a sort of Festschrift which is being compiled to commemorate the life and work of local historian, archivist, librarian and publisher, Ed Phelps (1939–2006). I feared I was actually running a little late when I dispatched this piece to the editor precisely one year ago and was surprised to be told that I was actually the first to send his contribution along and that perhaps my sterling example would now inspire the other contributors to step up their pace a little. Not for the first time I shook my head in bemused admiration for just how elastic the concept of a deadline can be in the scholarly/academic world.
LONDON, ONTARIO - My grudge against the claustrophobically belligerent year of 2020 lightened considerably in its very last week when the meteorological elements presiding over this patch of the globe summoned the grace to deliver a substantial and transforming snowfall on Christmas Eve. That generous blanketing was augmented over the next twelve days with a few more dustings and falls so that even a bout of freezing rain wasn’t enough to significantly diminish the white bounty that was still in place for this week’s close of Christmastide on the Feast of the Epiphany. With its sublime knack for slowing and quieting everything down, snow has a way of sharpening our senses and broadening our perceptions; as does Christmas itself when we take the time and the care to observe it well.
LONDON, ONTARIO – If you should happen to hear a short but profoundly satisfying clicking sound around two o’clock this afternoon, do not be puzzled or alarmed because you cannot immediately trace its derivation. That will only be the sound which the digits on me and my wife’s marital odometer make every December 28th as they flip over to display our updated tally. This year’s magical number will be forty-three. You might be wondering, what sort of goofballs decide to get married in the already celebration-packed week between Christmas and New Year’s? Young ones – I, twenty-five, and she, twenty-four – that’s what kind. Goofballs who loved the season of Christmas and wanted to make it even better.
LONDON, ONTARIO – This week we bring you a new work of short fiction . . .
MY MOTHER'S BEST and oldest friend was Sarah McDougall with whom she shared one of the most extensively documented friendships I’ve ever known. They were only children, born within four months of one another on the very same street, and served in many ways through the succeeding seven decades – Sarah died first – as the sibling that neither one of them had. It may have been simple proximity that threw them together at first but even as their circles of acquaintance expanded to include others with whom they might spend more time for a while, Mom and Sarah never fell out or drifted apart and maintained to the very end a familial sort of ease in one another's company.
LONDON, ONTARIO – As these dispiriting state-imposed sanctions to squelch the spread of the Chinese Batflu drag on, I’m all a-twitch this Advent season with withdrawal symptoms brought on by the unholy ban on choral concerts and singing in our churches (which are only allowed to operate at thirty per cent capacity anyway). A life without the regularly applied ministrations of choirs and congregational singing – aural bombardments which can be as soothing and stirring as a deep spiritual massage – is a real impoverishment at any time of year. But that deprivation feels particularly acute over Christmastide when so much of the music that I have loved best – carols and hymns with nourishing roots that go tendriling all the way back to my infancy – is sealed away under a quarantine that one might call whimsical if it didn’t feel so sadistic.
LONDON, ONTARIO – My father died seventeen years ago this week. It’s not a very round number; not the kind of anniversary that would ordinarily be marked in any elaborate way. But David John Goodden (1914–2003) has been much on the minds of all four of his sons this fall as the fraternal chain correspondence we’ve been compiling and circulating for the last several years sprang into particularly vigorous life in September. Perhaps not so coincidentally, that was when we planned to get together for a reunion in Italy until the Chinese Batflu pandemic knocked out the possibility. It’s always great to get together with any of the brothers but there’s a special frisson – a sort of snapping into place of all the components that empower a full electrical circuitry of pure unadulterated Goodden-ness – that occurs when all four of us are physically re-constellated in our original formation.
LONDON, ONTARIO – No small part of the glory of used bookshops is the utter unpredictability of their stock. While I’m always mooching on the shelves and through the stacks in the hope of finally scoring certain titles or authors, more often than not I come away with some fetching red herring that I didn’t know the first thing about until it swam into my hands unannounced. Sometimes it’s an intriguing title that makes me reach for this book instead of that one. I once heard two publishers seriously argue about which colour covers were most likely to make people pick up their books. But neither title nor colour drew me several years ago while rifling through the Religion section of Attic Books to pull down an 84 year-old volume of 33 pages with no title printed on its solid black spine.
LONDON, ONTARIO – This excerpt from Three Artists: Kurelek, Chambers & Curnoe (Elmwood Press, 2016) examines two of Greg Curnoe’s most pronounced qualities – his utter lack of a religious gene and his impassioned devotion to London, Ontario – and muses on some of the higher mysteries of inspiration, affiliation and rechanneling.
LONDON, ONTARIO – If I were asked to come up with a title for Mike Hensen’s photograph of librarians and supporters assembled on the Central Library’s main staircase to announce the cessation of late fines – a picture which appeared on the front page of last Tuesday’s London Free Press (Nov. 10, 2020) – ‘A Portrait of Courage’ would not be in the running.
LONDON, ONTARIO – This excerpt from Three Artists: Kurelek, Chambers & Curnoe, examines the shocking critical neglect, punctuated by occasional notes of contempt, that William Kurelek (1927–77) endured at the hands of the Canadian art establishment. In the final decade of his life, the almost frighteningly prolific Kurelek was beloved by a broad cross-section of the Canadian public like no other artist of his time. Hosting two major exhibitions per year at his peak (exhibitions which commonly sold out in their entirety), Kurelek’s pronounced commercial success aroused suspicion and resentment among his more envious peers. And on top of that, this profoundly shy man came with so many quirks and edges – most overtly, a devout and forthright Catholic faith which was the primary engine of his life – that the poor man couldn’t schmooze to save his life.
If you would like to contribute to the ongoing operations of Hermaneutics, there are now a few options available.
THE AQUINAS LECTURE
G.K. CHESTERTON AND THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE
ALL LIFE IS A GIFT :
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRADITION :