LONDON, ONTARIO – In his sublime but too-little known study from 1983, A Portrait of Charles Lamb (1775–1834), British biographer, professor and literary critic, Lord David Cecil, paid homage to the magically congenial essayist who wrote under the pen name of 'Elia'. Cecil was an old man by the time he rendered his tribute to a beloved writer who'd given him a lifetime of pleasure. And though his book is quite short, Cecil knows just which tales to tell, which passages to quote, so as to make Lamb's appeal comprehensible, and even contagious, nearly two centuries after his death. Charles Lamb’s outwardly uneventful life of fifty-nine years straddled the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Though they only co-existed for nine years, the figure Lamb is most commonly bracketed with in the imagination of the reading public is the great Samuel Johnson.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Not that she was around to blow out all those candles (having slipped off this mortal coil six and a half years ago) but earlier this month Phyllis Dorothy James (1920-2014) turned one hundred. I was alerted to this anniversary – which I too would like to salute – when the great Mark Steyn paid tribute to her last week in a wittily entitled essay, A Baroness on Barrenness, which primarily discussed P.D. James’ least typical (which is to say her only non-detective) novel, 1993’s The Children of Men.
LONDON, ONTARIO – This week we bring you a new work of short fiction . . . OFF THE HOOK.
SCOTT CAME HOME from the tobacco fields on an almost empty Greyhound. An older bus, thank God, which allowed him the inestimable pleasure of opening up his window and letting the churned-up early autumn air buffet his face. Sixty miles an hour he was moving in this rattling tin rocket but what pleased him most was not a sense of movement or progress so much as blessed calm and respite. He was glad to be moving away from the place he’d been and relieved – maybe even a little proud – that he’d seen a self-imposed term of demanding physical labour through to an honourable end.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Hermaneutics has officially gone fishing this week and instead of the usual up-to-the-minute commentary which so distinguishes this blog, we present your host’s interview with Canada’s bravest academic, Janice Fiamengo. Though originally published in the September 24, 2015 edition of The London Yodeller, there is very little in this conversation that has lost its relevance over the last five years.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Canada is now enduring the reign of our third dubiously qualified, fiscally incontinent, female Governor-General in a row. Perhaps these appointments are consolation prizes to make up for our heartless ingratitude when the Canadian electorate turfed out our only female Prime Minister ten minutes after she was appointed to that job. If you’re keeping tabs on our recent run of affirmative-action GGs, we’ve had two ex-CBC talking heads and now we have an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency from 2000 to 2007, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette. Ms. Payette has been making page-two headlines this month for her allegedly abusive treatment of her staff and I was interested to read this note from a commenter at the Small Dead Animals website in response to an article they posted there about the scandal.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Back in the summer of 2015, I was editing The London Yodeller, then in its prime, and had the opportunity – and the space – to properly discharge a debt of gratitude to the Canadian author who had influenced me more than any other. It had been a half decade since Richard B. Wright had published anything at that point and I sensed things were winding down and wanted to pay tribute before it was too late. Here is that five year old feature.
LONDON, ONTARIO – It is the first law of the freelance jungle that whenever somebody seems to be offering you any kind of work, you must immediately say, “Yes!” – just to keep negotiations open – and worry about how you’ll actually deliver on the project later. So that was the protocol I adhered to when I was invited up to the executive offices of the Grand Theatre in the winter of 1991/92 where artistic director Martha Henry asked me, “Have you ever thought of writing a children’s play?”
LONDON, ONTARIO – When visiting anybody’s house for the first time, I will often seize an opportunity to duck into whichever room features the most bookcases to scope out the sort of fare they have on hand. And I’ve long wished some publisher would bring out a large picture book featuring nothing but photographs of worthy people’s bookshelves; printed big enough that you could make out all the titles and authors. One of the more engrossing distractions which I’ve enjoyed during this Batflu lockdown when so many televised interviews and discussions are recorded in people’s homes – more often than not with a shelf or a case of books in behind them – has been to move right up to the screen and squint my eyes to scan their collections.
LONDON, ONTARIO distinguished itself once again this week as a prime producer of one of the more meaningless forms of discourse which makes communication such an unadulterated pleasure in this golden age of bullshit; the ventriloquistic apology. You doubtless know the asinine drill by now: a ‘woke’ dignitary of the present day expresses his or her regrets for the past behavior of some other person who has never expressed regret for that particular behavior. It doesn’t even matter if the original designated offender is dead or alive. And if they are still emitting a pulse – as was the case two and a half years ago for mayor Matt Brown’s presumptuous apology for what he regarded as the gross moral insensitivity of his mayoral predecessor, Dianne Haskett (you can read all about that shabby bit of chicanery here: Matt Brown is a Very Sorry Mayor Indeed) – it isn’t deemed necessary to obtain a designated offender’s permission to apologize on their behalf.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Artistic director Dennis Garnhum’s announcement this week that the Grand Theatre has decided to shelve its entire 2020/21 season until a vaccine to counteract the Wuhan Batflu is secured, provides a sobering jolt to anyone who might have been harbouring hopes that we had everyone’s least favourite pandemic on the run. Just because we may have flattened the curve of the first wave (as they say) and started to partially and gingerly reopen some of our less essential businesses and facilities – and regardless of how antsy we’ve all become to resume life as we used to know it – the reality is that social confidence has not been sufficiently restored and come the cooler weather in the fall, we could get hit with another spike.
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THE AQUINAS LECTURE
G.K. CHESTERTON AND THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE
ALL LIFE IS A GIFT :
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRADITION :