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.
LONDON, ONTARIO – About every ten years I like to bring out a collection of greatest hits; a gathering together of the best of the last decade’s essays and feature articles and interviews. And as my last such compendium, No Continuing City, started to burn its way up the bestseller lists in December of 2010, I am once again involved in that curatorial process of appraising, winnowing and tweaking as we speak. From this vantage point of early November, I would say it’s unlikely that the book will make its appearance in what’s left of this calendar year. And that’s quite all right with me.
LONDON, ONTARIO – In this excerpt from Three Artists: Kurelek, Chambers & Curnoe (Elmwood Press, 2016) Herman Goodden recounts London artist Jack Chambers’ first encounter with the Old World. As one of very few Canadian artists of his generation who undertook the full regimen of classical training, the 22 year-old Chambers was looking to Europe for nothing less than a total reorientation of his perceptual habits and skills. But before he was truly ready to commit to that process, the ever proud and gnarly artist had to find some way to make clear that while he was indeed submitting to the Old World’s authority in these matters, he would paradoxically do so under his own terms.
LONDON, ONTARIO – In a tip of the hat to the Forest City Film Festival which is underway (October 17 – 24, 2020) like so much else in this dispiriting year in virtual format only, I’ve gone rooting through the tickle trunk in search of two articles I wrote about the late, great London filmmaker, Chris Doty (1966–2006).
LONDON, ONTARIO – We’ve been allowed back into our churches – at one third of their old capacity – for the last three and a half months. This is almost precisely the same amount of time as we were locked out of those churches when our civic leaders determined back in mid-March that the best way to cope with the Chinese Batflu pandemic was to persuade everybody but grocery store personnel and truck drivers to hide under their beds until we ‘flattened the curve’. For a Church which is largely defined and animated by the multiform idea of “presence” (Christ came for us and it is our obligation and privilege to turn out for Him) being forced to sit out the holiest season of Easter this spring was a desolating experience.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Chess is probably the only board game of sufficient pedigree and complexity to lend a kind of cachet to anyone who plays it well. “Oh, he’s a bright one,” people think for a few minutes when they perceive one’s mastery at a game whose appeal is so abstract that few are genuinely drawn to it. But then those same people pick up on the social obtuseness which chess masters so frequently exhibit and the lustre of that wizardry is lost on all but other similarly afflicted geeks.
LONDON, ONTARIO - To mark this 75th anniversary of the first publication of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, I have re-read my favourite 20th century Catholic novel for the third time and – just tonight – finished re-watching the magnificent, eleven-episode Granada TV adaptation of the book for at least the fourth time. When that mini-series originally aired on the PBS network in 1981, we had neither cable nor a colour TV but we did have a brand new baby – our very first – who very graciously consented to sleep through the 60 to 90 minutes of air time when we invaded my in-laws’ living room for eleven weeks in a row.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Life got in the way this week, so here’s a little talk I delivered to the Baconian Club of London almost exactly fourteen years ago:
A dream I had in my late twenties strongly suggested that my predilection for reading was getting out of hand. My wife and I are carefully navigating King Street just west of Clarence during a rush hour dusk when I see a beautifully illustrated book lying open right there in the middle of the road. Though I can scarcely make out the words in the falling light, I apprehend that the great secret to life I’ve urgently been tracking is contained in those pages. Paying no attention to the bumper to bumper congestion all around us, I drop to my knees to ferret it out and my wife pulls me up by yanking on the collar of my shirt. “Before you crack that little tome,” she reasonably suggests, “perhaps we’d better get off the road.”
LONDON, ONTARIO – In this first full week after Labour Day, I’m grappling with a sudden sense of loss as – for the first time in my entire life – I am not having to torture myself with the question, “Should I try to get out to the Western Fair this year?” Thanks to the Wuhan batflu pandemic, the Fair is sitting out 2020. I really do ask that question each year even though, I’m a little ashamed to admit, I haven’t answered it in the affirmative so far this century. I’m never happy to stay away but with no young kids tugging at my elbow to burn up a hundred and fifty dollars on violent rides and dodgy food like elephant ears and corndogs, and with the winnowing out of so many of the traditional rural attractions that had increasingly beguiled me as an adult, the thrill and charm of the Western Fair has largely evaporated for me.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Those of us susceptible to come-ons from book and record clubs always remember with a pang of nostalgia and lower back pain, the greatest, heaviest and bulkiest membership offer the Book-of-the-Month Club ever made. As luck would have it, I wasn’t in that afternoon in the fall of 1978 when the postal delivery truck tried to drop by all eleven volumes of Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization – 10,000 history-packed pages covering six millennia from Our Oriental Heritage to The Age of Napoleon. So a little card was left in the mailbox instructing me to pick up this great literary motherlode myself at the old central post office in the main floor of the Dominion Building on Richmond Street at Queens.
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 :