Archive for the ‘The Piano Teacher’ Tag
Going into the next month or so, late August to late September, I find myself in a rather unique position, breathing some rare air, as they say.
I have just returned from Wells, BC and a stint with the Sunset Theatre, a real gem and ray of hope in the Canadian theatre cosmology. I was there as a dramaturge, helping worry Michaela Jeffery’s new play, Hardscrabble Road, into production and into the world.
At the same time, I was working with the truly gifted cellist, Morag Northey, helping her create a one woman show for herself and her cello. We got a good start on that and hope to premier the play back in Wells next summer.
It felt good to work in the theatre again — it’s been a while as I took a detour the last few years into the world of the novel with the writing of my own novel, The Piano Teacher.
It’s been a wonderful ride, so wonderful in fact I wonder why I didn’t think of it before. This week I will be taking part in a reading at Shelf Life Books on Tuesday, August 16 in conjunction with the W.O. Mitchell Award. This is an award given by the Writers Guild of Alberta and the City of Calgary to honour what was felt to be the finest book written in the city in the last year.
I am a finalist this year for The Piano Teacher, along with Sharon Butala and Will Ferguson. The three of us will be reading from our books on Tuesday.
Maybe it sounds trite, yet it’s true, I respect both of these writers tremendously and will be honoured to be in their company – win or lose, this nomination means a lot. They will announce the recipient on September 28 – more on that at a later date.
At the same time, I have been occupied with a new venture, a volume of poems that I have written through the years, titled Nocturnal Emissions. And so another book of poetry comes into the world. In some ways it is difficult to get excited about a book of poems, and yet I am encouraged by the words of the poet William Carlos Williams:
It is difficult the get the news from poems
Yet men die miserably everyday for lack of what is found there.
I find there has been too much news in the world of late. Maybe a book of poems is needed more than ever.
I suppose for me this book is really a labour of love. It’s a way for me to celebrate my upcoming birthday, as I endeavour not to go gentle into that good night!
Nocturnal Emissions will be launched on September 22 at Shelf Life Books, and then relaunched and christened with beer on my birthday, September 24 at a surprise birthday party I’m throwing for myself (I know, I know) at the Blond Monk pub on 12th Ave.
Here’s one of the poems from the collection:
The colour drains
The spirit wanes
I hardly know
What to make of it
It was a day like this
When jazz first got blown
Or Bell talked into his phone
Or Einstein bent a ray of light
Or Leonardo dreamed of flight
Not to be alone
Anything to discover a reason why
And so I write, deep into the night
There are better ways than this
Making out with a stranger in a basement suite
While a big dog scratches at the door
I struck on this
A hundred years
Here I sit
I called this post Factotum, which, as I understand the word, means someone who does a lot of different jobs, which in the writing world seems true of me. I’ve always enjoyed this sense of versatility, being able to express myself artistically in a number of different forms and genres. Seems they are all converging these days which is really quite magical.
All in all, I have to say the next six weeks are so are shaping up to be very exciting in the world of Eugenius. I hope you can help me celebrate my birthday by attending any or all of these events and of course, buying the books.
Thanks for reading!
On Friday October 9 at 7:00 PM on the second floor of the Le Forte Centre at St. Mary’s University, located in Fish Creek Park in south Calgary, I will be reading from my novel The Piano Teacher. To bring some musical artistry to the even, my friend Morag Northey will be helping me out. Morag is one of the finest cellists in the land. We first worked together on my play Queen Lear, for which she created a musical score and performed every night in the original production of the play.
I’ve been involved with St. Mary’s in one way or another since 2005 when we took a small production of my play Closer and Closer Apart there one winter’s evening. I loved the “boutique” nature of the place — a small (but ever-growing) student population, small class sizes, excellent faculty. In my mind it offers a liberal arts education the way it’s meant to be done and I’ve been proud to be associated with the place these last 10 years.
So, if you want to check St. Mary’s out — it’s a beautiful campus off of Bannister Road near Fish Creek — and you would like a signed copy of my novel, and even the chance to hear me read from it, and of course hear Morag as well, please come by Friday evening.
Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, everyone!
Thanks for reading.
So there I was, bleeding at the War Memorial in Kensington.
My front tire had hit a ridge where the pavement gives way to the planking of the Memorial and I went down in an inglorious heap. It truly was an inelegant moment in the history of cycling.
My first thought was of my ribs – I had a fall last summer and broke a rib on my left side (#8, I believe it was). Let me tell you, that hurt like stink. So I sat there and although my hip hurt and my arm was bleeding and my knee was bleeding and my ankle was bleeding, at least my ribs seemed ok.
My second thought was of the precious cargo on my bike rack. This cargo was the point of the journey, after all. Ten copies of my novel The Piano Teacher destined for Pages in Kensington book store. The books seemed fine and so I breathed a sigh of relief.
But I remember thinking at that moment that this was a situation unique to self-publishing where you have to do everything yourself. Maybe, just maybe, when I finish my next novel I’ll shop around a little more seriously to find a publisher who would do such things for me.
Then there was a lovely moment as a person of the street came up to me and helped my on my feet and got my bike up and make sure I was all right before sending me on my way. It was a little act of kindness, generosity of spirit, that took some of the sting from my minor injuries and put things in perspective for me.
So my book is now available at Shelf Life Books, Pages in Kensington, Owl’s Nest Books, and Reid’s Stationers, all in Calgary. If you are further afield than this, you can order it from Blurb.ca which is a print-on-demand service that I use. They put out a nice product, their books are virtually identical to the ones I have printed at Blitz Print here in Calgary. (The direct link to Blurb is here: http://www.blurb.ca/b/6423475-the-piano-teacher)
If this seems too much for you, for whatever reason, let me know and we’ll figure out a way to get you a copy of the book.
I’m happy to report that The Piano Teacher was #3 on Calgary’s best sellers last week. (As of September 12.)
Finally, I have arranged to give a reading at St. Mary’s University in south Calgary, where I am the writer in residence, on October 9 starting at 7 PM, but more on that anon.
I hope you enjoying the transition from summer to fall. It’s beautiful here in Alberta, but as we discover year after year, all so brief. Enjoy the colours while they last!
Thanks for reading . . .
There really was a tremendous storm last night here in Calgary.
The day before Canada Day, Mother Nature provided better fireworks than we’re likely to see tonight. As a friend of mine put it, “it was like my apartment was in the middle of a thundercloud.” I felt the same in mine.
There was a most amazing storm last night . . . such a statement, which you can see from the photo I wrote in my journal this morning, might be quite unremarkable in and of itself, but listen to this:
When I was a music major at the University of Regina for a brief time in the 1970’s, I studied piano with a marvelously eccentric and talented pianist named Thomas Manshardt. I have drawn heavily on what I remember of Tom, all these years later, for both the narrator and his teacher Alfred in my novel The Piano Teacher.
Tom was one of the last students of the venerable Alfred Cortot in Paris. Through Cortot, Tom could trace his pianistic lineage back to Czerny – and I guess, by extension, so can I!
In those days before Political Correctness has reared its ugly head, it was not uncommon for a prof to invite a student over for a drink, and it was not uncommon for me to show up at Tom’s apartment for a glass or two of Pernod to talk about art and music and life and everything in between.
Tom’s apartment is memorable for a few things as I look back some 40 years. One, it had a commanding view of Regina’s beautiful Wascana Park. And it was entirely bereft of any furniture whatsoever, unless we consider book shelves to be furniture. There were plenty of books, plenty of open space, but not a chair or table or couch to be seen.
Once during this time, there was a tremendous thunderstorm in Regina, far worse than the one we saw in Calgary last night. It caused havoc and destruction throughout the city. Even my own parents’ basement flooded in that storm, and the house was hardly on low land.
That night I was over at Tom’s and saw that his journal was lying open. On the journal, his Montblanc Meisterstuck fountain pen, just as mine is in the photo above. He had written at the top of the page, as I have done all 4 decades later –
“There was a most amazing storm last night.”
In many ways you could say my life began that night, the moment I read those words . . . .
Thanks for reading. Happy Canada Day!
Here’s Cortot . . .
This lovely photo taken by my friend Francis Willey is from the launch of my novel, The Piano Teacher, at Calgary’s Shelf Life Books.
The beautiful woman you see in the photo is Morag Northey, a wonderful cellist and human being who graced us with her presence and made what may have been an ordinary event quite magical.
The universe, or God, or god, or the gods, or maybe a simple act of fate brought Morag and I together about 6 years ago when I was looking for a cellist to create a score and perform it on stage for my play Queen Lear.
That’s not an easy thing to do, let alone do it well, but she did it and anyone who saw that Urban Curvz production of the play certainly came away from it enriched and even transformed by her infectiously generous spirit that she somehow manages to impart with each and every note she produces.
How perfect, then, that Morag offered to play at the launch of The Piano Teacher.
If Queen Lear was an exploration of the process of the theatre, then The Piano Teacher is an exploration of the process of music. Among other things, obviously.
I began my artistic career as a piano player. When I was young and developing my aesthetic sensibilities, it was all about music, and the act of playing. It really quite amazed me that when I set out to write this novel, which is told from the point of view of a concert pianist, so many of the lessons and ideas learned from my teachers decades ago were still so fresh in my mind, like it all had just happened yesterday.
Interesting, isn’t it, what sticks and what doesn’t.
When I began writing plays — my first one, The Family, was performed in 1984 in the back space of Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto — 31 years ago, dear God, where does it go? — I guess I must have felt that words alone were inadequate somehow, never as powerful or as evocative as music. I tried to find a balance between language and music in the medium of the theatre. The odd time I think I may have actually gotten it right.
There’s a bit of business in The Family where the dead son returns from war with his coffin on his back. (Don’t ask.) (Designers either love or hate me.) The coffin transforms into a piano, and the dead son sits down and plays some lounge music while his father seduces the son’s fiancée. (Or was it the other way around?)
The point being, we had live music on stage. Other plays I’ve written – Quartet, Cocktails (which I edited and contributed a piece to), Excavations, Writer’s Bock and Queen Lear, all featured live music on stage in one way or another. Even my old chestnut, Some Assembly Required, had one of the characters creating the soundtrack on stage by playing a tightly controlled rotation of LPs.
It’s an exploration I got away from during my years at Alberta Theatre Projects. Looking back now, I’m not sure why that happened. I certainly came back to it with Queen Lear, and now with The Piano Teacher, it feels like I have come full circle in my adult life. (Or whatever this is.)
Ongoing, I’ve muddled my way through most of a second novel that so far has nothing to do with music. I do have an idea for a play that is about an aging rock musician (see photo below!) but so far that’s just an idea, I haven’t taken pen to paper yet.
I do think it interesting to endeavour to probe this antinomy of music and literature.I look forward to renewing the journey again some day. Meanwhile, though I have a novel to flog and it seems to take up a lot of time and energy. I have to say that the early feedback on The Piano Teacher has been so warm and enthusiastic that it’s really been encouraging.
Oh, and this. As you are probably aware, artists of all stripes are trying to figure out how we can make a living from our travails in this digital age. Well, a friend of mine put a “Donations” button on his blog a while back and he has made the astronomical amount of $37.00 as a result. So I thought what’s the worst that can happen, and put one on this blog, up on the left hand side. It’s a long summer and any support I receive in this manner will be greatly appreciated.
If you can afford to, I would appreciate the support. But really, just knowing there are people reading these ramblings is gratifying in itself. Still, you know what they say — you can’t live on air.
I mean to put a permanent link on for buying The Piano Teacher and Queen Lear from Blurb.com, but I haven’t figured out how to do it yet. If you’re in Calgary, you can buy both books at Shelf Life Books, but if you’re further away, The Piano Teacher can be purchased online at http://blur.by/1JCifkt and Queen Lear at http://blur.by/1wf20oo.
Thanks for reading!
Here’s a photo of me shilling my book at the Shelf Life sale at The Lilac Festival earlier today.