Sunday, November 26, 2006

Hugh MacLennan

OK, so I have this other book. That makes two now. Another book I've had for a long time. Since 96. But published in 88. I've had it since 96. It was remaindered in some book store. Possibly Coles. Remember Coles? Since 96, without ever really looking at it.

The book is called Strong Voices: Conversations with 50 Canadian Authors, by Alan Twigg. The interviews go from A to W. No Z. Or X. Or Y either. Canada has no Z authors, apparently. Four Bs though: Berton, Birdsell, bissett and Bowering.

Each interview has a photo of the author. They're funny. Many of the men look like farmers, bearded, goofy, wearing what Fotheringham used to call tractor caps. (Not cool baseball caps like they wear nowadays, but clunky spongy tractor caps with John Deere on the forehead...George Bowering actually is wearing a tractor cap, but it's an old style Montreal Expos cap. So it's a baseball cap. I guess in those days even baseball caps were tractor-like.) There's a shot of Patrick Lane playing pool. bill bissett behind reflecting shades. Robertson Davies with billowing beard and glasses one eye black the other transparent. Leonard Cohen when he still had his somewhat boyish voice. Marian Engel looking thoughtful in the middle distance. WP Kinsella (wearing, believe it or not, not a tractor cap or baseball cap but a visor which might as well be a tractor cap) resembling some scraggly Muppet. WO Mitchell doing his Colonel Blake (from MASH) impression. All in all, an interesting read, given that all the interviews were done in the 70s and 80s. It's an historical document now.

Which brings me to the title of this post. Remember, I said DH Lawrence predicted the future. Well, Hugh MacLennan does too, in this 79 interview. Here's what he says:

The Arabs have such fantastic money power they will soon have A-bombs. They can very easily get the plutonium. There's no problem in hiring the technicians. That's all such a terrifying prospect that it makes what's going on in Canada today utterly trivial. I'm not sure the world will survive it. It's very, very dicey.

This was six years after the first OPEC crisis, of course, so Arabs were probably still on our minds. But here we are in 06 pondering Iran's acquisition of WMD. (I simply had to use WMD. It's now part of our lexicon, just as A-bomb was part of MacLennan's 70s lexicon.) Technically, the Iranians aren't Arab. They're Persian. They are, however, very much Muslim.

So we're not looking so much at an ethnic diciness, perhaps, as a religious one. Nevertheless...Notwithstanding...Albeit...(I heard a guy on a call-in show pronounce this all-bite the other day.) We're still talking about the same general geography. And you can bet the real Arabs are also in there like a dirty shirt, trying to play catch up with those Semitic Sephardic Hasidic Ashkenazi Cabinet Ministers in that land formerly known as Palestine.

And what are we talking about in Canada? A couple weeks ago was the firestorm raised by a Cabinet Minister's reference to canines. Last week it was that female Cabinet Minister's hairdo interfering with global warming. This week it's that other thing, what is it? Oh yeah, that Québec nationhood thing. Let's get over it, shall we? If we all suck it up and say, "OK, Québec is a manly man's province, you have your nationhood proudly at attention, you don't need the national erection of a CN Tower to prove your cojones," can we get on with the division of Alberta's oil wealth?

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