Writers are constantly meeting people who announce gaily that writing must be a wonderful way to earn a living because, after all, it doesn’t involve any real work. Barbara Moon, like any other writer, can vouch for the fact that nothing could be farther from the truth.
It took her five grueling weeks to gather the material for her article on the University of Toronto, which starts on page 18. She interviewed thirty-nine professors, read forty-one books and fifty-one pamphlets, had tea at the School of Graduate Studies, beer at the King Cole Room (a campus tradition) and coffee in four of the campus coffee shops. She went to a Saturday night dance at Hart House, spent twenty-one hours in the U. of T. library, then sat at her typewriter for ten punishing days. On six of these days she toiled for eighteen hours a day.
In one sense this was a labor of love, for Barbara graduated from Varsity herself, in 1948, in English language and literature, with first-class honors.
“I didn’t feel painfully nostalgic going back,” she reports. “I found the faculty members I talked to so thoroughly fascinating and delightful that the advantage of having professional entrée to them outweighed any feeling that my days as an undergraduate had been the magic days. Being able to approach on some basis of equality men like Northrop Frye of Victoria, Arthur Barker of Trinity, Andrew Gordon of the School of Graduate Studies and J. K. W. Ferguson of the Connaught Laboratories is a great privilege of adulthood.”
Barbara gained the distinct impression that U. of T. professors are gravely worried about the tendency of a huge twentieth-century
university to turn into a degreegranting sausage mill.
“But,” she says, “I find it hard to worry about this myself—for as long as such men as these are worried about it, it won't happen.”
As every writer does, she wound up with bits and pieces that just didn’t seem to fit into her manuscript anywhere.
Item. Last fall somebody put two huge carp bearing blue and gold colors in the tank when the U. of T. swimming team was holding practice. Swimmers, with commendable presence of mind, fished the carp out with lacrosse sticks.
Item. The Varsity greenhouses grow everything from potatoes to coconut trees and the Botany Department has three metasequoia trees grown from seed thousands of years old and discovered by archaeologists digging at a site in China.
Item. A student from India received a Canada Council grant to do a doctoral thesis at the U. of T. on Canadian literature, but is actually doing his thesis on Ralph Waldo Emerson, the U. S. essayist and poet.
Photographers, like writers, are constantly meeting people who announce gaily that photography must be a wonderful way to make a living, since all you have to do is point the camera and snap the shutter. But the first photographer assigned to take pictures for Barbara Moon’s article gave up after he’d wandered around the campus for three days, stunned by the size of his subject. Ken Bell, one of the most experienced magazine photographers in Canada, took the assignment on then, and walked at least fifty miles selecting shots and angles that would catch the personality and flavor of Canada’s biggest university.
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