If an author sells 5,000 copies of a hard-cover book in Canada, it’s a best seller. So it came as quite a shock to children’s book author Barbara Smucker when she learned that her 1977 book Underground to Canada had sold 71,000 copies after six months on the stands in Japan. “Apparently, Japanese children don’t like to borrow books, they like to own them,” says the 65-year-old Mennonite author, who works part-time as a librarian in Waterloo, Ont. Recently, the Japanese venerated Smucker by flying her to Japan for a children’s essay contest which drew three million entries, many of which were about her story of two youngsters’ flight from slavery in Mississippi to freedom in Canada in the 1850s. “The Japanese seem to like happy endings and stories with historical settings in North America,” explains Smucker, who spent her
flight time to Japan boning up on another Japanese best seller—Anne of Green Gables.
Cameras again,” laughed Margaret Trudeau. “Oh boy!” With disarming frankness, the country’s most famous estranged wife was ready to meet the Ottawa press. Only moments before, Pierre Trudeau had occupied the same chair, entertaining “intelligent questions.” It was a reporter’s dream, but in fact the flashing blue eyes of “Maggie” and the diffident shrugs of “Pierre” were the work of actress Linda Griffiths, whose one-person duo-personality show, Maggie and Pierre, has finally arrived in Ottawa after playing across Canada. Despite critical acclaim, the play was not accepted at the National Arts Centre. Instead, it opened at the 1,000-seat auditorium of the Ottawa Technical High SchooUTt’s a very schizophrenic show, but I’ve found a way to I
deal with it,” says Griffiths. The actress’ control has affected her Maggie persona, and she admits it is “getting a little smarter as I grow older.” The Pierre personality, however, retains a certain juvenile wit. Speaking confidently of his meeting this week with U.S. President Ronald Reagan, TrudeauGriffiths confessed: “I hope to meet with him as equals. I find actors to be excellent politicians.”
The metamorphosis of Alberta-born ballerina Lynn Seymour was recently unveiled on British television.
Seymour, who resigned from the Royal Ballet earlier this year,_has eschewed tutu and Peter Tchaikovsky in favor of fangs and the music of new-wave band The Famous Mothers^Club (to which her fiancé, Mark Goodings, belongs). “It was not a sudden transformation,” insists the often capricious danseuse. “My friends have been aware that I have been moving in this direction for years.” If her friends have been acquiescent, the British press has been wary about the change. Appearing last year with the Flying Lizards, she was described by one wag as a “demon rolling around the floor dressed in a trench coat and dark glasses.” But Seymour is undaunted in her plans to form her own company and has no qualms about abandoning the sublime of ballet for the rawness of punk. In a very enpointe tone, she asserts,“I am, foremost, an artist in search of creative freedom.”
Edmonton music teacher Jim Hagan thinks he can save George Harrison $587,000. In 1976, a U.S. court ruled that Harrison had unintentionally copied the melody of The Chiffons’ 1963 classic He’s So Fine in his 1971 hit My Sweet Lord. The order to pay for the plagiarizing was announced last week, and Hagan immediately contacted Harrison’s lawyers. Hagan contends that the original ruling was “made on the most superficial kind of comparison.” He is coming to the rescue with a computer he claims can provide a visual graph of musical material called a “liedergraph.” According to Hagan’s study of the two songs, they have very little in common. “There’s just one fragment which is similar—and that’s in 40 or 50 other songs,” he points out. “Whoever holds the rights to Chopsticks could just as easily sue.”
^ Tt is better to forever pursue the ^unattainable than to end up with some creep.” So sayeth comic Sheila Gostick, 21, who speaks as the singular earthbound representative of Major Cult Figure. Outfitted in a white suit, which she describes as“somewhere between sacred dental student and a casual first-Communion suit,” Gostick creates such cult aphorisms as, “It is wrong for fat people to tell us they are ‘big-boned’ ” and “You are not famous because you have not been dead long enough.” Gostick hopes to take her Major Cult Figure show off the Toronto comedy-cabaret circuit and across Canada, and in the meantime she’s concentrating on the fine art of constructing one-liners worthy of New York’s archcynic Fran Lebowitz. “We must live every day as our last,” advises Gostick. “Cough a lot and lay around thinking up snappy last words.”
The new bird-watching capital of Canada could well become Granville and Hastings, deep in the heart of Vancouver’s financial district. It seems a rare peregrine falcon, dubbed Josephine, has mistaken the 16-storey Royal Bank of Canada building for a cliff on the Queen Charlotte Islands. All this is well and good for nature lovers, but Josephine’s unpleasant eating habits tend to disturb the concentration of the financial community. Like all falcons, the peregrine preys on other fowl, swooping down on pigeons, ducks, seagulls and the like, snapping the neck and lugging the body home in her beak. Rob Edwards, assistant manager of the Royal Bank nest site, sums up the problem: “Some of our tenants would be conducting a meeting and look out the window as a half-disembodied seagull hits the window ledge.”
In the wake of last fall’s federal budget, Ottawa would seem to have heard quite enough from John A. Masters and Jim Gray, co-founders of the Calgary-based Canadian Hunter Exploration Ltd. But if Ottawa hasn’t listened to the self-appointed spokesmen for the oil industry, people from New Orleans to Anchorage are burning up the telephone lines to Calgary to get their hands on Masters’ first outing as an author. Since starting Canadian Hunter in 1973, Masters has kept a “philosophy file” of ideas and perceptions he has had. The company’s success prompted Masters to write down the
rags-to-riches saga for friends and employees. But so many other people demanded copies of The Hunters that Masters decided to issue it in paperback and sell it at $9.95 through a Calgary bookstore, The Sandpaper. Telephone callers from all over North America have bought up most of the initial 3,500 pressrun, prompting talk of a second printing. The Hunters is a little bit of autobiography, some corporate history and a lot of Masters’ own aphorisms. One, from 1974, must ring a wry bell
with Masters after his shouting match with Ottawa. “The best way to manage an oil company is to find a lot of oil and gas. The rest of the problems have a way of sorting themselves out.”
For unemployed scholar John Halberstadt, it was publish or perish and perish by publishing when he announced the most unwelcome news that, at best, Thomas Wolfe only coauthored his last three novels. Plowing through Wolfe’s papers at Harvard’s Houghton Library, Halberstadt, 39, discovered that when Wolfe died in 1938 he left his editor, Edward C. Aswell, with a 4,500page rough draft of an epic. From this, Aswell fashioned not one but three separate novels, including Wolfe’s renowned You Can't Go Home Again. “It’s perhaps a case of editorial malpractice unprecedented in American literary history,” says Halberstadt, who unearthed the scam. He had received access to the papers only by promising not to publish without permission. With permission denied, the scholar began losing academic credibility, but finally published his discovery in a recent Yale Review. “For breaking the rules I’ve been banned for one year from the Houghton Library where the work I could do would be done,” he says. “I’m like a doctor who can no longer get into the hospital.”
The idea of something called the Dead Sea Canal Corporation might seem farfetched, but the eight members of the board of the new corporation take the project very seriously. Chairman Alvin B. Rosenberg is a prominent lawyer, engineer and chairman emeritus of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. Board members include Samuel Belzberg, president of First City Trust; Victor Carter, director of United California Bank; Jack L. Cummings, former director of Trizec Corporation; Philip Granovsky, chairman of Atlantic Packaging Products Ltd; Saul Kanee, chairman of Soo Line Mills Ltd. and a director of Pacific Western Airlines; Murray Koffler, chairman of Koffler Stores of Canada and Shoppers Drug Marts U.S.A.; and Ray Wolfe, chairman of the Oshawa Group Ltd. food wholesalers. This impressive group has banded together to determine the hydroelectric possibilities involving channelling billions of cubic metres of water from the Mediterranean 100 km to the Dead Sea, which at 595 metres below sea level is the lowest point on earth. If the project is deemed feasible, side benefits could include aquaculture and resorts—“a literal Garden of Eden,” according to the enthusiastic Rosenberg.
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