OPENING NOTES

BARBARA WICKENS June 5 1995

OPENING NOTES

BARBARA WICKENS June 5 1995

OPENING NOTES

Shoofting for the top

Every year, some 600 Canadians strive for recognition in the Guinness Book of Records. The would-be record holders face daunting competition from about 10,000 other individualists willing and able to endure mind-numbing marathons, spit a cherry stone 26.96 m or tie six Boy Scout knots in 8.1 seconds. Only a tiny fraction manage to win the title of fastest, biggest, smallest, bravest, tallest or deepest in the world. Here are two of Canada’s newest initiates, plus one hopeful.

The world’s longest sausage: At the beginning of May, Mac Voisin, the Kitchener, Ont.-based president of M&M, a national meat-shop chain,

earned the record for the world’s longest sausage after producing a 46.3 km link with the help of one of his company’s suppliers, J. M. Schneider Inc. Stood on end, the giant sausage, made out of 315,000 tiny porkers, would be more than 80 times higher than Toronto’s CN Tower—the world’s largest freestanding structure.

The world’s biggest rutabaga: Norm Craven, a 36-year-old real estate broker from Stouffville, s Ont., just north of Toron| to, first made it into the Guinness Book of Records I in 1993 with an 836 lb. 5 pumpkin. Early in May, £ his colossal rutabaga, 56 lb., 5 ounces, and still growing, earned him another listing. The ambitious part-time gardener’s next goal: to raise the world’s longest green bean.

The most consecutive presentations of a stage play: Next week, the Théâtre du ramoneur, a local theatrical group in the town of St. Isidore, 30 km south of Quebec City, will try to win a place in the Guinness Book by performing a play 11 consecutive times. The eight actors prepared for the 28-hour “théâtr-othon” with 30 rehearsals of the Quebeçois romantic comedy, Chez Thibodault-Roberge: où l’amour prend son en vol!

FINE PRINT

The demands of a provincial election campaign can keep a politician on the go from before sunrise until well after sundown. Despite that—or perhaps because of the tedium of long bus rides and stays in impersonal hotel rooms—the leaders of the three main Ontario parties have found time to read something other than briefing papers before the June 8 election. Maclean’s asked them about their reading:

BOB RAE: Premier of Ontario Current reading: Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with Destiny by Frank B. Freidel; just finished Alice Munro’s Open Secrets-, next on the list, Timothy Findley’s The Piano Man’s Daughter.

Comments: I always have a book on the go. The Roosevelt biography has

fascinating insights. Munro’s latest was a delight, and I am looking forward to Findley’s new book, I really liked his last book, Headhunter.

LYN MCLEOD: Ontario Liberal leader Recent reading: The Shipping News Proulx.

Comments: I enjoyed the view of Newfc the book offers.

MIKE HARRIS: Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Current Reading: Gotcha! How the Media Distort the News by George Bain.

Comments: I got the book for Christmas, and it sat around for a while, but I wanted to read it now.

A literary licence to get even

It was a case of writing well being the best revenge. Three years ago, Montreal novelist Linda Leith, who also teaches English at John Abbott College in Montreal’s West Island area, returned from a two-year sabbatical in Hungary to find that her suburban home had been stripped and nearly destroyed by a tenant who had leased it from her through an agency. The man—a disbarred lawyer, she later discovered—had sold almost everything in the house and trashed anything left with a malicious delight. One of his more outrageous moves was to punch holes in the bottoms of sardine cans and place them on closet shelves all through the house. Another time, Leith turned on an iron to find the smell of burnt sugar filling the house. Leith incorporated those unsavory details into her new novel, The Tragedy Queen, which is written from the viewpoint of the con man—an amoral swindler named Vince Carlson who preys on lonely, middle-aged women. Leith never met her criminal tenant and that left her “free to imagine what kind of man could do this,” she says. And although Leith and her family won a civil court case against the real-life tenant, they received very little monetary compensation. Her real revenge, says Leith, was to have Vince, her fictional reprobate, meet his match when the female owner of the house returns and exacts a particularly fitting form of repayment. “It was definitely cathartic,” says Leith. Even better, her novel is earning critical praise—satisfaction of a different sort.

Remembering a historic disaster

Many Canadians have recently been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. But last week in St. John’s, about 75 Newfoundlanders, including Premier Clyde Wells, gathered in a downtown hotel to mark another occasion tinged with history: the publication of local author Kevin Major’s novel based on a day in the life of the Newfoundland Regiment stationed in France during the First World War. No Man’s Land (Doubleday Canada Ltd., $22.95) focuses on

:he Battle of Beaumont Hamel, a particularly grim episode in the historic larger Battle of the Somme, in which only 68 men of the 778-member regiment escaped unharmed. According to some historians, the July 1,1916, slaughter of the cream af the future province’s youth under the order of British commanding officers eventually paved the way for Newfoundland—then a British colony— to join Canada in 1949. In keeping with the book’s subject matter, the launch was a low-key and sombre affair. Still, one guest attracted lots of attention: Walter Tobin, 97, the last remaining survivor of Beaumont Hamel. Tobin, who now lives in Boston, says Major’s book accurately reflects his wartime experiences. ‘War is an adventure if you are fed up with yourself,” said the tall, frail veteran. “But if you’ve got a good job and you’re contented with yourself, stay with the job. In the army, you are kicked around by everybody, and as a private, you are cannon fodder.”

WORD FOR WORD

Fresh insights into a First Lady

On Nov. 29, 1963, Theodore White was the first journalist to interview Jacqueline Kennedy after the assassination of her husband, President John Kennedy, the week before.

But White, who died in 1986, never made public any of the conversation. In December, 1969, he donated the papers from that interview—including handwritten notes by Kennedy as well as himself, and other documents—to the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, stipulating that they remain closed until one year after the death of the former First Lady. Kennedy died in May, 1994, and last week the library released the papers. Some excerpts:

On living in the public eye: “I’m not going to be the widow Kennedy. When this is over, I’m going to crawl into the deepest retirement there is.”

On where she would live: “I wanted my old house [in Georgetown] back. But then I thought—how can I go back there to that bedroom? I said to myself, You must never forget Jack, but you mustn’t be morbid.’ ”

On her daughter Caroline and her son John Jr.: “She is like a soldier; she’s my helper; she’s mine now. [John] loves planes you know. Maybe he’ll be an astronaut when he grows up, or maybe he’ll be plain John F. Kennedy fixing somebody else’s planes on the ground.”

Honorable mentions

t convocations across Canada this spring, university officials will honor the sort of achievement that results from a lifetime of hard work and dedication. A Maclean’s sampling of this year’s honorary-degree recipients:

Charles Bronfman, co-

chairman of Montreal-based Seagram Company Ltd.

(University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ont.)

Irene McCaugherty, folk artist and painter who illustrates the spirit of Alberta. (University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alta.)

Daniel Noel Musqua, an elder of the Saulteaux Nation who lectures in modem educational disciplines from a traditional elder’s perspective. (University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon.)

James Fraser Mustard, whose work has embraced four careers: medical doctor, medical researcher, policy adviser to government and the driving force behind the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, which fosters basic and applied research. (Dalhousie University, Halifax.)

Edited by BARBARA WICKENS