Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS September 22 1997

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS September 22 1997

Opening Notes


Books that stirred their souls

For her first book, literacy advocate Arlene Perly Rae tackled a project dear to her heart: getting youngsters excited about reading. Rae asked well-known Canadians to describe the books that “woke you up or stirred your soul.” The result is Everybody’s Favourites: Canadians Talk About Books that Changed Their Lives, a de facto resource guide to some of the best in literature for children and teens (not to mention adults). Perhaps it comes as no surprise that her husband, Bob Rae, Ontario’s former NDP premier, named George Orwell’s Animal Farm as a personal favorite. Some other selections:

► Bank of Montreal chairman Matthew Barrett: Macbeth, William Shakespeare

►Astronaut Roberta Bondar: Silent

Spring, Rachel Carson

► Sylvie Fréchette, Olympic gold medallist in synchronized swimming: The Diary of Anne Frank

► Broadcaster Peter Gzowski: The Catcher in the Rye,

J. D. Salinger

► Novelist Joy Kogawa: Heidi, Johanna Spyri

► Gov. Gen. Roméo LeBlanc: The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

► New Brunswick Premier Frank McKenna: King Arthur & His Knights of the Round Table, Roger L. Green

► Novelist Alice Munro: Emily of New Moon, Lucy Maud Montgomery

► Mark Tewksbury, Olympic gold medallist in swimming: Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!, Dr. Seuss

► Broadcaster Pamela Wallin: the Nancy Drew mystery series, Carolyn Keene

Flush with a movie deal

At the Toronto International Film Festival last week, one of the strangest movie deals went down in a theatre where director Michael Moore was screening his comic documentary The Big Owe. A follow-up to his 1990 hit, Roger and Me, the film chronicles Moore’s book tour promoting Downsize This! Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of Miramax Films, showed up halfway through—he had been busy hobnobbing with Mick Jagger at a party down the street. But as the final credits rolled, Weinstein cornered Moore in the lobby to offer him a distribution deal worth almost $1 million—and a promise to donate half of Miramax’s profits from the film to charities in Moore’s blighted home town of Flint, Mich. A rival distributor followed Moore into the washroom. “He stood at the urinal beside me,” says Moore. “But he didn’t unzip his fly. He just whispered, ‘I’ll offer you more than Harvey.’ I said, ‘Do you mind? I’m trying to relieve myself.’ ” Miramax won the bidding war.

War of words

Earlier this year, Saturday Night magazine paid an estimated $5,000 to Penguin Books Canada for the rights to a chapter of The Antagonist, Lawrence Martin’s biography of Lucien Bouchard. The chapter contained the controversial analysis of the Quebec premier by Toronto psychiatrist Dr. Vivian Rakoff. But shortly before the issue with the Bouchard cover was published, editor Ken Whyte learned that other media—including Maclean’s—had obtained a copy of Rakoff’s report. Whyte, concerned that the magazine would not

get credit, released a copy of the story to the Ottawa Citizen, which is also owned by Conrad Black. In the end, the story was stale before Saturday Night hit the newsstands. Last week, industry sources suggested that Whyte, claiming breach of contract, is now refusing to pay Penguin. Neither Whyte nor Penguin publisher Cynthia Good would comment, but Martin was more forthcoming. He complained that Saturday Nights handling of his book was “a much more sensational, much less balanced treatment of Bouchard.” Added Martin: “I don’t consider they treated it properly at all.”

The price of a fair trial

According to Edmonton lawyer Brian Beresh, his client, accused killer Larry Fisher, now has a chance for a fair trial. Last week, a Saskatoon judge ruled that Saskatchewan Legal Aid should pay Beresh $150 an hour—for an unlimited number of hours—to defend Fisher. In July, Fisher, 47, was arrested in Calgary and charged with firstdegree murder in the sex

slaying of Gail Miller, after DNA tests exonerated David Milgaard, who had served 23 years in prison for the 1969 murder. After initially balking at having legal aid pay Beresh, the province then agreed to pay him only $65 an hour for a total of 25 hours. Beresh applied to the court to seek “reasonable funding” for a case he said would take more than 1,000 hours of preparation. Now the hard part begins for Beresh: trying to discredit the admissibility of the DNA testing.

Cranston's Calvary

Publishers know that an eye-catching dust jacket can helpsell a book. So when the provocative Toller Cranston, six-time Canadian figure-skating champion and a prolific painter, volunteered to help with the cover art on his forthcoming memoirs, Zero Tollerance, his editors at McClelland &

Stewart readily agreed. As both a skater and an artist, Cranston has never done anything in half-measures—and his artistic vision for the jacket was no exception. Cranston, 48, divides his time between Toronto and San Miguel de Allende, 240 km north of Mexico City, and that is where he decided to do a photo shoot. In the desert. In his skates.

Lashed to a cross. When the Toronto-based publisher, which had budgeted about $1,000 for cover art, balked at sending a photographer to Mexico, Cranston found one locally. And when a San Miguel church refused to lend him its cross, he had an area farmer construct one. Then, knowing he couldn’t be two places at the same time—overseeing the photo shoot and being suspended five metres above ground on the cross—he had his friend, Montreal-born choreographer Robert Desrosiers, serve as art director and suggest poses. But Cranston says that, unlike some celebrities, his intention was not to arouse controversy. Rather, he insists, the dust jacket conveys a message: “It’s about me being irreverent in a sport that was so staid.”

A flap over the flag

In Quebec, fervent Canadian nationalism invariably angers separatists—and Jacques Labbé’s patriotic penchant for flags is no exception. In July, Labbé, a 49-year-old medical sales representative who lives in the Montre al suburb of Pointe Claire, was upset when Quebec’s language watchdog, the Office de la langue française, insisted the municipality replace “street” on road signs with “rue.” Labbé, a member of the Canadian unity group Quebec Committee for Canada, asked area residents to display a Canadian flag in protest. Now, with more than 450 Maple Leafs stapled to Pointe Claire rooftops—and clearly visible from low-flying planes landing at nearby Dorval Airport—sovereigntist and local resident Marc Dufresne says the flags are eyesores. He complained to city hall, noting that the municipality’s own zoning bylaw prohibits installing flags on top of buildings, and limits masts to 10 m. To Pointe Claire Mayor Malcolm Knox, that simply means “you cannot put a flagpole on the peak of your roof and put a flag on it.” But to Dufresne, Knox is reading the law to suit his own purpose. Amid the fuss, Labbé has run out of flags. “I’m waiting for 100 from [Minister of Canadian Heritage] Sheila Copps’s office,” Labbé said. “They promised them to me late last week.” The wait continues. “Miss Copps is thrilled that this campaign has been launched,” said Janet Bax, the minister’s spokeswoman. “But unfortunately, we cannot supply the number of flags that he wants.” No matter. At least the stapled flags that are there now, says Knox, are staying.