By Noah Richler
This morning, a Sandy Cove neighbour and friend stopped by on his way to the Sunset Pub and the week’s football pools.
He’s not doing badly, not badly at all. But it occurred to me that he might do even better in the Canadian literary sweepstakes, given the spectacular advantage, in judging the best of what’s coming up, that is provided to locals and summer visitors and part-timers all year round such as myself by the reading series that is put on in Sandy Cove’s Eldridge Memorial Library every summer.
This last year, Newfoundland novelist Lisa Moore, presenting her novel Caught, was one of the two readers. Kathleen Winter presented her novel Annabel a couple of years ago, and though another Montreal novelist, Rawi Hage, was not a reader, he stayed in Sandy Cove a few years back to get away, and to work on his most recent novel, Cockroach.
Lisa Moore’s Caught was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller and Writer’s Trust prizes this year. This year she was awarded the Marian Engel-Timothy Findley Award for a Canadian writer in mid-career, a great honour. Moore’s novel February, that she also read from in the Neck’s summer reading series, won last year’s CBC Canada Reads contest. And now Kathleen Winter and Rawi hage are two of this year’s five finalists, for their novels Annabel and Cockroach, respectively.
My wife, Sarah Maclachlan, the publisher at the House of Anansi Press, is with her team the organizer of the readings that each July are arranged for Sandy Cove, Annapolis and sometimes Bear River. But every year, no question, the best support and turnout happen in Sandy Cove, some readers coming in from Yarmouth and even Halifax.
Not too soon in the future, we hope to fix a Digby engagement, too, not least as Sarah and I—the standby driver and, in the village, one of several cooks—are well aware of the terrific support that Jonathan Riley and the Digby Courier, and our Sandy Cove partner in crime, Donna Tidd, have offered over the years.
From the very beginning of the series, about five years ago, it has been the intent to give something back and to prove that arts and culture matter, no less in communities such as ours than in the cities where we tend to expect them.
Moore writes out of communities in Newfoundland that are very similar to the Neck’s. Kathleen Winter’s Annabel addresses the situation of the bullied that, sadly, we also know in Nova Scotia. I can’t pretend that Rawi Hage’s novels have an immediate connection but who knows, sometime they might as he and all the other writers we have visited – another is Ken Babstock, the Griffin Prize-winning poet who wrote a poem about Jerome’s Rock after staying – have fallen in love with Sandy Cove and the Neck.
You, better than anyone, know why. And it is because of you that we have, modest as it may be, a literary series that even Halifax does not. And it’s a series one with winners on its dance card: Moore this last year, and perhaps Winter or Hage when the Canada Reads winner, the novel that could “change Canada,” is announced in March 2014. Oh, and did you know that a local, Erin Balser, is one of the CBC’s Books team?
Certainly the series has proven that it offers us all the chance to read some “very good books,” though I’m not expecting my pal to tell the Sunset Pub that it’s time for a literary pool just yet! (“Last writer standing …”) But rest assured, over the coming years we promise to bring you yet more top-notch authors to read and to watch out for – because it’s in your blood, and in ours.
Ken Babstock’s, Rawi Hage’s, Lisa Moore’s and Kathleen Winter’s works are all available from www.anansi.ca - and, in the summertime, at the Eldridge Memorial Library. Check out the Eldridge Memorial Library Sandy Cove Facebook page for updates, too.