May 23, 2017

Roger Moore (1927-2017)

Sir Roger Moore has died at the age of 89.

Moore is best known for playing James Bond in seven films (more than anyone else) from 1973 to 1985. He is the oldest actor to have played the character, and of the six actors to have portrayed Bond, the first to pass away.

Compared to the more serious portrayal by his predecessor Sean Connery--and certainly in contrast with Ian Fleming's brooding, nihilistic secret agent--Moore's James Bond was suave and lighthearted, almost cartoonish. It wasn't the best period for Bond movies. But when Moore played Bond straight, as he did in Live and Let Die or For Your Eyes Only, he was very good indeed, and we can forgive him for Moonraker and Octopussy. Besides, if not for seeing Moonraker on TV as an eighth grader, I would never have sought out the novel, and James Bond may never have become one of my favourite literary characters. I recently finished reading straight through Fleming's Bond books for the third time.

Moore was also well known for his six-season run on television as the Saint, based on another literary favourite of mine, Leslie Charteris' Master criminal.

Goodbye, Mr. Bond.

May 22, 2017

On the appropriateness of appropriation

A week and a half ago, the editor of Write, the magazine of The Writers' Union of Canada (TWUC), has stepped down after an article he wrote generated numerous complaints. In this article, Hal Niedzviecki argued that there is no such thing as "cultural appropriation."

This generated numerous complaints from other members of TWUC, which was formed to "promote the rights, freedoms, and economic well-being of all writers," leading to a statement from the union in which they apologized "unequivocally," affirmed that the magazine exists to "offer space for honest and challenging discussion," and having been so challenged by Niedsviecki's editorial, bravely threw him under the bus.

I am not a reader of Write nor a member of TWUC. It is clear I could not be, given how they ignore their own mandate in favour of the intellectual Zeitgeist of the day, not to mention their apparent lack of a spine.

May 20, 2017

Don't believe the hype

In the spring of 1988, while in grade 12, I traveled to Calgary for a high-school band competition. To pass the time en route, in addition to the homework assignments for the days I was away, I had a reading list for the grade 13 English literature course. I would be taking the course the following year, but my then-girlfriend was enrolled in it, and she gave me the list of books (and my teachers were happy to loan me copies).

The required reading included Brave New World, The Stone Angel, and Cannery Row; optional books included Nineteen Eighty-Four, likely one or two titles that I have since forgotten, and, notably, two novels by Margaret Atwood: The Edible Woman and The Handmaid's Tale. The curriculum had a distinctly dystopian edge for some reason. Over the course of the trip, I devoured them all. I distinctly recall reading The Handmaid's Tale in one or two sittings on the return trip somewhere between Calgary and Winnipeg; in my mind, the novel still evokes memories of sunny prairies, grain elevators, and wheat fields seen from a train window, in stark contrast to the novel's actual, bleaker subject matter.