amongst books

amongst books

Monday, August 21, 2006

Strange Ghosts: essays by Darren Greer

I picked up this book at Collected Works last Thursday and devoured it. Greer is a former Ottawa resident (why, oh why must writers move to Toronto?), and actually he’s was published in the former Bywords too, and has even been a participant in the Ottawa International Writers Festival. Shows you what a small world we live in. I’ve never met him, but I wish I had. Reading his essays makes me want to sit down over coffee with him and just listen. Barring that, I read his essays and recommend them to all and sundry.

Like a good essayist, he touches on all kinds of subjects: coming out to his father, being diagnosed with AIDS/HIV, modern art, experimental fiction, social activism, 9/11, baseball, Paris, Cambodia and Oscar Wilde. Through the whole thing, I felt as if I was reading a kindred spirit, and those are too rare to miss out on.

In one essay called “Elugelab: Canaries In The Mindshaft Of The World,” Greer talks about being a child afraid of the nuclear bomb and being told that he would get used to it and even forget about it. I’m not going to blather on, rather I’ll let Mr. Greer speak for himself:

“Artists are also canaries in the mineshaft of the world—they, we, are people who never learned to express in socially acceptable ways our anxiety for the state of the world.

“So here I am, at thirty-seven years of age, and my teacher’s prediction has, thankfully, not come true. I have never learned, for better or for worse, to live with things simply as they are. I am still that hopelessly inarticulate, socially awkward boy, standing up in front of my audience and crying out for everybody to listen, for everyone to open their eyes and try just for a minute to honestly and truly see.”

I love stories and storytellers. People like Greer and Ivan E. Coyote give me faith that not everyone in the world has their eyes closed. Not everyone in the world is indifferent or unloving. Some people are actually alive and able to communicate what that means to the rest of us.

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