Jun 27 2012

Ignominious endings

Helene Anne Fortin shot many photos of my hands for cover consideration

What body part would you like to be defined by after you’ve departed this life for whatever destination awaits you? What image indelibly associated with your name?

As a postscript to the previous entry, a brief tribute to writer and director, Nora Ephron, I have to say that reading the obit printed in today’s Globe and Mail (a condensed 6 column inches penned by Hillel Italie of Associated Press) gave me pause.

Although the piece quoted one of Ephron’s classic putdowns (a dismissive reference to a male character, widely acknowledged to be modeled on her ex-husband, Carl Bernstein, as being “capable of having sex with a Venetian blind”), the obit’s final words were devoted to some of the writer’s musings about her famously lamented neck.

Notwithstanding the best-seller status of the book known for its confessed concerns about wattles and creases, this still seems wrong to me.

The woman was a wildly successful screenwriter and director, who made highly watchable movies, wrote laugh out loud material, and was adored by colleagues. And the neck piece, although good enough to lend its title to her essay collection, wasn’t her best work.

More importantly, however, the title made clear how she felt about her neck. (Bad!) So it seems a bit callous, if not cruel, to allow the last image of the tribute to reinforce the unfortunate associations that the deceased — like women everywhere, encouraged by a physical-perfection-obsessed culture — despaired.

(Italie is probably young and male; this likely never occurred to him. And possibly it was the Globe editor who chopped a longer piece that ended differently.)

But here’s the YouTube link again, revealing a strong and confident, beautiful and gracious woman, holding forth — hilariously — in front of an audience of her peers.

(In the meantime, although I’ll never be remotely as famous as she is, I’m still relieved that I focused my own title essay on a part of my body that I actually like.)

Feb 18 2012

You can tell a lot about a woman by her hands…

My friend Melanie, who has the gift of making me (and most everyone else lucky enough to know her) laugh almost every time she opens her mouth, came across the following image recently and sent it along for my — and now hopefully your — entertainment.

(Just to be clear, I am in no way advocating this particular use of hands, but in addition to being amused by the unexpected punch line, I loved the disconnect between the medium and the message.)

May 13 2011

Naming rights and the virtue of wiliness

Naming books is the publisher’s prerogative, and when I first pitched Scott McIntyre the idea for I Feel Great About My Hands two years ago, he reminded me of this.

“Don’t get too attached to your working title,” he cautioned.

But it was too late – I was already attached!

So I paid a visit to the Wakefield studio of photographer Helene Anne Fortin, who captured dozens of beautiful
 images of my hands (see one of my favourites here). We sent half a dozen of the best ones to Douglas & McIntyre and D&M’s senior designer Jessica Sullivan ended up selecting the cover image from among these. She also 
provided a beautiful package for the essays,
poems, drawings and one-woman play the book contains.

As a further bonus, Helene Anne herself contributed both a short essay — “Beauty Redefined” — and a photograph of one
 of her clients to the book.




May 3 2011

Unexpected encounter of the joyous kind

So, I’m on a plane bound for a literacy festival in Saskatoon where I’m delivering eight (what was I thinking – eight!) high school presentations in two days. I’ve spent the entire flight doing something I love: selecting tantalizing excerpts from seven of the essays in I Feel Great About My Hands and stringing them together with transitions and introductions of their fearless authors.

When the plane lands, I stand up to put on my coat and a woman seated in the row immediately behind says to me, “Has anyone ever told you, you have great hands?”

I look at her stunned and manage to blurt out ungraciously, “Are you kidding me?” Because I’m thinking, OK, I must know this woman… or she must know about the book. But how could she, it’s only just out and none of the national papers have reviewed it and we’re in Saskatoon, for Pete’s sake….

And then with a flash of recognition I realize I must be speaking to the brilliant and beautiful Sheree Fitch, the inspirational master of words who penned “At This Stage” — the one woman play that appears in the book, and that I can’t wait to see her perform, hopefully one day soon!