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.)

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.