news | Thursday July 22, 2021
To celebrate Vancouver Pride 2021, we asked our editors to recommend their favourite Talon books:
Then Now by Daphne Marlatt
Editor and poet Catriona Strang recommends Daphne Marlatt’s Then Now, “a ‘lyrical exploration of memory, family, catastrophe, immigration, and colonialism’ from groundbreaking lesbian writer Daphne Marlatt.”
Then Now was inspired by the discovery of letters written by Daphne Marlatt’s father, Arthur Buckle. Buckle left England in the early 1930s to join a British accounting firm in multiracial Penang, Malaysia. He continued living and working there until taking leave in 1941, returning after WW II, whose looming threat striates his early letters, and staying until 1951. Decades after the letters’ composition, Marlatt began writing poems in response to them, interwoven with memories they provoked from her postwar childhood there. These poems are written from a sense of place and home on Canada’s West Coast now on the brink of another catastrophe, global climate change, so that throughout the book, “There Then” permeates any “Here Now” of immigrant consciousness and highlights the impermanent quality of “home.”
“How wonderful is it to be a poet and invent such useful and meaningful words as ‘otherwhere’ or ‘betweenships’! Marlatt takes full advantage of her licence to play with words and syntax so as to conflate time and sense.”
Tom at the Farm by Michel Marc Bouchard and translated by Linda Gaboriau
Editor and translator Charles Simard recommends Tom at the Farm and presents it as “a deceivingly benign title for an uncompromising psychological thriller by the great Michel Marc Bouchard, confronting the brutality of homophobia and the impossibility of grief one is still likely to encounter when venturing ‘out of town.’ Be sure to read Linda Gaboriau’s moving translation, then to watch the Hitchcockian movie adaptation with Xavier Dolan.”
Following the accidental death of his lover, and in the throes of his grief, urban ad executive Tom travels to the country to attend the funeral and to meet his mother-in-law, Agatha, and her son, Francis – neither of whom know Tom even exists. Arriving at the remote rural farm, and immediately drawn into the dysfunction of the family’s relationships, Tom is blindsided by his lost partner’s legacy of untruth. With the mother expecting a chain-smoking girlfriend, and the older brother hellbent on preserving a facade of normalcy, Tom is coerced into joining the duplicity until, at last, he confronts the torment that drove his lover to live in the shadows of deceit.
The lover – the friend, the son, the brother, the nameless dead man – has left behind a fable woven of false truths which, according to his own teenage diaries, were essential to his survival. In this same rural setting, one young man had once destroyed another young man who loved yet another. Like an ancient tragedy, years later, this drama will shape the destiny of Tom.
In a play that unfolds with progressively blurred boundaries between lust and brutality, between truth and elaborate ﬁction, Bouchard dramatizes how gay men often must learn to lie before they learn how to love. Throughout 2011 and 2012, Tom at the Farm was produced in Quebec and France, as Tom à la ferme, and in Mexico, as Tom en la granja. Award-winning Quebec director Xavier Dolan adapted the play for the screen in 2013, with Caleb Landry Jones in the leading role.
“Funny, harsh, tender, and terrible, the play engages us in a twisted game that plays itself in a rural setting where innocence and boiling anger collide.”
Hosanna by Michel Tremblay and translated by John Van Burek & Bill Glassco
Charles also recommends Hosanna and notes, “One of Michel Tremblay’s most emotional and humanistic plays, undoubtedly. Claude as glorious Liz Taylor’s Cleopatra, his drag persona, is one of the great tragic characters in Québécois theatre. As a teenager in the late 1990s, going to see Hosanna in a Montréal theatre had a profound effect on me. It introduced me to psychological realities and LGBTQ+ identities I had little knowledge of.”
In Michel Tremblay’s classic play about identity in crisis, Claude leaves the conformity of small-town Quebec to realize a new life and a new persona among the drag queens and prostitutes of Montréal’s seedy “Main” – the boulevard that marks the division of the city’s anglophone and francophone neighbourhoods. Claude’s illusions about himself are shattered when, painstakingly remade as his idol Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra, he arrives at a costume party themed on “great women of history” and is mocked for his glamorous aspirations. Written during the social and political tumult of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, Tremblay’s political allegory about the authenticity of self resonates ever more so today.
“Written by a real playwright who can write poetic prose, handle literary technique, and create character.”
—New York Post
Happy Pride 2021 from the Talon team!