Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Blame it on Glenn Gould

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Spent yesterday “bagging” writing. Didn’t write a word. It was glorious. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love to write, but sometimes, I love not to write. To give it all a rest. The pause between actions. Glenn Gould came to mind when I wrote those words, the pause between actions. The process of writing is like that - the most unexpected connections pop up.

I fell in love with Glenn Gould a few years back. Really in love. Obsessively in love. Stalked him. Bought and read every book I could find about him, even those expensive coffee table books with those beautiful black and white photos, Glenn shoulder-hunched at the keyboard, perched on that signature little ratty-tatty chair that he carried around from performance to performance. Another of him lost in the ecstasy of listening, one hand raised just so.

Glenn, posing in that way of his that didn’t look like posing. Dressed in his winter clothes in summer, and his cap, and his gloved hands, the wool cut off so that his fingers poked through, long before it was fashionable and then unfashionable again to wear gloves in that way. Ever the eccentric, the recluse, living in a hotel, sleeping deep into the day, working deep into the night, creating his lovely and strange radio documentaries, layers of sound and voices and ideas, the Idea of North.

I’m not a musician, don’t understand the intricacies of notes and how they are put together, not even a little bit, but even so, Gould’s playing of Goldberg Variations gets me in the middle of my chest every time. The pauses, how the notes hang there, how the space between the notes hang there. Perfectly placed, almost an aching.

I probably should admit that movie directors use that same passage of Bach that I love so much, but usually in conjunction with a serial killer, some fastidious psychopath. If my memory serves me correctly, Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter listens intently to Goldberg Variations in one of those dreadful sequels to Silence of the Lambs.

Right now, I’m at a weeklong writing retreat at Roches Point near Keswick. I’m supposed to be writing. Not pausing.

Twice a year, a group of women writers rent a very large cottage on Lake Simcoe. In winter, we look out on to a frozen lake that is a busy city, dotted with hundreds of fishing huts. So much unexpected activity, vehicles and skidoos (Glenn would have loved to speed across the frozen expanse), people in bright winter garb, fisherman with their pails, holes cut in the ice, fishing lines dropped. In summer, we look out on a lake that is quieter, although on hot days, motorboats and water-skiers and personal watercraft fly across the surface.

Lake Simcoe is big, and can be dangerous and unpredictable. The weather changes quickly. At this retreat, we’ve mainly had rain and thunderstorms, ideal for writing.

But yesterday, the weather was summer-perfect, the winds 5 km/hr, the sky immense and blue, the lake’s surface barely rippling. Instead of writing, I took out my yellow fibreglass sea kayak and spent the morning paddling. Midday, I set out again, but this time in my smaller crossover kayak, and stayed closer to the shoreline. Hugged the shoreline actually, edged with docks and boathouses, children splashing in the shallows with their parents, teens sunbathing, white-haired ladies sipping drinks and playing cards under the shade of a tree, seagulls standing stick-legged on rocks. So I didn’t write at all yesterday, paused in those sweet spaces between the notes, between the words.

~ Marianne Paul

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Marianne Paul

Marianne Paul's is the author of the novels Dead Girl Diaries (BookLand Press, 2009), Tending Memory (BookLand Press, 2007), Twice in a Blue Moon (BookLand Press, 2007) and The Shunning (Moonstone Press, 1994). Her fiction, non-fiction and poems have appeared in publications such as Vox Feminarum, Cahoots, Canadian Author, Western People and The New Quarterly.

Go to Marianne Paul’s Author Page