Readers connect to books in various ways. Maybe we see a glimpse of our father in a character. Maybe a plotline mirrors the story of our lives a little too closely. Maybe you met that author one time and she was so friendly, you can’t help but want to support her. To answer the next question the panelists had to think about their own connections to their selections.
What is your personal connection to this book?
Dave Sullivan on West Moon: As a first year student at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College (now Grenfell Campus) we began rehearsing a production of This Side of Heaven – a collection of work by Al that was compiled by Ken Livingston. Denise Fergusson, a rather eccentric theatre artist from the mainland was in charge of directing the piece. I read through the script and discovered a monologue by a character named Nish from West Moon. The piece was about how Nish witnessed his neighbour Phonse Flynn attempting to get his water pump working. It was simple. Straight forward. And beautiful. To this day, it is the diamond that lives in West Moon. I begged to have the opportunity to do the piece. And eventually, I got what I wanted. I treated the monologue like a mother treats her child. I nurtured it. Held it close and cared for it. I felt a kinship to the words and the sentiment that is rare in theatre.
One day Al came in to hear a reading from his play. Afterwards he walked up to me and told me he had never heard anyone do the “pump speech” quite like I did. He was extraordinarily complimentary and supportive. For me, it was one of the most influential experiences I’ve had as an actor. One that I will never forget. Al was an incredibly generous and kind-hearted man.
I make an ongoing critical study of Hynes’s work. I interviewed him for The Antignosish Review in 2007 (published 2009 link), and I admire his versatility across disciplines – theatre, film, fiction, songwriting, photography. What drew me then is what draws me now: his risk-taking, and his restless search for honesty, even when he’s fucking up. You can’t create – you can’t be – without fucking up somehow.
My younger daughter is friends with Hynes’s son. The two youngsters are hanging out with each other tonight as I try to finish this essay.
Finally, Joel Hynes is a friend, someone I care about. When I’ve asked for help, he’s never hesitated to give it. He’s also helped me before I even saw that I needed to ask.
Roger Maunder on Inside: I feel that I’ve known the people in this book. I’ve grown up with them, went to school with them, have been friends with them. They also reminded me of similarities of the hard tickets in my first book, Mundy Pond. Myrden certainly could have been the younger version of Randall (bad guy) before he was jailed and put away. He and his buddies all resonated with me. The drinking, the not caring for the people around them, the abuse, that familiarity of character had a hold on me at first but Myrden wasn’t the same, not anymore. He may have been but not anymore.
I was intrigued from the very first sentence, ‘They had made a mistake.’
People are judged all the time by what they look like, where they come from. Unfair? Sometimes. The character of Myrden had me feeling for him throughout the book. I was rooting for him. He’s made mistakes in the past and continues to but he has a hint of goodwill. A conscience. He wants to do well and it does come at a cost, but I do believe that sometimes, everything happens for a reason. Going to jail for all these years helps him learn about the mistakes he has made but going on the Inside helped him realize just what those mistakes were. His grandchild, his daughter and his freedom being the things he holds dear to him. He could lose them all again at the drop of a hat but this time, only if it’s something that he has total control over.
The other characters that he’s involved with make you become one sided with him. There’s the people that are the fly-by-night hangers on, that want a piece of the pie, this includes his wife, and some of his kids, there’s the true friends and family and his long lost love interest, that on a different level or status has been dealing with her love for him but also a tragic end to a love they once had. The story is full with real life lessons that can be compared to everyone’s life, from every social status but in this story, in this hard living, down and trodden, live by the seat of your pants life, it makes you feel lucky to be where you and makes you think that things could be worse. Don’t judge that person for who you think they are. Walk in their boots and see who they really are. Are you just living life or are you to serve a purpose? Myrden does it all.
Angela Antle on Annabel: Wayne’s struggle to piece together his identity is both heart breaking and life affirming. Annabel touched me as a mom and made me hyper aware of the expectations that I may have unwittingly placed on my children and the importance of actively nurturing THEIR dreams.
Jerry Stamp on Galore: Reading Galore is like reading an informal history of any community in Newfoundland. One of the many interesting things about the way Crummey wrote it is that he doesn’t give a date or time until the book is nearly over. At first I found myself wondering what was going on? When was this supposed to be taking place? But soon something about not knowing that became freeing while reading. I was really visualizing the setting and growing with it as the tale moved on. As if the date and time became clearer as the story itself became clearer. But it is all about the community of Paradise Deep. The relationships between her people, especially the Devine and Sellers families. The way the world shaped their lives within the community and the way that the harshness of their lives pushed them into and out of love, as if love was no choice of theirs at all. You feel for the families that are just trying to eke out a living and have to deal with so much. Bad enough they have to fight to survive in the harsh conditions but there is always someone waiting to cut them down too.
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Dave Sullivan is a writer/actor from St. John’s. A graduate of Grenfell Campus, Memorial University’s Theatre Program, Sullivan has performed on stages throughout the island, country and internationally.
Michelle Butler Hallett’s no holds barred attitude toward writing has made her one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s most prolific writers having published four novels in just six years. Buy her books at your local bookstore, Amazon, Chapters, or directly from the publisher, visit her blog and find her on Facebook.
Roger Maunder is a writer, actor, director, and filmmaker living in St. John’s. Learn more about Roger by visiting his website. Buy his novel Mundy Pond at your local bookstore, or from Amazon or Chapters.
Angela is an independent TV and transmedia producer living in St. John’s. She schemes with artists of all sizes and shapes, still buys books and co-chairs the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival – now in it’s 24th year!
Jerry Stamp is an award-winning, impressively tireless musician who’s played with some of Canada’s finest. Buy his music here, and look for him on Twitter, Facebook, and Soundcloud.