Reading: A Milestone

SMUS-Views-Bob

We are very much a community that reads. I don’t know of another school (although I am sure more than one exists) where student representatives of the Book Club make announcements in assembly every week. I have always been what might be called an “addicted” reader. To me, having an iPad or an iPhone is the perfect accessory: I always have reading material at my fingertips. I subscribe to a number of magazines through the app Next Issue, I have the Kindle App on my devices, and I have several readers (Flipboard, Pulse and Feedly) by means of which I subscribe to numerous magazine feeds, blogs and news services. Now I am never without reading material. In the old, pre-tech days, I would be one of those people sitting in the airport that would look for newspapers discarded under a bench if I was desperate.

In those earlier, analog days, one of my very favorite writers was Mavis Gallant, a Montreal-born Canadian and one of the first Canadian writers to be recognized internationally. She was one of the twentieth century’s most elegant and careful practitioners of the short story. Despite my preference for novels, I do have a corner of my sensibility reserved for the outstanding short story, and in that corner, Mavis Gallant has the most privileged perch. I know I have re-read her collection From the Fifteenth District  several times. She died this past week at the age of 91. (Here are some summaries of her life and work National Post, CBC, Globe and Mail ).

A few years ago I began the process of weeding out my own personal library. I have put a number of books on the literary compost of this process, mainly books I have had since university which I probably hung on to more for their associations with a somewhat rose-coloured time of life rather than because they added anything to the life I was leading at any more recent moment. I didn’t throw out any of Mavis Gallant’s books. I haven’t read any of her stories for a decade, I think, so I will take out one of her collections this weekend and relive the immersion that accompanies a great read. Someone whom I forget once said that forgettable books distract you from your life, whereas exceptional books take you deeper into it. Such is the work of Mavis Gallant. If anyone reading this doesn’t pick up one of her stories, I hope you choose one of your own to share a few moments with.

Post Script:

I reported last week that we would be saying good-bye to Denise Lamarche, whose family was planning a move to Vancouver because of “exciting family reasons.” Now I am pleased to say that for even more exciting family reasons, Denise and her family will be staying here, her children will be continuing in the School, and she will be carrying on in her position as Director of Academics. Denise is excited, and so are the rest of us!

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Bob Snowden
Bob Snowden is Head of School at St. Michaels University School.

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