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May 23, 2002 Literary Concordians making the news



Nino Ricci, who won the Governor-General’s Award in 1991 for his first novel, Lives of the Saints, when he was fresh out of Concordia’s creative writing program, is turning heads once again.

He has written a novel called Testament
that takes for its subject the historical Jesus of Nazareth. Ricci told Martin Levin of The Globe and Mail Books, that “the idea had been brewing for 20-odd years, back to my childhood obession with the stories of the Bible.

“I was interested in how you define spirituality and what happens when you go back to the source. Also, what role Christianity plays in our own culture, and how serious talk about it is so rare. It seems we are ready to talk openly about the most intimate personal things, but spiritual matters are off-limits in polite company, almost an embarrassment.”

The Toronto Star reported that Ricci got a whopping advance for the book and the subsequent books in the first trilogy: $500,000. It was enough to lure him away from his former publishers, McClelland and Stewart.

Neil Bissoondath
has used his teaching stint at Concordia in the early 1990s as the inspiration for a new novel, his fourth, called Doing the Heart Good (Cormorant Books). In it, a fictional retired Concordia English professor called Alastair Mackenzie faces the tensions of English-French relations in the period leading up to the 1995 referendum. Bissoondath was born in the Caribbean and lived in Toronto before coming to Quebec. Now he is perfectly bilingual, married to a francophone, and living and teaching in Quebec City.

However, his portrayal of an old-school Montreal anglophone is nuanced. Bryan Demchinsky, reviewing the novel in The Gazette, said, “His character is presented in respectful, even affectionate, terms.”

Catherine Kidd
figured in writer/photographer Monique Dykstra’s “Eye on Montreal” feature in the Sunday, May 5, Gazette. Kidd, a writer/performer who graduated from and has taught in the creative writing unit at Concordia, talked about the obsession and discipline of writing.

“It took six years to write my novel Bestial Rooms,” she said. “I didn’t read a single novel during those six years.I didn’t want other fictional voices crossing over and interfering with my work.

“When it’s going well, it feels like something is moving through you. You’re like a secretarial clairvoyant — trying to pay attention, writing everything down.”

Kidd says that if she couldn’t perform her stories, she probably wouldn’t write.

Creative writing instructor Trevor Ferguson, well known as a novelist, is also a playwright.
Long, Long, Short, Long — ring a bell? How about this? Toooot, toooot, toot, toooot. It’s an express train, coming round the track. It’s also the name of a play that opens June 28 at the Monument National in a production by Infinitheatre, directed by Guy Sprung.

Ferguson spent part of his youth working in Canada’s rugged interior, and that period has been the inspiration for much of his work, including the prizewinning novel, The Timekeeper. Ferguson has written eight novels in all, including two thrillers under the pseudonym John Farrow, City of Ice and Ice Lake.

Here is Infinitheatre’s description of Long, Long, Short, Long. “It’s 1967. Five men are living in a bunk car in the wilds of northern B.C. building a railway bridge: young and old, hopeful and desperate, intelligent and simple-minded, ambitious and content, a pan-Canadian combination of race and roots, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, WASP. Their struggle is to discern worth in their lives and in their labour.”

Before that production, Infinitheatre will present The November Company in The Qualities of Zero, a successful play by Jason Richmond, who studied acting at Concordia. In the company are a number of Concordians, including John Mountsteven, Sarah Blumel, Catherine Tassé and retired English professor Harry Hill.

The Qualities of Zero runs June 6-23 and Long, Long, Short, Long runs from June 28 to July 14, both in the du Maurier Theatre of the Monument National on St. Lawrence Blvd. For tickets, call 987-1774.
Catherine Kidd will perform from Bestial Rooms on Friday, May 31, at the Shout at Eternity art event, Bain St. Michel, 5300 St. Dominique St. For more information, call 937-2054.