Our Hero Disbelieving

Our Hero Disbelieving

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Man in tartan vest invites nonfiction writers to cyber-gathering

Faithful followers of this blog will know that I am reluctant to publish anything that even hints of self-promotion. But with the above quarter-page ad (!) surfacing in today's Globe & Mail, in a good-looking section celebrating the best books of the year, I feel driven to make an exception.  As you can see, thanks to the University of Toronto, starting in January, I will offer a course called The Art of Fact: An Introduction to Writing Nonfiction. It's online, so you can work it into your schedule any time, and get active from any where. The course is all about craft, and telling true stories with panache. You can check it out by clicking here.
At the other end of that link, you will find a brief overview suggesting that the hallmarks of Creative or Narrative Nonfiction are truth and personal presence. The genre includes subjective and objective streams, and encompasses memoir and autobiography. It also takes in biography, history, adventure, travel, true crime, you name it. The writer of nonfiction employs memory, but also imagination, analysis, and research, and adapts literary techniques from fiction, journalism, and the essay. Hope to see you in cyberspace!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Canadian Geographic celebrates the discovery of Franklin's Erebus

The December issue of Canadian Geographic is billed as a "special collector's edition," and rightly so. It is built around the recent discovery of Erebus, the long-lost ship of Sir John Franklin, pictured above on the right. Contributors include John Geiger, Wade Davis, Leona Aglukkaq, Fergus Fleming, Noah Richler, Russell Potter and yours truly. Put it this way: the magazine contains at least a book's worth of reading. To whet your appetite, here is how my own contribution begins . . . 

By Ken McGoogan
The discovery of one of Sir John Franklin’s lost ships reminds us that Canadian history does not exist in a vacuum. It demonstrates that the demise of the 1845 Franklin expedition was far more complex and protracted than we knew. And it vindicates not just the Inuit but also, and equally, the Arctic explorers who charted our northern archipelago while searching for the Royal Navy ships. For Canadians, most of whom live along the American border, the discovery means we have to rewrite a foundational myth that underscores our national identity as a northern people.
Obviously, the story of Franklin and the search he inspired belongs to British history. But that narrative belongs equally to Canadian history, albeit with a different emphasis, if only because so much of it happened in what would later become Canadian territory. Even those chapters that arose elsewhere, because they affected what occurred here, belong to our history
The discovery of the ship demonstrates that the so-called “standard reconstruction” of what happened to the lost expedition has to be radically rewritten. British historians created the original story around the “Victory Point Record,” the only written document ever recovered from the expedition. . . . .
To read the rest, and much else besides, you will have to dash out and buy a copy.  I do mean dash. These puppies will not last long. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Is Mount Royal University ready for this?

This may or may not be a photo of Mount Royal University. Guaranteed: it IS a photo taken within a couple of hundred kilometres of that august institution. The rationale? Our Hero will get out into these hilly environs next March, after spending a week at MRU as writer-in-residence. He just signed a contract, undertaking to give at least one public presentation during that sojourn. More details will surface in the new year. So people have time to gird their loins. But here's why now: we're sitting at 99,876 page views. No big deal in the scheme of things, I know. But it's a minor milestone. And if you've read this far, you've already done your bit to get us to 100,000. So thanks for that. Hope to see you next March. 
Next morning: you did it! Thanks for showing up!

Monday, October 6, 2014

John Rae sweeps Our Hero into the Polish Times

You can read the whole story of John Rae at Westminster Abbey by clicking here -- but only if you read Polish. Me, I can read, in the highlight paragraph, not just my own name but the book title Fatal Passage. I find this noteworthy because we have two grandchildren, ages five and two, who speak excellent Polish (for their ages). Or so I am told. Here you go . . .
We wtorek w Kaplicy św. Jana Ewangelisty w opactwie westminsterskim odsłonięty zostanie kamień upamiętniający Rae. Jako symbol pojednania kamień umieszczono pod wielkim popiersiem Franklina. W uroczystości wezmą udział zarówno potomkowie Rae, jak i Franklina, a także Ken McGoogan, autor książki "Fatal Passage", która przyczyniła się do przywrócenia szkockiemu odkrywcy należnej mu chwały. Wielebny John Hall, opat Westminster, przyznał, że ma nadzieję, że kamień zakończy dysputę. - Cieszymy się na to pojednanie - powiedział. Dodał, że spodziewa się "ożywionych debat" na temat tego, który z podróżników jako pierwszy przepłynął Przejście Północno-Zachodnie. W tej dyskusji opactwo nie opowie się po żadnej ze stron.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Orcadian poet commemorates John Rae's arrival at Westminster

After the dedication ceremony at Westminster Abbey, back at the Scottish office in Dover House,  Orcadian poet Harvey Johnston read a wonderful, Burnsian poem entitled Rae in the Abbey. He graciously agreed to let me publish part of it. The final four stanzas run as follows. I have no photo of Johnston, but the above image of Our Hero captures the spirit of the thing:

Cheust like the Cree and Inuit
He’d grown tae understand
Ye work wi’ watter, wind and wave
Tae live aff sea and land.

Wi’ snowshoes, long strides and a gun
Up North wi’ dog and sledge
He learned the fate o’ Franklin
Bae the cruel Arctic’s edge.

And on he strode tae find the strait
Weel named on maps ye view
The final strait Amundsen sailed
The North West Passage through.

Wan hunder noo, and sixty years
Hiv passed by since that day
High time indeed, that in This Place
We mark the name of Rae.