Ben Nuttall-Smith and his sister Naomi had an idyllic life before the bombs came:
When we heard the birds building nests beneath the eaves, I teased my sister. I told Naomi the birds were coming to our bedroom to peck out her eyes ‘cause she was “sugar and spice and all things nice.” I’d be safe, “Little boys are made of slugs and snails and puppy dogs’ tails.” If my sister cried loud enough, Mommy would spank my bare bottom with the hairbrush.
I got spanked for climbing the apple tree, too. After a spanking and time crying in my room, Mother held me and rocked me until my sobbing subsided. Such moments of love and undivided attention were wonderful, and I looked for them more and more. If pain was the only way to assure undivided love from my mother, then I was willing to make the sacrifice necessary to win her love. At an early age I learned to equate pain with love.
Naomi was born in London. That made her more English than I, born on safari in Tanganyika. Mother said a hyena frightened her while I was being born, so I came into the world laughing. I always got fits of the giggles when being told off, which was most annoying to those doing the scolding. Also, according to Mother, since I was born in Africa, I had to be boiled in a pot for several days just to make me blonde. The fairies delivered Naomi so she was perfect.
Come out to hear Ben read from his book, Discovered in a Scream, on Friday, February 16th, at the Double Header Book Launch. See the event description in EVENTS Picture from commons.wikimedia.org, https://commons.wikimedia.org, commons.wikimedia.org, title “240px-NA-306-NT-3163V.jpg”
The recent Dow Jones fluctuations have very little to do with a legitimate fear of inflation. The stock market panicked largely because CEOs and shareholders fear that they’re losing their upper hand over a workforce that’s cutting increasingly into their record profits. The Fed’s response to that may well be worse for the average American than anything that happens on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange: It may throw workers who are already hurting under the bus in the name of a stopping something — inflation — that’s nowhere to be found. There’s an outsized chance it could even trigger another recession, as more dramatic rate hikes have been known to do in the past.
Do the CA Cops have their hackles raised by even having that question asked? Does it mean that only a person with bona fide genetics, having been raised fully within the culture, is permitted to comment on or write a story about, say, a cult like Bountiful?
Bonny Brooks, writing in Quilette on 30 Jan. 2018, and linked from Pandaemonium, suggests we shake our heads and rethink what is being done being blindly raising the CA flag.
Yes, there should be the occasional slap on the wrist for blatant commercial appropriation of culture, but:
We often call this a ‘cultural appropriation’ panic, but the animus driving it is reaching into the deepest crevices of writers’ private lives and personal histories. I call this the memoirification of literature; the lovechild of a justifiable call for more diverse writers and a social media marketing imperative, this drive to personal confession demands ever more particularised voices prepared to share their particularised testimonies under the banner of literary forms that are not, by definition, supposed to be testimony. And increasingly there are penalties for those who appear not to ‘stay in their lane’ and write endlessly about themselves.
There is no appeasing this impulse. In the last few weeks, I read an article asking who ‘gets’ to write fiction about sexual abuse and another telling writers how they must do so should they dare. The current zeitgeist for biographical vampirism is even pushing journalists reporting on issues of public interest to qualify themselves. As James Bloodworth recently put it, having fielded online jibes for writing a reportage book about low wage labour in Britain while not actually being (or no longer being, in his case) a low-wage labourer: ‘A peculiar thing about our age is that one of the easiest ways to get ahead is to talk endlessly about yourself. If you aren’t prepared to emote publicly about how ‘tough’ things were for you personally, you’re effectively at a disadvantage to those that are.’ Were his critics not sure what journalism is?
For those of us that have memoir-worthy backstories but are more memoir-averse, this trial-by-testimony approach to choosing and marketing literature is alarming. As it happens, I fit within several historically ‘spoken for’ and much written about groups. However I don’t write testimony and I do not own these issues. There isn’t one way to emerge from adversity, so demanding a paint-by-numbers approach to its portrayal is frankly childish, reductive, and philistine. Characters should be three-dimensional beings, not mascots commissioned by committee.
As seen in the Shuswap monthly, Friday AM: Oh Kay! by Lorne Reimer, editor & publisher, www.friam.ca.
Kay McCracken has a regular column and she is active hosting and MCing events in and around Salmon Arm. She will be on Vancouver Island in February, followed by “Kay’s Army”. Here is the article:
Kay McCracken will give a talk/reading on her new book, Beyond the Blue Door: a writer’s journey, at 2 pm, Feb. 14 at the Salmon Arm library branch. The cover art is by Frieda Martin.
“I have such respect for Kay McCracken’s indomitable spirit and unquenchable creativity. In this, her second memoir, her eloquent and brave insights offer life-changing revelations about anxiety, depression, children of alcoholics, care-giving and reconciling with aging parents, hardwon self-awareness and how one good and tough soul hung on to her dream of writing until she became a prolific and beloved poet, performer, journalist and memoirist. As she says best: ‘Life dishes up enough heartache; I’ll grab joy while I can.’ This writer and this book are an inspiration and comfort.” – Caroline Woodward
The reviews are coming in for Kay McCracken’s second book. Her memoir, Beyond the Blue Door: a writer’s journey, is a sequel to A Raven in My Heart: Reflections of a Bookseller. It picks up where Raven left off and even answers a few questions.
According to Kay, “The Blue Door symbolizes anything we want to get beyond: our fears, anxieties, illness, failures and even hopelessness.”
The story deals with her struggles and ultimately, following a dream, and is bound and intertwined with her mother’s journey as well.
The book should be available at local bookstores by February 9 and through Rutherford Press at https://rutherfordpress.ca/kay-mccracken/ and at Amazon, either in paperback or ebook.
Kay has given the All Month its literary creds as our longtime literary columnist. We are also truly proud of her role as co-founder of Word on the Lake, one of BC’s most established writer and readers’ festival.
Come out to Qualicum Beach Civic Centre on February 16th to hear her read from Beyond the Blue Door: a writer’s journey.
When Ben Nuttall-Smith and I stayed at Susan Musgrave’s Copper Beech B&B a few years ago, I was overwhelmed by the breathtaking beauty of the place and even more so by the ceiling-to-wall nick-knacks and art.
Ben took it all in stride, preferring to sit in his room and write.
Perhaps that really peculiar monster head on the wall – it looks for all the world like the head of the Creature From the Lost Lagoon, but is more likely to be a tuna skull? – perhaps it stirred some of Ben’s creativity as he was reworking “Mad God of the Toltecs”.
If you can get away to Masset on Haida Gwaii, that is the place to stay!
Has anyone heard how Stephen is doing?