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Reading: Bernard MacLaverty

index_13Next week Parry Sound Books is presenting an exceptional evening at the Charles W. Stockey Centre. A few months ago I reviewed Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? by Anita Rau Badami who will be reading from her work at the Stockey Centre on Tuesday, October 16. This reading was booked many months ago and readers have been eagerly looking forward to this evening. We are now delighted to announce that another author will also be with us that same evening. Irish-Scottish writer Bernard MacLaverty is best known for his short stories, most recently Matters of Life & Death. As one British reviewer stated, "A new book of stories from Bernard MacLaverty is a cause for celebration, but Matters of Life & Death is more than that, as it is - without question - the finest collection yet from a contemporary master of the form."

Bernard MacLaverty is writer-in-residence at the University of Toronto this fall and has accepted our invitation to come to Parry Sound during his time in Canada.

Born in Ireland in 1942, MacLaverty and his family moved to Scotland in 1975 to escape an increasingly violent Belfast. Scotland and Ireland were once joined by a land bridge, and MacLaverty and his work have fitted well into the Scottish literary scene. MacLaverty taught in Edinburgh for three years before taking up another teaching post on the isolated Isle of Islay, off the west coast of Scotland.

I have just re-read his novel Grace Notes. Published in 1997, it is set in Ireland, Glasgow and on the island of Islay in the Scottish Hebrides. It is the story of a young woman, Katherine McKenna, a musician and composer who at the beginning of the novel has returned to her home in Ireland for her father's funeral. This is the first time she has been home for many years. As she re-visits her past, her history is revealed to the reader. Her childhood, as a cherished only child, is countered by the high expectations of her parents. Katherine remembers her early years away from home studying music and moving away from her parent's beliefs - thinking that they would not accept her new life, she hurts them deeply with her silence.

This is a novel about music and creativity. Musicians and artists who have read it have told me it best captures the creative mind - beyond anything else they have read. It is also about depression - the debilitating effects of the illness and the potential for tragic consequences. It is a novel of a relationship that turns destructive and a friendship that heals. It is about the comfort of the sea and the power of music. There is a marvellous description of the performance of a piece of music composed by Katherine, and the moment of silence that immediately follows the end of the piece before the uproar of applause. We have all felt that at exceptional Festival of the Sound performances in the Charles W. Stockey Centre.

I personally believe that Bernard MacLaverty is one of the finest writers in the world. If I were asked to name the writers whose work I most admire, the names would include Bernard MacLaverty, William Trevor, Ian McEwan, Alistair MacLeod and Joseph Boyden. There are other excellent writers whose work I love to read, but these are the masters. That they also admire each other is clear; when Bernard MacLaverty recommended choosing for a friend Alistair McLeod's collection of stories Island, describing them as "crafted monumental fictions that will remain with you for the rest of your life."

It is truly an exceptional opportunity for Parry Sound readers to listen to and meet this internationally acclaimed writer, when he joins Anita Rau Badami on the stage of the Charles W. Stockey Centre on the evening of Tuesday October 16 at 7:30 p.m.

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