Michael Crummey to read tonight! 6 November at 7:30 pm
This review by IFOA Parry Sound committee member Alan Stein.
The International Festival of Authors returns to Parry Sound this fall for the 7th year. In 2008 the touring program of the IFOA was an experiment, now it is an event that readers eagerly look forward to attending each year.
This fall, on Thursday 6 November at 7:30 pm, we will present readings by Michael Crummey, Craig Davidson (writing as Nick Cutter), Catherine Graham and Helen Humphreys.
Michael Crummey will read from his most recent novel Sweetland, published early this fall and nominated for the 2014 Governor General’s Award for Fiction.
Michael Crummey has the rare talent of being able to capture the true spirit of a place and its people. In Sweetland it is the people and the landscape of an outport village on a remote island off the coast of Newfoundland.
Last fall I was in Newfoundland to meet with Michael Crummey about a project we were to do together. Travelling around the Avalon Peninsula I sketched in locations that related to poetry I would print and illustrate in the coming winter.
After reading Sweetland I can say Michael is not only able to capture the true flavour of a small Newfoundland outport, but also the relationships between the people who live there, and their relationship to their surroundings. Michael has the ability to listen and to write dialogue that is true to life. We learn about the precarious lives of those who live in the outport – their relationship with nature, the sea, the bare rock and the wind and weather, and the challenge just to survive against those elements.
Moses Sweetland is faced with the choice of leaving his outport community when the government offers $100,000 to each family to relocate, or to stay whatever the consequences. We come to understand and sympathize with the sense of loss he feels for his home and a way of life he cherishes. Moses doesn’t want any change, he certainly doesn’t want the money. All he wants is what he already has. He knows of no other way to live, but there is pressure from the community because everyone must agree to leave or no one gets the buyout. There is tension and division among the families on the island and slowly, through flashbacks, Michael Crummey reveals Sweetland’s own history, and the history and interrelationships between all of his characters in this small community he has created.
Sweetland struggles to survive on his own through the harshness of winter, after the electricity and ferry service has been cut off. In his loneliness, as he thinks back, his memories form the background of the second part of the novel in a dramatic retelling of his life. With Sweetland often delusional near the end of the story we don’t know what is true and what isn’t, and neither does he.
We all love to hear someone tell stories, and when we enter the theatre to hear an author read to us at a literary reading we leave behind our daily lives and are transported into another world - the world of the author’s imagination.
Hearing Michael Crummey read from his work, in his Newfoundland accent, you are transported to the kitchen of an outport village, listening to a storyteller, sitting down and starting on his story, taking you to another time and place with characters you will never forget.
Michael Crummey was born in Buchans, a mining town in the interior of Newfoundland (“as far from the salt water as you can get and still be in Newfoundland”). After spending several years in Ontario, Michael returned to Newfoundland, now dividing his time between St. John’s and the shore of Western Bay where his ancestors once lived. Both a poet and a novelist, Michael Crummey has won many awards for his writing.
It will be a rare privilege to listen to Michael Crummey read from Sweetland at home in Parry Sound on 6 November at the Charles W. Stockey Centre.