All posts by Ron Thompson

Batoche

APOL - Batoche 3

APOL appeared in the historic village of Batoche, Saskatchewan, this week to commemorate Louis Riel Day, which honours the nineteenth century Métis leader as well as the contributions of the Métis people to Canada.

Louis Riel has long been a controversial figure, a champion of his people who sought to preserve their rights and homeland, a one-time member of Canada’s parliament who led two rebellions. He is known as the “Father of Manitoba,” yet he was ultimately executed for treason by the Canadian government, an event which shook national unity at the time and reverberates to the present day.

Batoche, on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, was the seat, in 1885, of a provisional government proclaimed by the Métis to negotiate with the federal government. Louis Riel was its president, with the capable plainsman and buffalo hunter Gabriel Dumont its military leader. The provisional government aligned with Cree and Assiniboine First Nations unhappy with the failure of the Canadian government to meet its treaty obligations. After a series of battles and skirmishes with a Canadian force led by a British general, the decisive battle of the North-West Rebellion was fought at Batoche from May 9 to 12, 1885. The federal army was too strong for the forces led by Dumont. Resistance collapsed, and Dumont escaped across the border into the Montana Territory, where he surrendered to the U.S. Cavalry. Riel surrendered to Canadian forces on May 15. He was tried in Regina, found guilty of treason, and executed on November 16, 1885.

Normally, I try to find something light in the week’s APOL tour stop—a joke, a pun, something funny. This week . . . I got nothing. Canada’s history with its indigenous peoples leaves much to be desired. I can say, though, that Poplar Lake, the prequel to A Person of Letters, is set in the west, and touches on the sorry history of Canada’s relationship with its first inhabitants. Reconciliation begins with acknowledgement of past wrongs. I’m trying to do my part.

Note: “APOL” is the anthropomorphic version of my satirical novel A Person of Letters, which has gone on tour without me (with a post-modernist wink and nod to magical realism). Follow APOL’s quixotic world tour here or on my Facebook Author Page, and read about all of APOL’s (mis)adventures in sequence on this tour archive.  For information about the book, go to Martin Scribler Media.

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Sleepless in a Starbucks

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APOL was in Seattle this week, where it witnessed for itself the strange coffee culture that dominates the U.S. Pacific northwest. Strange, that is, to APOL, which is accustomed to juke joints and speakeasies, not coffee houses. Yet the always pushy publicant quickly found a way to connect with Seattleites by presenting itself as a local. “I’m, like, totally on Amazon, you know?” it told chill hipsters at Starbucks.

Seattle is situated on Puget Sound, an inlet of the Salish Sea. The first European explorer to enter the Sound was British navigator George Vancouver, in 1792. The Vancouver expedition literally placed the northwest coast of North America on the map of the world. Many of the places Vancouver first charted—Deception Pass, Hood Canal, Bellingham, Port Townsend—still bear the names he gave them. He named Whidbey Island, the largest and longest island on the U.S. west coast, and Puget Sound itself, after officers who accompanied him on his voyage of discovery.

George Vancouver’s voyage holds a warm place in APOL’s author’s capacious heart. Thompson is said to be working currently on his long-delayed masterwork, an historical novel about Vancouver’s encounter with Spanish explorers just weeks after he departed Puget Sound.

“First,” said APOL when asked about this rumour, “he’s wasting his time. There’s no future in historical fiction. And second, why do you let him use the third person when he talks about himself? You know it’s him that writes these things, right?”

Note: “APOL” is the anthropomorphic version of my satirical novel A Person of Letters, which has gone on tour without me (with a wink and a nod to magical realism). Follow APOL’s quixotic world tour here or on my Facebook Author Page, and read about all of APOL’s (mis)adventures in sequence on this tour archive.  For information about the book, go to Martin Scribler Media.

The Halloween Sweep

APOL - Chicago 8

APOL took a break from touring this week to go trick-or-treating. The witching hour found it in Chicago’s Wicker Park, where founder Charles Wicker is depicted in a life-size statue wearing (in the words of one commentator) “a grim visage, a Lincoln-like stovepipe hat, and a bulky overcoat that makes him look like a Wild West lawman.” The figure also wields an old-fashioned corn broom. Legend has it that Wicker often personally swept his name-sake neighborhood and, on at least one occasion, a local election-day polling place. When asked why, he is said to have replied, “because it was dirty.”

The resemblance of the statue to special counsel Robert Mueller is striking. For those of vile character and guilty disposition (especially regarding elections), this has been a particularly harrowing Halloween season.

Note: “APOL” is the anthropomorphic version of my satirical novel A Person of Letters, which has gone on tour without me (with a wink and a nod to magical realism). Follow APOL’s quixotic world tour here or on my Facebook Author Page, and read about all of APOL’s (mis)adventures in sequence on this tour archive.  For information about the book, go to Martin Scribler Media.

Atlantic Crossing

APOL - Azores, Caldeira das Sete Cidades, Sao Miguel 3

APOL is touring Portugal this week, having drifted across the Atlantic on a banana crate. This unconventional mode of travel seemed to confuse Portuguese border officials, until it was determined that anthropomorphic books are covered by the recent Canada-EU free trade agreement, and can thus enter the country both passport and duty free.

APOL first made landfall on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores. The western half of Sao Miguel is dominated by the Caldeira das Sete Cidades (pictured), a collapsed volcanic cone which contains two crater lakes comprising the Lagoon of the Seven Cities. Legends about the Seven Cities have existed since the eighth century. It is said that refugees from the Moorish invasion sailed from Porto to a distant archipelago known only to sailors. When they reached their destination they destroyed their ships and established seven cities. They were never heard from again. The legend of the Sete Cidades is often linked to the legend of Atlantis, which predates it.

“Look, I appreciate a good story,” APOL opined when asked to comment. “I’m a hundred percent fictional myself.” APOL’s voyage across the Atlantic marked the first solo crossing by an anthropomorphic book. Asked how it felt to set such a record, APOL said it was “absolutely animating.”

Note: “APOL” is the anthropomorphic version of my satirical novel A Person of Letters, which has gone on tour without me (with a wink and a nod to magical realism). Follow APOL’s quixotic world tour here or on my Facebook Author Page, and read about all of APOL’s (mis)adventures in sequence on this tour archive.  For information about the book, go to Martin Scribler Media.

APOL Goes With the Flow

APOL - Moncton 2

This week, the APOL tour landed in Moncton, New Brunswick, the most bilingual place in Canada. While in town APOL made the usual stops in French and English bookstores and several bars then skipped out to visit a famous local attraction, Magnetic Hill, where an optical illusion makes water appear to flow up hill.

It is not the only gravity-defying natural feature in the area. Moncton is situated on the Petitcodiac River (a.k.a. “the Chocolate River” for the brownish tint of its sediment-rich water). The Petitcodiac reverses flow twice daily with the tidal bore from the world’s highest tides, which occur on the Bay of Fundy, thirty kilometres away. Originally, the bore reached heights of two metres at Moncton—which is a lot of water, given that the river is a kilometre wide. It is said to have flooded with great force and speed, the noise audible at some distance. In recent years the magnitude of the bore has been reduced by a causeway, built in the 1960’s.

APOL had intended Fredericton to be its next tour stop, but the lure of a chocolate river proved too strong. And so, like the Petitcodiac, APOL reversed course and rode the outgoing tide into the Bay of Fundy, where it was last seen floating out to sea on a banana crate.

Note: “APOL” is the anthropomorphic version of my satirical novel A Person of Letters, which has gone on tour without me (with a wink and a nod to magical realism). Follow APOL’s quixotic world tour here or on my Facebook Author Page, and read about all of APOL’s (mis)adventures in sequence on this tour archive.  For information about the book, go to Martin Scribler Media.

On the Costa D’APOL

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APOL’s sudden arrival this week on Spain’s Costa del Sol followed a short tour stop in Barcelona, where it found itself at the centre of a political crisis. When angry Catalonians demanded an immediate Catalan translation of A Person of Letters, APOL coolly refused to be drawn on the issue, pointing out that George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia was not translated into either Spanish or Catalan for years after its author’s death; and that its own author had no immediate plans in that regard.

Indeed, the only translation of Homage published during Orwell’s lifetime was in Italian, in 1948. A French translation appeared in 1955, five years after his death.  The first American edition appeared in 1952, fourteen years after its initial publication in Britain.

While APOL was on the Sun Coast, locals debated whether it was delivering a message by lingering, conspicuously, on Nerja’s Balcón de Europa. Always a sphinx, this book, that must be read between the lines.

Note: “APOL” is the anthropomorphic version of my satirical novel A Person of Letters, which has gone on tour without me (with a wink and a nod to magical realism). Follow APOL’s quixotic world tour here or on my Facebook Author Page, and read about all of APOL’s (mis)adventures in sequence on this tour archive.  For information about the book, go to Martin Scribler Media.

The Merlions of Southeast Asia

APOL - Singapore, Kurt Stoll2

APOL returned this week to Asia, landing in Singapore to catch a slow boat to China—which, when you think of it, is the perfect idiom for its extended world tour. Before it sailed (in steerage class), it made appearances at several local sites, including Merlion Park. The park features a 30 foot statue of a merlion, a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish that has become the internationally-recognized symbol and personification of Singapore. “And people think a talking book is weird,” APOL was heard muttering, jealous of the merlion’s success, and miffed at the prospect of steerage.

While in Singapore APOL ran into a long-time friend and tour helper, professional skater Kurt Stoll, who has been on his own highly successful tour of Asia and the Antipodes.

Note: “APOL” is the anthropomorphic version of my satirical novel A Person of Letters, which has gone on tour without me (with a wink and a nod to magical realism). Follow APOL’s quixotic world tour here or on my Facebook Author Page, and read about all of APOL’s (mis)adventures in sequence on this tour archive.  For information about the book, go to Martin Scribler Media.