Category Archives: The Magical APOL Book Tour

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

IMG_0066

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.

In the Finger Lakes

This week, as Hillary Clinton visited Toronto on a measly 15-city book tour, APOL made its gazillionth tour appearance, this time in the Finger Lakes region of New York, where it hiked to Taughannock Falls, the tallest single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. The book and its thirsty entourage later repaired to a local vineyard. And then another. Hmm. Literary types.

After a stop at Cornell University to confer with visiting professor John Cleese on the present state of absurdist comedy, APOL did some glad-handing at the nearby Ithaca Farmers Market. The market has been operating continuously since 1973.  APOL, for its part, has been operating nonstop since 2015.

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.

Hucked from the Bess

APOL - Saskatoon 3

This week, APOL was in Saskatoon to deliver a reading at the Bessborough, the city’s grand hotel and “castle on the river.” Before being tossed out by an alert concierge, it was able to get through most of the chapter covering its fictional narrator’s student days, which were spent in an unnamed western city referred to as the “Paris of the Prairies.”

Saskatoon was founded in 1882 as a temperance colony but, well . . . that didn’t work out. The city’s early history is said to have inspired APOL’s author, who drew upon it in his recently completed contemporary novel, Poplar Lake. But you wouldn’t hear that from APOL, which was in the Hub City to sell itself, not the younger sibling it is said to resent passionately.

APOL’s author was known to frequent certain licensed establishments in downtown Saskatoon during his own student days, including the bar at “the Bess.” Thankfully, in those antediluvian times, cameras were not as ubiquitous as they have become in this millennium. There are thus few records of his youthful debauchery extant, and none of the accounts of those days are dependable. Most are told by Thompson himself, and he is a notoriously unreliable narrator.

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.

In Cottage Country

APOL - Que, Parc Tremblant 2

This week APOL’s just sittin’ on the dock of the bay—which is a fine place indeed for a book.

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 Book Cover and 911

APOL - NYC, at WTC
A Person of Letters at 1 World Trade Center (Freedom Tower) in New York

Today, as the anniversary of 911 approaches, I want to put aside the whimsical APOL tour to talk about the cover of A Person of Letters. Person is a satire on writing, creativity, obsession, and love. That encompasses a lot of territory, and while there is humour in the book, there is absolutely nothing funny about 911.  So why are those two not-quite-WTC towers depicted on the cover of the book?

Perhaps it was an over-reach. Those who have read Person know that it is not about 911. It is the life story of its narrator, and yes, he is there, in one of the towers, on September 11. He, like so many others, got out of bed that morning, put on his socks, and went about his business, not suspecting the cataclysm that was to come. He survived, although he is wounded and scarred, both physically and psychologically, by the experience. It changes him, and having cheated death (or so he believes) he changes the course of his life, setting out to write—to become a man of letters.

Back in the early, gleam-in-the-eye days when I began work on Person, I decided to subject an ordinary (if quirky) character to a life-changing ordeal, and imagine how he would react and what he would do. The question was, what kind of ordeal? I didn’t want it to be the subject of the book. I reasoned that by throwing him into the horrific cataclysm that was 911, he would be traumatized and forced to take stock of his life—and as everyone knows what happened that day, I would not have to write about the event itself. My skills were (are) simply not up to that task, and it was what happened afterwards that I wanted to explore: how he responds.

He is certainly deeply affected; he manifests all the symptoms of post-traumatic stress; but in his survivor’s guilt, he refuses to acknowledge his own PTSD. He chooses instead to escape—he writes about anything but the experience that traumatized and nearly killed him. He becomes obsessed, and as his journey unfolds, he veers (possibly—it is left to the reader to decide) into madness. Is the spark external (his experience) or internal (a seed that was always there)? (Or is it pharmaceutical? I left many clues to that possibility.)

I wanted to examine many things in Person: if there is a manic aspect to creativity; the point at which obsession becomes madness; and how somebody’s creation actually becomes “art”—how does it get recognized? To my narrator’s credit, he refuses to be defined by the 911 experience; he is an everyman who takes up a pen, and he wants only to be known on the merit of his oeuvre. But that is not how things work, and ultimately he is defined in terms suggested by others.

911 is a turning point in the character’s life, but A Person of Letters is not about 911, and I know that the picture on its cover confuses some people on that point. In light of that confusion, I might today choose different imagery, but artist Andrew Judd’s iconic image was created to be symbolic, not literal.  What appear to be two towers, one flaming , one inert, are actually books. Person’s protagonist finds relief from his trauma in writing. The two volumes represent his first book, which has come to nothing, and his second, which is stalled. Perhaps the reason is his refusal from the start to confront his trauma straight on. Instead, he produced a muddled, un-publishable nautical epic, an escape, so he thought, but in truth an avoidance; hence the ship on Person’s cover, sailing away from the conflagration at its centre.

For those who question the cover, I accept your perspective. 911 was a cruel tragedy. But inspiration comes from many places, and in many forms. From darkness springs insight, and in this case, dark farce; and hopefully, a modicum of truth.

Note: Information on my novel A Person of Letters is available at Martin Scribler Media. The book’s solo world tour is documented on this tour archive; it owes much to magical realism.

Through the Northwest Passage

 

APOL has this week completed a solo transit of the Northwest Passage, becoming the first book in recorded history to complete the voyage alone—or so it announced at a bookstore in Kugluktuk. “No, I can’t prove I was alone,” it told a skeptical reader, “but I don’t need to prove anything. I’m a novel, see? I’m totally made up.”

The existence of a channel connecting the Atlantic and Pacific across the Arctic, referred to variously as Maldonado’s Passage or the Strait of Anián, was long considered the stuff of myth. The route eluded mariners for centuries. Many sought it, and many died in the process. Harsh cold and extensive sea ice rendered the Arctic’s waters virtually un-navigable.

The passage was finally confirmed to exist in the nineteenth century, and the first, difficult voyage through it was made by Roald Amunsdsen in 1903-06. Still, pack ice prevented its use for most of the year. Only in recent years, with the decline of Arctic sea ice, has the waterway become more navigable, and this has raised its international profile. Various nations consider it an international strait, giving their vessels right of transit, while Canada claims it is a domestic waterway, lying within Canadian territorial limits, and subject to Canadian law.

APOL has discovered evidence supporting Canada’s case, in the form of clear proof of Canadian sovereignty over the Northwest Passage: national icon Tim Hortons is already doing a roaring business in the communities that line its shores. And, oh yes—the Inuit have lived there for a thousand years, although the “double-double” is a relatively recent tradition.

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.

A Tour in Provence

APOL - France, Riviera, St Paul de Vence2

Fresh from a gig in Montréal and thus newly confident in la langue de l’amour, APOL has taken its tour to France, where it repaired immediately to Provence, the French having evacuated Paris for the month of August. Naturally enough, local readers asked about APOL’s long-promised French edition, at which the nattering novel grew bombastic, drawing comparisons with Donald Trump and his Mexican wall. “There will be a French translation,” APOL snapped to reporters, “and the French will pay for it.”

Provence has long been a source of creative inspiration. Cezanne, Picasso, and Matisse all enjoyed productive tenures there, as did Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Somerset Maugham. The region has inspired many literary and popular works, including Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence. Ernest Hemingway’s novel, The Garden of Eden, is largely set in the region.

Hemingway was a giant of twentieth century literature, a war correspondent, big-game hunter, sportsman, adventurer, and lover of women. He lived large, nurturing in his actions and his work his image as virility incarnate, a man’s man. So when The Garden of Eden emerged from his files, twenty-five years after his death, it forced a reassessment of his oeuvre. In it, the man’s man’s character explores androgyny: he swaps roles with the missus. Papa is said to have struggled with Garden for fifteen years. It was an honest work, a head-on exploration, but was he unsatisfied with the manuscript? Uncertain how it would be received, what it would do to his image? Did he even want it to be published?

We will never know what he intended – nor what he wrote, exactly. When Garden appeared in 1986 it was heralded as a new addition to the Hemingway canon and became an instant best-seller. His publishers acknowledged “some cuts in the manuscript.” What the world read was a slim volume of 70,000 words, a fraction of the 200,000 Papa actually wrote. Was it an abuse of an executor’s power, a flaunting of a writer’s wishes? This, and legacy, are themes explored satirically in A Person of Letters.

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.