David Bowie and the Nat Tate Hoax

Bowie + Nat TateAs David Bowie’s fans mourn and remember, here’s the little-known story of his connection with Nat Tate, the greatest artist who never lived: http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a695/nat-tate-art-hoax/

No surprise that Bowie embraced a project in which “something entirely fictitious could experience a life in the world as something wholly credible, real, and true.” Bowie forever toyed with and brilliantly challenged the notions of fame and persona and the nature of art and yes, of existence itself.

The trope of fabricated artist, manufactured fame, has a long and colourful history in literature, dating back to Swift and Pope et al with their creation of Martin Scribler; and it continues (ahem) to the present day.

Photo: Azzara Steve/Corbis

Now Showing at Ben McNally’s

Ben McNally's Books - interiorI’m pleased to report that my novel, A Person of Letters, is now available at Ben McNally Books on Bay Street in Toronto. This is a homecoming of sorts for Person’s narrator, a designer of financial derivatives who once worked on Bay Street. Appropriately, his homecoming coincides with the opening today of The Big Short, an excellent movie adapted from an excellent book about the near collapse of the global economy – primarily because of gonzo financial innovations like the derivatives Person used to think up.

Ben McNally Books is Toronto’s literary hotspot, a booklover’s delight, a bastion of books amid the downtown towers. Go in and browse – you’ll enjoy the experience. (I certainly enjoy seeing APOL on its shelves!)

Many readers of APOL have provided generous feedback on the book (thank you!) and asked how they can help raise its profile. My reply is – tell a friend. That’s the single best thing you can do. There are more things too, if you’re so inclined. Post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, your blog, or elsewhere. Ask for it at your local library. Ask for it at your favourite bookstore. Suggest it to your book club. Follow my Facebook Author Page. Share links. All of these actions, all of your word of mouth efforts, are greatly appreciated!

Merry Christmas to all, and thank you for your support in 2015. All the best in the New Year!

Maurice Strong

Maurice-Strong-Quotes-2It is ironic that Maurice Strong should pass away on the eve of COP21, the Paris climate conference. He was among the most influential of environmentalists, the first head of the UNEP, the Secretary-General of the first UN human environment conference in 1972 and of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. He helped light the candle of environmental awareness and as it guttered over the years, he sheltered it from extinguishment, indeed gave it fuel, never losing hope nor abating in commitment, always seeking sustainable, just solutions. He was, according to John Ralston Saul, a man with “a rare talent for bringing together two opposites – highly original conceptual thinking and highly pragmatic approaches to getting things done.”

Those of you who have read A Person of Letters know that its protagonist becomes obsessed with environmental activism. When, he wonders, are extreme forms of “direct action” justified? APOL is set in the wake of the 2009 Copenhagen conference on climate change, when environmental activists demonstrated, gate-crashed events, and bannered parliaments, and concerned citizens everywhere marched in the street; but none of that was sufficient to affect the ultimate outcome. In 2009 there was no consensus, no leader who dared upset the global status quo–and thus no meaningful accord was achievable. Copenhagen was a failure, and that was enough to gird APOL’s protagonist into his own idiosyncratic form of direct action.

On its own, activism is not enough; it is helpful, necessary even, but not sufficient. What is needed above all is a genuine and widespread commitment to change. Activists can point the way but we need our leaders to lead, and we need to hold them accountable for what they do (or do not do). And ahead of that we need pathfinders, bridge builders, catalysts, never-give-up facilitators and entrepreneurs like Maurice Strong, people of vision and goodwill with an abidingly respectful and humanist worldview.

Kofi Anan once lauded Strong’s “unwavering commitment to the environment, multilateralism and peaceful resolution of conflicts.” There can be no higher accolade for anyone on the international stage.

Image: rugasavy.com

A Person of Letters, Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Bike trimOver the last several weeks I’ve been personally delivering signed copies of A Person of Letters to people all over Toronto. Usually I do this on my bike. It’s a great form of exercise, and if I wasn’t delivering (and visiting along the way) I’d be cycling anyway on my favourite route through High Park and along Lake Ontario to the mouth of the Mimico and back.

A number of people farther afield have asked how they might get a signed copy of the book.  It’s fantastic to have a personal connection with readers, wherever they may be – but I can’t cycle to Calgary or Victoria. It’s getting cold even going as far as Mimico. In a month or so I’ll need to park the bike for winter.

Today I’m pleased to let you know I’ve worked out a way, via PayPal, to get a personalized copy to those who’d like one, wherever they may be.  The details of the process (it’s very simple) are posted on publisher Martin Scribler Media‘s website on this link.  I particularly like this solution because it provides readers with a secure purchase option via PayPal.  This is important to me, so I understand how important it is to others.

Locally, I’ll still be delivering personally. It’s not yet time to park the bike – although I’ll wait till the remnants of Hurricane Patricia pass the city before I venture out again!