In the Heart of America

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APOL was in Chicago this week, ostensibly on tour, although dispatches received by its grumpy author suggest little actual work was accomplished. APOL is known to be easily distracted, and there is much to distract the ADHD-prone in Chicago. The Midwestern burg is known by many names—the Windy City, Chi-Town, Second City, the City of Big Shoulders among them. Perhaps the most apt of Chicago’s monikers is “the Heart of America,” for the city has long had an outsized creative and cultural influence on the United States and the world at large.

Route 66 begins in Chicago. The Ferris wheel was invented there. Ferris Bueller spent his day off there. The zipper was invented there. Walt Disney was born there. Hugh Hefner started Playboy there. Ebony began there. The deep-dish pizza was invented there. So was the vacuum cleaner, and spray paint, and the Twinkie. The first-ever baton-twirling contest was held there. The world’s first skyscraper was built there, as was the first air-conditioned office building. The first blood bank was created there, and the first mail order business.

As Frank Sinatra liked to croon, “My Kind of Town, Chicago Is.”  (Yoda-like, Frank was.) Interestingly, “My Kind of Town” was nominated for an Academy Award in 1964 for best song. It lost to “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from Mary Poppins, a film produced by, yes, Chicago’s own Walt Disney.

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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APOL Arrives in Port-au-Prince

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APOL was in Haiti this week, ostensibly to explore options for a Creole language edition of A Person of Letters—but it walked away from the deal when its local agent suggested that a “courtesy gift” to a certain official, in unmarked bills in a nondescript briefcase, would ensure a speedy release. Haiti is ranked 161 of 177 countries on Transparency International’s corruption index. It is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and corruption is a national blight.

It is but one of the country’s burdens. Nature has been cruel to Haiti, and humanity unkind. The economy was shattered and tens of thousands of Haitians were killed in a devastating 2010 earthquake that left hundreds of thousands homeless. It has been a huge challenge for the government to house, let alone help, the survivors. In 2013 an effort was made to relocate some of the homeless to Jalousie, a shantytown of cinderblock homes on a mountainside overlooking the wealthy Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville. In an effort to beautify Jalousie, homes were painted in bright rainbow colours. While the initiative created a striking visual impression, and was pleasant to look at from Petionville, it did little to house the homeless. Haiti’s difficult recovery continues, straining the country’s resources and institutions, which were inadequate to address the diverse needs of a growing population before the earthquake…

In the immediate wake of the disaster, help came to Haiti from around the world. The relief effort has been much criticized, and there has been significant corruption associated with it, but tremendous work was performed by countless people, to ameliorate suffering and begin rebuilding a shattered countryand not all of it by on-the-ground relief workers.

One small example among many: Rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars, fronted by Jared Leto, raised $100,000 for Haitian relief via charity auction.

APOL has become intrigued with Thirty Seconds to Mars, after learning that the band’s subsequent tour, which ran from February 2010 to December 2011, holds the Guinness record for longest concert tour by a rock band (309 concerts). APOL immediately set itself the goal of establishing the Guinness record for the longest book tour without an author. (“Knock yourself out,” grumbled APOL’s anthropophobic author.)

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.

Genny of Antigonish

APOL - AntigonishAPOL is touring Nova Scotia’s Northumberland Strait this week, where it had a homecoming of sorts in the town of Antigonish. It is revealed in Poplar Lake, the upcoming prequel to A Person of Letters, that Genny Patersdotter, the heroine and feminist foil for the narrator of both books, hails from Antigonish, and is a graduate of the town’s St. Francis Xavier University. To APOL’s great disappointment, neither the town nor SFX has yet erected a statue to the brassy Patersdotter. (There is a perfect spot for it, too, right in front of town hall…)

Antigonish is home to the storied Coady International Institute, named for Rev. Moses Coady, a founder of the cooperative movement in Canada. (There is a statue to him on the SFX campus…) The town is also home to the oldest continuous Highland games outside of Scotland. Yes, they’ve been tossing the caber in Antigonish since 1863. And speaking of tossing: before the APOL entourage left town it tossed a few back with the locals at the Townhouse Brewpub, where it found the in-house ales and cheerful company most refreshing. A good time was had by all.

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.

APOL meets Don Quixote

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Madrid, the Spanish capital, is a city of cultural treasures. During the country’s golden age it was home to such artistic geniuses as painter Diego Velázquez, playwright Felix Lope de Vega (the Spanish Shakespeare), and writer Miguel de Cervantes.

The latter is of particular interest to APOL, which visited the city this week on the latest of its quixotic tour stops. Cervantes is considered the greatest writer in the Spanish language, and his masterpiece Don Quixote is considered a founding work of Western literature—in effect, the first modern novel.  With the exception of the bible, DQ has been translated into more languages than any other book.

Title character Don Quixote—whose real name is Alonso Quixana—is a country noble who becomes obsessed with chivalry. Indeed, he goes mad, and sets off to roam the countryside as a knight, bringing justice to the world and reviving chivalry in the process, accompanied by his loyal squire, the peasant Sancho Panza. Shenanigans ensue. Don Quixote has been called comic and picaresque, a work of radical nihilism and anarchism, a spoof, a tragicomedy, the best literary work ever written.

“Picaresque,” “spoof,” and “anarchic” are all terms that appeal to APOL (and its author). Thus it can be no surprise that APOL was captured mooning the statues of DQ and Sancho, at the foot of a monument to Cervantes, in the city’s Plaza de España. No charges were laid, and APOL was later seen cavorting in a pool of vino tinto on the Plaza Mayor. Shenanigans ensued.

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.

 

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.

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.