It’s been a while since I last posted, and I’d just like to thank everyone who sent in material for the “Call to Arms” I issued last month.  I’ve included a few pictures of Mr. Alexander, including a cover shot I’ve lifted from the new LWOT Magazine website (about time that they ventured out here onto the world wide web, don’t you think?).  I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen so far on their site, though I must point out that I have a bit of an issue with their revisionist-history version of events, particularly in relation to his resignation from the magazine’s editorial board.  In any case,
According to the LWOT News Feed, Mr. Alexander’s lawsuit temporarily shut down their website.  I’m not sure whether this action was caused directly by Gradey himself, his lawyers, or by an overloaded (and snail-paced) provincial judicial system, but, whatever the case, the folks at LWOT seemed to have solved their legal differences with the presiding judge, and the site is back up and running.    Now, I’d like to share with everyone my reasons for being absent… I was lucky enough, last month, to travel to Salt Lake City, Utah, to see Gradey Alexander speak at the Independent Press Fair atWestminster
College.  I’ve seen him speak on many occasions, but this particular event was special, as it was only his third public appearance since his stroke in February.  Listening to him, it was obvious that his speech was somewhat altered, but I’m proud to report that his spirits have been in no way dampened: he was his usual cantankerous, wonderful self. 

Riffing on a variety of topics, from Philip Roth’s PEN/Faulkner Award, to the supposed “death of the newspaper book section”, to the present sorry state of Canadian Literature.  Always good for a sound-bite, here are some highlights from Mr. Alexander’s address, and from the Q & A session that followed: On Yann Martel’s attempts to “educate” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper:  “A fool’s errand, and I mean that literally.  If there’s a writer on the face of the earth more over-praised and self-satisfied than Martel, I haven’t seen him.” On LWOT Magazine’s move to the Internet:  “…like a dying man combing his hair.” On George Bush:  “I feel…there is no country in the world more tolerant than one that would elect as their leader someone with such an obvious mental disability.  Really, a credit to your dedication to human rights.” 

And, of course, when Mordecai was inevitably brought up, Gradey answered the inquiring student with a question of his own:  “I’m guessing that you’re the type of person who takes great pleasure in discussing your daily bowel movements, aren’t you?”  (That one got a great round of laughter and applause).    It was an altogether wonderful evening, and I suggest that anyone who has the chance should go see him speak (you can take a look at his tour schedule here).  Still eloquent and incisive as ever.   PS.  Keep sending the pictures and scans…all of them will go up soon. LWOTCoverGradeyAlexander 


A Call To Arms!

I’m inviting everyone out there to send in your Gradey Alexander paraphenalia so that we can archive it, and help Mr. Alexander earn his rightful place of honor in the pantheon of Canadian – and World – Literature.   

Anything you might have: photographs of Mr. Alexander, scans of his print articles, book covers; go to your local library and take a picture of one of his books on the shelf.  I myself will be contributing several newsclippings and print articles to the archive, and when have enough evidence of Mr. Alexander’s major contribution to the world of writing, we will hopefully reverse the despicable process that robbed him of noteriety.

If, indeed, a presence online is what is required to validate an artist’s existence, then so be it.  Lets join together and make it happen… 

I recently posted an entry on Wikipedia about Gradey Alexander, as well as one about what I believe to be his most notable work, the novel “The Barnum Kid.”  I returned a few days later to discover, much to my surprise, that it had been nominated for deletion.  By who?  Well, by whoever moderates Wikipedia. 

This, I think, is a glaring example of two very interesting cultural faults.  First, that the Canadian publishing elite hold such power that they are capable, for all intents and purposes, of erasing a renegade writer from the face of the earth.   And second, that our reliance on the Internet for factual information has reached a critical – and ultimately damaging – level. 

Contrary to what the Wiki-geeks seem to think, the Internet is not infallible.   I think it says something particularly significant about the current culture of academia that just because someone doesn’t show up on an Internet search, they are thought not to exist.  Google searches for eponymous Canadian journalist Charles Lynch turn up just as many relevant links, even though the press room at the Canadian Parliament Building is named after him.  Why don’t you try looking up Darren O’Groussny?  He published only one novel, which like most of Mr. Alexander’s work is currently out of print, but which has been taught in high schools throughout the maritimes for years.   There isn’t a single related link.  But visit your local library and you’ll see that, yes, Darren O’Groussny does exist. 

What is particularly upsetting about this whole thing is that the validity of Mr. Alexander’s career is being decided by people who are likely American and completely unfamiliar with the history of Canadian literature, and whose familiarity with doing appropriate and thorough research extends no further than punching someone’s name into a search engine and waiting for the results.

I am ready to take responsibility for all of this, too.  My research wasn’t entirely complete, either.  I am currenlty compiling the articles I used for reference (which the Wiki-geeks have assumed are entirely fictional) and will post them on this website. 

In the end, though, you can’t discredit the life’s work of a man simply by deleting an entry like this.  For me, and the thousands like me, who have been touched and entertained by Mr. Alexander’s work, and who have been lucky enough to meet him and shake his hands, we have no doubts about the validity of his career.

Still, we fight on…

Welcome to Orchards of Stone

Welcome to Orchards of Stone, a blog dedicated to the life and works of Gradey Alexander, one of the most engimatic – and talented – Canadian writers of the century.

I first came across Gradey Alexander’s debut novel “Kensington Market” while I was a student at UBC in the early 1980s.  It was an amazing piece of work, lush and satirical, as few Canadian novels truly are.  I was led to seek out Alexander’s other work, and soon discovered “The Willow Reavers” as well as a collection of short stories entitled “In The Garden”.   As a student of literature writing my thesis on the evolution of long-form Canadian fiction, I was amazed at how influential Alexander’s work had been.  I was even more amazed, however, by how few people, even in the English departments of major Canadian universities, were unfamiliar with his work.

My article, “Lost in Translation,” published in  Queen’s Quarterly in 1989, examined the effects that Alexander’s strong opinions, particularly towards other writers, have had on his career.  His 1986 novel “The Barnum Kid” was seen as a vicious attack on the notoriously nepotistic and exclusive Canadian publishing industry, though many critics failed to see the clever comlpexity of Alexander’s satire.  Afterwards, it seemed that Alexander’s name was essentially erased from the popular canon of Canadian writing. 

His work, though extremely important, is rarely taught in Canadian schools, and his books, all of which are out of print, are difficult to find.  I hope to do my part to correctthat by using this blog to inform people across the world about one of Canada’s greatest living writers.

Stay tuned for much, much more…