Sunday, September 18, 2011

Out-of-Town-Authors: Guy Vanderhaeghe

A Good GUY

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
by: Ariel Gordon

Saskatoon-based writer Guy Vanderhaeghe has published five novels, seven collections of short stories, and two plays.

His first book, Man Descending: Selected Stories won a Governor General's Award in 1982. He repeated the trick with 1996's The Englishman's Boy. His novel The Last Crossing was selected for the 2004 edition of Canada Reads.

Vanderhaeghe has written a new 'Western Epic': A Good Man. He'll be launching it Friday as a part of the Thin Air: Winnipeg International Writers Festival.

He'll do a solo reading at the Millennium Library at 12:15 p.m. before appearing at that night's Mainstage with Clark Blaise, David Homel, Rosemary Nixon, Waubgeshig Rice and Miriam Toews.

1) As a writer (i.e. someone whose artistic practice is predicated on time spent alone) how do you approach performance? What do you get out of it?

Public readings are never easy for me and I always approach them with plenty of trepidation. Since I'm no actor, the best I can do is to try to let the words speak for themselves. What I like best about readings is the opportunity to meet and talk with an audience that loves books. For me, that's the real benefit.

2) What do you want people to know about A Good Man?

A Good Man, like any novel, is almost impossible to summarize. The book is set in roughly the same time period and geography as my earlier historical novels, The Englishman's Boy and The Last Crossing. In part, it deals with the arrival of Sitting Bull in Canada after the Battle of Little Big Horn and his complicated relations with Major James Walsh of the NWMP. But it also covers other events: the establishment of the first Canadian secret service, the invasion of Canada in the 1860s by the Irish Republican Army, and Confederate conspiracies hatched in Toronto to attack the northern states. This may sound like a history lesson, but it's simply the backdrop for a much more intimate story concerning two men, Michael Dunne and Wesley Case, who each have a secret past, and are vying with one another for the attentions of a young widow named Ada Tarr.

3) Will this be your first time in Winnipeg? What have you heard?

I've been a participant in the festival once before in 2002. Thin Air is a great event and Winnipeg has a vibrant writing and arts scene so I'm expecting things to be exciting and lively. I'm grateful to have been invited to take part this year.

4) What are you reading right now? What are you writing right now?

Right now I'm reading Marilynne Robinson's Home, the sequel to Gilead, a novel that I admired. At present I'm writing nothing, simply fiddling with ideas and feeling guilty that I haven't started on something new.

5) Your work has garnered a bristling bouquet of awards and other recognition. What are your goals for your writing career now?

I don't really have any goals for my writing career because I've never been able to think of myself as having a "career." When I started writing, my aim was to become better at my craft and to fashion whatever I was working on with all the care and attention I was capable of bringing to it. I don't feel any differently 30 years later. I don't look beyond what I'm working on and have no expectations beyond those I put on myself.

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer.


Kathleen Wall said...

Thank you for this, Ariel. I'm at Banff in the Leighton Colony writing away madly in the woods, and Vanderhaeghe's words about trying to be a good craftsman are just what I needed.

Ariel Gordon said...

We'll, I've been really enjoying your blog, so we're sort of kind of even...