Leonard Co­hen mu­sic a suit­able sound­track

The Southern Gazette - - EDITOR’S VIEWPOINT - HAROLDWALT­ERS Book Re­Marks Harold Wal­ters lives Hap­pily Ever Af­ter in Dunville, in the only Cana­dian prov­ince with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at ‘gh­wal­[email protected]’.

Folks have come to ex­pect the an­nual ap­pear­ance of a Cuf­fer An­thol­ogy. Now Vol­ume V (Kil­lick Press) ex­ists, chock-a-block with jim­dandy sto­ries.

While I read the collection, how­ever, three un­ex­pected things hap­pened – I felt old; I heard Mammy’s voice ask­ing a 40-year-old ques­tion; I heard The Best of Leonard Co­hen play­ing as if a sound­track in my nog­gin.

I felt old, the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of Fa­ther Wil­liam who, in a poem in Alice’s Ad­ven­tures in Won­der­land, a youth mocks for be­ing … well, old: “You are old as I men­tioned be­fore and you have grown most un­com­monly fat.”

That guy needs to be – as Fa­ther Wil­liam threat­ens – kicked down­stairs. I felt old. I am old. Wanda Nolan, whose story ‘Nancy Drew’ is the first place win­ner, at­tended high school in the same school where, for a hun­dred years in a pre­vi­ous life, I was a pedan­tic ol’ English teacher. In this life, the in­side of my nog­gin prob­a­bly looks like the guts of an Aero choco­late bar – mostly air holes. Could be Wanda was in one of my classes. When I read Wanda’s gem of a story I felt as old as Nancy Drew’s mother, or buddy Buck­ley’s goat.

For frig sake, half the writ­ers in Cuf­fer V are decades younger than I am. I’d like to kick them down­stairs. Mammy’s ques­tion­ing voice? Long ago when there was still the un­savoury pos­si­bil­ity of tread­ing up to your an­kles in di­nosaur whoop­sie, when I dreamed cal­low dreams of be­ing fa­mous, I had a pen­chant for scrib­bling sto­ries that might have bright­ened Edgar Al­lan Poe’s gloomi­est days.

Some of those dreary tales even were pub­lished and Mammy read ev­ery one be­cause … well, be­cause she was de­voted to her dar­ling boy. Al­ways, when fin­ished read­ing though she’d won­der, “Harry, my love, can’t you write a story with a happy end­ing?”

So, for Mammy, I scrib­bled a story called – Sur­prise! – ‘A Happy End­ing’ and it found its way into the pages of a long de­funct mag­a­zine called New­found­land Sto­ries and Bal­lads.

Cuf­fer V left me feel­ing old and ex­pect­ing to soon to be as de­funct as my happy story. Not that they should, but most of the sto­ries in Cuf­fer V don’t have happy end­ings.

B’ys, while Jamie Fitz­patrick’s ‘ Judy McDer­mid’s Gar­den of Faeries’ (Hon­ourable Men­tion) fea­tures fan­ci­ful gnomes and will make you chuckle, lis­ten to its clos­ing line: “We’re all dy­ing, Mrs. McDer­mid.” We’re all dy­ing! Deb­o­rah Whelan’s ‘ Leav­ing’ is painfully top­i­cal, un­for­tu­nately true to life. The mother/nar­ra­tor won­ders about her­self, “What kind of a mother doesn’t know her child wants to die?” Not happy, eh Mammy? Kurt Von­negut, my favourite au­thor dead or alive, gave this ad­vice to novice writ­ers: “Be a sadist. No mat­ter how sweet and in­no­cent your leading char­ac­ters, make aw­ful things hap­pen to them.”

I know bad things – aw­ful things – hap­pen. Sadly, they hap­pen in real life and, there­fore, must hap­pen in sto­ries. No one wants to use pre­cious time read­ing ta­pi­oca. Where’s the fun – where’s the schaden­freude – in that?

Don’t get me wrong. Be­fore you heave rocks, be­lieve me, I en­joyed ev­ery sin­gle story in Cuf­fer V. Truly. I’m just be­ing a cur­mud­geon be­cause … by na­ture I am.

El­iz­a­beth Wright’s ‘ Home’ men­tions a des­ti­na­tion wed­ding in New­found­land. Ex­cel­lent idea. I hope it catches on. Then if some kin kindly in­vites Mis­sus, and – by de­fault, I sup­pose – this con­trary cuss, to their wed­ding I won’t have to jackup and bug­ger off to swel­ter­ing hot trop­i­cal climes.

Dolores Hynes’ ‘Killing With Kind­ness’ is a tick­ling, sar­donic story in which a woman makes away with her abu­sive hus­band by feed­ing him ‘ killer grub’. Mis­ter Man shov­els in his favourites, salt beef and the like, and soon ends up in the bone­yard.

Hold the ponies! Some­thing scary just reg­is­tered in my nog­gin.

Lately, since I balked at an ocean cruise, I’ve been find­ing stacks of cake and cook­ies tailed out around the house.

A line in Frank Barry’s ‘ Smoke Rings’ caused me to guf­faw and nearly choke on a wedge of nine-egg cherry cake. This buddy with­out a cent in his pocket, but crav­ing a cig­a­rette, eyes the cute girl be­hind the counter of a con­ve­nience store and thinks: “I’d marry her grand­mother for a pack of smokes.” Marry her grand­mother! Oh, the Leonard Co­hen sound­track? Leonard’s mu­sic, as you know, can be more than a lit­tle bit dreary but …

... but al­though it is no­tably so, it is al­ways a work of art and a suit­able sound­track for the trea­sure chest of sto­ries in Cuf­fer V.

Thank you for read­ing.

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