Almost there

A few posts back, I mentioned that my book (This Hidden Thing) had been nominated for a couple of this year’s Manitoba Book Awards, and even more recently suggested that very soon, when the excitement of the shortlists and gala was over, we’d all be able to slip back to our quiet desks or reading chairs. Well, let me conclude this matter, since I brought it up, by saying I’m almost there, almost solid again after the emotional pudding I turned into for a couple of days, but still very happy and more grateful (in so many directions) than I can possibly express. Of the categories I was nominated in, David Bergen won the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction and I took home the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award. If you’re interested in news of the event, photos, or the jurors’ comments on the book, all of it is at the THT page or Events.  Off to my cozy corner now, where I’m reading last year’s Pulitzer winner, Tinkers, by Paul Harding, a slow and evocative book about an old man returning to his childhood, via memory, in the days before he dies.

Where’s the author?

One evening last month, the pastor and I were special guests at our church’s weekly club for neighbourhood kids. It was “I Love to Read Month” and we were invited to read stories to the kids – he because he’s a pastor who loves to read, and I because I’m a writer who loves to read.

Wandering around the church basement and observing the kids at play before the evening opened, I overheard one little fellow, maybe 6 or 7 years old, impatiently asking a leader, “Where’s the author?” He wanted to play outside, but not yet. “Where’s the author?” he repeated.

Hmm, I thought, sounds like they built this visit up a bit, but what in the world is this boy imagining when he hears the word “author”? How I wished I had something Inspector Gadget-y about me, maybe pens that shot out of my fingers or a miniature printing press I could pull from my sleeves! Yes, I wanted to make “author” seem more impressive than the ordinary, grandma figure I would surely seem to him instead. Continue reading

The tiny bread, the tiny cup

I might have mentioned, I suppose, in the previous post on Take This Bread, that Sara Miles sees communion as a sacrament, while we Anabaptists see it as an ordinance, a memorial with a strong emphasis on the horizontal relationship implied in community. Either way, all’s well and good, I think;  strange how these differences were, at one time in history, so very important, even enough to provoke martyrdom, but seem unimportant now (while we argue about other things).

Which reminds me of a moment in This Hidden Thing. I do hope it won’t seem too indulgent of me to offer one small glimpse…. In this scene the protagonist Maria is elderly (this is decades back) and not so well any more and she’s leaning against her uncle Peter’s “old, spongy sofa,” waiting for him to make coffee, and since she’s brought him some homemade bread, she’s thinking about that, and it’s reminded her of communion they had on Sunday, the “tiny square of bread, the tiny cup” and “the humility that filled the sanctuary, everyone quietly accepting their share…”

The portions were entirely too small for the spiritual hunger and thirst of her old age, she sometimes thought, tastes so brief they were scarcely comprehended, but once inside her mouth they seemed to swell in their indefinable way; then they were enough. Once she’d thought, well, no wonder, it was his body and blood after all. She’d pushed the heretical notion away, remembering that for Mennonites there was nothing literal in those words; symbols didn’t abandon their ordinary substance on account of a presiding minister’s words; that was one of the things the Reformation squabbled over, wasn’t it, and weren’t the Catholics damned, to a soul?

“Well,” she thinks immediately, “I don’t know.”

Maria loved the convenience of “I don’t know,” the prerogative the church had given women: silence, no theological finesse or bold statements required. It made them lazy perhaps, but maybe not. She, at least, felt she could rest in the truth and squalor she’d cobbled together from what she’d heard and read and imagined. She could always say, as Mary must have, sitting at Jesus’ feet, I don’t know, my Lord, what do you mean?….

…But here it was again. Pasty bread: flesh. The onslaught of juice in her mouth: a taste of blood. Hadn’t he said, Eat me, drink me?…. [S]he liked the subversion of believing it, exactly that way….

I’m resonating with Maria here, letting the bread be what it is, whether sacrament or memorial…. (And if it seems odd that I’d resonate with a character I’ve created, instead of the other way around, maybe I’ll have to weigh in on that relationship some time. In another post!)