Black walnut ink—the writer’s medium
August 4 | 2020
Since the pandemic has effectively nixed opportunities for a single indoor book …
August 4 | 2020
Since the pandemic has effectively nixed opportunities for a single indoor book launch in Toronto, I’m hosting instead a series of backyard mini-launches to celebrate my new memoir, The Smallest Objective. At the first of these, my friend Ian, a talented architect, presented me with a bottle of his handcrafted black walnut ink with its own beautifully designed label. Ian extracts the ink from the husks of black walnuts native to Southern Ontario. It’s for use with a dipping pen, not a fountain pen and, like Lysol, is NOT to be ingested.
July 28 | 2020
Pictured here are Rose, my maternal grandmother (right), and her older sister Myra at Dominion Park—a favourite summertime attraction for children on Montreal’s waterfront. The year? Circa 1920. The source? Young Rose’s album of “snapshots.” In my new memoir, The Smallest Objective, I describe some of the park’s attractions: “Myth City, the Crystal Maze, Shoot-the-Chutes, the Laughing Gallery. At the centre of it all stood a 125-foot tower illuminated by seven thousand bulbs and a searchlight that rotated day and night, casting its beam indiscriminately over the surging crowds.”
July 15 | 2020
July 8 | 2020
Like so many young brides in the 1950s, my mother took pride in her role as a housewife. The image shown here is from The Golden Touch of Hospitality by Mary Grosvenor Ellsworth, a handbook belonging to my mother. Although Ellsworth advises young homemakers that “It doesn’t have to be fancy,” the elaborate trays, bowls, and garnishes say otherwise. In my new book, The Smallest Objective, I describe entertaining in genteel circles as the high-wire act that it was. More than anything, my mother feared her guests would “deride her chicken à la King, zippy pineapple salad, and icebox lemon torte.”
June 30 | 2020
In my recent book, The Smallest Objective, a whole chapter is devoted to my paternal grandfather, Dr. Simon Kirsch. A botanist at McGill University in the early 20th century, Simon created his own lantern slides illustrating the cellular composition of plants. Each slide consists of a glass plate imprinted with a positive image. The images on the slides were projected by means of a magic lantern, a wooden box with a flame chamber like this one in the collection of the McCord Museum in Montreal: http://collections.musee-mccord.qc.ca/en/collection/artifacts/M9184.108.40.206-4
June 25 | 2020
Convocation this year has taken shape in new ways—celebrated online or in intimate groups in backyards. In my new book, The Smallest Objective, the McGill convocation in May 1958 is central to the chapter about my aunt Carol, my mother’s only sibling. Here, Carol and her mother, Rose, are shown in the moment after Carol has been awarded her diploma in physiotherapy. The narrator of The Smallest Objective writes, “I have several relics from that day in May, when tents and folding chairs obscured the central playing field of the university, and the wind lifted the hem of my aunt’s graduation gown, exposing her white pencil skirt beneath.” During this pandemic summer, 62 years after Carol’s graduation, the diploma in her hands belongs to me.
June 22 | 2020
I was very fortunate yesterday to be able to share some thoughts about my memoir, The Smallest Objective, with CBC listeners. Many thanks to host Ainslie MacLellan and the entire team at All in a Weekend for this wonderful opportunity.
June 18 | 2020
Please enjoy this week’s coverage in two Montreal newspapers:
June 15 | 2020
In my new memoir, The Smallest Objective, the themes of willed forgetfulness and selective remembering are foremost. Racism, now so much on our minds, entails both of these. In discriminating against others, we “forget” their humanity, their entitlement to equal rights and opportunities, and the suffering they endure. If we remember related history, we are apt to do so selectively, too often eliminating the events that make us ashamed or uncomfortable. The form of racism that afflicts some characters in The Smallest Objective happens to be anti-Semitism, but all forms of discrimination—whether arising from race, colour, gender, or sexual orientation—are to be condemned.
June 11 | 2020
My father was known among his family and friends for “His love of kittens and fledgling birds. His obsessive collecting of seashells,” as detailed in my new book, The Smallest Objective. The shells shown here were both collected and arranged by my father. It’s on a beach in Florida, when he stoops to “claim a whelk of modest proportions,” that one of the most harrowing moments in the book occurs.