Tag Archives: book review

Welcome to Queerberta: a review of “Queering the Way”.

Queering the Way: The Loud & Queer Anthology by Darrin Hagen

(Brindle & Glass, 2012; $19.95)

Queering the Way, an anthology of pieces performed as part of and written for the Edmonton-based Loud and Queer (L & Q) Cabaret, showcases Albertan artists that are varied and as controversial as the language used to cue identity. The anthology is edited and in a sense, curated, by Darrin Hagen — a founding member and long time of host L & Q, and knows of that which he speaks we it comes to queer theatre culture in Alberta. He is one of the first self-declared queer artists to debut in a major theatre festival, the Edmonton Fringe Festival, as well as an outspoken artist and activist in the Edmonton scene.

Hagen allows the pieces to not only reflect on the struggles LGBTTQ communities in Alberta have faced, but also the personal stories of those community members. The L & Q has been out in full force since 1991 and in this anthology’s introduction Hagen eloquently, without sparing feeling or impact, describes the genesis of this community driven theatrical outlet. From its humble beginnings of a one-night, eight-act show — giving a home to the many artists who were very much marginalized as “queer” artists, to its present day: a full two-night cabaret celebrating not just pride and equality activism, but also in the progression of artistic expression in Canada.

In the 22 pieces Hagen chose to be part of this anthology, there are representative of the diverse experiences and personalities of the many artists that have graced the L & Q stage. As with all artistic expression, these pieces not only represent a moment or a collection of moments for the artist — they also pull something out of the collective memories and experiences of their respective environments.

Many of the pieces — acutely so in acclaimed Canadian filmmaker and musician Trevor Anderson‘s “The Island,” deals not just with the sexual identity and finding a place in a community but also the collective conscience of the environment that the community exists in. “The Island” directly explores the oft muttered off-handed comment of sending “them” to an island. “A homo utopia,” as Anderson puts it. This theme is echoed in many of the pieces — the other’ing that takes places without thought or consideration by members inside and outside of any given space. In Susan Jeremy‘s “Touring and Scoring: Tales of a Stand-Up Comic” — this other’ing took place within her professional community, but also within herself. “Comics don’t get on TV shows unless they appear straight. That’s what I do on the road: let the guys flirt with me while I fantasize about the girls…”. The search for self-identity, for a reasonable idea of who and what is wanted.

Queering the Way reveals the depth to which queer artists have taken the art forms they have chosen to express and reflect their own reality. In T.L. Cowan‘s poetic monologue, “This is a picture of me,” a new literary exploration emerges. Pushing the boundaries of spoken word, Cowan explores the simple act of growing up. Not excluding the driving force of discovering sexual identity — but merging it and letting it unfold with each new moment of discovery. Another particularly striking inclusion is a written version of Beau Coleman‘s video installation “continental divide.” A difficult piece to translate to paper and ink, yet it unfolds with ease and allows the reader to view each page — in a similar fashion as a viewer would take in each component of an installation.

There are also pieces of great humour throughout this anthology. Rosemary Rowe‘s “Anne and Diana Were TOTALLY DOING IT” leads the reader to titter knowingly as they imagine the beloved hometown heroine’s engaged in passionate lesbian embraces. For anyone who grew up reading the Anne of Green Gables series, this new insight into the “bosom friendship” of Anne and Diana leads the mind to wonder about other childhood hero and heroines. “STANDupHOMO,” Nathan Cuckow‘s fantastic semi-monologue explores what the public perception of what a “gay” man is with wit, grace, darkness but also a great deal of humour.

Throughout this anthology Hagen pulls together the disparate and diverse cultures, perceptions and experiences that have formed queer artistic expression in Alberta for decades. Sadly, there has been few decades where this artistic reflection has been publicly out. The works presented in Queering the Way represent a multitude of works from the past 20 years of the L & Q. As Hagen acknowledges — to narrow down such a body of work is a difficult task, however this anthology well represents the evolution of artistic expression as well as the diverse formats these expressions took.

You can order Queering the Way here.

First published online at rabble.ca, June 15th, 2012.

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Narziss and Goldmund

Herman Hesse

Peter Owen Ltd.: 1959

“We two, my friend, are sun and moon; sea and land. Our destiny is not to become one. It is to behold each other for what we are, each perceiving and honouring it in its opposite; each finding his fulfillment and completion.”

Narziss: pg. 43/44

Herman Hesse is an author who resides in the upper echelon along with Miller, Plato, Wilde, Shelley, and Ferguson. A German native, he began his writing career by selling books and published poetry at the age of twenty-one. Hesse is the author of better-known novels Steppenwolf, and Siddhartha.

Although his novels can be quite dense and overtly philosophical at times, Hesse has a lyrical quality to his writing that allows his complex sentence structure and occasionally unwieldy ideas to wind themselves around a tongue and mind with grace. He consistently proves, throughout all his novels, that with patience comes reward and despite the difficult nature of his work at first glance, once enraptured he can hold the readers attention for hours, days, even weeks.

In Narziss and Goldmund, Hesse unwinds the life on a young man with an unsettled and wry nature. From his youth in a monks ministry, through his education, and during his time as a vagabond traveler, Hesse follows the life of this character through the major historical moments of the time; letting the setting impact his character as much as the character impacts Hesse’s choice of context.

The story is truly more about the relationship between a mentor and a pupil than it is about anything else, but Hesse allows the reader to discover that at their own pace, without forcing understanding or recognition. The discovery, through education and then rebellion, of Goldmund is as much of a discovery by the reader as it is by the character.

Evolutions in understanding, in critical thought, and in spiritual, emotional, and physical need prove the humanness of this character and support the internal philosophical struggle between basic right and wrong.

The story takes place in many spaces, but in Goldmund’s mind, it is always in his place of education. There is always his mentor, Narziss present in a room, there to comfort and guide him. As any true educator would.

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Bibliophile: “Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda”

Cover of Dellaire's "Shake Hands with the Devil"by Lieutenant General Roméo Dellaire, with Major Brent Beardsley

Vintage Canada, 2003

“Could we have prevented the resumption of the civil war and the genocide? The short answer is yes.”

-Page 514, paragraph 2

Shake hands with the Devil was written by LGen. Dellaire nearly five years after he returned from Canada from his United Nations posting in Rwanda. Growing up in a military family with strong personal military aspirations, Dellaire describes his past and his formative experiences constructively and vividly. Reaching out, his personality and integrity envelops readers as they are drawn into the dark and murky world of the United Nation humanitarian efforts in Rwanda and the implicit difficulties within. Writing this biographical account, Dellaire had the assistance of several key people who had been involved in the Rwandan crisis in some capacity, whether on the ground or as an international observer. His personal accounts are from the same pages he wrote on during his time in Rwanda and the experiences retold speak of the harrowing nature of his mission and the horror he was a participant in. While many Canadians can still not find Rwanda on a map, the genocide of the mid to late 90’s is well known though not well understood. Dellaire’s actions and choices made in Rwanda still haunt him to this day and a debate continues to rage on whether or not those military figures that were put on the ground from the UN did all they could. Shake Hands with the Devil is a therapy of sorts for Dellaire, but also for those who stood up and supported him against his detractors when he returned to Canada. The dark side of humanitarian efforts, the human side, is one we often don’t see in the news. While this biographical account is riddled with acronyms and at times bogged with bureaucratic detail, the story is told as the events happened. Bureaucratic detail was what failed the mission, and the reader gets lost in the same feelings of helplessness and inefficiency as Dellaire himself felt. The intimate details of the Rwandan genocide are portrayed in here is a manner that pulls at the heart and the mind. A call for action by individuals is given, and after reading Dellaires accounts of the events, one cannot help but be moved and pulled to a greater humanitarian motive.

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