High Praise Indeed

Jane Austen on the 10 pound note

Hot on the heels of my earlier post about Jane Austen, I’ve discovered that her picture is going to be on the British 10 pound note in commemoration of the anniversary of her death this year. This was just announced this morning at Winchester Cathedral where she’s buried. Apparently, though, this portrait was not one of her in life, but done some time after her death and is not all that accurate. She’s been made to look much prettier, something you’d do with Photoshop these days. There was only one known portrait of Jane done in her lifetime. It was a sketch by her sister Cassandra and it shows a more mousy looking face, with a pointed chin and bags under her eyes. You can see that here.

The bill is not paper, either, but printed on a plastic polymer. We in Canada have had our money in this material for a couple of years and I can tell you it’s awful. It might be more secure but it’s slippery and doesn’t stay when you fold it. And when you do fold it , it doesn’t want to flatten out very well when you hand it over to pay for something. But I digress…

Jane is only the third women to be on one of the bank notes in the U.K., the other two being ?Florence Nightengale and the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry.  Jane will replace Charles Darwin, the current resident on the “tenner”. The new bill goes into circulation in September.


Sequel for The Handmaid’s Tale?

There was a new audio version of The Handmaid’s Tale released this week, with an extended ending written by Atwood. It’s a special edition on the Audible site, a very good site for audio books. It’s giving rise to rumours that there might be a sequel in the offing. Wishful thinking? Or was that a hint?

There are spoilers in this post regarding the ending of the book and audio version.

I initially read about this in a post here. The author has conglomerated a few other sources including an article in the Guardian, and on from The Loop, a Canadian site. The short of it is that in the current ending, a university professor talks about the downfall of Gilead from a point at least 100 years in the future from the time frame of Theh Handmaid’s Tale (THT) and the discovery of the recorded journal from a woman named Offred which tells her story, the book as it were. The ultimate fate of Offred is not known. The book ends with the professor asking if there are any questions from the audience of the lecture.

The new audio version contains audience questions including one voiced by the author herself in a cameo. These questions/answers provide two clues to a potential sequel, referencing possible new material and documentation that needs further verification before there can be any further information released about Gilead and maybe about Offred as well. The professor tells the audience they hope to be able to present the new material at some point but couldn’t say for sure. Sounds promising, doesn’t it?

The Loop have asked Ms. Atwood about the possibility and she said “I am in consultation with the Professor, but he is being very cagey about this,”  “He evidently doesn’t want to make any promises before he has finished authenticating his new discoveries.”

Hmmm. We know that the book has been hitting the best seller lists again after 30 years due to the upcoming series (I reread it myself) and it’s probably a no-brainer that if the series does very well, they’ll want to do a sequel but fans of THT probably wouldn’t accept one written by just any screenwriter. It would have to come from Atwood herself. Maybe she is going to write a sequel, a book perhaps or maybe she’ll be involved in the sequel though we all know books are better! With the way the political climate seems to be running these days, Gilead wouldn’t be such a far off and unbelievable future and there could be plenty of inspiration for a new novel.

Would you like to see a new novel or do you think it would be selling out, cashing in and all that? Even coming from Ms. Atwood, I’d still worry that it might fall down flat. I think it would have to show us Offred’s fate and show Gilead imploding at some point, perhaps the work of the Mayday rebellion has the ultimate successful effect.

Exciting times.

Meanwhile, it’s just a couple of weeks before the series hits television, April 26 on Hulu in the USA and April 30 on Bravo in Canada.

Project Bookmark creating a CanLit Trail

Installing the Bookmark for No Great Mischief (Alistair MacLeod) at Port Hastings, Cape Breton, NS

Installing the Bookmark for No Great Mischief (Alistair MacLeod) at Port Hastings, Cape Breton, NS

I came across a link to Project Bookmark Canada recently in the Goodreads CanadianContent discussion group. It is a charitable organization that is creating a “trail” of poster sized plaques or markers that contain excerpts from Canadian books or poems. The markers are signboards and are placed on the physical spot where the excerpt from the book actually takes place. The excerpt on the marker will be the one where that location is referenced. There are and will be locations all across Canada. It’s quite a cool idea and anything that promotes Canadian Literature or “CanLit” is a good thing.

Currently, there are 17 across Canada. It means you could, if you wanted, visit the locations and make a point of trying to find them all should you find yourself traveling through the various locations. It’ll be easier if you’re in Ontario, more specifically, souther Ontario because 13 of them are in Ontario locations, most along the lakes from Kingston to the US border by Niagara. That’s a bit disappointing but let’s hope that the future will bring funding for more widespread bookmark markers.

There is one in my province of Nova Scotia at Port Hastings visitor centre, just across the Canso Causeway in Cape Breton Island. This commemorates No Great Mischief by Alistair Macleod” and was put in place in 2015. We’re hoping to go on a road trip there in the fall so I will make sure we stop and have a look and a photo and I might even try to get my hands on a copy of the book from the library! There’s a marker in Vancouver for The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy and that’s another location I’ll be visiting later in the year so it’s going on my list, too!

It’s even more fun if you have actually read the book. I only recognized one book that I’ve read, Garbo Laughs by Elizabeth Hay. It’s marker is in Ottawa. There’s also one in Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland and the only other non-Ontario location is in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They started up in 2007 and erected the first bookmark in 2009 in Toronto, at the Bloor Street Viaduct, referenced in “In the Skin of a Lion” by Michael Ondaatje. The most recent one was just a few months ago in the gardens of Castle Loma, Toronto as depicted in a children’s book, The Cat and the Wizard by Dennis Lee.

They have a form on the website to suggest a location and book and I have thought about one for Halifax, where I live. Halifax is famous for the Halifax Explosion in 1917 and there have been several books written with that theme. One of the earliest is Hugh McLennan’s Barometer Rising. Another book I read recently is Tides of Honour by Geneveive Graham. I would like to find a spot that either of those books mentions specifically and suggest it. I have some research to do! They operate on donations with a lot of volunteers as well.

Their website defines their mission statement as:

Project Bookmark Canada is a one-of-a-kind, Canadian cultural innovation. Though many countries have tangible tributes to literature and writers, no other initiative in the world creates a permanent series of site-specific literary exhibits using text from imagined stories that take place in real locations.

Our vision is to blaze a Canadian literary trail connecting hundreds of Bookmarks in cities, towns and other areas across the country.

Word by word and kilometre by kilometre, Project Bookmark Canada is enhancing reading culture in Canada, strengthening our sense of ourselves, and using literature to link local communities to nation-wide conversations.