He Had Stories in the Curls of His Fingers

If the definition of great writing is that it changes the way you look at the world, then Richard Wagamese, who died yesterday, was a great writer.

Back in 2002, another freelancer ran into a scheduling jackpot, so I was asked to copyedit For Joshua: An Ojibway Father Teaches His Son, his moving memoir that addresses themes that run throughout much of his work: the struggle for identity, to reconcile the difference between what you’ve been and what you want to be, to overcome the fear of looking into yourself in order to heal, and to rebuild the bridges that you or someone else has burned.

It was an intensely personal book, written from his particular point of view, but the themes could apply to just about anyone.

We were still editing on paper in those days, and a few of the pages I sent back to Doubleday were tear-stained. Fortunately, the mark-up was in pencil.

A few weeks later the publisher asked me to proofread the pages. I was living in a different, sadder world by then, and his words hit me even harder the second time I read them.

I came away from the project with a new point of view and a greater interest in issues related to Canada’s First Peoples. Though that may not necessarily have been his aim.

“I’m not a native writer,” he told Quill & Quire. “I’m a fucking writer. . . . I don’t want to be compared, I don’t want to be ghettoized, I don’t want to be marginalized. . . . I just want [people] to read my work and go, ‘Wow.’”

Count him successful on that score.

Such Small Hands . . . um, Portions

The Pee-otus was a little late with this week’s review of SNL. Took him till about 5:45 p.m. on Sunday. But you know, he’s a busy man, what with cancelling visits (that, one report suggests, he never planned to make in the first place) to Black history museums on MLK Day and all, so, well, you know.

But the thought does occur that, for someone who hates SNL so much, he seems to keep watching it.

Granted, I can’t overlook the possibility that he doesn’t watch the show at all, but has deduced (correctly) that they’re going to (pun alert!) take the piss out of him, so all he needs to know is that if it’s Sunday, it’s Troll SNL Time.

But assuming he does watch it repeatedly (I mean, he’s into golden showers, so why not a bit of softcore masochism?), I’m reminded of the joke that Woody Allen is reminded of at the beginning of Annie Hall:

Two elderly women are at a Catskills mountain resort, and one of ’em says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.”