More than forty friends joined Sandy and I for our book launch last night at the Nicholas Hoare bookstore on Front Street East in downtown Toronto. One of the guests, Jim Cullen, told us about the good fortune that smiles upon visitors to Rome who are greeted by thunder and lighting. It was a reassuring tale to hear, given what was going on outside.
Some of food was the same as at the farewell reception described in the book when we said thank you to our many Florentine friends: platters of Genoa salami, Prosciutto di Parma, veggies and dip. The wine was the same, too: Prosecco Villa Sandi, the house wine at Via Roma 3.
Among the attendees were four of the students from Sandy’s class in Florence: Sarah Cullen, Bill Kreznarich, Andrew Waite and Raf Zawistowski, all of them talented artists. One of the instructors in Florence, sculptor David Pellettier, was the first to arrive.
Other honored guests were our son Mark and his wife Andrea who brought along our two grandchildren. Andrea’s parents, Donna and David Whiting, drove in from Erin to celebrate the occasion with us. Our daughter Alison, an art history professor at McMaster University, is on sabbatical in Paris but sent an email saying she was on hand in spirit.
Of those involved in producing the book, present were our agent Linda McKnight, copy editor Pamela Erlichman, and Janet Harron who represented publisher McArthur & Co. Toronto Star columnist David Olive, who was unable to come, sent along for display the flag of Florence from his large collection.
Others celebrants included Michael Benedict, long-time Maclean’s editor, now doing communications consulting; Michael Cooksey, regional sales director, BMO Bank of Montreal; Blanche and Don Cockburn, neighbors who became friends; Paul Crosby and Elizabeth Betsch, also neighbors and friends; Joanne De Laurentiis of the Investment Funds Institute of Canada and her lookalike daughter Julia; artist Mitch Fenton, one of Sandy’s colleagues from the Ontario College of Art and Design; Doug Gibson, who has his own imprint at McClelland and Stewart; Mary and Tom Hockin, who are thinking about their own fantasy in Florence, Tom as an artist, and Mary to study Italian; an old friend from our days in Ottawa, Les Horswill, who is writing his own book; Fraser Kelly, founder of CorpWorld Group; dentist Jim Kiproff, his wife Shirley and their daughter Jaimie; Anne and Allan Fotheringham, the latter freshly returned from covering the Conrad Black trial; Bruce Peer of the Canadian Management Centre, his wife Catherine, and their son David; Dalton Robertson, former executive editor at The Financial Post and Brian Wilks, another author in his own right; Aldo and Nancy Violi, neighbors and friends; Ron Wilkinson, who has worked for the United Nations in Vienna and the Middle East; Priscilla Wright, the youngest Canadian ever to have an international hit record; Louise and Burle Yolles, another pair of former neighbors who became friends; and Peter Zvanitajs, a rising young star at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
With his latest book, Fantasy in Florence, Scrittore Canadese Rod McQueen takes the reader from the now familiar boardrooms of the Canadian establishment to the workrooms of the Florentine artisans. And what a portrait he makes! A city steeped in renaissance values, comes alive in the pursuit of excellence in quality and style, while never forgetting that food need not only be nourishing but palate-pleasing as well. With wife Sandy, an accomplished artist at his side in the role of a living muse, inspiration was never too far away. That’s why the book is not Rod’s alone. Sandy’s art and vivacity permeate the book with Florentine authenticity.