Books as portable magic

Last night was the 2016 Speaker’s Book Award, held at the Ontario Legislature, and hosted by Speaker Dave Levac. Begun in 2012, the award honour works by Ontario authors. I was there as the “with” in Darcy McKeough’s memoirs, The Duke of Kent, one of the finalists. Ghosting is a wonderful pastime. First, you have to like the individual with whom you’re collaborating. Second, you have to get inside his head so the book sounds like him. Like acting, being a ghost is not about you, it’s about the character, in this case, McKeough.

The award winner was The Red Kelly Story, by the NHL player and coach who, as was said in the introduction, once enjoyed “a two-year period when he won two Stanley Cups, two elections as a Member of Parliament and fathered two children.” In his acceptance speech, Leonard Patrick “Red” Kelly – who is eighty-nine – was suitably self-deprecating saying that he’d come to wish all the authors well with no thought that he’d win himself. He told how as a boy how he shook Red Horner’s hand at the Simcoe County Fair and didn’t wash that hand for a week, such was his awe over the Maple Leafs defenceman.

Other finalists included Steve Paikin’s book on Bill Davis, Dalton McGuinty’s autobiography (he was described using the words of Tennyson as “wearing the white flower of a blameless life,” a tagline with which not everyone might agree); and Seasons of Hope, the memoirs of James Bartleman, Ontario’s first aboriginal Lieutenant Governor.

The best part of the evening was the presentation by Speaker Levac to the top writers from elementary and secondary schools. All but one were young women. They will be winners in life as well.

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