Good writing allows authors to live on

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Perspectives with Shirley Hallee

I am one of those persons who says, “So many books to read…and so little time.”  Thousands of humans write and have written. There are established classics, and then there are new books of every genre coming out all the time.

Nova Scotians have said goodbye to two wonderful writers in the past month. Alistair MacLeod, considered a master of the short story, passed away on April 20th.

On May 6 Farley Mowat passed away just six days short of his 93rd birthday. Mowat penned 42 books during a writing career that spanned 63 years. 

I only recently discovered Farley Mowat – probably because of my “so many books to read” mentality.  About 6 years ago I picked up Bay of Spirits, A Love Story and read it when I needed to take some relaxation time from my studies related to degree number three.

His writing amazed me. Mowat related his exploration of the coastal area of Newfoundland and told of meeting Claire Wheeler, the woman who would eventually become his wife.  He told of the people of that region, their way of life, and the challenges of navigating the coastline of that province. His words serve as a preservation of a culture that is disappearing.

Preservation of nature and wildlife has been a focus of this talented writer. Much of his writing reflects these concerns. His words tell of very ordinary things and happenings in an extraordinary way. Just as the good painter uses not one brushstroke too many to describe an image, the good writer uses not one word too many.

We have another such writer here in our neck of the woods. Some years ago I picked up a copy of Harry Thurston’s Tidal Life, A Natural History of the Bay of Fundy. While I have read later books by him, I was struck by how Thurston’s descriptions of portions of the Bay of Fundy made it come so alive. I saw those areas with fresh eyes, even though I had observed and even painted many of the places. There is also no doubt as to Thurston’s concern for the environment. That focus is evident in his words.

MacLeod lived a nice length of time, passing at age 77, and Mowat made it within a hair’s breath of 93…we should all be so lucky. Interestingly, Mowat actually had medical issues and turned down surgeries – and still lived a good long life. I suspect the passion these men had for their craft had them placing on foot in front of the other every day of their lives…and kept the fingers pounding on the typewriter or keyboard.


Shirley Hallee’s column appears bi-weekly in the Amherst News.


Organizations: Amherst News

Geographic location: Bay of Spirits, Bay of Fundy, Newfoundland

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