Dressed in black - black blouse, black pants, black shoes - and standing against the matte black walls of the Carol Shields Auditorium at the Millennium Library, Roo Borson looked like a talking head, literally.
I decided, before she started speaking, that if her talk was in any way dry and uninspired, if she was only going to stand there and ramble like so many professors I've had in the past, then I would go with the talking head angle, and the post would write itself.
But then she started her discussion with the following quote, taken from the epigraph of the essay she was going read:
"Are both your parents still alive?"
"Then you still have two lessons to learn."
It was then that I shimmied up to the edge of my seat. She had me.
For the next forty-five minutes, Roo read from her new book, a collection of essays entitled Personal Histories, periodically stopping to explain and elaborate on what she had finished reading.
For Roo Borson, creativity is grounded in experience, and writing is a response to experience - to the way our experiences echo inside us and throughout our lives. It's as though she logs all the little ways she associates the people she loves with the world around her; little associations we all make without always realizing, such as the faint rumbling sound her father's car made as it pulled up to the house. After our loved ones have died, we begin to miss these little things, and it is this absence that our writing responds to.
She also took a few questions after her reading, teasing André Alexis, who was seated in the crowd, to come up and answer one she wasn't sure how to answer. Her answers, like her reading, where honest and well thought out (and after watching Katie Couric interview Sarah Palin, I almost forgot questions could be answered that way).
Roo's talk was anything but dry and uninspiring. It was personal and engaging. She is far from a talking head. She is a poet, in the best sense of the word.
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Brad Hartle likes books. One day he may try to write one, though nothing is certain. For now, he spends his days in the basement of a big stone building in Downtown Winnipeg and his evenings in a big brick apartment in Crescentwood, where he lives with his wife, two cats, and a scattering of toothpicks, needed because he refuses to see a dentist. He is almost always happy.