Seeing Ourselves as Others See Us

By: J. Patrick Boyer

Photo credit to Silvestri Matteo.

The celebrated “gift to see ourselves as others see us” requires gaining an objective distance to appraise qualities hard to recognize from too close up. It can be sobering, and instructive. In 2017, Canadians are celebrating a century and a-half of Confederation under 1867’s Constitution by focusing overwhelmingly on ourselves, a self-referencing paradigm, a mirror not a window.

That’s why it’s doubly good to have a dose of realism about how others see us.

In my book, Foreign Voices in the House, those “others” offering such a vantage point are the five dozen presidents, prime ministers, monarchs, and transnational leaders who’ve addressed the Canadian House of Commons, from their perspective on this country, over the past hundred years.

These exceptionally diverse leaders, speaking at intervals ever since Rene Viviani of France and Arthur Balfour of Britain began the tradition in 1917, offer a kaleidoscopic view on a country evolving from colonial status to independent nationhood, in a world constantly remaking itself in geopolitical, economic, and technological ways.

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Secrets of the Hospitality Suite

by Antanas Sileika

ifoa

Aspiring writers dream not only of publication, but of standing on the stage at Harbourfront Centre, and then, maybe best of all, sharing drinks with other authors in the Hospitality Suite.

That was part of the dream I wrote about in my memoir, The Barefoot Bingo Caller.

When I returned to Toronto from Paris, where we’d run a literary journal called Paris Voices out of the bookstore (Shakespeare and Company), the International Festival of Authors (IFOA) down at Harbourfront Centre was like a literary Manhattan compared to the grubby literary digs at S.&Co.

High profile writers came through there, the likes of Tobias Wolff and Guy Vanderhaeghe. Anybody could go down to listen to them at the Festival, but every aspiring writer wants to do more than sit in the audience. In my overheated literary imagination, I envisioned a hospitality suite that included a Canadian version of the Algonquin Round Table. Who would be our Dorothy Parker? Can a Canuck even be Dorothy Parker?

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