Read. Watch. Listen. introduces you to the personal side of our faculty, staff and alumni. Participants are asked to answer three simple questions about their reading, viewing and listening habits – what one book or newspaper/magazine article is grabbing your attention; what one movie or television show has caught your eye; and what album/song, podcast or radio show are you lending an ear to.
Education professor Barb MacQuarrie is Director of Western’s Centre for Research & Education on Violence against Women & Children.
Today, she takes a turn on Read. Watch. Listen.
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Some of my reading is guided by Hags – a book club of feminists who have been leaders and trail-blazers in academia, although we also count Joan Barfoot, a legendary local author, amongst our ranks.
In addition to impressive careers in their own areas of specialization, the members of Hags have dedicated their working lives to opening spaces for women and for feminism in the academy. I have tremendous respect for all of them. I was a bit surprised and intimidated when they asked me to join some 10 or 12 years ago, but I feel quite at home with them now.
They are a circle of friends whose accomplishments and insights and company I am happy to return to each month. Or at least those months when I’m not travelling for my own work.
Even when I travel, I try to read along with them. Last month’s selection was The Bear Came Over the Mountain, a short story by Alice Munro. Sarah Polley adapted the story in her directorial debut in the movie, Away From Her. Both pieces are Canadian art at its finest, in my opinion.
In The Bear Came Over the Mountain, originally published in The New Yorker in 1999, Munro manages to foreshadow the #MeToo Movement. Without a whiff of judgement, she presents us with a deeply flawed character, a sort of anti-hero, nevertheless capable of tenderness and maybe even something approaching heroism. Through this imperfect protagonist, she explores how we can lose someone we love deeply, while they are still with us. She explores the challenge of accommodating the stranger that inhabits the body of the person we love, out of a sense of responsibility, but also out of a hope, however slight, that our loved one may still return. More with absence than with an explanation, she shows how this stops us from grieving.
I love Alice Munro for the way she reflects us back to ourselves with an unflinching commitment to the prosaic yet deeply complex moments and series of events that end up being our lives. I would love her writing even if I didn’t recognize the settings and landscapes of her stories, but the fact that I can easily situation myself in the place of her stories feels like a special privilege.
My television viewing is limited, but I follow one Netflix series at a time. The last series I finished was Rake, which focused on the improbable but hilarious adventures of the incorrigible Cleaver Greene, attorney at law.
I just started watching Shameless, a story about a family of six siblings with an absent mother and an alcoholic father. The show deals with poverty and addiction and family dysfunction with a lot of humour, but also with an underlying respect for the resiliency of the characters and the seriousness of the challenges they face.
The last movie I saw was Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice at the Hyland Cinema. I love the Hyland. Although I don’t go as often as I would like to, it is one of London’s cultural gems. The movie reflects back on Linda Ronstadt’s career and we learn lots about her political views and who she is as a person. Like most people my age, I knew her music, or her rock music at least, but I really didn’t know much about her as a person. She was adventurous, fearless really, and so well rounded as a musician. I loved learning about her connections to Mexico and the last scene of the movie where she sings along to a Mexican ballad with her nephew was really moving for me. Parkinson’s disease ended her singing career and has severely limited her activities. I hope that whatever drove her to success will sustain her challenges with the disease.
Until I saw the movie, I didn’t realize that Linda and Emmy Lou Harris were good friends. I’ve listened to Trio, an album they made with Dolly Parton many times. Emmy Lou Harris is one of my favourite singers. I was a country music fan long before country music was cool.
I don’t follow new country much; I prefer the traditionalists. Johnny Cash. Merle Haggard. Kris Kristofferson. Townes Van Zandt. It’s such a male dominated genre, sometimes people are surprised I like it so much. It’s the simplicity and the directness of the storytelling that draws me in.
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