Friday, 25 November 2011

Willaim Shakespeare, John Wilkes Booth and Mercy Coles, New York City

Today November 25th, 1864, also a Friday, the Booth brothers below put on a benefit performance for one night only, the first and only time they performed together, to raise money for this statue of William Shakespeare in Central Park New York City. (It was April 14, 1865 when John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln.)

On top of that, less than an hour into the performance Confederates set fire to the city and to the house attached to the theatre. The New York Times called it "one of the most fiendish and inhuman acts known in modern times," Read more here

Less than 2 weeks earlier Mercy Coles and her parents were at the same theatre. Just interesting I think, all the connections of one thing to another.


Julius Caesar at The Winter Garden Theatre, with John Wilkes Bookth, Edwin Booth and Junium Brutus Booth Jr.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

More fact and fiction with Mercy Coles

Image courtesy of Susan Law

It has been really interesting for me to go back and look at Mercy Coles' diary from 1864 and do more research on the event and places at the time - there are so many more connections than those mentioned here yet and I plan on doing more - for example, the Peace Conference in Niagara Falls in July 1864 and the writings of John Wilkes Booth, more on education in Ontario and what developed from the Toronto Normal School ... just the tip of the iceberg in my notes below.

More of my notes from Mercy Coles' diary Nov 1864

And the Lawyers Hall, now Osgoode Hall, from the novel:

Wednesday, November 2nd. Toronto

In the morning Mercy rose, untired. They toured the
city, the delegates and the women shown the sights. The first
stop was the Lawyers Hall where the centre room reached all
the way to the roof and they stood and looked up at a dome
made completely of stained glass. The light from the dome
was filtered and shimmered along the walls and the floor of
mosaic. It made Mercy feel dizzy with her head back, staring
up. Her hair fell over her forehead and into her face and across
her eyes as she knew it would. Her sleepless night and waiting,
the air so still in the room and she was breathless. The room
a fall of water, the coloured light playing over their skin.
Anticipation the whole night through, wanting to see him.

But he wasn’t there.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Giller invite and a food and off beat literary tour of my favourite Toronto places

This is Helen's invite to the Gillers this evening. She won the Grand Prize of a trip for 2 to the Gillers - and nominated my book. I moved from Toronto to Regina 12 years ago - and still have my favourite bakeries and places to go there - so I thought I'd put together a Giller Food and Out and About Tour. Yours to enjoy too!

Greek pastries Akropolis (not sure how late they are open, I’d usually go for lunch or a late afternoon snack.)
Spinach and cheese pies – ‘spanakopita’ and also custard pies dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon – all to die for! Their signs say they sell their phyllo pastry across Canada.
On the Danforth, Pape subway station, exit on the north –east side and walk east 1 – 2 blocks. See here
       After the Greek place you can keep walking east on the Danforth – it has changed from Greek to lots of Ethiopian and Eritrean places. Mosques. And a Turkish place that sells mostly olives, but also had a tray of stuffed grape leaves – the best, honestly, that I’ve ever tasted. As good as the ones my old ESL students made from leaves they’d picked in High Park.
             And if you want to take the subway further east yet – but need to give yourself some time, 30 – 40 minutes maybe – there is the RC Harris Water Filtration Plant – see note below.

The Portuguese Bakery Nova Era is not to miss – great reviews here. Take the bus south from Ossington Station down to Dundas. Walk west 1 – 2 blocks. Nova Era is right there on the north side, windows full of light, corn bread and everything else, pastries to sit and eat there, with ahhh coffee, AND more pastries to take away. You can’t go wrong. See here

Italian restaurant – not tres fancy, but nice, and excellent just family Italian food – they’ve been there 40 yrs I think. My sister and I always used to go and I went in August this past summer – still excellent (even nicer in the summer when you can sit outside, nevertheless, lots of windows and just nice. The Capital Restaurant on 597 College Street at Clinton (either take the subway to Bathurst and the streetcar south to College and walk 8 ish blocks or take the College Street car westbound, from anywhere along College.)  ... And then there are a few gelato places all right there.

Bar Volo is on Yonge Street just north of Wellesley a block ish. The Ont Speaker of the House recommended it! It’s good, a real urban Toronto experience – and their beers on tap change throughout the day. The Speaker likes it b/c they sometimes have ‘Dead Elephant Ale’ from a brewery in St Thomas where he is from and where Jumbo the Elephant was killed in a train crash in 1885. (The food was a bit pricey for what we got – so we’d recommend going for the beer not for dinner.)See here.


Osgoode Hall - Originally called The Lawyers Hall – it’s in Mercy Coles diary and that ceiling of domed glass and mosaic tile floor is still there (tho I remember it seemed a bit difficult to find). A lovely and interesting building inside too. On Queen Street at University (about 3 blocks west of the Eaton Centre) See here

The Ontario Legislature  - Queens Park, is a stunning building. I can’t believe I’d never been in till we toured it for the Hansard Conference. It’s at University and College

Also – maybe the Carlu (I thought for eating ... but see the rest of the note) because Christopher Moore talked of it and it sounded good and fun – and also because a Saskatchewan children’s writer was the originator of the prize they were giving out.See Chris Moore's note on the Carlu and the Bilson Prize.
Ah I see on looking at the website it is for special events only – worth a look at though ... wonder if you can take tours? It’s at Yonge and College. For the Carlu

If you want to go for a walk from there and see some real live foliage you can walk east a good few blocks and get to the green houses – gosh nice and warm and lovely. A real haven. It’s not in the best part of town, go in the daytime, etc.

A bit further away – but if you’re going for the Greek place ... well ...
The R C Harris Water Filtration Plant in the Beaches is something not to be missed either –  Ondaatje used it as a site in In the Skin of a Lion. It’s something else. You have to go way east on the subway (Station ?) and then take the bus south and the streetcar more east. It takes a bit of time – you get to see the Beaches area at the same time though – funky, different, a whole other Toronto down there.
            When taking the subway to Pape for the Greek Akropolis and further east to the Beaches, you’ll pass over the Don Valley – this is the bridge that M Ondaatje also writes about – same book (remember the nun Alice Gull), same guy RC Harris (who wanted to design a “Palace for water”).See here   and here

For Helen's win for To the Edge of the Sea see here
"A must read for Canadians as it features John A. Macdonald and the beginnings of Canada. Anne creates tension from the first page. We almost feel that we have gotten into Mercy Cole's body with the description of the turning of her wrist. The sentences are brush strokes in this painterly, lyrical writing." 

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The Canadian Boat Song by Thomas Moore

Mercy Coles writes of The Canadian Boat Song as she and the Fathers of Confederation and their families travel from Montreal to Ottawa in 1864 - so I included it in my novel - and, of course, no book launch is complete without a singalong. With thanks here to my niece Kate and her grade 5 class.

For more notes on Mercy's travels from her diary I've posted them here at Christopher Moore's History