Something – Anything – Foreign Award
I could be admitted to the Order of Canada; I could receive the Canada Council for the Arts Literary Award; and I could be featured in a national magazine for my great contributions to Canadian literature.
But if I was mentioned in the back pages of the Sandpoint, Idaho weekly newspaper, this would be the recognition most often cited and celebrated by my family and friends – because- it was not - Canadian.
Certainly, any Top 10 Canadian Writing Awards list would be incomplete without what many consider our country’s highest recognition – recognition from outside our country. Like Groucho Marx declining club membership because the club would have him as a member, Canadians I know sneer at any award or honour that is stained with the lowly and suspicious limitation of being Canadian.
I thus await some foreign award or medal with throbbing ambition. In the interim, I clutch on to a handful of reviews and articles with non-Canadian addresses.
The one that most often makes me smirk with self-importance is a letter from the writer and thinker Arthur C. Clarke, who graciously emailed me and then sent a letter about my book on Creativity and Innovation. Kary Mullis, the Nobel Laureate, once suggested that his autobiography enjoyed its greatest sales boost because of Sir Arthur’s positive comments - so I was anxious to comb through the letter for something similarly quotable. Most of the letter was about his health and our other exchanges.
But I did extract the somewhat relevant following.
“Very Interesting !! ... I was particularly pleased to see Mandelbrot’s contribution.”
Not much. The most valuable part of the letter is probably the late author’s signature.
The other quotable foreign fragment that I pull out regularly is the positive review of my biography of woman aeronautical engineer Elsie MacGill in the American Library Association’s – ACRL Magazine - Choice – considered the premier review instrument for the higher education community in the U.S.
The Review which reached tens of thousands of librarians and professionals in many countries was great and really reflected the essence of the book, concluding with “Recommended ... well worth reading.”
But just to keep my ego inside its Canadian box, it added “despite the author’s occasional purple prose.”
Little did the reviewer know, not only would I, as a Canadian, wallow with delight in any attention from outside my country, I also happen to aspire to the label of purple prose poser. I have become a master of the art form and ended up promoting that particular element of the Choice review beyond all others - at least when it strikes me funny and when I am listing the Top 10 Canadian Writing Awards.Check out Satire of Machivelli's The Prince