Well, first of all, my apologies for getting this posted so late in the day! I was home sick this week, only for a day, but it has jumbled up my sense of the week entirely -- until I got home today I was certain it was Thursday. In any case, we will still have lots of time to discuss our book this week. Whether you have begun reading, or if you've only read blurbs & our interview so far and still have something to say, join in!
Here are a few questions to get you thinking. I'll add my thoughts on each of them and please chime in -- also feel free to add questions or comments that you are thinking of yourself which haven't been touched on in my questions or commentary.
Dance, Gladys, Dance won a humour award in Canada, and as the author has said, a light touch goes a long way. Did you appreciate the way the serious themes were interwoven with the humour?
I found the mix of sarcasm, situational humour and flippancy really charming. It seems like it's a style of storytelling which reflects Stocks' prairie background -- and my own. Since I grew up in Saskatchewan, I feel like I recognize this particular way of talking and relating to the world around you. It's nice when something dark can be lightened with wit, even while the seriousness of it isn't being negated. I admit I was a little surprised when it won the Leacock Humour Award, as it isn't a book that made me laugh uproariously with slapstick shenanigans. I'm glad this drier sense of humour was recognized.
Do you have a favourite character yet, or one who particularly appeals? Why?
I do like Frieda, though I also find her aimlessness a bit trying at times. Honestly I really love Gladys - the way she just expects Frieda to listen whenever she shows up, her unsentimental recitation of her past, her complex history. And Mr. Hausselman is a lovely creation; a funny, gentle, caring old soul with patience for Frieda's struggles. Although I also really enjoyed Miss Kesstle -- the neighbour with unexpected care for strays, both human and feline. And great crocheting prowess. Okay, so I really enjoyed most everyone here.
The book focuses on art and creativity as a life force, no matter what kind of art one practices. Do you feel the necessity for creativity in this way? How do you most often express this feeling?
Obviously since this is a sewing blog, I find sewing one of my major creative outlets. I love the process of shopping for fabric, selecting the right fabric for a pattern, sorting through my patterns to match them up -- even if I never make those ideal things! And that's before even getting to the actual sewing, which I find relaxing and fulfilling as a physical activity. I also love hand embroidery, which feels less planned and more free form to me, like drawing with thread. I don't worry as much about final products when it comes to embroidery -- I experiment more with unfinished pieces.
I also love getting to know other creative people who practice different forms of artistic creation. From knitters to quilters to those who paint or photograph or build, there is a certain outlook that we all seem to share when we get talking about our habit of making things.
Stocks really investigates the role of relationships, whether romantic, familial or friendships. What do you think is the role of family or friendship ties in building a life?
I felt that this depiction of tenuous relationships was very believable -- that family is where you make it. So many of these characters are coming from fractured families, where the sentimental ideas of unconditional love are clearly untrue (especially in Girl's case). Even the warm and relatable characters like Mr. Hausselman still have family problems. Gladys, of course, had a very troubled family life, but unlike our modern characters who can band together in a "family of choice" she was alone, without support. I think choosing to live in relation to others, despite the inherent difficulties, is one of the things that illuminates this book and the growth of all the characters.
Did you find that the approach to some of the heavier themes, like women's autonomy and the right to determine one's own route in life, worked within the narrative?
Considering our political climate today, the focus on women's lives and the struggles we've faced over the century felt powerful and timely. I think that the way Stocks folded these ideas into the story with so many different lives was really successful -- we see the idea of living as one's true self from many perspectives: Gladys, Frieda, Ginny, Girl, even Miss Kesstle's choices are important. I like how it shows that one direction is not the "right" one, but that the freedom to make one's own choices and determine one's path is the important thing.
The writing style is so light and quirky that it carries the storyline forward quickly, even as some of the lines jump out at a reader and make us pause. Do you have a favourite line or quote to share?
I did copy a few quotes out into my commonplace book, things which resonated with me. An example:
You have to find the courage to live as you need to. There will always be those who want you to be ordinary, those who expect you to settle down. Your body can settle, but you have to let your mind soar, you have to hold onto the courage of your artistic convictions.