25th Trillium Award

In Tribute to Public Libraries, with Evergreen-Award Nominee Terry Fallis

Share |

The Evergreen? Award, a division of the Ontario Library Association's (OLA) Forest of ReadingĀ® program, is presented to outstanding books in Canadian fiction and non-fiction. Adult library patrons choose the winners from nominees selected by a committee of librarians.

It would be hard to find a writer who hasn't logged a good number of hours in the local library. Whether remembered as childhood havens or appreciated as the quiet workspace in a busy life, libraries still resonate in the hearts and imaginations of writers. Today 2013 Evergreen? Award nominee and CBC Canada Reads winner Terry Fallis, author of Up and Down (McClelland & Stewart), shares how public libraries have fed his lifelong curiosity about the world around him.

By Terry Fallis

There are two distinct phases to my library life. Let?s call Phase 1, for lack of a better name (although there are probably several better names, I just couldn?t find one) ?Exercising my Curiosity Gene as a Kid.? Phase 2 has been a more recent development and could be filed under the name ?Exploring Canada One Library at a Time.? Both have been important to me. In fact, without Phase 1, I suspect Phase 2 might never have happened.

Growing up, I seemed to have been blessed with more than my fair share of curiosity. It seemed that every other week, I was immersed in a fascinating new topic, well, fascinating to me. It would last for a while. I?d read everything I could get my hands on, and then, almost as suddenly, it would be overtaken by something else. My family dubbed my flighty and fleeting obsessions as my ?kicks.? As in, ?What kick is consuming Terry this week?? The list is long: the internal combustion engine, gliders, hang-gliders, rockets, space, planes, helicopters, boxing (that didn?t end well), medicine, go-karts, kites, auto-racing, private investigators, hockey, Sherlock Holmes, baseball, hovercrafts, badminton, politics, engineering, inventions? how much time do you have? I can go on all day.

Each time I was seized with a new interest, I?d sprint to Leaside Library on McRae Dr. here in Toronto, just a block from Bessborough Public School, and plunder the shelves. Then I?d immerse myself in a new world, equipping me to be annoying to my family for a week or so until another bright, shiny object captured my imagination. This routine played itself out for all of my childhood.

Surely I?ve now outgrown this frenetic flitting from topic to topic. Not so much. I now direct that curiosity into the novels I write, the books I read, the TV shows I watch and the interests I pursue. Without that curiosity and the drive that usually accompanies it, no novels would have been written.

But there remains another constant in my life: the public library. Since my first novel hit bookstores in 2008, I?ve visited dozens and dozens of libraries across the country. It?s been a gift. I?ve read in Carnegie Libraries that are more than a century old, and glass-faced wonders of modern architecture, and have enjoyed every one. I?ve even read twice in my old home public library in Leaside, now beautifully rebuilt. Scanning my list of readings over the last five years, I?ve read in libraries in every region of Ontario, some of them more than once. I?ve done library readings in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and even in Yukon (in June). I consider myself very fortunate to have had the chance to visit so many libraries across the country. May Phase 2 continue.

Whenever I?m in a library, I always look around at the people perusing the shelves. Some move with purpose, with a mission. Others are just grazing. I can almost always find facsimiles of my younger self, hunched over books, absorbing facts, scanning figures and poring over diagrams on the latest ?wildly fascinating? topic in their lives. I remember that feeling well. I still get it. Here?s hoping we?ll always have libraries so that such flashes of interest can be indulged and nurtured as they were for me back at Leaside Library some forty years ago.

Terry Fallis is the author of The Best Laid Plans, winner of the 2008 Leacock Medal for Humour, and the 2011 CBC Canada Reads crown as the ?essential Canadian novel of the decade.? It is now in development by CBC Television as a six-part miniseries, and by Touchstone Theatre as a stage musical. The sequel, The High Road, published in 2010, was a finalist for the 2011 Leacock Medal. His third novel, Up and Down, hit bookstores in September 2012, debuted on the Globe and Mail bestsellers list, and was a finalist for the 2013 Leacock Medal. All three of his novels are published by McClelland & Stewart. In June of 2013, the Canadian Booksellers Association presented Terry Fallis with the Libris Award as Author of the Year. M&S will publish his fourth novel, No Relation, in May, 2014.

He blogs at www.terryfallis.com and his twitter handle is @TerryFallis.

For more information about The Little Shadows please visit the Random House Canada website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at the publisher, Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Advanced Search