Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

Toronto's Bookmark: Michael Ondaatje

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About the Bookmark

On April 23, Toronto became home to a very exciting literary landmark when a plaque baring 500 words from Michael Ondaatje’s stunning novel In the Skin of a Lion (McClelland & Stewart, 1987) was unveiled by the author and Toronto Mayor David Miller at the northeast corner of the Bloor Street Viaduct.

The installation is part of Project Bookmark Canada, a national, charitable organization that marks the places where real and imagined landscapes meet.

Author Michael Ondaatje was very pleased to be the first author featured on a Bookmark: “Doris Lessing writes of how there is a need within us “to colour in the map of the world with the hues and tints of literature.” Though I think one names the places of a city not just for readers, but for all its citizens – and those in the past as well as those in the future. When I first came to Canada, I discovered Montreal and parts of Quebec by reading Hugh Maclennan and Anne Hebert and St Denys Garneau and Leonard Cohen. I discovered the interior of BC when reading Sheila Watson’s The Double Hook. I read Hugh Garner’s Cabbagetown to discover his version of Toronto – it is still powerful and contemporary, and it is honestly thrilling to see it on sale at Home Hardware in Cabbagetown today.”

This was the first Bookmark in a series that has now spread across Ontario, and will soon spread across Canada.

About Toronto

The Prince Edward Viaduct System, more commonly known as the Bloor Street Viaduct, is a truss arch bridge that connects Bloor Street East with Danforth Avenue. The Bookmark, which features the very memorable scene from In the Skin of the Lion where a nun falls from the bridge (still under construction at the time) and is caught by Nicholas Temelcoff (a Macedonian bridge builder who actually worked on the project), is located at the east end of the bridge.

The three-hinged concrete-steel arch bridge was designed by Edmund W. Burke. It cost over two million dollars to build and was completed in 1918. It spans almost 500 metres, crossing the Don Valley Parkway, the Don River, and the Bayview Extension.

The bridge was originally built with two levels – the upper deck designed to accommodate trams, the lower deck to accommodate rail transport. The lower deck was an issue of some controversy at the time of construction, due to the additional costs it posed; however, it would eventually prove a great money saver when the city decided to build the Bloor–Danforth subway.

Sadly, the bridge has been the site of hundreds of suicides. In 1997, the suicide rate reached one person every 22 days, which prompted the construction of a suicide barrier. The “Luminous Veil,” designed by Derek Revington, consists of over 9,000 steel rods, 12.7 centimetres apart and 5 metres high. It was completed in 2003.

Landmark curated by Cailey Cavallin and Lindsey Shaw.

Cailey received her Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature from the University of Ottawa and just completed the Creative Book Publishing Program at Humber College. She loves literature, travel, and history and is therefore thrilled to be a part of this project.

Lindsey received her Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature from the University of Toronto and has recently completed the Creative Book Publishing program at Humber College. She is excited to be part of such an important initiative that promotes literacy and celebrates literature and travel in Ontario.

As the Ontario Read It Here editorial and marketing interns, we are excited to travel across our fine province to promote the stunning works of literature that have come out of the region. It is our goal to draw national and international attention to the amazing, talented authors that this country has produced.

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Toronto's Bookmark: Michael Ondaatje
Toronto's Bookmark: Michael Ondaatje