November 21, 1996

Rapt reader

Family Day at the McGill Bookstore last Sunday for faculty and staff provided an opportunity to share a little literature. Julie Cumming, a professor in the Faculty of Music, reads to her 16-month-old daughter, Ariadne.

Toast of the town

According to Yvon Rivard (pictured), writing movie scripts has made him a better novelist. "Working on films has taught me how to build a story properly," posits Rivard, a professor in the Department of French Language and Literature and the winner of this year's prestigious Grand prix du livre de Montréal.

After completing his first two novels (including the Governor-General Award-winning Les Silences du corbeau), Rivard began writing screenplays for films such as La Vie fantôme and L'Enfant sur le lac.

"My first two books weren't very conventional and they were difficult to read," says Rivard. "John Gardner, who wrote The Art of Fiction, always advised writers, 'Don't tell me. Show me.' With movies, everything is up on the screen, so a writer has to learn how to show things instead of telling."

Rivard won the Grand prix du livre for Le Milieu du jour. The book earned glowing reviews from Voir, Québec Français and La Presse (which called Rivard a "courageous writer.") The novel tells a story within a story--the book's protagonist is himself a scriptwriter weaving a plot about a love triangle. While the novel chronicles that tale, it also focuses on the writer as he grapples with issues of intimacy and mortality in the wake of his father's death.

Sponsored by the City of Montreal, the Grand prix du livre annually goes to the Montreal writer judged to have written the finest book that year. It carries with it a $10,000 cash prize and previous winners include Michel Tremblay and Gérard Godin. Rivard's departmental colleague François Ricard was also in the running for the prize this year for his acclaimed biography of Gabrielle Roy.

Heavy reading

Comic books aren't just for kids. That's the message McGill's Graphic Cartel wants to get out. The comic book enthusiasts who comprise this student group publish their own decidedly adult-themed comic, Newbies eclectica, twice a year. "The reaction from readers has generally been pretty good," says Newbies publisher Jordan Raphael, a student in cultural studies and mathematics. "But we do hear from readers complaining about all the swearing [in Newbies]."

While some of the stories in Newbies feature odd-ball humour, other tales deal with grim subject matter such as child sexual abuse. Raphael, who works summers at the Seattle-based Comics Journal (sort of the Variety of the comic book industry) says comic books in general appeal to an older, more sophisticated crowd than they once did. Superman and Archie are still around, but so are works such as Maus, Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer-Prize winning account of his parents' experiences during the Holocaust.

"The comic has been progressively getting better," says Raphael. "One of our contributors just landed a job at an animation studio and his Newbies work was in the portfolio he showed them."

The comic is distributed all over campus and in the Nebula and Danger! bookstores. Newbies receives its funding from ads, bake sales and grants from groups such as the Arts Undergraduate Society and the Students' Society of McGill University. Bernie Mireault, a Montreal artist who produces the well regarded Jam comic book, thinks Newbies is a great idea. "I have a lot of respect for what they've done. I wish I'd something like this when I was in college."