Thursday, December 15, 2005

Vinyl Cafe Unplugged by Stuart McLean

Stuart McLean is Canada's Garrison Keillor wannabe. He does this show on CBC Radio One, on weekends, that is suspiciously like A Prairie Home Companion, except it's Canadian. He also reads these stories out to the live audience, just like Garrison Keillor. He even reads them in a Garrison Keillor voice. And then he publishes them, just like Garrison Keillor. But I'm assured that he is not in fact Garrison Keillor. Hmm. I've never seen either of them, so I will have to reserve judgement.

ANYway... these stories. They're really quite fun, and I'm often lucky enough to be in the car (the only place I listen to the radio) with the radio on at the right moment to hear one of them in its entirety. And every now and again, I'll notice one of these books in the library and will happily take it home and gobble it up. The stories are touching and funny, and revolve around the lives of a couple from Toronto called Dave and Morley, their two children, and their friends and neighbours. Some of the stories in this collection are merely cute, some don't quite work for me, but then there'll be a gem like "Galway", where Dave tries to toilet train his sister's cat, that had me laughing till tears were running down my face, and "Susan is Serious", where Morley comes to terms with the fact that she and a longtime friend have drifted too far apart to have anything in common. This book also contains a favourite story that McLean repeats fairly often around this time of year, "Christmas Presents", about the year when Morley convinced everyone in the family to do homemade Christmas gifts for one another. Morley decides to make her ten-year-old son a chair that he can keep forever, and signs up for an evening class to help her do so.

She loved going to her chair class. The only thing that spoiled it was that no one else in her family seemed to have embraced the holiday project. She was alone on this Christmas journey.

She asked Stephanie about it one night.

"You don't understand," said Stephanie. "We're different, Mom. You're into the spirit of Christmas. I like the other stuff."

"The other stuff?" asked Morley.

"The shopping," said Stephanie, "the clothes."

"Shopping and clothes?" said Morley.

"And the TV specials," said Stephanie.

Speaking of Christmas, I'd better quit reading all these books and get to work on this spirit of Christmas stuff I'm supposed to be doing.

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