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Thursday, May 15, 2003

Moving right along with Deserters. After recovering from the schock of discovering Stackley's diary, Jack has chatted in Korean with Jen Park and then recalled Mr. Kim, who'd taught him Korean at the Presidio back in 1964. Jack eventually flunked out, of course, which meant doing the rest of his hitch in the infantry. (I cut a lot of orders for bright guys like him back in my days at Fort Ord!)

So Jack is dealing again with the attitudes that got him into the army and then into the infantry--he was a mix of self-righteousness and laziness in those days, always ready to find fault with whoever was in charge of him, and always finding excuses for his own failures. Not sure if he realizes that yet, though.

I'm still only about a quarter of the way through this novel, and the time sequence is getting stranger all the time. Well, it's still easier to follow than The Sound and the Fury--this is a tale told by a slightly brighter idiot!

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Interesting to write Stackley's first diary entry, for October 15, 1914, and not really know what he's going to say until he's said it. He turns out to be caught up in the sheer scale of the gathering of forces at Valcartier--despite the ineptitude and confusion all around him, he senses the seriousness of the enterprise and of the men taking part. He's enjoying it, and already coming to admire the men he's responsible for. That admiration will cost him dearly.

However, I can't let Stackley seize control of the story. We'll look at diary entries from time to time, along with his letters, but they'll still be just part of Jack's life.

Don't know how much I'll be able to write tomorrow--a busy day coming up. But even a couple of hundred words every night will add up...

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

It's taken me a week to get through a thousand words on Deserters...but it's been good, solid stuff. Jen Park, the librarian, has just turned up Stackley's war diary, on which he based much of his novel, and where he wrote the thoughts he didn't share with his wife until his return to Canada. I wasn't really expecting something like this, so I'm as grateful to Jen as Jack is.

Once he begins to get into the diary, the story should unfold a bit faster. And Jack also needs to talk to Astrid about Sid's death and Maddy's miserable career. Stackley is now sharing his experience with Jack; can Jack share his experience with anyone, at least before he gets involved with Jen? Well, we'll see.


This blog is also about teaching, and last night I went to the Vancouver Public Library to hear Charles Ungerleider--a former deputy minister of education and longtime professor of education at UBC--read from his new book Failing Our Kids.

To my surprise, the room was big and full. Even Charles seemed suprised at the turnout, which I'd guess was between 150 and 200. He got a warm reception, made some witty remarks, and read well from the book. The question-and-answer session was brisk and intelligent, and when it ended people lined up for copies of his book--close to 50 sold. I got one.

Even though the book describes many of the problems assailing Canadian education these days, I took the event as an encouragement. The provincial government is bringing in several big changes to public education this week, all of them misleadingly presented as "empowering" someone or other. Before the government finally leaves office, the public schools here will be an even worse mess than they are now.

Still, a lot of people don't like what's happening. They don't have many outlets for their concerns, but I don't think they'll just sit and take it. It sure makes me wish I were writing my education column again.

After getting home I did manage to crank out just a couple of hundred words on Deserters. Multi-tasking can go just so far: I'm trying to complete too many projects in too little time, and this morning I've been working on an exam -- it has to be ready for a meeting with some teaching colleagues this afternoon. Well, maybe I'll find some time this afternoon or tonight.

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