Raymond Fraser (March 11, 2014)
Saturday, February 3, 2007
In case you're unable to deduce from the Moulin Rouge in the background, this photo shows The Author In His Paris Period. It was here he wrote among other things a rough draft of In A Cloud Of Dust And Smoke. The picture is sure to bring to mind other illustrious writers who had Paris Periods, such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce and Henry Miller. (Photo by Cynthia Losier)
BELOW IS THE COVER of issue #14 of Intercourse Magazine, which I co-founded with LeRoy Johnson back in the sixties. The cover on this number was drawn by Alden Nowlan under the pseudonym "Hodge" (his cat's name). Alden guest-edited issue #14 along with Louis Cormier and Bernell MacDonald. For a good close-up of this and all photos just click on them with your mousie.
And here's a look at the covers of the first five issues. One of them is completely black, with no print on it. This was supposed to attract the attention of the curious and inspire them to buy it.
The magazine ran from 1966 to 1971, and besides LeRoy and myself, the staff included Sharon Fraser, Al Pittman, Marilee Pittman, Ken Pittman (alias Kenneth Mann), Katie Pittman, Dave Ryan, Louis Cormier, Marc Plourde, Keith Colin Scott, Loren Chudy, Marilyn Beker, Phil Desjardins, Alden Nowlan, Claudine Nowlan, Bernell MacDonald, Eddie Clinton, Ken Foley, Dave Butler, Jim Beckta, Marilyn Johnston, Jacintha Ferarri, and no doubt some I'll think of later.
In addition to the above-mentioned (most of them), the magazine published Irving Layton, Al Purdy, Elizabeth Brewster, Leonard Cohen, Fred Cogswell, Hugh Hood, C.H. Gervais, Eugene McNamara, John Glassco, Robert Gibbs, John Drew, Len Gasparini, Dorothy Farmiloe, Patrick Lane, Robert Hawkes, Robert Currie, Seymour Mayne, Silver Donald Cameron, Ted Plantos, Tom Ezzy, Jim Stewart, George Bowering, Jamie Brown, Barry McKinnon, Richard Partington and numerous others.
THE MONTREAL STORY TELLERS
This is the fiction performance troupe I toured with in the early seventies. It seems we were responsible for starting the plague of public fiction readings in the country. To find out more read When The Earth Was Flat.
l. to r. Ray Smith, John Metcalf, Clark Blaise, Raymond Fraser, Hugh Hood. (Photo by Sam Tata)
What the Lt-Gov read at the presentation ceremony...
LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR’S AWARD FOR HIGH ACHIEVEMENT IN ENGLISH-LANGUAGE LITERARY ARTS
Hockey player, Olympian, soldier of fortune: these are just three of the careers a young Raymond Fraser considered before settling on his true calling: writing.
“I felt it in my bones quite early, the desire to be a writer. At fourteen I decided maybe it would too dull. Thought I’d live an exciting life for a while, and then write when I was older.” However by the time the Chatham boy turned seventeen, Fraser’s mind was made up, and New Brunswick’s cultural life is the richer for it.
In poetry, fiction, or non-fiction, Raymond Fraser possesses the rare talent of truth telling. Wielding his trademark dry wit, his keen ear for dialogue, and an ability to wring truth from every line, he is, as Farley Mowat has said, “ the best literary voice to come belling out of the Maritimes in decades."
As a boy, Fraser often hitchhiked from Chatham to Newcastle to borrow books from the library in the Old Manse. The adventures between the pages of those books helped to inspire his love of words, and his thirst for new horizons. He has lived in Montreal, Paris, and Spain. Yet during that time his literary gaze remained fixed on his home province. Eventually, Fraser returned to New Brunswick and now lives in Fredericton.
The Vancouver Sun has said Fraser is possessed of a “highly original voice that is occasionally sad, sometimes very comic. A real pleasure to read." Notable for its sheer diversity, Raymond Fraser’s career spans 50 years, and counting. The list includes eight books of fiction, seven collections of poetry, two biographies and a memoir. His novel The Bannonbridge Musicians was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. Numerous Canadian literary magazines have benefited from his insightful observations and his work is included in more than a dozen literary anthologies. Fraser’s fiction and poetry has been broadcast and dramatized on CBC Radio and television.
Much of his work has focused largely on small town New Brunswick, in that two-decade span between the stultifying 1950s and the 1970s burgeoning optimism, a time when class structure and religious prejudice could define one for life. Fraser has captured moments in New Brunswick’s cultural and social landscape that will never return, and has, with his lucid writer’s eye, given a literary context to this history. Exploring the human condition through themes of alienation, loneliness, poverty, and escape – both geographic and in the bottom of a bottle – the significance of his contribution is found in his vividly portrayed characters, real and fictional. In The Fighting Fisherman: The Life of Yvon Durelle, he provided a voice for the renowned boxer and soft-spoken folk hero from Baie Ste. Anne. His most recent novel, In Another Life, is a tragic-comedy portrayal of one man's rise to prominence in his community and his slow decent into alcoholism.
Fraser’s letters, papers, and manuscripts have been archived at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. The collection contains a precious correspondence, which spanned the better part of twenty years. The letters began in the early 1960s, when a young man wrote a fan letter to his literary hero. That hero was Alden Nowlan, one of Canada’s greatest poets. Alden Nowlan answered that first letter with a friendly reply. The relationship grew over time, evolving from mentorship to a deep friendship. Of Raymond Fraser Nowlan declared: “He is one of the most gifted writers I know, and among his gifts are two that all too rare: a zest for life and a sense of humour. He belongs to the timeless tradition of storytellers.”
Notes on last fall's launch
WHEN THE EARTH WAS FLAT was officially and with great success launched Sept 20, 2007, at Westminster Bookstore in Fredericton. When the evening was over only a few copies of the original boxcar load remained in the store. Among those in attendance were such illustrious figures as Sheldon Currie, Phil Foreman, Leo Ferrari, Lorna Drew, Tony Tremblay, Robert Hawkes, Michael Nowlan, Pat Belier, Joe Blades, Bill & Janet Mullin, Jim Petrie, Allison Calvern, Diane Reid, Robert Power, Paul Lavoie, and — most distinguished of all — those I've inexcusably failed to mention. I was pleased as well to meet a number of young writers who showed up, and will definitely keep an eye out for their future works.
There was also a Miramichi launch at Books Inn Oct 12, 2007, and despite torrential rains and the store unexpectedly closing an hour prematurely there was an enthusiastic turnout. I was gratified to see and chat with so many friends of my youth, and sorry to hear next day that others who attempted to attend were met by a locked door.
If you're in Montreal, a good place to pick up the book is at THE WORD bookstore, owned and operated by my old friend Adrian King-Edwards. It's on Milton Street near McGill University, and is listed by Yahoo Travel as number 22 among must-see places to visit when in Montreal.
In Chatham (Miramichi East) you'll find the book in Bill's Kwik-Way. In Sackville check out Tidewater Books, and in Kingston, Ont., A Novel Idea Bookstore. You can also find it at the UNB Bookstore in Fredericton. I daresay it's in thousands of other locations, but these are some that come to mind.
The above-mentioned Sheldon Currie, by the way, was the English Department (that's not a misprint) at STU for a few years in the early sixties, when I was there as a student. It was under his expert tutelage that the late John Brebner and I founded and edited the literary magazine Tom-Tom in 1962. Sheldon later moved on to St FX and in time became the distinguished author he is today.
THE ATHLETE YEARS
Unlike the four earlier mentioned writers (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Miller, Joyce) who didn't go in much for team sports (just a little sparring and bull-calf fighting), I was on a lot of teams in my early youth. As evidence I offer the following photo of the Chatham All-Stars, provincial midget baseball champions in the nineteen-fifties. Literary sleuths will no doubt wonder whether any of these lads have served as models for characters in my writings.
Back Row, l. to r. Cuffy McLaughlin Sr (manager), Paul Duplessie, Louis McMahon, Ray Fraser (ahem!), Hughie Moar, Bill Lordon, Ronnie Hachey, Bobby Hill, Joe Cook (coach).
Front row, l. to r. Neil O'Brien, Vince Thibideau, Greg Morris, Freddie Thorburn, Jackie Smith, Joe Breen, Neddie Whelan.
IN THE PREVIOUS winter of that year, 1957, the Chatham Midget All-Stars hockey team also reached the provincial finals, but narrowly lost out to the Moncton Beavers.
Back Row, l. to r. Frankie Daley (coach), Joe Keoughan, Dougie Myles, Elmer Cain, Duncan Jardine, Blair Carroll, Joe Richard, Jimmy Petrie, Louis Nowlan. Front row, l. to r. Art Leggatt, Ronnie Hachey, Dave Butler, David "Major" Fraser, Maurice "Bliss" Comeau, Bernie Keating, John Lordon, Ray Fraser (himself).
And here we have the Chatham Juvenile All-Stars, NB-PEI champions 1957-58
Back row, l. to r. David "Major" Fraser, Dick Morrisey, Ray Fraser, Ronnie Hachey, Bernie Keating, John Lordon, Bob Reid (coach), Don Ross, John Kerr, Herbie Dickson, Charlie Ryan, Fr. Winfield Poole (manager)
Front Row, l. to r. Joe Richard, Elmer Cain, Freddie Irving, Albert Hachey, Doody McCarthy, Gerry Niles, Dave Butler, Matthew McFadden.
This is something I circulated a while back. It was picked up and published in full by the Miramichi Leader (Nov 30/07) and the online magazine, Mysterious East (Dec 2/07). Anyone who would like to reprint it is free to do so.
INVASION OF THE KILLER BEEPERS
By Raymond Fraser
Backup beepers... You can hear their nerve-shattering cry everywhere; it's fierce, piercing and merciless. It's become so imprinted on the human psyche that people have begun hearing it in their sleep. For a time the main carriers of these pernicious gadgets were vans and trucks and tractors and bulldozers, but recently they've spread to the motorized hydraulic lifts used by roofers and painters in place of ladders and stagings.
The other day I was walking around Beeper City (formerly Fredericton) when I happened upon such a lift sending out a beep you could hear all the way to Napadogan. I asked the man at the controls what the racket was about.
"Well," he said, "it's supposed to be some kind of safety thing, I think. To protect blind people, in case one comes along with a ladder and climbs up and gets in the way."
"Has that ever happened?" I asked him.
"Not yet," he admitted. "But you never know. Anything's possible."
"Well," I said, "if it did happen, couldn't the painter see him and warn him?"
"You'd think so. Unless the painter was dumb and couldn't speak. That's possible too."
"What about deaf people? How do you warn deaf people who might get in your way?"
"Deaf people are okay. They can see what we're doing."
"So can I," I said, "and everyone else who's not blind." And with hands covering my ears resumed my walk.
When I got home I decided to do a little investigating on the Internet. One thing I found was that every vehicle of every description at every worksite of every kind across the entire country is busy beeping with every backing move (not too mention all the trucks, buses, plows and so forth on town and city streets). And yet most fatalities from backing vehicles occur in driveways, and always have.
And a statistic I came across is that children under four years old represent 30 percent of these off-road fatalities in the US, even though they make up only six percent of the population. And related research shows that children up to the age of five "have no concept of personal safety and do not understand the warning of backup beepers".
Also, workmen on worksites have been getting injured and killed because, (a) the drivers of vehicles are less likely to check behind them when they have a beeper beeping, and (b) like the fable of the little boy who cried wolf, when you sound too many alarms people stop heeding them.
The thinking behind beepers seems to be that people today are a lot slower (denser, dumber) than they used to be. They didn't use to need a screaming beeper to tell them to get out of the way of a moving vehicle, they would rely on common sense and their faculties of sight and hearing.
It could be the fault of the education system, not teaching them simple things like stop, look and listen. Or it could be the fault lies elsewhere. As best I can make out, these backup (and sideways and up-and-down) devices serve only one real purpose, which is to fill the pockets of those who sell them. That may be considered a good purpose in some circles, but it's the kind of good that's outweighed by considerations which are not so good.
Here's a quote from a 2001 CBC Marketplace broadcast on the dangers of noise:
Noise, the invisible pollutant, has been blamed for everything from hypertension and learning difficulties to suicide. More than a decade ago, Health Canada labeled noise as a "real and present danger."
Many studies link noise to health problems, including: headaches, stress fatigue, insomnia, high blood pressure, heart and digestive problems, immune system problems, aggressive behaviour, and learning problems in children...
In Britain, health officials estimate 12 million people suffer from noise-related health problems. In Toronto, noise was blamed after a man was charged with shooting to death two of his neighbours.
Now that I think of it, I saw on the news just a short while ago that a fireman shot and killed four of his neighbours because of noise.
There are alternatives to backup beepers, solutions that are not only more effective but which don't contribute to the ever growing problem of noise pollution and beeper rage.
There are for example rear crossview mirrors which cost about $50, which give a clear view of what's directly behind a vehicle. In the U.S., Washington State law requires all delivery trucks with cargo boxes up to 18-feet long to be equipped with these. Federal Express tested them on its delivery trucks in four major cities for a year and discovered a 33 percent reduction in backing crashes. They have since installed them on 36,000 vehicles.
There is also the alternative of rear-view cameras which can be purchased individually for about $150, and much cheaper in quantity.
And there are Backup Warning Devices, radar alarm systems that sense objects behind a vehicle and alert the operator to their presence.
Or even this simple invention, which I offer free of charge to the world, or to anyone who's quick enough to patent it: a one-second melodious sound (like the tone that precedes announcements in airports) emitted by the vehicle to universally indicate "I'm going to back up!" While it's not actually necessary, it's much better than the blood-curdling shrieks that go on continuously even when a vehicle is reversing an entire city block.
The root cause of these wretched devices is of course a mental affliction that's been going round in recent times, known as Absolute Safety Psychosis (ASP). Those who suffer from it are compelled to make endless rules and laws and introduce unnecessary inventions designed to guarantee that no one will ever get injured or contract any disease or indeed, die.
Their ultimate goal is a decree obliging citizens to stay locked in their homes permanently so they won't have any kind of accident out of doors. And while in their homes, for safety sake, they will presumably have to live in suits of armour, or strait-jackets.
A common rationale you hear about things like backup beepers is, "They're worth it if they save even one life." If that's the case, why not put them on cars as well, and not just that, but on all vehicles even when they're moving forward? That would make sense since 99.99 or whatever percent of vehicle-pedestrian fatalities occur when the vehicle is moving forward, not backward. Or even better, ban motorized vehicles altogether; that would be bring these fatalities down to zero.
"Well," you say, "we can't do that. Both solutions would be intolerable. We have to accept a certain amount of collateral damage in the course of things... We can't have the solution being worse than the problem."
And that's it exactly. These beepers are worse than a problem which they don't solve anyway.
For another opinion, click here:
(The Scream by Edvard Munch)
PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE. May his name live on in infamy. Matsusaburo Yamaguchi of Yamaguchi Electric Company, Japan, invented the back-up beeper which was first manufactured as model BA1 in 1963.
Back-up beepers are criticized by the public and in scientific literature. Beepers top lists of complaints to government roadbuilders relating to road construction noise. There is published concern that people habituate to the ubiquitous noise diminishing its effectiveness. Strategies such as adjusting the volume according to the ambient noise and changing the tone to include sounds above 1600 Hz and below 800 Hz for improved localization would improve the alarm, but improvements are not cost-effective for the manufacturer and, if implemented by the equipment owner, introduce liability for the owner.
AND SINCE YOU BROUGHT THE SUBJECT UP...
As can be gathered from WHEN THE EARTH WAS FLAT's subtitle, it's only partly (one might even say slightly) about planoterrestrialism. To get the complete story on this most fascinating of subjects, you'll want to pick up a copy of Flat Earth by Christine Garwood (Pan MacMillan). There's a great chapter on the notorious Flat Earth Society that sprang up in Fredericton some years back, founded by Leo Ferrari, Alden Nowlan and your modest servant, my humble self.
The author of Flat Earth is a charming young lady from England who had the pleasure of interviewing me during the Fredericton phase of her researches. While I naturally make an appearance in the chapter mentioned, the stars of it are Professor Emeritus Dr Leo Ferrari, the Society's President, and the late Alden Nowlan, the world-renowned poet who served as the Society's Symposiarch (I was merely Executive Chairman or some such thing). Truly, there's stuff about Leo and Alden in the book that you won't want to miss. And while there you can find out everything there is to know about why the earth really is flat (or at least why Leo said, "Of course it's flat — any fool can see that!").
AUTHOR'S MOTHER AND FATHER: Robert "Bob" Fraser & Ursula (Graham) Fraser
SEVERAL YEARS AGO
From l. to r. Paul Duplessie, Raymond Fraser, Joyce Keating, Jerry Duplessie, Joan Keating. I guess that's me second from the left, everyone says it is, although I can't quite remember if I was playing in the snow that day or not. I thought I was at home reading Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (a terrible book, by the way, not worth the bother)... but that must have been the previous Saturday. Yes, I can see now that it is me, without my beard. The clean-shaven face fooled me for a minute -- hadn't realized I'd started shaving that early.
Here's another one and there can be no doubt about it. It's myself and four other young philosophers busy studying the effects of winter on the human psyche.
From l. to r. Jerry Duplessie, Bubs Duplessie, Joyce Keating, Raymond Fraser, Joan Keating.
Below is a piece that appeared in the Times & Transcript about my novel THE MADNESS OF YOUTH.
And a more recent one. TIMES & TRANSCRIPT, MAY 16, 2014
NEW MEMBERS OF THE ORDER OF NEW BRUNSWICK 2012
Newest members of the Order of New Brunswick (2012). They were invested with the province's highest honour by the chancellor of the order, Lieutenant-Governor Graydon Nicholas, at a ceremony at Government House in Fredericton. Front row: Salem (Sam) Masry; Premier David Alward; Lt.-Gov. Graydon Nicholas; Ronald (Ron) Turcotte; Raymond Lagacé. Back row: Audrey Lampert; Cindy Hewitt; Philip Sexsmith; Arthur Irving; Anne-Marie Tingley; Raymond Fraser; Calixte Duguay.
GLEANER front page coverage of the ONB announcement.
See where I made the cover of this book, lending it some distinction.
Paparazzi photo from 2013 Lieutenant-Governor's Awards gala evening. The author with M.T. "Jean" Dohaney (another former winner) and Marion Smith.