Raymond Fraser (March 11, 2014)
Monday, May 24, 2010
Signing BLISS at Saltwater Sounds.
Click here for ArtsEast interview about BLISS. _____________________________________________
WINNER OF THE 2009 LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR’S AWARD FOR HIGH ACHIEVEMENT IN LITERARY ARTS(photo by Keith Minchin, 2008)
THE MADNESS OF YOUTH by Raymond Fraser. Novel. Lion's Head Press, 2011. 302 pp. Publisher's list price: $24.95 paperback (ISBN 9780986518355); $39.95 hardcover (ISBN 9780986518348). Special price here: $19.95 pb & $35.95 hc (plus $4 shipping).
Set in the Maritimes and Montreal, "The Madness Of Youth" unearths the disreputable past of a respected poetry-writing librarian... An unforgettable view of wayward youth in the early Sixties."I'll go out on a limb and say The Madness Of Youth is the best writing Fraser has ever done ... There are great gobs of sadness, original comic touches and just the right blend of plot and narrative comments to make this a huge pleasure to read and a learning experience to boot. Fraser has always "owned" the restless, wandering Maritimer as a fictional character, but this complex, exasperating 'split personality character Quann' and the believable world(s) created for him is a real coup. There are so many fresh and honest insights into relationships that I haven't come across before in fiction. And having lived in 1960s Montreal – he's nailed that one solidly .... Great job!" – PHIL DESJARDINS, Philip Desjardins Productions, Toronto
"Finished The Madness Of Youth last week – wanted to make it last longer, but couldn't stop turning the pages!" – PAUL DUPLESSIE
"Terrific book!" – DOUG SUTHERLAND, Filmmaker
"The prose style and choice of words are truly amazing." – ROBERT HAWKES, Poet & Professor Emeritus (UNB)
"Fraser's best book yet, in my opinion." – WAYNE CURTIS, author
"One hell of a read." – CHARLES BOLAN
THE TRIALS OF BROTHER BELL by Raymond Fraser.
Lion's Head Press, 2010. Two novels, Repentance Vale and The Struggle Outside. 272 pp. $23.95 softcover (ISBN 9780986518317). $41.95 hardcover (ISBN 9780986518324). Special price here: $17.95 softcover (plus $4 shipping); $39.95 hardcover (plus $4 shipping).
"Represents the best in contemporary satire. Outrageously funny.” Aaron Michelson, BEST SELLERS, New York.
"Exuberant, comic, with a satiric edge frequently bordering on absurdist fantasy." LINDA SANDLER, Saturday Night
"Peppered with well-honed wit and a biting satire, "The Trials of Brother Bell" reaffirms Fraser’s renown as a no-nonsense storyteller." STEPHEN PATRICK CLARE
"I`ve never read anything like it. Brilliant!" NEIL TONER, Librarian
"Absolutely hilariously funny... Farce is not easy to sustain, but Raymond Fraser can mix the absurdities of humanity into fine, plausible fiction. Repentance Vale and The Struggle Outside are dramas of intense dimension." MICHAEL O. NOWLAN, The Gleaner
REPENTANCE VALE by Raymond Fraser.
Novel. Lion's Head Press, 2011. 140 pp. $16.95
In this satiric tale of neo-gothic horror, Haliberton "Bertie" Beaumont, heir to the Beaumont shipping fortune, schemes to seduce the pretty young daughter of Matthias Gogg, a fundamentalist religious fanatic who secretly believes in human sacrifice...
"There's no other writer quite like Raymond Fraser. His style is absolutely fascinating." – CORA LILLIAN HUDSON
IN ANOTHER LIFE by Raymond Fraser.
Lion's Head Press, 2009. 304 pp. ISBN 978-0-9686034-8-2. Publisher's list price: $24.95. Special price here: $19.94 (+ $4.00 shipping)
"A beautifully wrought story, tragic, poignant and full of rich detail. It's just masterful." — ROBERT LECKER, Greenshields Professor of English, McGill University
"IN ANOTHER LIFE is heart-warming and heart-wrenching all at once. It's the real deal, a genuine masterpiece of storytelling, sadly beautiful, and perhaps Fraser's finest work to date." — STEPHEN PATRICK CLARE, The Book Club, Halifax
"It's a fabulous read, will tear your guts out." — CYNTHIA SURETTE
"You don't come across a book like this very often. For me it was un-put-down-able. It's one great piece of work." — LOUIS CORMIER
"I was so impressed with this book. Such insight, such tenderness, such humour. Although a lot of it is tragic it's also very funny. I was laughing my head off page after page. A poignant and in-depth revelation of the angst of growing up — or not!" — HILARY PRINCE
"I can't find words to describe just how extraordinary I think this novel is... It's been a long time since I've read a book that really gets inside a man's head. It's a triumph in making characters come alive (I fell deeply in love with Corinne!). It's a great Canadian novel." — PHILIP DESJARDINS,Philip Desjardins Productions, Toronto
"Truly a wonderful read — a poignant, sweet and painful love story. I loved Macbride's struggle to be his own person, when in reality he was a lost child. The girl Corrine was his mirror image. I will be recommending it highly." — MARILEE PITTMAN
"I kept it beside my bed and took a long time to read it because I didn't want it to end. I loved every well-placed word of it." — NOREEN MALLORY HOOD
"A masterfully crafted novel set against the plush Miramichi River region of the 1950's and 1960's. Wily Fredericton scribe Raymond Fraser proves again why he is one of Atlantic Canada's finest writers with the beautiful and haunting tragic-comedy of one boy's rise to prominence in his community and his slow descent into the throes of alcoholism. IN ANOTHER LIFE is a powerful and poignant story that will capture the minds and hearts of readers. Think Catcher in the Rye meets Hemingway and Bukowski." — LEAP MAGAZINE
"In Another Life is funny, sad and always humane. What sets it apart from almost all other novels is the flow of the writing. I read through 80 pages without realizing it, it’s so hard to put down. It says things with precise and delicate care, and with a great sense of humour.” — ERIC MYERS
"It's not just the best novel I've ever read; it's the best book I've ever read." — EUGENE PETERS, essayist & critic
Thursday, December 18, 2008
THE GRUMPY MAN by Raymond Fraser.
Features 23 new stories and the definitive version of the Fraser classic novella, The Quebec Prison.
Lion's Head Press. 190 pp. $11.95 softcover. $26.95 hardcover. Shipping: $5 per book. ISBN 978-0-9686034-6-8.
"Raymond Fraser is a natural story teller. His talent with narrative is second to none in this country...THE GRUMPY MAN stories are an incredible expose of the human condition."
— MICHAEL O. NOWLAN, The Daily Gleaner
"A pleasure to read from beginning to end. I doubt many writers could comment on their time as skilfully as Fraser has in this collection, or comment with so much wit and using such great characters."
— JUDY BOWMAN, The Miramichi Leader
"Fraser has a finely-tuned ear for verbal irony and terseness that is oddly compelling. These stories are well-crafted and insightful." — CANADIAN LITERATURE
"Reading Fraser's writing is like listening to the voice of an epoch. He explores the things that made the sixties and seventies so legendary."
— MICAH O'DONNELL, The Aquinian
"One of Canada's top writers at the top of his game. A great read!"
— GAIL MACMILLAN
"A compelling collection of quirky characters by one of the country's finest literary craftsmen."
— STEPHEN CLARE, The Book Club radio show, Halifax
"Fraser is a superb storyteller whose stories and novels are always universally valid. He is no less than Canada's greatest living fiction writer."
— MICHAEL VAUGHAN
Thursday, April 12, 2007
WHEN THE EARTH WAS FLATRemembering Leonard Cohen, Alden Nowlan, the Flat Earth Society, the King James monarchy hoax, the Montreal Story Tellers and other curious matters
READ ABOUT THE ROYALS IN EXILE
l. to r. The Duke of Northumberland, King James III, the Prince of Fortara and the Archibishop of Canterbury. As revealed in the book, when secretly mingling with commoners they were accustomed to assume the identities of Raymond Fraser, Jim Stewart, Alden Nowlan and Leo Ferrari.(Photo by Frank Prazak)
In this collection of nineteen memoirs, essays and sketches, Raymond Fraser writes of a variety of fascinating subjects, including Leonard Cohen, Alden Nowlan, Leo Ferrari, Hugh Hood, Queen Elizabeth II, Bob Dylan, John Metcalf, Lord Mountbatten, Al Pittman, Irving Layton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Santa Claus, the Flat Earth Society, the notorious Stewart Monarchy in Exile, Halloween on the Miramichi, tabloid journalism, New Brunswickers in Hollywood, evangelistic miracle workers and assorted eccentrics met along life's way. Published by Black Moss Press, Windsor, Ont. Sept 2007. 162 pp.
"Reading When The Earth Was Flat is next best thing to a voyage of discovery, a ride on a runaway train, the thrill of a roller coaster, and a front row seat in the theatre of the absurd. This wonderfully entertaining book is the work of a gifted and accomplished author." — The Guardian
"It is superb. Remarkable!" — John Moss, FRSC, author and founding editor Journal of Canadian Fiction
"A highly original voice that is occasionally sad, sometimes very comic. A real pleasure to read." — Vancouver Sun
"This insightful, powerful and comedic writer has been hailed by Farley Mowat as the best literary voice to come belling out of the Maritimes in decades."
"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." — Alden Nowlan
"When The Earth Was Flat is a collection of autobiographic snapshots—a mosaic of memoirs, histories, essays and short stories of almost poetic intensity which are held together by Fraser's ubiquitous sense of humour and idiosyncratic eye. For those of us who have read all his books it is an added treat to our collection. For those who have never read Fraser, this is the book to begin with, and doubtless, the rest of the author's library will follow in its tracks. Raymond Fraser has many distinctions as a writer. As a novelist, story writer, poet, biographer and journalist, he has been called New Brunswick's greatest living writer and one of Canada's foremost authors. His novel The Struggle Outside easily fits into the top-ten list of Canada's all-time greatest books and The Bannonbridge Musicians was runner-up for the Governor General's Award in 1978.
— Bernell MacDonald, author, Birds of Passage, etc.
If you can't find the book in a store near you (and far as I know it won't be in Chapters-Indigo-Coles, just smaller independent stores), there are signed copies NOW AVAILABLE at Fraser Books Inc. Just click here:
Raymond Fraser and Yvon Durelle in Baie Ste Anne.
Cover of the first edition of my book The Fighting Fisherman (Doubleday, 1981). There has also been a French edition, Le Boxeur Qui Venait de la Mer, and two other English editions, the latest from Formac Publishing in 2005. Yvon Durelle died on January 6, 2007.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
This comely portrait is from my days as captain of the famous ship SPANISH JACK. (Photo by Sharon Fraser)
Here we see the redoubtable Spanish Jack riding at anchor in Miramichi Bay, with the skipper ashore searching for buried treasure. (Pencil drawing by Nancy Tremblay)
Sunday, February 4, 2007
This is the cover of my novel In A Cloud Of Dust And Smoke (Black Moss Press, 2003; cover photo by Marty Gervais). Due to popular demand (or something of the sort) I've decided to accompany it with some comments from the more astute critics, as follows.
"A beautiful novel, written from the heart."
— Fred Cogswell
"An entertaining novel with serious and even sombre overtones — a kind of anti-romance in which the narrator keeps a comic perspective on his own and others' woes, and remains to the end an innocent, reminiscent of Tom Jones and other picaresque heroes."
— Robert Gibbs
A fine, fine book... well-written, provocative, engaging."
A fine, fine book... well-written, provocative, engaging."
— Michael Holmes, ECW Press
"Endearing and engaging... provides a nuanced insight into a time that will never return."
— The Gleaner
— The Gleaner
Below is the cover of a novella and story collection called Costa Blanca (Black Moss Press, 2001; cover photo by Marty Gervais). "A must read, by one of Canada's truly great writers." — Gail MacMillan, author, Ceilidh's Quest.
"A Canadian literary legend. If every writer wrote with the clarity and gusto Fraser does, more people would still be readers." — Allen Tepper
Much of Costa Blanca was set in and around the town of Denia, Spain, seen in the photo below.
This is roughly what the author looked like in his Costa Blanca Period, in the 1970s.
Another book our author worked on in Spain (as well as in Chatham and on board Spanish Jack) was the novel, The Struggle Outside, published in 1975 by McGraw-Hill Ryerson. "Represents the best in contemporary satire. Outrageously funny." Best Sellers, New York
Below is a review of The Struggle Outside by the late Dave Butler, as good a book reviewer as I've ever read. His assessments were not only accurate and insightful but entertaining to read, literary gems in their own right.
THE STRUGGLE OUTSIDE FILLED WITH ZANY ANTICS
By Dave Butler Times Correspondent
The Struggle Outside is, on one level, the story of a gang of revolutionary cowboys who swoop down on Fredericton and carry off a cabinet minister. The minister is to be held for ransom to help finance the Revolution, as will a comic preacher they also kidnap.
lt this sounds a bit fantastic, well, it’s all part of the fun in Raymond Fraser's recently published novel, The Struggle Outside (McGraw-Hill Ryerson). Fraser, a native of Chatham, lives and writes in New Brunswick.
The novel chronicles the madcap adventures of the Peoples Liberation Army, a revolutionary group out to overthrow the N.B. government and establish their party, which, they are positive, will be truly of, by, and for the people.
The hectic tone of the whole bizarre story is set by the narrator in his Author’s Preface. There he tells us that he is a member of the "Army", that he has been captured by the authorities who are holding him in an insane asylum, and that he has managed to smuggle out his "combat journal", so that we may read it and keep the faith.
Perhaps the most outstanding aspect of the novel is its plot: the conflicts are very sharply defined and the story moves at a very brisk pace. As readers of Fraser’s short story collection, The Black Horse Tavern, will readily agree. he is a marvellous storyteller.
The characters in The Struggle Outside are out of this world. Truly. the "Army" seems to consist of six demented revolutionaries, and Fraser fixes them quickly, surely, and firmly in the reader’s mind.
Besides the narrator, the characters are:
Chief Magaguadavic, certainly the sanest of the lot, the original revolutionary, and, among other things, a symbol of the vanishing culture of the North American Indian. ln keeping with his symbolic role, the Chief does not, naturally, actually 'appear' in the novel.
Cavanaugh, a former university professor, blinder than a baseball hat, yet the Army‘s munitions expert, who spends a good deal of his time constructing time bombs and dynamite grenades.
Liz, a paranoid feminist who wants to be a sex-symbol. or a paranoid sex-symbol who wants to be a feminist.
LeBlanc, an alienated French-Canadian, who's out to get "dose h’english."
And Moses, a violent, opportunistic scoundrel, who is out to use the group for his own sadistic purposes.
Certainly these characters are recognizable types, then caricatures, then individuals, and finally, symbols. Not an amiable lot, but certainly an unforgettable one.
The Struggle Outside is sub- titled A Funny Serious Novel. The comedy is derived basically from the absurdity of the plot and the idiosyncracies of each of the kinky characters.
The plot piles one absurdity on another in Mel Brooks' fashion. Anyone who takes the plot seriously ought to apply for membership in the Army. the pivotal move in the plot, for example. is the kidnapping of the cabinet minister, and this is the fail-safe move – blow it, and the Revolution's over. Yet when the Army arrives on the scene to capture him, they have to use a telephone call to locate him. Sly planning. And the minister, for his part, good-naturally goes along with them, because, after all, he’s been elected to serve the people.
No character is kinkier than Cavanaugh, the brilliant intellectual-cum-lecher, who is continually ambushing Liz.
On the serious side, the novel may be regarded as a satirical fable on revolutions and revolutionaries. l say fable, because, while the plot and characters are ridiculous, the theme is not.
Just as George Orwell used the fable Animal Farm to satirize totalitarianism, so Fraser turns his lunatics loose in NB., and beneath their frenetic activities we can glimpse some facets of the revolutionary process. For example, there are times when the novel reminds one of such groups as the Weathermen and the Symbionese Liberation Army.
The Chief, for one, is used to make a thematic point: he was the original revolutionary, but as the others came in, the group moved from revolution for a cause to revolution for revolutions sake.
Fraser keeps the reader reeling from the comic to the serious and back to the comic. Fraser is a literary Muhammed Ali – he floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee, always moving, always keeping the reader off balance.
And while this style might be irritating in another novel, it is superbly suited to the zany antics and wacky freaks in The Struggle Outside.
The Struggle Outside, by Raymond Fraser, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1975.
The Bannonbridge Musicians, on the other hand, wasn't written in Spain, but in Saint John and Black River Bridge. It was published by Breakwater Books in 1978, and for what such things are worth was runner-up for the Governor General's Award. (Cover painting by Gerald Squires)
"A rollicking tale, well told." — William French, Globe & Mail
"It's well-written, it's touching, it's full of life, and it's funny."
— Andre Vigneault, CBC Radio
The book you see below, Rum River (novel & stories), was written in Black River Bridge, Montreal and Fredericton, and published by Broken Jaw Press in 1997. After you've dallied a moment over the cover you'll find an extra treat at the bottom. (Cover photo by Joe Blades)
SIGNED COPIES AVAILABLE $20 + $4 Shipping
What some of the sharper readers and critics had to say about Rum River:
"Comic and horrifying."
— Heather Sanderson, Canadian Literature
"Perceptive, magnetic and laced with humour."
— Anne Ingram, The Gleaner
"As with all Raymond Fraser books, almost impossible to put down." — Brian Jeffrey Street, author, The Parachute Ward
"A wonderful enthralling read — intensely personal yet universally relevant. Necessary pain and the heart of a poet is required to write prose like this. It's the first time I read a book straight through in a long time. I'm no critic, but Rum River belongs on the same shelf as such masterpieces as The Catcher In The Rye."
— Bernell MacDonald, author, Birds Of Passage
Message on answering machine from Dave Butler, calling from Chatham, NB (April 8/98)
"God knows what roads you're running these days. In any friggin' case I'll call you by and by. Just one point... I don't know how long your message machine runs... I was talking to Billy Daley, the outstanding former baseball player with Chatham Ironmen, and I loaned him a copy of Rum River a few days ago, and he read the whole damn thing — he's quite a literate guy — he read the whole thing in a sitting or two, and called me and told me it was tremendous! And so he's doing some good oral reviews around the local saloons and that. Daley is very quick-witted; he's looked upon by some as a dumb jock, but he's not that, which is why I loaned him the book. Anyway, he recounted (and he's got a pretty good memory) excerpts from the book, and quoting a few lines which he thought particularly delicious, shall we say, and all the boys in the local saloons think it's great stuff, and they're all... "[machine cuts him off]
This photo is here for two reasons. It shows the author as he looked while writer-in-residence at Fredericton High School in the mid-nineties, during the time he was working on Rum River. And it shows how he looked when disguised as a man without a beard. (Photo by Stanya)
As can be seen from this snapshot, it apparently wasn't the only time he wore such a disguise. (Photographer unknown)
And speaking of Black River Bridge, here we see (or almost see) the author in his one-time residence there. With him are two renowned Newfoundland artists who were guests for the night. From l. to r., Stewart Montgomerie, Raymond Fraser and Gerald Squires.
Caught in another beardless moment, the author relaxes aboard Spanish Jack in the summer of 1972. This photo was used on the back cover of his first book of fiction, The Black Horse Tavern. (Photo by Roman Gordy)
The Black Horse Tavern was published in Montreal by Ingluvin Publications in 1973. The book comprises a novella (The Quebec Prison) and nine stories, and received such great reviews in newspapers all across Canada that it sold out in a few months and was never reprinted -- until now! (see new edition below) (Cover photo by Raymond Fraser)
"A highly original voice that is occasionally sad, sometimes very comic. A real pleasure to read." ALAN DAWE, Vancouver Sun
"Rattling good yarns without managed thrills and contrived tension, The Black Horse Tavern is the reflection of a man who has lived a life far from quiet desperation. Like Fraser's poetry, it is relentless, subtle, disturbing, bearing the stamp of immediately recognizable talent and nifty writing." JOHN RICHMOND, Montreal Star
"All ten stories in The Black Horse Tavern bear the Fraser touch: gutsy realism, originality, and humour. The effect is hilarious, moving, and sad. It's quite a book." BETTY SHAPIRO, Montreal Gazette
"Fraser's characters are so strong and so very accurate that the reader remembers them and will for some time. A good book, one I would recommend." BLAINE MARCHAND, The Canadian Review
"Raymond Fraser happens to be one of the liveliest and most entertaining writers in the country." ALDEN NOWLAN, Telegraph-Journal
The new revised edition of THE BLACK HORSE TAVERN. Published in the spring of 2014 by Lion's Head Press, it features a new Introduction by the author.
That's it for book covers for now, except for the next one. It's called Before You're A Stranger, and as sole representative of the poetry faction it might (I fear) attempt to sneak in some shameless comments on the author as poet.
"I read the book from cover to cover — I found the verses so delightful I couldn't put it down until I finished. The everyday subjects and events the poems deal with ring so true."
— T.C. "Tommy" Douglas
"Fraser notices so much and responds with feeling and humor, and it's all so accessible to the reader. There isn't a poem in the book that isn't worth reading."
— Alan Pearson
"Unfailingly interesting and impossible to put down once I started. Wonderful stuff!"
— Louis Dudek
"I've never been a big fan of poetry, but I enjoyed Before You're A Stranger immensely. The humour helps of course, but I go to it to get a little relief from (or perspective on) everyday living."
(In the late seventies, while doing a reading in Halifax, Irving Layton was asked who in his estimation were the best of the younger poets in the country. He said there were three: Patrick Lane, Seymour Mayne, and Raymond Fraser.)
Another rare poetry book you might want to pick up
next time you're shopping is Macbride Poems.
It's not a long read, only twelve pages, and is available
at Amazon.ca. When last checked it was listed as follows:
Macbride Poems (Paperback)
by Raymond Fraser (Author)
Publisher: Wild East Press
Available from these sellers:
1 used & new available: CDN$ 794.92
Frobisher Books, USA
The young author with his sisters Helen and Carmel, on Cunard Street in Chatham, New Brunswick, with St. Michael's Catholic church in the background.
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.
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. From left, front row: Salem (Sam) Masry; Premier David Alward; Lt.-Gov. Graydon Nicholas; Ronald (Ron) Turcotte; and Raymond Lagacé. Back row: Audrey Lampert; Cindy Hewitt; Philip Sexsmith; Arthur Irving; Anne-Marie Tingley; Raymond Fraser; and Calixte Duguay.
GLEANER front page coverage of the ONB announcement.
See where I made the cover of this book, lending it some distinction.
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