LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR’S AWARD FOR HIGH ACHIEVEMENT IN ENGLISH-LANGUAGE LITERARY ARTS (2009)
[For the record, I've since published three more novels and another collection of short stories]
What the Lieutenant-Governor read at the presentation ceremony...
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; I 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 fiction, non-fiction, or poetry, 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.”
In Hartland, by the St John River, June 11, 2016. Hadn't been there since Fred Cogswell drove LeRoy Johnson and myself up to see Alden Nowlan in 1961.
A musical interlude...
RUM RIVER – The new definitive edition, revised and corrected by the author (Lion's Head Press, 2016. 288 pp. $20). Available from the publisher or independent bookstores. General distribution by Ingram Book Services.
"A raw, at times almost abrasive, emotional honesty is a signature Fraser leaves in all his writing, but never does it come through more clearly than in Rum River. The book is as strong as anything ever written by American writer and kindred spirit Charles Bukowski." STEPHEN PATRICK CLARE, Atlantic Canada's 100 Greatest Books
"As with all Raymond Fraser's books almost impossible to put down." BRIAN JEFFREY STREET, author, The Parachute Ward
"It's perceptive, magnetic and laced with humour." ANNE INGRAM, The Gleaner
"Comic and horrifying." HEATHER SANDERSON, Canadian Literature
"What William Burroughs’s novel Junky is to drug addiction, Raymond Fraser’s Rum River is to alcoholism." EUGENE PETERS, Essayist & critic