Ken Dryden's storytelling
Today at noon, Ken Dryden, the Liberal MP from York Centre, will be doing a reading of his new book, Becoming Canada, to open the Ottawa Writers' Festival. This isn't Dryden's first book, but it is the first one he's written since becoming a politician. I read it this week and I think essentially one can say it's a story about how he's trying to keep his idealism and optimism in a world where those virtues aren't exactly cultivated.
A couple of months ago, at the small airport in Sydney, Nova Scotia, on the way to Baddeck, I chatted to Dryden about how I'd spent the summer -- a lot of it aboard the Liberal Express. I talked to him about how good it was for political reporters to get away for a stretch from the smart-ass, cynical world around Parliament Hill.
Dryden leaped on that little remark: what is it about political journalism, he wondered, that makes everyone in it such a smart-ass? (I should note that it was strange to hear those words coming from the unfailingly polite, soft-spoken Mr. Dryden.) Dryden has come to believe -- I think justifiably -- that when we talk about the dysfunction within politics, we don't talk enough about how the media contributes to the cynicism. Carolyn Bennett, currently conducting some cross-country discussions on democratic reform, also says that the subject of the media is looming large in her travels and talks with Canadians, even though it's not in the official workbook for the sessions.
So when Dryden went looking for people to do an early reading of his new book, Becoming Canada, he strayed far away from the cynical crowd around here. I'll be writing more about his book and his story in the weekend paper, but I thought I'd share some of the endorsements his book has received. Note the deliberate lack of politicos and pundits.
"This book, written with clarity and passion, poses a simple and ever radical question: what would happen if political methods were in the service of meaning, and not the other way around? What power of national resolve, what energy of purpose would be released, if only we were to define the meaning of Canada's unique place in the world? We must separate political strategy and history; we must acknowledge that meaningful action is not always tied to the money grid; we need a meaningful narrative in order to contribute meaningful action. This is what Dryden means by the phrase "becoming Canada"; and this wise and ardent book is meant to open the discussion."
— Anne Michaels
“Ken Dryden’s Becoming Canada is a timely, passionate, urgent, and provocative book that dares parliamentarians and citizens to re-imagine our politics and our future as a country. It launches an important debate about what Canada could and should be.”
— Guy Vanderhaeghe
“This book challenged me, provoked me and inspired me to ask new questions about what it means to be Canadian. There seem to be so few filters between Ken Dryden's beating heart and the words in this book. That is a rare and gorgeous thing.”
— Sarah Polley
"Ken Dryden is obsessed with finding the story of Canada, a narrative we can believe in and which - in his words - will make us better. Becoming Canada is a personal and deeply committed work of national storytelling written from an exceptionally valuable point of view. Full of detail, care and passion, this is a book that speaks of who we are, and who we must aspire to become."
— Atom Egoyan
"Ken Dryden and I don't agree on how new Canadians need to fit in. But we do agree on how great a country this is and how we need to know that about ourselves. And what he writes about politics is fantastic. Read this book."
— Don Cherry
"Some guys, you ask them the time and they build you a watch. In Dryden's head is a big country 'hidden by politics', a country trying, busting to get out from behind tall shadows and the time is required. For the young and the old, this is the kinda book we've been waiting for. And, really, isn't it time? For a guy who will lay it all out there? Simply, like a teacher? How it is, how it could be, open, brave free, that we're more than 'this politics', that friendship changes your life?"
— Gord Downie
"I wear no political stripes as a liberal, conservative or as anything else. I am though a Canadian and a citizen, and this is the best, most prescient contemporary read available on the state of our national politics and the national and global issues we face. For Dryden, citizenship is not a spectator sport. With passionate, simple penetrating prose, Dryden challenges our complacency as Canadians to "be more than this," to remake our story as Canadians, to face the challenges of our age with "our best selves," and to "do". Hitting equally hard at liberals and conservatives, Dryden's book is not always an agreeable read, but it is a 'must read' for anyone - young and old - who calls him or herself Canadian."
— James Orbinski MD, Professor of Medicine, St. Michael's Hospital and Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto