Dec 9 2015
I received a very nice tribute a few days ago from a fellow called Conor Cobban, who wrote to me via hotmail.com to tell me he’s a registered site member and that he recently stumbled, almost by accident, upon the subsection of this site that features the weekly columns I now write for my local newspaper here in the Interior of British Columbia. He had been digging around within the site, as members are supposed and encouraged to do, and had come across the columns almost by accident. Having discovered them, though, he then inhaled them all in one enormous, all-but-indigestible gulp and decided he wanted to write to me and thank me for including them. I was, of course, highly gratified with his praise, as writers always are when they hear from people who enjoy their work, but I couldn’t get that niggling, “almost by accident” phrase out of my mind, and it stayed with me to the point at which I decided I would have to sit down and write a special Blog post, inviting visitors and regulars alike to visit those particular pages and sample another, very different aspect of my writings…
It’s not difficult to find the pages I’m talking about, because they’re not hidden in any way, but neither are they listed front and centre in the main menu on the Home Page, and that is purely because of space constraints. If we were to add the extra box required to highlight the feature on the main menu there next to “Jack’s Blog”, we’d have to shuffle everything else over to fit and we’d end up having to cut off my chin in the main background shot, and I refuse to go chinless… And so we added the feature as a subdivision of the “Jack’s Blog” box. Clicking on that generates a drop-down menu with two items: the blog itself (which you’re reading now,) and another section called “The Tide of Times”. That’s the section that contains the weekly columns, and that’s the Masthead for the columns that you see above here, on the upper left.
I was more than a little leery at first, when the Managing Editor of the newspaper invited me to submit a weekly column. Frankly, that was because I didn’t think I’d be able to do it with any kind of consistency. I have spent decades now writing “big” books, anywhere from 200,000 to 250,000 words long, and here was this newspaper editor asking me to write solid, complete and concise columns of 800 words, once a week. So I said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Fortunately, though, he persisted and I was intrigued, and eventually I went to meet with him at his office and launched into a whole new way of thinking and of looking at things going on around me.
The best part of all of this, though, is that I’m not bound by any editorial expectations—other, of course, than those governing common decency, civility, good manners and common sense, like not shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theatre. Apart from that, the world’s my oyster and I can sound off about anything that captures my attention. And I’m loving it. It contains a whole new set of disciplines and deadlines that I’ve had to learn to deal with in a very short time, but my fears that I would soon run out of things to talk about have so far proved unfounded. That has a lot to do, though, with the feedback I’ve been getting from readers. I’m very aware that these particular readers are not my regular, book-buying patrons. Most of them had never heard of me and never read my work at all until I started showing up in their newspaper every Saturday morning, occupying the big spread in the middle of the Opinion page. There’s a very high probability, in fact, that relatively few of them are book lovers, and few of those who are would probably choose to read the kind of books I write. They’re just reg’lar folks, as my wife’s father used to say, but a lot of them are emailing me regularly now, to tell me they’ve enjoyed this or that article, and boy, that’s a new kind of rush!
So what will you find in these columns if you go looking? The answer is simple. You’ll find me holding forth or sounding off on pretty much anything that’s been on my mind for a week or two, ranging from my favourite books all the way through politics (though not much of that,) to the kind of things that really tick me off, like having telemarketers phone me just when I’m sitting down to dinner, or suffering through the incredible, incessant and intelligence-insulting ocean of condescending crap thrown at us on TV every night by the American pharmaceutical companies. Anything, in fact, that I can chew up and express in 800 words within a couple of hours. I’ve written more than forty of these little pieces now, since I started doing this in April, 2015, and there are currently more than 20 of those published here on the site, bringing the publication schedule up to November 21st as I write this, with new ones being added regularly. Eventually, though, we will catch up, and if I’m still writing the column when we do, then the entries will dwindle to one a week.
I’m hoping some of you will nose around in the “Tides of Time” section, and if you recognize the reference (it’s from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, where Mark Antony calls Caesar’s corpse, “…the ruins of the noblest man that ever lived in the tide of times,”) I hope you won’t think I’m comparing myself to Caesar. ‘T ain’t so. It’s simply that that particular comment, that specific line, struck me more forcibly than any other single line from Shakespeare when I studied the play in school in Grade Nine. The image of the tide of times, with all the movement and underlying currents the phrase entailed, stuck in my mind, and after all these years I’m now using it effectively, I hope. I hope, too, that if you read and enjoy a particular piece, you’ll leave a comment on it and let me know what you think. Thanks for your time, and your enjoyment of my work.