Notes on a Writer’s Life: A Memoir (2023) by David Adams Richards is an excellent read

This is an excellent book. I recommend it highly. I recently borrowed the book from the Stratford Public Library.

I do not believe I would be able to do justice to the book’s contents by attempting to summarize any of the themes that Richards addresses. Enough to say that I enjoy words and I enjoy literature – and Richards has things to say from a perspective that resonates with some aspects of university-level points of view.

The corollary is that there are aspects of a university-based spin on things that are of limited benefit – as David Adams Richards underlines – if one seeks to gain understanding of the nuances of the human condition.

Richards does a great job of addressing such nuances from the perspective of a person who has achieved outstanding success as a Canadian writer of fiction.

I have spent a bit of time in Saint John and Moncton in New Brunswick.

I’ve also read a bit about the province and I’ve read one or two books by David Adams Richard.

I really like this memoir. Richard has much to share about the craft of writing. I have learned much about literature, and the viewpoint of a practitioner of the art of writing fiction such as Richards, from reading this book. Such a viewpoint as his also enables me to get a better sense of New Brunswick as a region of Canada – a better sense than I would otherwise. I have a sense that it’s important to know as well as possible the regions of Canada, to the best of one’s ability.

I am a better person for having read this book.

Some time ago I came across another book which offered a glimpse, in one of its chapters, of how psychiatry has been practised in the past in New Brunswick. The book is entitled Decency & Deviance: Studies in Deviant Behaviour (1974), edited by Jack Haas and Bill Shaffir. I was especially interested in Chapter 12, “The quest for fluency: Fluency variations and the identity problems, management strategies of stutterers,” by Michael Petrunik. It’s a great chapter and it ties in with my ongoing research for a biography project I am working on.

Another chapter – Chapter 10, by Donald Cameron – came to mind when I read Richards’ account of how, for some people in New Brunswick, it’s a good idea to walk around with a letter in your pocket – a letter written by a psychiatrist certifying that the person in possession of the letter is actually sane.

The chapter is entitled “Tim Crawford meets the mind police.” In this narrative, we have a situation around the 1960s when a perfectly sane young man chose to spend his summer living in a teepee. His family decided he was for that reason in need of incarceration in a psychiatric institution. I kid you not. It’s quite a story. It took some time to arrive at the ‘official’ declaration that the young man was sane after all. It’s an enlightening chapter.

Another thing that stays in mind is that, from reading parts of Chapter 10 once again, it suddenly occurred to me that when David Adams Richards talks about Chatham in his memoir, he is not referring to Chatham, Ontario. There is also a Chatham in New Brunswick. Now, so many incidents that took place in Chatham, as recounted by Richards, are correctly positioned in my mind. I am really pleased to know there is a Chatham in New Brunswick – as well as one in Southwestern Ontario.

Finally, with regard to matters related to New Brunswick, an Aug. 21, 2023 CBC article is entitled: “Province didn’t do analysis of corrections system before deciding to build Fredericton-area jail, records show.”

An excerpt reads:

The province didn’t do any kind of detailed analysis to map out the future of corrections in New Brunswick before announcing plans to build a new jail in the Fredericton region, according to records reviewed by CBC News.

In 40 pages of records turned over by the Department of Justice and Public Safety after an eight-month access-to-information battle, there’s no report assessing the business case for building a new Fredericton-region jail, including how much it might cost to operate, or any assessment of how much space the correctional system might need in the future.

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