Sunday, May 03, 2009


His next book

will be about him

Making the short walk from the extraordinary new Vancouver Convention Center to my hotel room at the Pan Pacific I passed a stooped gentleman in a Greek Fisherman’s cap gingerly making his way towards the same hotel. Given that there is only one Canadian I know of who wears a Greek Fisherman’s cap, I figured as I overtook him that it must be Peter C. Newman. I quickly glanced back and discovered that indeed it was the great man himself. Never having met him before but knowing that we had a mutual friend, I introduced myself and spoke of our common acquaintance. Naturally, I also told him that I was a great fan and had read most of his seventeen books.

Newman is a giant of Canadian letters. From his first work, ‘Flame of Power,’ published in 1959 to his most recent seventeenth, ‘Izzy,’ published last year, together with countless newspaper and magazine pieces he has written since the fifties, the prolific Newman has entertained and informed his readers about Canada and Canadians as few others. Thus, I was thrilled to be talking to him.

Of course, I asked him what he thought of the new Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff who had just finished delivering his acceptance speech a few minutes before. Newman enthusiastically sang his praises. He said that the party had made a very wise choice, and were now poised to take it all in the next election. He was happy with the quality of Iggy's message and was convinced that the Grits had turned the corner after a very bad time and were on their way to restoration under the new leadership. As a matter of fact, Newman said, he was so fascinated by the life and personality of the new leader – and here is a scoop for all of you out there who follow these things – his next book was going to be a biography of Michael Grant Ignatieff.

We entered the hotel from street level, which requires taking two escalators to get to the lobby. The first escalator was in mechanically good order but the second was not working. I thought that Newman, who is only days from turning 80, had been walking very slowly and tentatively towards the hotel and may have difficulty making his way up the long flight of steps. But with a resurgence of energy he bounded up the stairs as fast as I. Perhaps he was inspired by remembering a few licks from a Stan Kenton jazz recording (He writes best listening to Kenton’s big band music), or perhaps he was thinking about writing the first biography on someone who is sure to become the next Prime Minister of Canada. In any event, Newman is a true Canadian icon, a national treasure, and a helluva writer.