Better Read Than Never: SAUL’s The Unconscious Civilization

I’ve come back for a second assault of John Ralston Saul’s 1995 book The Unconscious Civilization.1 It’s a brainy thing, but not awfully long. And it’s not that it was such tough going; Saul’s prose is quite readable even on difficult subjects. I just wasn’t bringing my mind to it, and there are always Other

JRS in book-signing mode. Best advice I’ve ever heard on writing a book: “Finish it so you can go write a better one!” I remain heedless.

Things to Read. Saul made his early reputation as a novelist, but that phase of his career has been eclipsed by his recent prolific output of essays and book-length arguments on globalization, citizenship, the true nature of democracy and of his Canadian homeland. He is something of a gadfly, and sometimes the epithet “philosopher-king of Canada” is muttered irritably, usually by fellow Canucks suspicious of both thinkers and those who dare to do it in public.

I find him a witty, scarily smart and superbly opinionated voice. In the mid-oughts, when I was writing for the Governor General of Canada, Adrienne Clarkson, I got to spend some time in various front-row seats for the JRS experience.

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I Have Friend (Possibly Even Plural)

You may not have a Deirdre in your life, but if you ever have the chance, get one. Through no fault of my own, I did and I’m a grateful writer dude. I have My Own Private Deirdre and she’s great, even if I have to share her with everyone she’s ever had at hello. My kids like her kids, some of her friends are my friends — it’s just the best kind of ridiculous luck.

Lunch with her was my little treat for myself this week. She’s a Bahá’í friend, she’s a writer, she was my predecessor at Rideau Hall and the reason I knew there was an opening there (and thanks, Wendy!). She’s one of the best people I know in combining brains and encouragement. Somehow, it’s not as common as it might be, as it needs to be. I came away feeling good, feeling happier and (consider the odds!) smarter. It’s strange, the power of Deirdre. And then I hung out at the Running Room, buying nothing but soaking in that old feeling of athletic camaraderie with strangers who know sport and respect those who know it in return. Good afternoon!