It turns out that the editor and publisher of one of Canada’s biggest publishing houses is a pretty good storyteller himself. Over his 40+ year career he has worked with our best and most famous authors and politicians. He was the one that promised Alice Munro that he would never pressure her to write novels, and that he would like to promote and publish her short stories as major fiction. He was the one that brought Mavis Gallant’s works home to Canada. She had long ago moved to Paris, and was well known in Europe and America, where she published numerous short stories in the New Yorker, but she wasn’t getting published in Canada until Doug Gibson stepped up. He describes with great delight and a bit of nostalgia his relationships — which frequently evolved into close friendships — with a wide range of authors such as prime ministers, athletes, radio celebrities and the cream of Canadian literary writers such as Hugh MacLennan, Morley Callaghan, WO Mitchell, Robertson Davies.
Although each chapter is titled by the name of one of the authors, that really only serves as the nidus for a particular collection of anecdotes, only some of which are about the named subject. Other writers, politicians, publishing industry people make their appearances too as part of the rippling pool of Gibson’s Canadiana lit. And Gibson also meshes in snippets of his own life. He is generous in his praise, kind to his subjects, and does his utmost to find the good and positive in his clients (he seems to genuinely like Brian Mulroney!). He seems to know everyone. I suspect one could randomly point to a spot on a map of Canada and he could come up with an anecdote about it.
It is a delightful read, highly recommended for anyone interested in Canadian literature.