With this year’s edition of the Word on the Street festival set to run from September 28 to 30, we asked some of the writers on the wildly diverse bill to tell us about the reading experiences that shaped them. Which book left deep impressions early on? Which one overhauled the way they see and think about the world, and set them on a path to a literary life?
Here’s what George Bowering told us. A revered poet, critic, and novelist, the Penticton-born Bowering is the author of more than 100 books, and has served as Canada’s first-ever Parliamentary Poet Laureate.
He’ll be reading from his new memoir Pinboy at 2:20 p.m. on September 30, in the Canada Writes Tent outside the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.
When I was around 12 I started the habit of reading 100 books a year. At that time my favourite writer was Max Brand. I also liked Evan Evans, but it turned out that he was the same guy as Max Brand.
His birth name was Frederick Faust, and he wrote under at least 12 other names. He wrote a lot, about 500 books, or to put it another way: 30 million words. I liked his westerns especially, and most especially his series about a character named Silvertip. I also read Luke Short. Luke Short wrote realistic westerns, and Max Brand wrote romantic westerns.
He wrote a series about a cowpoke named Destry, which became a movie and a musical, I think, and he invented a medico named Dr. Kildare, who had a lot of success on television. He became a frontline war correspondent, and in 1944, just before turning 52, he was killed in his beloved Italy. Thank how much more he might have written if he had lived to be, say, my age!
He is not my favourite writer anymore, but he got me started. He led me to believe that I could write books. And so I did—including two westerns.