Friday, November 14, 2008

Berton's night

Up betimes and down to the Bright Pearl on Spadina for the Berton House fundraising bunfight -- one of those rich galas we in the Toronto media elite spend all our time at.

Pierre would have enjoyed it. Some of his old friends spoke and performed, and people talked right through most of them, and being troupers in the Berton tradition, most of them carried right on. Ron James stopped the chatter, because Ron James is a genius. Twenty years hard work on the comedy circuit, he says, and it comes to this, doing a Chinese restaurant on Spadina for free. He phrased it funnier than that and we laughed.

The Berton House fundraiser, ah, raises funds for the Berton House. That's Pierre's childhood home in Dawson, which he presented as a retreat for writers. From time to time a great Canadian moment takes place there: hip, urban, angsty, cutting-edge novelists from the big cities spend three months looking at the snowbanks in the cold and dark. Apparently this works wonders. Thanks, Pierre.

The night also saw the presentation of this year's Berton Award for services to Canadian history. Take a look if you haven't yet at the good work of this years winner, the online Great Unsolved Mysteries of Canada project. In the deserts of Canadian history online, these people are an oasis. Peter Gossage, John Lutz, and Ruth Sandwell were there to accept the award. A fair sprinkling of other historians ornamented the room: McGooghan, Charlotte Gray, Maggie Siggins, not so many from the Toronto professoriate.

And -- Bertoniana never rests -- the night also launched Brian McKillop's immense new biography of Pierre. I brought home a copy, and mention here now, as they say, does not preclude a longer notice at some subsequent moment. And so to bed.
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