“Exotic and heartfelt stories of life in small-town Canada.
Of life in Canada. Period.” -The Toronto Star
I miss his voice. His stories. But most of all I miss his heart. In the local Saturday daily there was an editorial cartoon depicting Stuart McLean with a red maple leaf drawn where his heart would be. He was a Canadian through and through and the depiction of his heart as a maple leaf was probably the best homage to this brilliant and funny and lovely man I have run across.
Best known as the host of the CBC Radio program, The Vinyl Café, he literally took his show on the road and I am honoured to have sat in the audience of one of his Christmas shows about ten years ago. He signed one of my books. (Or, if we are being honest here, one of his books that I bought.) He was shy. I was shy. But he signed one of my books, so I was happy.
He has been described as a national treasure. And a story telling comic, though many of his stories were as poignant as they were funny. According to one of my favorite literary sources, Wikipedia, he was lauded with the facility to celebrate “the decency and dignity of ordinary people” (like you and me). Grace and humour were his tools, and he wielded them with, well… grace and humour.
You can Google Stuart McLean and find out all sorts of things. Like his first name is Andrew. But Andy McLean just doesn’t seem right. Stuart does—it has a ring to it—one of authenticity. Not of course that there is anything wrong with Andy, it is just not how we know him
I could quote any number of newspapers and people who think Stuart is the best thing next to sliced bread. In fact I will, just to show you how loved he was:
According to the Vancouver Sun, he was “Like a tonic for our national ills…as penetrating as the wind on a cold Prairie Day.” I agree with the first part. I have no knowledge of the second part, but if it was in the Vancouver Sun, it must be true.
Or the Halifax News who praised his “slice of life vignettes” as humorous and poignant revelations and simple truths. We all know that “simple truths” are somewhat slippery beings, but Stuart was a master at finding them.
The Ottawa Citizen summed up Stuart in one very telling paragraph that I could not agree with more. I have the book that they are describing, and it mirrors my manifestation of the man perfectly: “Delivered in a simple style, liberally spiced with humour and understanding of what make people tick, “Stories from the Vinyl Café” presents vivid pictures of an assortment of ordinary situations. Witty and warm, the 18 stories in this collection…make easy reading as well as pleasant listening.”
Witty and warm. There are not two better words in the English language to describe this man taken way too soon. Unless of course, you add compassionate, patriotic (but not in a ranting sort of way—but by action), and intelligent.
There is a vast intelligence under the guise of simple story telling. We knew Dave, Stuart’s main Vinyl Cafe character, who was the hapless owner of a record store, and his wise wife Morley, and their two kids. Stuart got inside the mind of his character(s), the thoughts Dave thought are those that many of us have (whether we want to admit it or not).
A Canadian voice, he has not been silenced by death. We have his books. We have his recorded voice. We have our memories….
On Another Note
Enjoyed a glass of wine at one of the local wineries on Sunday. Outside. Without a coat on. It is February. A bunch of people were sitting in a semi-circle around an outside brick fireplace. Just a random gathering. We talked, we laughed, we sipped wine. It is just this type of chance get-together and the warm comraderie that makes me happy to live in this county and in my small town. Stuart would be proud.