Tag Archives: The Poisonwood Bible

The 50-page Rule: “Tension Is Important!”



Years ago — a time when men were kind, when their voices were soft, and their words inviting; a time when love was blind, and the world was a song, and the song was exciting — I would muscle my way through books I didn’t even really like. The point was: I had to finish it.

By the time I was thirty, I narrowed it down to 200 pages for an author to grab my attention. (In fact, Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible was the only book I finished after almost giving up at the 200-page mark.)

Then came forty and I scaled it down to 100 pages. Today, you’ve got 50 pages to capture my resolve to slog through more words.

Which brings me to the book I was reading until earlier last night, Rachel Cusk’s Kudos. If agents, publishers and arts councils give you anywhere from 1-20 pages (double-spaced) to catch their eye, then why should we the public have to invest so much more time?

As Mr. Bob (above, Bill Murray) is told in Lost in Translation by his Japanese director for the Suntory whiskey ad, he needs “more intenshitty” and “more tenshun.” The same is true for fiction. You’ve got to bring something to the table early on, or else fogetta ’bout it.

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Mental Health and the Success of Let’s Talk

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Just over one week ago, Bell Media continued with its multi-year initiative called Let’s Talk in support of mental health. In 2017, the campaign – which now stretches across the CTV network and the entire Bell network, as well as social media sites – raised more than $6.5 million. Now in its 8th year, the campaign has raised a total of $79,919,178.55 for mental health. As a result, “institutions and organizations large and small in every region received new funding for access, care and research.” The aim is to reach $100 million by 2020. Something tells me they’re going to crush that goal.

More importantly, just as the program name indicates, people are finally talking about the issue. The purpose of talking about mental health and depression in public and with the public is to reduce/remove the stigma attached to these subjects. Although Bell leaves much to be desired when it comes to telecommunications technical support(cough, cough), I have nothing but the utmost respect for what they started in 2010 with the Let’s Talk program, and to Clara Hughes for having the strength to be the national spokesperson. For that, if nothing else, Bell Media is to be lauded and applauded.

On a related note, I recently came across a site called Natalie’s Lovely Blog, which is run by a very brave and well-spoken 19-year-old named Natalie Breuer. She writes about a number of subjects, but it was the one entitled “On Depression” that caught my eye.

While I support the Let’s Talk initiative 100%, it’s important that we don’t address mental health for just one day out of the year and then forget about it until next January. For many people, it’s a crushing condition that spans every minute of every day – 365 days a year. If you want to help, reach out, donate or merely learn more, I can think of no better place to start than the Centre for Mental Health and Addiction (CAMH), an institute with a mandate and access to resources like no other I know of in Canada.

As Barbara Kingsolver, the acclaimed author of The Poisonwood Bible, wrote in The Bean Trees:

“There is no point treating a depressed person as though she were just feeling sad, saying, ‘There now, hang on, you’ll get over it.’ Sadness is more or less like a head cold – with patience, it passes. Depression is like cancer.”  

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