EMWF Panel: On Being Alive

Thursday August 13, 8:00 - 9:00 p.m. EST (online)

Presenters: Dakshana Bascaramurty, This is Not the End of Me, John Gould, The End of Me, and Ray Robertson, How to Die: A Book About Being Alive

Host: Steven W. Beattie, Quill and Quire

Contemplating one’s mortality can be difficult – it is a subject we often avoid, despite death being an inevitable part of human existence. But what if honest conversations about death could lead us to live happier and more meaningful lives? The three books featured in this session explore death in different ways, but arrive at similar conclusions: to truly learn what it means to be alive, perhaps we need to gain a clearer understanding of what it means to die. 

This event includes closed captioning.

This is Not the End of Me
By Dakshana Bascaramurty
Published by McClelland & Stewart

At the age of thirty-three, Layton Reid, a wedding photographer from Halifax, was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma. The cancer was first detected years earlier, and after fighting it and going into remission, he had ditched his life as a wandering bachelor to finally settle down. When the cancer returned, he and his wife, Candace, were now expecting their first child. Fearing side effects and poor results from chemotherapy and radiation, he and his family threw themselves into pursuing an extreme alternative therapy, which he was certain would save his life. Two years later, Layton's cancer spread to his brain, and quitting the therapy, he devoted his energy to preparing his infant son, Finn, for life without him.

With incredible intimacy, power, insight, and empathy, reporter Dakshana Bascaramurty, who first met Layton when she hired him to shoot her wedding, tells the story of her friend Layton's illness; of his free spirit, effervescence, and captivating personality, eloquence, and lack of sentimentality, which drew her to him; and of the journey his fiercely devoted family--his parents, Willie and Phil, and brother Matt--undertook with him, in order to examine how a person dies, and how we might build a legacy in our information-saturated age.

Powerful and unvarnished, This Is Not the End of Me contains moments of great beauty and humour, and reminds us of what it means to live.

Dakshana Bascaramurty is a national news reporter for the Globe and Mail. She won a 2013 National Newspaper Award in beat reporting for her coverage of changing demographics in Toronto's 905 region, and in 2018 a silver medal for Best Arts and Culture Story, at the Digital Publishing Awards for "Kent Monkman: the modern touch of an old master." Before joining the Globe and Mail in 2009, her work appeared in the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen and on CBC. This is her first book.


The End of Me
By John Gould
Published by Freehand Books

The End of Me is an astonishing set of sudden stories about the experience of mortality. With an ear attuned to the uncanny and the ironic, John Gould catches his characters at moments of illumination as they encounter the mystery of their finite being. A marooned astronaut bonds with a bereft cat; kids pelt a funeral procession with plums; a young girl ponders the brief brutality of her last life, and braces herself for the next one.

Rife with invention, with fresh ideas and arresting voices, this collection of flash fiction shimmers with compassion and vitality.

John Gould is the author of two previous collections of very short stories — including Kilter, a finalist for the Giller Prize and a Globe and Mail Best Book — and the novel Seven Good Reasons Not to Be Good. His fiction has been published in periodicals across Canada and abroad, and adapted for film. A teacher, editor and arts administrator, he lives in Victoria, where he served on the editorial board of the Malahat Review and taught creative writing at the University of Victoria.


How to Die: A Book About Being Alive
By Ray Robertson
Published by Biblioasis

“He who would teach men to die would teach them to live,” writes Montaigne in Essais, and in How to Die: A Book about Being Alive, Ray Robertson takes up the challenge. Though contemporary society avoids the subject and often values the mere continuation of existence over its quality, Robertson argues that the active and intentional consideration of death is neither morbid nor frivolous, but instead essential to our ability to fully value life. How to Die is both an absorbing excursion through some of Western literature’s most compelling works on the subject of death as well as an anecdote-driven argument for cultivating a better understanding of death in the belief that, if we do, we’ll know more about what it means to live a meaningful life.

Ray Robertson is the author of eight novels and three works of non-fiction. His work has been translated into several languages. Born and raised in Chatham, Ontario, he lives in Toronto.

Steven W. Beattie is the reviews editor at Quill & Quire magazine in Toronto. His writing has appeared in the Globe and Mail, the Toronto StarThe Walrus, Canadian Notes & Queries, and elsewhere. He maintains the literary website That Shakespearean Rag.

Want a copy of the books featured on this panel?
The Bookshelf (Guelph) is our bookselling partner for this event. If you would like to purchase a copy of one of the books from this event, you can order online at bookshelf.ca or phone 519-821-3311 x1. Free shipping or curbside delivery in Guelph. $10.00 shipping cost outside of Guelph.

Thank you to our supporters:
The Angel Gabriel Foundation, The Canada Council for the Arts, The Department of Canadian Heritage, Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation, League of Canadian Poets, Open Book, The Ontario Arts Council, The Pollock Family Fund and Wellington County.