PORT ALBERNI, British Columbia -- People from throughout Vancouver Island
traveled to hear celebrated Native author Thomas King read from his latest
work, "A Short History of Indians in Canada," during a brief stop in this
small west coast town.
"Short story collections are funny things. I don't write a novel straight
out. I always write short stories in between," said King, who has also
contributed short stories to various anthologies and literary journals.
"I don't have a preference so much; it's just where my head is. Sometimes
I'll get an idea that's a good idea for a short story, other times I'll get
a good idea for a novel. I get more ideas for short stories, obviously
because I write more of those than I do novels. Some days I'm feeling like
I don't want to tackle a huge prose project, so short stories look pretty
good. Other days I feel strong, and think, 'Now's the time to begin a
novel,'" he said.
The 20 stories in "A Short History of Indians in Canada" bounce from
comedic satire to personal drama, traditional tales to contemporary
"Most of my stories are about the way we treat one another or the way we
interact with the world, and I've always had a satiric bent in my fiction,"
"This was a really great afternoon," King said afterwards. "I came out here
for the Vancouver Writer's Festival, and wanted to spend a few days in
Tofino, which is one of my favorite places, so the opportunity to do a
reading here fit my schedule perfectly," he said.
Over the past few weeks, King has hosted readings in Calgary, Vancouver,
Victoria, San Francisco, Sacramento, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Montreal
"Some writers love book tours, but not me. I'd rather stay at home and stay
hidden. If I didn't have to tour, I wouldn't," said King. "Every so often I
have a really nice time, but I'm not sure touring is worth it in the end.
It takes years off my life because I hate to fly," he said.
"I also hate flying through places. It's just not my way," he added. "The
best reading of the tour was definitely Port Alberni. You never know where
your best audience is going to be, but the audience was in the mood for a
good time, and that's always a lot of fun because you can sit back and
relax a little bit and you don't have to work so hard," he said.
King has little time to relax, however, as he is currently writing scripts
for the next season of CBC Radio's popular series "Dead Dog Cafe Comedy
Hour," has a new mystery novel coming out in the spring, and is working on
another novel as well as television and movie projects. Then there are the
two creative writing classes he teaches during the winter semester at the
University of Guelph in Ontario.
Perhaps best known as a writer, actor, and fall guy in "Dead Dog Cafe
Comedy Hour," King is also a successful author and academic.
King, a professor of Native Literature and Creative Writing at the
University of Guelph, first burst onto the book world in 1990 with his
novel "Medicine River," which he then turned into a TV movie starring
Graham Greene and Tom Jackson.
King then released "All My Relations," an anthology of contemporary Native
literature, which he edited and contributed to. King's first children's
book, "A Coyote Columbus Story," was nominated for a Governor General's
Award for Literature in 1992, followed by a second nomination in 1993 for
his novel "Green Grass, Running Water." That same year, he released a
collection of short stories titled "One Good Story, That One," from which
two stories were later dramatized for TV and radio. His most recent novel,
"Truth and Bright Water," was published in 1997; and after completing the
prestigious Massey Lecture Series, King was able to put the finishing
touches on his latest collection of short stories.
Written over an eight-year period, "A Short History of Indians in Canada"
is King's second collection of short stories.
Arguably the top Native writer of this generation, Thomas King is one of
the few modern writers whose easily identified style blends comedy and
drama, traditional legends and tales of modern life. His stories are a
must-read, "especially over winter," King said; "winter is the time for