Here I am, at Toronto Pearson Airport on my way to Newfoundland, and memories are overwhelming!

I drove with my family through Toronto and Hamilton in 1996 but couldn’t stop there.

This year, the opportunity of a WIPCE Congress gives me after 8 years the pleasure to see most of my Indigenous colleagues next week, but also to visit again the University where I taught and studied back in 1985…!

The shock is so great that I’m doing this gradually. I spent two days rediscovering Toronto and truly accepting the fact this is no longer a slow and sweet Canadian city but a truly American if not agressive metropolis!

I know people assume that Québécois are the different ones

Sanctuaire du St Sacrement, Mont Royal

, but in terms of mentality, Toronto is way apart! It’s only at night when the pace is much slower that one realizes we aren’t quite in New York!

Toronto was of course already multicultural and infinitely diverse but the difference is even greater. 

I enjoyed there the Hogtown experience

The skyline and beauty are still as enjoyable, and even more so with the lakeshores modified and enhanced but to my eyes and in my memory, the city seems to have doubled in volume and population.

I am trying to reconnect with my friends of a pre-email and pre-FB era and am discovering with sadness that my adoptive father for the year I spent in Hamilton passed away.

The good news is that my adoptive mother Bailey is still around so I hope that after my Newfoundland trip (a digestive one after the initial shock) I will be able to meet some of my old friends.

More on my next post from Hamilton and in the meantime enjoy more photos and as many impressions of my architectural taste and distastes of this short reconnecting stay.

PS. I decided to have the Hamilton story sequal here.

It was emotionally incredible to meet Bailey again after what turns up to be 33 years! Here are some photos of this wonderful get together, with my deep regrets not to have been able to see the wonderful and irreplaceable Chester!

And I also had the great pleasure of attending two fabulous performances at the Stratford festival, Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens (more at the end of the paper)

And Sheridan’s The School for Scandal at the Avon Theatre

But what amazed me was the growth of MacMaster U where I taught and studied in 1984-5…

Quite a moving experience! And Hamilton itself is changing its image although old habits die hard!

More about Timon of Athens: this excellent paper from a very knowledgeable journalist, Martin Morrow:

I saw the play on the date mentioned. It played all summer of Stratford’s 65th Festival season, “a season that explores identity” (cf. Cimolino, Antoni (2017), ‘What’s in a Name?’ Stratford Festival Programme.)

“The middle of humanity thou never knewest, but the extremity of both ends” (Act IV, sc.3). Apemantus the philosopher famously tells Timon, the prodigal-turned-misanthrope in William Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens. (…) Timon is a man of extremes, a man of excesses, who can’t find the euilibrium that allows others to live in a corrupt and dishonest world.
Even if he doesn’t actually lose his sanity -like King Lear, the other Shakespearean character he most closely resembles- (…)Timon undergoes a startling personality change in the course of the play.
Apparently a real Athenian who lived in the 5th century BC, Timon was already a legendary misanthrope in classical antiquity. Aristophanes mentioned him, so did Plutarch. Shakespeare may have stumbled upon him while reading Thomas North (North, Thomas (1579), Parallel Lives.) where Timon’s tale is embedded in the biography of Mark Anthony -Shakespeare’s source for Antony and Clopatra. The playwright may also have been acquainted with. Timon, or The Misanthrope, a dialogue by the Satirist Lucian that contains other elements found in the play.

Timon of Athens first appeared in 1623 in the First Folio edition of Shakespeare’s works. We have no record of itsperformance during his lifetime and, given thepatchy quality of the text, it has often been regarded as an unfinished andpossibly abandoned work. Historically, scholars have treated it harshly, contending that some of it was written by others (Thomas Middleton is a favourite candidate) and dismissing it as infoerior, both in style andin substance, to Shakespeare’s great tragedies.
Certainly, in conventional terms, the story is lacking: Timon shifts from philanthropy to misanthropy so profoundly and irretrievably that the drama has nowhere to go. As immoderate in his hatred as he was in his liberality, he spends the latter part of the play simply raining curses on anyone and everyone. It’s as if King Lear had ended with Lear raging on the heath.

Such flaws meant that Timon of Athens was largely neglected by the theatre until the late 20th century, where a string of revelatory prodcutions proved that it could be far more compelling on the stage than on the page.:

(Paul Scofield’s Stratford-upon-Avon production, 1965, Peter Brook’s Bouffes du Nord, 1974, Robin Phillips Grand Theater in London, Ontario, Stephen Ouimette in Stratford in 2004 and now).
Ouimette is revisiting the play and once again unearthing its hidden riches.
There could be no better time for a Timon revival. We are now in an age where extreme contrasts and extreme viewpoints have gained an alarming amount of ground. Siciety is increasingly divided between the rich and powerful “one percent” and everyone else. We are beset by religious terrorists and fear-mongering politicians who see no middle way, while social media is polluted by the rantings of hate-filled trolls. If Timon were alive today, he might be spewing his misantrhopic invective on Twitter.

Then there is the early Timon, blighely unconcerned that hisprofligate behaviour is plunging him deep into debt, who reminds us of our consumer society in which many people now spend beyond their means, and, like Timon, are encouraged to do so by those who benefit from it. When Nicholas Hytner directed an up-to-the-minute version of the play at Britain’s National Theater in 2012, Gardian critic, Michael Billington (cf. Billington, Michael (2015), ‘Timon of Athens – Review’, The Guardian, 18 july 2012.) saw in it “bitter fable” according to Morrow, Martin (2017), ‘Timon of Athens: An Extreme Man for Extreme Times’, Stratford Festival Programme ) (a bitter fable) on the” insulating effect of wealth and the precariousness of a credit culture in which reality is kept at bay.”
Although traditionally categorized as a tragedy, Timon of Athens is just as much a lacerating satire -as critics have pointed out, theplay anticipates Johathan Swift’s “savage indignation”, certainly in the later scenes where Shakespeare gives Timon a litany of blistering tirades that are entertaining in their mad extremism. Connoisseurs of the creative curse will find his sweeping denunciation of Athens outdoes in all but poetry any of the blights that Lear wishes upon his heartless daughters.
As for poetry and rhetoric, there is Timon’s scathing lecture directed at a gagn of bandits, in which he finds a model for their larceny in nature itself. (It includes that wonderful line ” the moon’s an arrant thief, And her pale fire she snatches from the sun”) which provided the title for Vladimir Nabokov’s dazzling novel Nabokov, Vladimir (1962), Pale Fire, whose antihero may be as deluded as Timon).
Then there is Timon’s urgining of Phrynia and Timandra, the courtesans of the general Alcibiades, to infect men with syphilis -a feast of comically disgusting imagery that remains toe-curling even in the era of penicilin.
Most amusing, however, is Timon’s peppery exchange with his self-appointed gadfly, Apemantus, a cynic who finds kinship with Timon’s jauncided view of humanity even as the two of them hurl insults at each other. But there is a difference between the two men: Apemantus, for all his asperity, sees clearly; Timon is blinded with hatred (…).
Alcibiades (also a historical figure lifted from Plutarch) provides the play with its subplot. He, like Timon, has taken his grievance against a group of citizens to the extreme and plans to bring down all of Athens, but finally is made to listen to reason and seek a more moderate revenge.
Timon’s own rage might have proven cathartic -as perhaps it was to Shakespeare, who, it has been suggested my have written those tirades to ourk out some anger of his own. The tragedy is that it doesn’t: Timon’s misanthropy is a dead end that finds solace only in the grave. Unrelenting hatred merely ends up consuming the hater. We are reminded that the only sane path, for ourselves and the world, is one that tempers anger, however justified, with reason. Timon is like those fanatics, whether they be religious hzealots of political demagogues, raging futilely at a world that doesn’t -and will never- conform to their ideals.
Morrow, Martin (2017), ‘Timon of Athens: An Extreme Man for Extreme Times’, Stratford Festival Programme

Other references quoted by Morrow:

Billington,Michae (2012), ‘Timon of Athens – Review’, The Guardian, 18 july 2012.
Cimolino, Antoni (2017), ‘What’s in a Name?’ Stratford Festival Programme.
North, Thomas (1579), Parallel Lives.

2 thoughts on “Toronto and Hamilton: Memory Lane. 

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