Bittersweet Epiphany

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Intriguing new memoir on the way from Philip Lee

If you were a media watcher in this province during the 1980s and early 90s, you will remember Philip Lee.

He was one of the reporters at The Sunday Expres, the muck-raking newspaper where I worked from 1988 to 1991, when it folded. Currently an associate professor of journalism at St. Thomas University in New Brunswick, Lee has worked with the Telegraph-Journal in New Brunswick, the Ottawa Citizen and Atlantic Salmon Journal. He is also the author of two books, Home Pool: The Fight to Save the Atlantic Salmon and Frank: The Life and Politics of Frank McKenna.

This weekend, Lee is releasing his third, and certainly most personal, book, titled Bittersweet: Confessions of a Twice Married Man. And this weekend, you can actually download the entire book for free.

Yes, one can be forgiven for shuddering at a title like that do we really want to know the private details of a failed marriage?

Well, that depends. In the wrong hands, with impure motives, absolutely not. But with a perceptive, sensitive and intelligent writer like Philip Lee absolutely yes.

It should be made clear that the end of Lee's first marriage is just part of the story. Judging from the publisher's promotional blurb', it is also a story of love rediscovered, emotional redemption and personal epiphany.

Here is how Goose Lane Editions describes Bittersweet:

Philip Lee has survived "the dark year" - a year in which two newly divorced brothers rough it, with no running water or indoor plumbing and contend with a feisty band of squirrels that inhabit their kitchen. Dishes are washed in the rain, coffee is made with a can and a blowtorch, a bucket becomes a make-shift shower, and renovation projects are abandoned almost as soon as they are started.

But life never stands still, and Lee churns his way into new chapters of his life with the help of a therapist, and the new love of his life. Choice literary snippets gleam among his personal epiphanies, life's losses, and small victories. Slowly, enlightenment dawns, and with it, a second chance at love and happiness.

With wry wit, warmth, and sensitivity, Lee shares a personal journey that takes him from the rivers and coastlines of Eastern Canada to the cities of China and the Greek island of Naxos. He cuts to the heart of the matter - how it is that we might lift ourselves up through the great work of love.

The publisher has taken the unusual promotional step of making the entire text of the book available as a free download, for a limited time. If you would like to take advantage of this offer, go to the Goose Lane web site and click the free download button. But please note that this offer is only available from 12 midnight (Atlantic time, presumably) on September 19 to 12 midnight on September 21.

This is something of a risky move, making the book available for free. How many people will buy the hard copy, after reading the online version? Clearly, Goose Lane is hoping that the giveaway creates more word-of-mouth and book industry buzz, among people who otherwise wouldn't have read the work.

You can also read a brief excerpt of Bittersweet at the above link, but be warned it ends abruptly, and leaves you wanting for more.

That's a good thing, and bodes well for the book's prospects for success.

You can read more about Lee and his book here at Mysterious East, his personal blog.

ADDENDUM: I just received in the mail an invitation to a new showing of works by photographer Ned Pratt, which opens coincidentally enough on September 19 at the Christina Parker Gallery. That's two former Sunday Express alumni debuting creative works on the same date.

The invitation describes Pratt's show simply, as thus:

Photographs examining the Newfoundland & Labrador landscape and the simple intrusions, both natural and human, found within it.

Some of the photographs that illustrate the invitation bear striking stylistic similarities to that of Ned's father, Christopher Pratt, with stark landscapes, clean horizontal lines and muted colours.

Here is how writer Des Walsh describes the exhibition:

Landscape is all about place, Newfoundland is all about landscape, we are who we are because of its physicality, its sensuality and its soul. Ned Pratt sees this in a way few of us do, he sees it in images that are directions on a map that most of us have walked, images unfortunately we so often ignore, and that's our loss. Fortunately Ned Pratt is here to document and remind us how emotionally beautiful is this place we call home.

The exhibition can be viewed online at Christina Parker's web site. However, these are small images - you really need to see them in the gallery, in their full size, to appreciate their visual power.

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