Writer Farley Mowat: Appreciations…

From National Post
Thanks to Todd Walton

Memories of Farley Mowat, Dead at 92

Farley was a friend and an early inspiration to me as a writer of creative nonfiction — books like Never Cry Wolf and People of the Deer are models of the kind of blending of fact and imagination that make that genre sing on the page and be more persuasive in the mind. And Farley was of course a generous and thunderous personality. I remember visiting him on Cape Breton many years ago now, crouching with him in the engine room of The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float; he had the engine apart and was cleaning it with gasoline while smoking a cigarette. Somehow I knew he wouldn’t blow us to kingdom come, and he didn’t. Quite the opposite: Farley always made us feel more solidly connected with the earth. — Wayne Grady is the author of 14 books of science and natural history, and a novel, Emancipation Day.

A great Canadian and human being, and an impish scamp when he felt like it. I can remember him waltzing my 75-year-old mother around the floor and saying, “Why are you hanging around with that old poop?” (My dad [was] once his forestry prof.) “Why don’t you run away with me?” The waiter pressed a butter knife into my dad’s hand and said, “Kill him!” — Margaret Atwood

I read everything I could by Farley Mowat as a child, and then – as people often do with the authors they loved as children – I left him behind. As I started research on my latest book, though, his Sea of Slaughter became a lodestone, and led me back into some of my other favourites. What struck me this time is the magic Farley worked: his writing infused often cutting-edge ideas – note that A Whale for the Killing was published the same year that Greenpeace was founded – with an almost childlike sense of wonder. His books were a gateway into ideas that global society is still struggling to deeply grasp, and they mean even more to me today than they did when I thought I was only thrilling to tales of whales and boats and wolves. — JB MacKinnon is the author of, most recently, The Once and Future World: Nature: Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could Be

Farley Mowat may be considered Canadian property and a son of the North, but growing up in New England, he was a distinctive feature on the landscape, and I happily claimed him. A good story occupies space in an atmospheric way, enriching the collective mental environment. Once partaken of, it remains with you, quietly influencing you and your experience of the world at large. In my formative literary ecosystem, Mowat occupied a niche somewhere between Holling Clancy Holling and Jack London. He was one of the first to introduce me to wilderness, but also to our capacity for damaging it, and the power of ordinary people to reverse that damage. The episode in The Siberians where the local citizenry shuts down a paper mill that is killing the fish and seals in Lake Baikal (at least that’s how I remember it) has stayed with me ever since I read it well over 30 years ago. Mowat showed me things that were precious, and how easily and cynically they could be lost. — John Vaillaint is the author of The Tiger and The Golden Spruce.

Mr. Mowat was a celebrated author, environmentalist, activist and Second World War Veteran, having served throughout Europe. One of Canada’s most widely read authors, he was a natural storyteller with a real gift for sharing personal anecdotes in a witty and endearing way. His literary works almost always reflected his deep love of nature and of animals. For his contributions to Canadian arts and culture, he was awarded many honours, including being made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1981, in addition to receiving the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals. Mr. Mowat will be remembered as a passionate Canadian. His legacy will live on in the treasure of Canadian literature he leaves behind, which will remain a joy to both new and old fans around the world.” —Stephen Harper

When someone you love dies, it is not possible to begin to express the love and loss. Farley Mowat was one of my dearest friends. His 93rd birthday would have been this coming Monday and — as always — I was looking forward to talking to him. Farley Mowat was a champion for the wild things. He spoke with unflinching courage against humanity’s destruction of each other and of the other species with whom we share this planet. He raised public consciousness of the famine that laid siege to the Inuit. Farley spoke for whales and seabirds, for tadpoles and mosses. He was possessed of a ferocious talent, able to write stories that provoked laughter, tears and action. We owe him more than I can say. — Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada.