On the way to CLA Ottawa 2012 and on the way back I stopped at Kingston to explore its history, its public library, and a promising café called The Common Market on Ontario Street overlooking the waterfront pathway.

The Common Market in a limestone building of old world charm.

Books read on the journey:

0375507256_01__SX140_SY224_SCLZZZZZZZ_ Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

Six stories, each nested in the preceding one, span time and space, beginning in the nineteenth century in the Pacific Ocean, and moving to the distant future, make up David Mitchell’s award-winning novel, Cloud Atlas.

With a remarkable command of language, of dialect, of turns of phrase (carefully avoiding anachronisms because of the shifting time frames), David Mitchell weaves these seemingly unrelated stories into a gradually building tumult of revelations and surprise connections. Each paragraph, and sometimes each sentence, feels carefully constructed to propel the reader forward in a sense of an unfolding, of a peeling away of the layers of an onion. One is never sure what is around the next corner … or the next turn of the page. Yet, the settings are evocative and memorable. The puzzle of each character is put together in a way that feels as if pieces are missing. There is often a nagging sensation that there’s something more to the scene … and then a revelation in the next story suddenly casts a new light on the previous where the whole scene is suddenly illuminated. Or sometimes a small part of the scene remains fixated in one’s mind, as if one has been pulled to one side and told something that feels important but is not to be understood until one is perhaps older and wiser.

Cloud Atlas will be turned into a movie this year, starring Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Halle Berry, and Susan Sarandon. The structure of the novel is such a challenge, though, one wonders if the filmmakers can pull this one off.

1848871562_01__SX140_SY224_SCLZZZZZZZ_ Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization, by Paul Kriwaczek

There’s something invigorating about reading a history book in a historical setting like Kingston. Here is the history of the beginning of civilization, the first urban settings that sparked a revolution in how people lived. Paul Kriwaczek compares this time to the post-Enlightenment, early industrial age, when people flocked to the cities from the countryside, and partook of a new consumer culture, of a new order of things.

But in looking at the Victorian buildings in Kingston there is another sense. I’m also reading of the latest findings from historical research—I know more from this book than what Victorian age people knew, even though they were among the first to first gain insight in the lost periods of time depicted in this book. At that time, new archaeological work and newly translated cuneiform writings like the Epic of Gilgamesh, discovered in the library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh in 1849, were transforming people’s understanding of the wider world at the same time that their daily lives were being transformed by science and industry and new and crowded urban settings. The echo in the book of an older urban revolution seems to travel to that Victorian age, and ricochet down to this 21st century setting in the café called The Common Market overlooking Lake Ontario and the military fortifications called Fort Henry National Historic Site.

Below are some photographs I took…

Fort Henry was a big draw, with its expanded facilities and programs, and this year’s celebration of the War of 1812.P1000997
The Garrison Parade, with the Fort Henry Guard going through its routines and the billowing smoke and relentless echo of the firing of the guns within the limestone walls.

David X, the mascot of the Fort Henry Guard.

The blast of a cannon over Deadman’s Bay. In the distance—the wind turbines on Wolfe Island.

Intricate military marches and manoeuvres, at times with the music of Fort Henry Drums. The Fort Henry Guard are actually university students trained as British soldiers from 1867.

“A power which has dotted over the surface of the whole globe with her possessions and military posts, whose mourning drumbeat, following the sun and keeping company with the hours, circles the earth with one continuous and unbroken strain of the martial airs of England”—Daniel Webster, 1834

Note that England appears twice—on either side of the map.

Downtown Kingston, as seen from the westward entrance to Fort Henry.

Kingston City Hall. The plaza behind the building, Springer Market Square, hosts the oldest and longest-running market in Ontario most days of the week.

On the Haunted Walk of Kingston, with the guide recounting thoroughly researched stories. Old limestone buildings and Victorian-age structures—some well-kept, some in disrepair—evoke a sense of surprise around every corner.


image Artist Maggie Sutherland with her painting of Stephen Harper – Emperor Haute Couture. When I visited the Central Branch of the Kingston Frontenac Public Library I found the artist in the process of packing up, with the controversial painting on the table.

I found the downtown branch of Kingston Frontenac Public Library to have some lessons for Guelph. The building had underground parking with two entrances—one for staff and one for library cardholders—which is a configuration that makes sense for a new Guelph main branch. The library building was also closely attached to a residential building.

Central Branch of the Kingston Frontenac Public Library

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