Stuart McLean is a fantastic story teller. I’ve enjoyed his books immensely, but most of all, I’ve enjoyed listening to him tell me his stories on the radio, either directly through CBC Radio 2, or through the podcast made of the show. This past Christmas, I was gifted tickets to see and hear him live here in Toronto, a wonderful time.
When I listen to him on the radio, as his calming voice meanders through the lives in his stories, I often picture him. In my mind, he’s sitting in a library on overstuffed leather chair, with a tweed coat laid over the arm, a side table with a lamp and glass of water beside him… perhaps a large breed dog dozing at his feet. As each page came to an end he leisurely grasps the corner, sliding his fingers under the page, gently turning it, just as an avid reader moving through a treasured novel. This is the man I picture when I hear the measured voice regaling me with tales from the mundane to the fantastic.
This could not be further from the truth.
The man I saw at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts has nothing in common with the man I pictured but the voice. As his story began, as he lapsed into those measured tones, his feet never stopped moving. He danced around the microphone like a boxer, stepping closer to make a point, jumping to the side in excitement, waving his arms in exclaim, always ready to strike us with another adverb. When he reached the bottom of each page, he’d frantically reach forward and throw it back, as eager as a child on Christmas morning. It’s easy to fall under the spell of a great storyteller, to stop seeing and only listen, but his fantastically animated demeanour shook that away, and spiced the story in ways I couldn’t have imagined over years of radio listening.
Listen to his podcast for a while, then go see him live, he’s an utter delight.