I sent this letter via email to His Excellency David Johnston back on November 23, 2010. To date, no response.
The Right Honourable David Johnston, C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D.
Governor General of Canada
I write with a proposal.
I am a freelance writer/broadcaster who specializes in literary journalism. My work has appeared in, among other places The Washington Post, The Toronto Globe and Mail, Rain Taxi, Canadian Bookseller magazine, The New Quarterly, Canadian Art magazine and BorderCrossings. I host a radio program on books called The Biblio File, write blog posts for The Guardian’s Online Books Section ( http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/arts/author/nigel_beale/profile.html ), serve as Poetry Editor for an Ottawa-based cultural magazine, Guerilla, and author a popular books blog at www.nigelbeale.com
I also collect signed first editions of the Governor General’s Award winners for English Fiction, as indicated in this post:
I contacted Rideau Hall recently with a request to view its collection in hopes of familiarizing myself with dust jacket and other points associated with GG Firsts and their variants. At the time I was informed that the books were not available to the public. Subsequently, I learned, here:
that, in any case, the GG collection consists not primarily of Firsts, but mostly of "reading" copies.
I’m not sure how you feel about First Editions – many find the practice of chasing them rather silly – I happen to think they represent important cultural artifacts; given this, I’d like to propose two things:
One, that I study your collection in order to help determine that yes, you do indeed possess what you think you possess ( Ms. Dupuis informed me several days ago that she believes all volumes in your collection are in fact First Editions) , and two, assuming that some work needs to be done, that I work with you and your officials to put together the best GG collection possible, with the intent of placing it on permanent display at Rideau Hall. Furthermore, I’d suggest that, once this task has been completed, it would be a good idea to document and publicize the undertaking. I could blog about the experience; review some of the books:
interview living authors ( please listen to several such interviews here
and generally document, as best as possible, the ongoing evolution of this important literary award.
Such an approach would, I think, bring attention to an important, neglected aspect of Canadian literary culture, and encourage a new generation of book collectors – so essential to the ongoing health of a country’s literary life and scholarship. It would also give a valuable boost to an unheralded cultural institution: the used/antiquarian book trade in Canada.
I hope this proposal makes some sense to you. I look forward to the opportunity of discussing it with you and/or your officials, in hopes of developing a plan under which we might move forward together.