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article imageAuthors at Harbourfront Centre host Charles Taylor Prize authors Special

By KJ Mullins     Feb 28, 2013 in Entertainment
Toronto - Wednesday night the five finalists for the 2013 Charles Taylor Prize were hosted by Kenneth Whyte, president of Rogers Publishing and presented by Authors at Harbourfront Centre and Maclean's magazine, an event held at the Brigantine Room.
Whyte started the evening off by saying that Noreen Taylor, founder of the Charles Taylor Prize, "doesn't understand just how much this prize means to non-fiction writing" in Canada.
This year's short list includes:
• Carol Bishop-Gwyn talks about The Pursuit of Perfection: A Life of Celia Franca
• Tim Cook talks about Warlords: Borden, Mackenzie King, and Canada's World Wars
• Sandra Djwa talks about Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page
• Ross King talks about Leonardo and The Last Supper and
• Andrew Preston talks about Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy
Moderator David Staines posed questions to each of the authors allowing the audience to better understand the thought process of their current books.
The first time Bishop-Gwyn met Celia Franca was when they lived close to each other in Ottawa during the 1970s, a hard period for the dancer as she was being pushed out the door of the dance company that she had founded. Those early meetings of the larger than life artist were intimidating Bishop-Gwyn admitted. As she dove into the research for her book Franca was discovered to be a very complex woman who didn't have the time to make solid friendships.
"Franca created herself and never dropped the mask," Bishop-Gwyn stated adding that she was one of the first who taught Canada to dance. She also noted that it's refreshing to be at a point in Canadian history that we have the maturity in culture that we can look back at our cultural icons and study them.
Tim Cook discussed the two war Prime Ministers of Canada, King and Borden after joking with Staines about why he wrote his book.
"I thought about writing a boring book," Cook said with an impish smile.
"King was an odd fellow," Cook said adding that neither King nor Borden were prepared to run the nation during a world war. Borden had no say when it came down to it about entering into war, something that changed in Canada by the time King served. As for the men themselves Cook said "I am not sure I liked them very much" but their leadership was shaped by the war and that leadership has shaped the Canada that we know today.
Dwja admitted that she admired PK Page saying, "Biographers write biographies because there is something that attracts them to the subject," In fact her last memory of being in the room prior to tonight was attending an event of Page reading her poems. "I think Page will be remembered as one of Canada's best poets." As much as she admired Page she said that it can be difficult to be friends with one's subject as a true biographer has to fact check reflections that their subjects tells them. Some memories can be found to be false as in Dwja's case when Page thought that she met Prime Minister King in England, something that would have been impossible.
King spoke about Da Vinci and also about the great artists of the 15th century that had been born in Florence. "I would like to know what was in the water," he joked after stating that when you look back to how many of the great art masters of the 15th century were from Florence which only had a population of 30,000 to 40,000 people at the time.
"Da Vinci spent the first 42 years of his life without really achieving anything before The Last Supper," King said adding that the average life span of the period was only 40 years.
Preston's book about how religion has been a factor in United States policy since the beginning of the nation came from a discussion in a class he was teaching at Yale. When asked if Bush was the first President to use religion as a way of promoting war Preston admitted to his students that he wasn't sure. Thus started a decade long journey to find the answers. "I didn't have an axe to grind and looked at the events of history on their own terms."
On Monday March 4 the winner of this year's prize will be announced at the King Edward Hotel during a special luncheon.
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