Colin Snowsell's essays have been published in Maisonneuve, This Magazine and PopMatters. He lives in Kelowna where he is a professor in the Department of Communications at Okanagan College. The Frollett Homestead is his fiction debut.|
A "Valley Vignettes" Special Five Part Report
Published between April 18 and May 25, 1980
as part of The Daily Clarion's centenary
celebration of Valley Southside's founding
By Allan Mow, Staff Reporter
What starts out as a simple newspaper report on a decaying farmstead and the family that once lived there, turns into a tour de force of writing at the hands of Colin Snowsell.
"I found it impossible to regard the Frollett Homestead and not hear the chants of the ghosts of children, children who play there no longer. Children grown old. Children passed on. The day I visited the Frollett homestead I kept looking at my octogenarian host, only to see beside me a boy not yet eight."
The Frollett Homestead A Novella by Colin Snowsell
64 pages, paperback, limited edition of 500 copies signed by the author.
ISBN 978-0-9810271-4-2 | $20 | Publication date: May 2010, To order a copy, click here.
A publication of the Okanagan Institute, www.okanaganinstitute.com
The text is accompanied by a suite of photographs by Gary Nylander that shadow the tone and temperment of the writing, and the story.
"Already respected as a sharp, sly observer of present-day pop culture, Colin Snowsell reveals himself here as an expert spinner of tall tales and mind-twisting historical mysteries. The Frollett Homestead pulls you in with skill and charm, and I finished it longing for more of its ineffectual journalist hero, Allan Mow, and his world in which newspapers and crusty old country folk still matter. This little book is a genuine delight." - Will Straw, Professor, Department of Art History & Communication Studies, McGill University, author of Cyanide and Sin and co-editor of the Cambridge Companion to Rock and Pop.
I wrote The Frollett Homestead in 2007, the week after I moved from Montreal to Saskatoon, where I lived for one year before carrying on West to Kelowna. I wrote it because I was broke, unemployed, living in a basement suite and wondering if it was even technically possible to have ruined so thoroughly what had seemed like a promising academic career. I wrote because I didn't know what else to do, and I couldn't afford TV, or the Internet or booze. I was tired of writing the academic essays I'd been writing for more than a decade, and uninterested in the small stories about feelings and romantic break-ups, and the quotidian minutiae that everyone else seemed to be writing about. I wanted to write a story that was fantastic, that allowed my philosophical training a forum less confining than treatises, and that took me from a bleak present to places I knew only as a happy youth.
My parents, Doug and Ann, were both raised in Kelowna, before leaving for Vancouver to attend university. I spent occasional Christmas and summer holidays here. But when I wrote this story, I hadn't been in Kelowna, for almost 20 years, and I had not, prior to my appointment at Okanagan College, ever lived here. I had no idea, when I wrote The Frollett Homestead, that I would be living in Kelowna when the story was published, and that, because of this, the majority of readers would be from The Okanagan Valley who might be inclined to view this story as thinly veiled local history about real places. It's not, not really. The imprecision of adolescent memory forced me to invent and this forced invention based on shards of memory is, I feel, the source of the mystery. What you can't remember you can't describe, so all you can do is make shit up.
I wanted to write a short mystery like Henry James' Turn of the Screw, and that's where the tone comes from, maybe. The idea of an abandoned place found by following an unlikely turn in the road comes from a scene in the horror film Silent Hill. After that, there's some realness: there really is a homestead, and I really did visit it last when I was 14, and the way I remember it bears probably no more relation to its actual condition than this story does to anything about the Okanagan. Like my narrator, I couldn't find that homestead anymore, even if I wanted to. It's ok, though, because I don't.
- Colin Snowsell, Kelowna BC, December 2009
"The Frollett Homestead is a poignant and compelling novella that takes the reader on a journey to unexpected places and to a deep mystery. Nothing is quite as it seems. Nothing can be taken for granted. The writing is crisp and eloquent and the powerful tale that Snowsell weaves won't be easily forgotten." - David Taras, Professor, Department of Communication and Culture, University of Calgary, author of The Newsmakers: The Media's Influence on Canadian Politics, and Power & Betrayal in the Canadian Media
"The last reporter honestly reporting, Allan Mow persists in his pursuit of the truth, though coworkers mock his interest in his community's past as quaint and mawkish. As his hero argues for the local, Snowsell's prose deftly argues for the enduring power of our language, its sinewy precision a perfect representation of the hero's seemingly doomed project." - Sean Johnston, author of All This Town Remembers
"The Frollett Homestead is a joy to read: a puzzle, a ghost story, and a psychological study. It is both amusing and thoughtful, challenging our expectations and simple understandings. Like Nylander's photographs, Snowsell's prose is masterful and individual. And he is more than a promising writer: he is a full-blown talent." - Caterina Edwards, author of Finding Rosa.
Gary Nylander is a staff photojournalist at Kelowna's Daily Courier. His work has received numerous awards including the 2003 Canadian Press News Picture of the Year, and have been shown in the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University.
Colin Snowsell holds a MA in Communications Studies from
the University of Calgary. He is finishing a PhD through the
Department of Art History and Communication Studies at
McGill University. An interview he did with Chuck Klosterman
in Spin Magazine, on Morrissey and his Latino fans, now appears
in Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People
and Dangerous Ideas (2006). Snowsell believes a line from that
article - "Frankly, Snowsell doesn't know why all this happened,
either" - continues to summarize his intellectual endeavours,
but perhaps not in the way Klosterman intended.
The more one reads and the more one thinks, the more questions
one raises and that, Snowsell would like to remind
Klosterman, is kind of the point of the whole thing. Presently,
Snowsell is thinking about Canadian cowboy mythology,
steakhouses and diners. Maybe he is just hungry.
Always, Snowsell thinks about Raymond Chandler and
Los Angeles in the 1930s, the decline of Britpop, the appeal
of shoegazing, Nightmare Alley, The Wire, the short stories of
John Cheever, Swedish indiepop, and who would win in fights
between: Gene Tierney and Linda Darnell; Alain Delon and
Buck Owens; Montgomery Clift and The Clash; 50 Cent and
David Caruso. Despite his fondness for pop culture, Snowsell
still thinks Theodor Adorno was right.
Snowsell's essays have been published in This Magazine,
Maisonneuve and PopMatters. Earlier versions of Snowsell have
appeared on MuchMusic (in the role of Calgary alt-indie impresario),
obtained a journalism diploma from the Southern
Alberta Institute of Technology and worked in corporate communications
at Greyhound Canada's head office in Calgary.
Prior to joining the Communications faculty at Okanagan
College, Snowsell taught professional communication at the
University of Saskatchewan.
Bash your head against brick walls. Lie in bed
all day staring at your ceiling. Scratch the
weak chin on your pallid face. Play your
guitar, guitar player. To me, it matters not. I
will be on the verandah with my
grandchildren and my cafecito. The sun,
when it sets, will warm me all the more
because I know that when it rises, I, and those
like me, those who forbid the peril of travel
to the recesses of the mind, will still be here.
And one day, as surely as Oscar Palacio Jr.
grew his own facial hair and did not paint
his mustache on with charcoal and boot
black, as some of these same unfortunate yet
inevitable detritus of democracy now
insinuate, men who are too complex to enjoy
the simple pleasures of life, that Oscar Palacio
Jr.'s heroic charge made possible, will not.
Originally published as part of Signature from the Office of the Publisher in Residence, Okanagan College, November 2009. ISSN 1920-5848.
American clergyman and historian Jeremy Belknap, apparently, first used the phrase "Don't upset the apple cart" in 1788. Writing in The History of New Hampshire about Constitutional ratification, Belknap cautioned, "Adams had almost overset the apple-cart by intruding an amendment of his own fabrication on the morning of the day of ratification." Easy there, Adams; slow it down. Why shoot yourself in the foot (I like gun and feet idioms too) when moderation, tongues both silver and honeyed, and an eye firmly on the final prize will win the battle that will allow you to continue fighting the war another day?
Mixing figures of speech is, like most things wrong, great fun. But let's try to keep it apple for awhile.
The most commonly used apple metaphor - any derivation of the term "rotten apple" - is almost always presently misapplied. "A rotten apple ruins the barrel" is, according to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms a tightening up of the 14th century Latin expression "The rotten apple injures its neighbours." The phrase in current political discourse is customarily offered as systemic exculpation premised on the identification and offering of a scapegoat.
On Apples An Essay by Colin Snowsell
An Okanagan Institute Chapbook. 24 pages, paperback.
Limited edition of 100 copies numbered by the designer and signed by the author.
$5 | Publication date: February 2010, To order a copy, click here.
» Arcade Fire and H.G. Wells: The Lies Machine Even if you're happy to concede that David Bowie in Berlin represents a pinnacle seldom replicated across the sprawling history of popular music, it's hard not to want to punch the Thin White Duke in his thin white face every time he shoots off his famous mouth about the majesty of Arcade Fire.
» Morrissey: Why Do We Still Love Him Like We Used To? In 1991 Morrissey toured North America for the first time since the generation-defining break-up of The Smiths four years earlier, a split so unexpected, so premature, and, in retrospect, so unnecessary that many of the band's fans remember where they where when news of the break-up reached them, the way others remember where they when they learned of JFK's assassination, or the Challenger disaster.
» '80s Nostalgia and the Vicious Circle About which: "A very thoughtful zeitgeist piece, wondering aloud why sui generis '80s pop stars (Prince, Beastie Boys, Morrissey) are able now to thrive again. The ending - where he thinks this will wake up the pop public to fresh, original talent today - is a little too pollyanna-ish, but the connection Snowsell finds between the artists and the fans is interesting. Though the fact that these artists are unique certainly helps them hold on to an audience, I wonder what more specifically appeals to their fans, i.e. seeing themselves in or envying these artists, admiring not just the music but their whole aura, etc." - Jason Gross, RockCritics.com
» There Will Be Blood It's Calgary Stampede time again - the annual celebration of the traditional cowboy life. But the history of Canada's Wild West reads very differently than the festival's romanticized fable.
» The Galaxie vs. The Green Spot: Nostalgia over easy (PDF) The original text of an article that, in a greatly condensed format, appeared in Maisonneuve, in August/September 2005 and was featured in the Toronto Star's "Tasty reads from the newsstand"column, July 31, 2005.
» The Fat Man and the Quail: The Discreet Harm of the Bourgeoisie (PDF) The text for an unpublished essay, that remains one of my favourites.
» What's Hotter: Hell House or Global Warming? The Shifting Rhetoric of the Evangelical Right (PDF) An essay that appeared in Rhetor, The Journal of the Canadian Society for the Study of Rhetoric.
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