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The Whetter the better

By Sasha DownerStaff Contributor

Dalhousie professor Dr. Darryl Whetter’s latest novel involves a cross-country journey via bike.

“It’s a rarest of Canadian novel,” he grins. “(It) has a plot.”

The novel is titled The Push and the Pull. It is about Andrew Day, who, according to a synopsis from Whetter’s publisher, Goose Lane, “embarks on a bicycle trip from Halifax to Kingston, his childhood home. As he goes, the dual narratives of Andrew’s life emerge: the slow, painful death of his father and the disappearance of Betty, who may be lost to him forever.”

“It took me 10 years to write,” Whetter says. “I had to make sure that (it) was never just scenery. I had to make the journey part of the story.”

Whetter is quite an accomplished man. But before he had his PhD in English, before his work was published all around the globe, before he became a professor and environmentally friendly politician, Whetter was “just a wee lad in Orillia Ontario.”

Boy, has he come a long way since his days spent reading Fables of the Green Forest.

It is difficult to label a man who has been awarded so many titles. But this multifaceted overachiever says he’s “first and foremost a writer.”  Though he dabbles in many areas, it is obvious even from a brief conversation, where his passion lies.

“I try to write five days a week in the morning. In an ideal world, I give myself several hours, but I’m really only chasing the angels for about 90 minutes. But during that 90 minutes … that’s as good as life gets,” he said, gazing up at the ceiling. “I just love writing. Sentences, paragraphs, lines of dialogue — I just love it.”

“It (also) terrifies me and is pure hell,” he adds with a smirk.

Whetter writes a book column in This Magazine, he’s published 75 book reviews, several academic papers in France, Sweden, Iceland, Germany, India and North America, as well as two books, one of which, entitled A Sharp Tooth in the Fur, was named to The Globe and Mail’s Top 100 Books of 2003.

Because he is the Green Party candidate in the 2008 federal election, I asked Whetter to dream big. He said if he were to add prime minister to his ever-growing list of titles, he would rearrange the government he once called “archaic and undemocratic.”

“I would invest heavily in green energy,” he says. “Nova Scotia is one of the best wind sources on the planet, and yet we import our energy from Central American coal and Middle Eastern oil.”

Investing in renewable resources, he says, “doesn’t send the money elsewhere,” and will in turn create jobs.

Like many students, he’s also hoping to see more accommodations for cyclists.

“Halifax is a city of 30,000 students and it has two bike lanes, ya know?” he says. “You can’t even find a place to lock a bike downtown.”

He will be reading from The Push and the Pull on Friday, Nov. 20th at 3:45 in room 1198 of the McCain building.  Free wine to follow.

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