Wednesday, December 1, 2010



When I helped my mother downsize and move from a house to an apartment I discovered her passion for elastics and bits of string. She had hundreds of elastics, some so old they crumbled to dust when touched. When my husband died he left more than 30 pairs of glasses behind. Now that I’m preparing to move I’ve found at least a dozen pairs of scissors. Why do we do this? Why do we choose to collect particular objects?

Perhaps my mother, a survivor of the depression and of my father’s prolonged absence during WWII, felt elastics and string would hold her life together in the event of another cataclysmic event. My husband liked to be in charge, to know what was going on and to do that he needed glasses. As for me I hesitate to speculate why I have this fixation with scissors. Certainly my first three books, Cut Off His Tale, Cut to the Quick and Cut to the Chase as well as my upcoming book, Cut to the Bone, all include cutting in its various forms. It’s clear that cutting is important and I have no idea why although it’s likely that the reason lurks deep in my subconscious.

Our subconscious collects and nurtures prejudices that we don’t always identify or examine. Prejudice of course is a loaded word. No one wants to be accused of harbouring prejudice yet it is impossible not to do so. Reading books written in the twenties or thirties we see that Virginia Woolf and many others exhibited a virulent anti-semitism that would be unacceptable today but is understandable although not admirable given that they were products of their time.

Bias could be seen as the opposite of prejudice, a benign attitude that also colours our writing whether it be a political or social bias.

What we do with prejudice and bias is another question. First, we need to acknowledge their existence and then decide if one of our characters will exhibit prejudice and deal with it?

How do we identify our own prejudice and bias - that is the question?

Joan Boswell A member of the Ladies Killing Circle Joan co-edited four of their short story anthologies: Fit toDie, Bone Dance, Boomers Go Bad and Going Out With a Bang. Her three mysteries, Cut Off His Tale, Cut to the Quick and Cut and Run were published in 2005, 2007 and 2007. In 2000 she won the $10,000 Toronto Star’s short story contest. Joan lives in Toronto with three flat-coated retrievers.

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