About the Author

Marianne Ackerman

A long-time Montrealer, Marianne Ackerman was born in Belleville, Ontario. She has an MA in drama from the University of Toronto and studied French at the Sorbonne. Her three published novels include the best-seller Jump. A frequently produced playwright, her new comedy Triplex Nervosa will be part of the Centaur Theatre’s 2014-15 season. She is publisher of the online arts magazine Rover, found at www.roverarts.com. The novella and stories in Holy Fools mark her first foray into short fiction.

Books by this Author
L'Affaire Tartuffe

L'Affaire Tartuffe

Or The Garrison Officers Rehearse Molière
edition:Paperback
tagged : canadian
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Excerpt

At rehearsal.

Williams: You've got it all wrong, Fraser. I'm surprised after fourteen years in Quebec, your understanding of the power of language is so primitive.

Fraser: Language is like a suit of clothes. If you put an idiot in a high priced coat, you get a well-dressed idiot.

Williams: Language works from the inside. To speak French is to find a hidden side of oneself.

Fraser: If you've got something to hide, in which case you're a hypocrite. But don't blame it on the limitations of your mother tongue.

Williams: I'm not blaming my mother tongue. I'm simply suggesting that to learn a second language is to find a new and sometimes frightening door...to the soul. One can't always know what one has to hide, Fraser Louis, what do you think?

Grandpré: Pardon?

Williams: The soul. Is language a means to uncovering the soul?

Fraser: He wasn't listening to a word we said.

Enter Humphreys.

Humphreys: Good afternoon, fellow thespians.

Williams: Sir!

Humphreys: Ah! Major?

Fraser: Hello, Harry.

Humphreys: Well, well. Malcolm Fraser. One of General Wolfe's finest, in the old days. What a pity you left.

Fraser: Well, I'm back.

Humphreys: To do the play.

Williams: Louis, je voudrais vous présenter mon oncle, le Colonel Humphreys. My mother's sister's husband. Nous ferons la pièce ensemble. Louis de Grandpré.

Humphreys: Mr. de Grandpré, I've heard so much about you. Monsignor Montgolfier tells me you were his prize student. And you gave up a brilliant career in the priesthood.

Awkward pause.

Humphreys: Well, welcome aboard. I'm very happy to have your participation in our little cultural endeavours. Now, what role do I play?

Pause.

Williams: Uncle is quite an accomplished actor.

Humphreys: Remember India?

Williams: The Duchess of Salisbury.

Humphreys: She Stoops to Conquer.

Williams: And Shakespeare.

Humphreys: You did say this one's a comedy?

Williams: We tried Hamlet.

Humphreys: In Jamaica.

Williams: Disaster.

Humphreys: Too hot.

Williams: Too slow.

Humphreys: Too long.

Grandpré: Yes! Tartuffe is a comedy.

Humphreys: What part do I play?

Grandpré: Orgon. He owns the house in which the intrigue takes place.

Humphreys: Good.

Grandpré: Lieutenant MacKinnon plays your wife.

Humphreys: Oh.

Grandpré: And I play Tartuffe, an imposter who steals your wife, your daughter, and your house, under the pretext of saving your soul. Fraser: Assuming he has one.

Humphreys: May I see the play?

Humphreys flips through the play. Louis and Williams wait. It seems to take forever. Finally:

Humphreys: Très bien. Captain Williams, General Gage is coming up from New York next week to inspect the regiments. I'll be quite busy for at least a month. In which case I shan't be able to join in the fun before at least, say, Act III. Which seems to coincide with the first appearance of this monsieur Tartuffe.

Williams: You'd like to play Tartuffe, Sir?

Humphreys: General Gage. Commander-in-chief of the British forces in North America, Captain. Let us not lose sight of why we are here.

Williams: But Sir, the play was Louis' idea. The role of Tartuffe is—

Grandpré: Please!... Le colonel Humphreys en Tartuffe. Et pourquoi pas?

Humphreys: ...If you insist.

Grandpré: Je vous en prie.

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Matters of Hart

Matters of Hart

A Novel
edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback
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Minority Report

An Alternative History of English-Language Arts in Quebec
edition:Paperback
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Piers' Desire

Piers' Desire

edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook Paperback
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Venus of Dublin
Excerpt

from Act One, Scene iii

Ginger: You seem to know most of the lines.

Kean: I've done it a hundred times.

Ginger: I suppose you never get bored of such lovely poetry. Do you?

Kean: Bored” Kean, bored of Shakespeare” Many a night I've walked onstage with a fierce urge to leap at the front row and strangle the first person who coughs.

Ginger: What held you back?

Kean: Fear of damage to my costume.

Ginger: Now, why would you want to strangle somebody who'd paid good money to see your performance?

Kean: Who knows” It's a feeling.

Ginger: Have you ever thought of giving up acting?

Kean: I've turned my back on the theatre a dozen times. Once or twice, it was even my own idea.

Ginger: And did you feel better?

He pours himself a drink. Pours one for Ginger, but she doesn't take it.

Kean: Every step away from the stage was a step away from prison. One by one, I could feel the chains drop from the skeleton around my soul. The sky opened up and a blast of pure mountain air blew down through the dust of London, straight into my poor tainted lungs. I felt like a free man, and vowed that every sound I uttered from then till death would be a hymn of praise to freedom.

Ginger: What brought you back?

Kean: Same thing every time. Three bars into Amazing Grace, and I fall flat on my face, a sobbing lump of fear. There's nothing out there. At least I couldn't find it. Nowhere to go but back to the stage.

Ginger: Surely you could do something else?

Kean: Yes. If I were someone else.

Ginger: There's always occupations for a talented man.

Kean: You're very young, Mrs. Hogan.

Standing to go, she hands him back the glass, untouched.

Ginger: Thank you for the opportunity to hear the lines. Surely your performance tonight will be splendid. Good-day.

Kean: Please, come to the theatre.

Ginger: Oh, no, (Referring to the book in her apron.) I've a good book on the go, must be finished.

Kean: Why do you amuse yourself with those silly novels” I've seen you, don't blush. Let me amuse you tonight.

Ginger: Shakespeare's tales are old. I know all the endings.

Kean: Endings are obvious, especially in the theatre. If it's a tragedy, they die. A comedy, they marry. Or is it the other way around?

Ginger: No, it's the ending keeps people going. Look at this book, riveting. Sure, I could skip ahead to the last page, but that would spoil the rest. Once started, I don't let a book out of sight till it's rightly finished, no sir. The first book I ever owned was called Beyond the Dog's Nose, about two lads who set out to walk around the world. Terrifying story, I read it one chapter per night. Then, for no reason, the book disappeared. I looked everywhere, but it was not to be found, and that tale's been hanging over my head ever since. Not to know the ending—it's—I'll tell you, it's an awful thing. You're just left hanging. Do you know what I mean” Left, hanging?

Kean: If it's an Irish author, they'll return safe and sound, after much travail, to find their dear mother dead.

Ginger: I don't even know the author's name.

Kean: Mrs. Hogan. je vous en prie, do a poor tired player the honour of your presence at the theatre tonight.

Ginger: Not tonight for sure. It's First Friday.

Kean: What! First Friday?

Ginger: I'll be at church.

Kean: Will there be anybody in the house?

Ginger: (Doubtfully.) Oh, there's bound to be somebody.

Kean: Jesus! That arsehole is out to ruin me! I warned him specifically to look into the frigging saints' days and don't put me up against the frigging Pope. When in Rome, you cur! Is that too much to ask for ten per cent of my hide” Christ. And I get the blame for drink. I get the blame. Who holds the bottle! Who pours” He's driving me to it!

She runs to the door.

Ginger: Good bye, Mr. Kean.

He runs after her, grabs her arm.

Kean: Mrs. Hogan, I am so sorry. Please. Let me explain. I have the worst manager on earth. It's a terrible burden.

She shakes herself free.

Ginger: Sorry for your troubles

Kean: No! You can't leave now. Sit, till I calm myself.

He leads her back into the room.

So, you're telling me I'm about to perform Richard the Third for the atheists and Jews of Dublin” Are there any Jews in Dublin?

Ginger: Oh, yes.

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Woman by a Window & Céleste
Excerpt

from Woman by a Window & Céleste

Desire twirls gently and falls. Will groans with morning sickness.

Desire: There, there, you'll feel so much better. Now you know how I felt. It's no fun being sick on an empty stomach, is it? So next time you'll know better. Fasting is not good.

Will: Leave me alone.

Desire: Now, now—

Will: Alone!

Desire: Fasting is fascist. It's a blatant denial of social reality. Fasting represents order. Control. Totalitarian government. In the words of Emma Goldman, who was plump—

Will: Ahhhhhhhhh!

Desire: (Hurt and defensive.) Well, not every great idea pops out of an empty womb.

Will: True, but we haven't time for history.

Desire: Time? I have all the time in the world. My time is the tirne of my children's children. When I am dead as dust my blood will flow in the veins of grown men and beautiful women. Women full of children, and so on (Pain.) Oh, my time is near... I don't like this feeling. Give me something strong and call me when it's over.

Will: No drugs.

Desire: Come on. In this day and age, pain isn't necessary.

Will: Of course it is!

Desire: Ohhh!

Will: If I am forced against my better judgement to support this hideous repetition of animal acts, I insist on remaining conscious throughout. At least the bloody part may be interesting.

Desire: Don't mention blood.

Will: There certainly will be—

Desire: Yes, but after, holding it, throwing it up in the air.

Will: (Whisper.) After you've wiped up the blood.

Desire: (Going to Soul.) Please, speak up on behalf of...you know...general principles. The virtue and beauty of "motherhood."

Soul: She's right. There's only one way out. Only one loophole. When a small hyphen between your legs grows big enough for a head.

 

from Céleste

Suddenly, distant and then louder, music from thirty years ago. Eddie Fisher singing "I Dedicate This Song to You, My Love," or another such tune. Doorbell rings in the hallway. Enter from another room in the house, Dr. Isaac Hirscholm, a small man muttering under his breath. He picks up a few dusty books, smacks his handkerchief against the china cabinet and straightens a chair.

Isaac: Got Mayner! [My God!] The house is a mess. J'arrive, j'arrive! [Coming, coming.] David? (Doorbell rings insistently.) Keep your knickers on, madame! David? Ah, there you are. Come in, come in. Listen, I, ah, hope you don't mind. I put an ad in The Star. Well, you need someone, at least temporarily until, that is, in case Marjorie doesn't come back—

Temple: She's not coming back! Isaac: Well, knowing Marjorie—

Temple: Isaac, never speak that name in this house again! And if she dares—You say I've gone.

Isaac: Ye ye, zi vet shoyn keynmol nit kumen tsurik. [Yes, yes, she's never coming back.]

Just outside the door, Céleste stands holding an umbrella and a newspaper.

Céleste: "Housekeeper." ...C'est bien. Gardez la maison. Good salary, private room on the third floor. Sunday off and two weeks vacation in summer. No children, no pets, and so many rooms. A square stone house with a roof like a hat, and very small windows.

Isaac arrives at the door.

Isaac: Bonjour.

Céleste: Good-day.

Isaac: Vous devez être Mademoiselle O'Borne. [You must be Miss O'Borne.]

Céleste: Yes.

Isaac: Enchanté. Laissez-moi me présenter. Je suis Isaac Hirscholm, psychiatre et ami de la famille. Le Professeur nous attend. [Delighted. Let me introduce myself. I'm Isaac Hirscholm, psychiatrist, friend of the family. The Professor's waiting for us.]

She sees Temple, as he was. As she speaks, he notices her. Music.

Céleste: He was there, in the garden, a tall man, wearing a tweed jacket and tie. Standing by the trellis, leaning over a rose, as if he was waiting for someone. Like a man who lost his luggage. Straight from the airport after a long journey. Arms floating. He never lost that way...to move without touching the floor.

Isaac: Allons par ici mademoiselle. Je vais vous montrer votre royaume: la cuisine. [This way, miss. I'll show you your domain: the kitchen.]

She takes off her coat, ready to stay.

Céleste: Westmount. In 1965, you could disappear, and nobody would know where you went. Sink into a foreign language with people who knew nothing. Never have to see anybody.

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