Year in Review: 2012

An overview of L.M. Montgomery-related events and publications from 2012, summarizing information previously released in sixteen blog posts.

Complete Journals: 1889–1900

One of the highlights in 2012 was the news, released in mid-April, that The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years, 1889–1900, edited by Mary Henley Rubio and Elizabeth Hillman Waterston, would be published by Oxford University Press in September 2012!

From the Oxford University Press website:

The first edition of The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery was published in the 1980s, with fifty percent of the material removed to save space, as well as to reflect a quaint, marketable vision of small-town Canada. The editors were instructed to excise anything that was not upbeat or did not “move the story along.” The resulting account of Montgomery’s youthful life in Prince Edward Island depicts a fun-loving, simple country girl. The unabridged journal, however, reveals something quite different.

We now know that Montgomery was anything but simple. She was often anxious, bitter, dark, and political, although always able to see herself and her surroundings with a deep ironic—and often comical—twist. The unabridged version shows her using writing as a means of managing her own mood swings, as well as her increasing dependency on journal keeping, and her ambition as a writer. She was also exceedingly interested in men. We see here a more developed portrait of what she herself described as a “very uncomfortable blend” between “the passionate Montgomery blood and the Puritan Macneill conscience.” Full details describe the impassioned events during which she describes becoming a “new creature,” “born of sorrow . . . and hopeless longing.”

In addition, this unedited account is a striking visual record, containing hundreds of her own photographs placed as she placed them in her journals, as well as newspaper clippings, postcards, and professional portraits, all with her own original captions. New notes and a new introduction give key context to the history, the people, and the culture in the text. A new preface by Michael Bliss draws some unexpected connections.

The full PEI journals tells a fascinating tale of a young woman coming of age in a bygone rural Canada, a tale far thornier and far more compelling than the first selected edition could disclose.

This book, which I reviewed in the Globe and Mail, was also included in the year’s The Globe 100, which included “titles reviewers couldn’t put down, couldn’t stop talking about, and insist you stock up on, too.” And by then, more good news had come our way: that the next volume of Montgomery’s unabridged journals, The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years, 1901–1911, also edited by Rubio and Waterston, would be published by Oxford University Press in March 2013!

Anne of Green Gables Television Series

On June 11, I shared a news release from Breakthrough Entertainment announcing plans for an all-new, thirteen-episode television series based on L.M. Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables:

Leading Canadian production-distribution studio Breakthrough Entertainment and the heirs of beloved Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery have joined forces to develop and produce a 13-episode series for television based on one of Canada—and the world’s—most celebrated and eternal book series, Anne of Green Gables. Announcement of the all-new Anne of Green Gables television series was made jointly at the Banff World Media Festival by Breakthrough Entertainment principals Ira Levy and Peter Williamson, and Executive Producer Joan Lambur and Kate Macdonald Butler, granddaughter of author Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Set for production in 2013 in the Canadian Maritimes, Breakthrough Entertainment’s Anne of Green Gables will be a contemporary retelling of the famed book series while capturing author Lucy Maud Montgomery’s original vision for her characters and stories.

First published in 1908, Anne of Green Gables remains an iconic work selling more than 50 million copies worldwide.  The eight classic Anne of Green Gables novels have attracted generations of readers inspired by the adventures of the spirited redhead Anne Shirley, who comes to stay at Green Gables and wins the hearts of everyone she meets.

Not surprisingly, this news generated a lot of responses on the website, starting with one from a user named Shelly:

This is very interesting, and exciting, news. On the other hand, I can envisage a lot of backlash from long-time fans of the 1985 miniseries, who no doubt will shout from the rooftops that they can visualize only Megan Follows as Anne.

Here’s how I replied:

I think part of the reason people are so attached to the 1985 Anne of Green Gables is that it’s really the only adaptation that’s in circulation, except for the 1934 talkie which still airs on TV occasionally. The 1919 film is believed to be lost, the 1972 BBC miniseries apparently vanished (and, to the best of my knowledge, never aired in North America), the 1979 Japanese anime was never dubbed into English, and the live versions from the 1950s haven’t been rebroadcast to the best of my knowledge. And yet, works by authors like Jane Austen, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, and Lewis Carroll have been adapted numerous times, for both film and TV, and viewers have come to appreciate that adaptation is an act of interpretation, even as they come to like some versions more than others, just as many Anne fans enjoy the miniseries and the musical for different reasons. I’m really looking forward to seeing a new take on Anne, particularly one that’s filmed in the Maritimes.

A user named Faith B also responded:

What I’m actually longing to see is a tv/film adaption of books 2 through 8. If this is good, maybe they’ll continue with the series, in the RIGHT way, not with anything like Anne’s “Continuing Story” that really didn’t follow any book at all. The first movie they made with Megan Follows and Colleen Dewhurst was magnificent, but it was down hill from there. I’ll hope for the best with this… though the words “contemporary retelling” worry me a good deal. I’m sure no true Anne-fan wants a “contemporary retelling.” We want the Anne that we all know and love, and we want to feel the same charming spell which the books cast over us. Still, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for this one. I’m convinced it can’t be too bad if they just find the right girl to play Anne. Megan Follows was Anne – no question, she just WAS Anne. Played her absolutely perfectly. Still there are definitely more girls just as suited to play her, but they’ll be hard to find. Find the perfect Anne, make at least an attempt to stick to the books’ initial storyline, and I think it’ll be okay. Fingers crossed!

There were also some questions, then and in the months that followed, about whether any news about casting had been released, but although I kept my eyes peeled, I didn’t see anything further about this project throughout the rest of 2012.

L.M. Montgomery and Cultural Memory

Another highlight this year was L.M. Montgomery and Cultural Memory, for which old friends and new friends met in Charlottetown for another weekend of learning, discussion, and fellowship. Here’s what I wrote on June 20, also known as “pre-conference day”:

I’m currently in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island for the 10th biennial international conference hosted by the L.M. Montgomery Institute at the University of Prince Edward Island. This year’s theme is L.M. Montgomery and Cultural Memory, and as program chair I’m particularly excited about this conference because I’ve been reading about all of these papers for several months and finally this weekend I will get to hear them.

Photograph of Elizabeth Rollins Epperly speaking into a microphone to a crowd of onlookers in front of a library building.
Unveiling of Epperly Plaza at University of Prince Edward Island, 20 June 2012

Today was the pre-conference day, which began with a special unveiling of the Epperly Plaza, a beautiful garden and pathway in front of the Robertson Library that was named in honour of UPEI’s fourth president, Montgomery scholar Elizabeth Rollins Epperly. As Dr. Epperly reminded us during her delightful speech, it was today in 1908 that L.M. Montgomery received her author’s copies of her first novel, Anne of Green Gables.

Photograph of a stationery white truck featuring a publicity image from Anne of Green Gables: The Musical.
Truck featuring Anne of Green Gables: The Musical, in downtown Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

In the afternoon my friend Vanessa and I went wandering around Charlottetown in search of secondhand books and other collectibles. Once again, Anne was everywhere.

Finally, in the evening, we had our opening reception where I bumped into several old friends. One of the things I’ve always liked about this conference series is the feeling of community that has developed over the years. I’ve been attending this conference series since 1996, and what I’ve really appreciated is seeing friends and colleagues again as well as meeting new people. In a way, it feels a lot like coming home.

The conference is on until Sunday, and if past conferences have taught me anything it’s that it’s bound to be an intense few days. To shake things up a bit on this website, I’ve asked some of my old friends to join me on this blog and write about their impressions of the conference. So stay tuned!

After that, I shared the microphone with four fellow conference attendees, each of whom provided a summary of the day.

Cultural Memory, Day 1 (21 June 2012): Vanessa Brown

Guest post by Vanessa Brown

Welcome Montgomery fans to my first blog for the L.M. Montgomery Research Group! Guess what? I’m here to tell you about my exciting day at the Montgomery Conference here in beautiful Prince Edward Island, and it really has been exciting.

This morning we found out about new plans from the L.M. Montgomery Institute to start a publication series, a app for your iPhone, and the digitization of Montgomery’s letters to Penzie MacNeill. How cool is that?

I’m selling books at the conference for Attic Books in London, Ontario, but like any good bookseller, I slept a little bit late. Still, there was plenty of interest at my booth despite my tardiness, and also at the booth for Gallery 18 who was only here for today. It was great to meet Aubrey Bell and talk a little shop before diving into the day’s intellectual fare with a cup of coffee and some pastries—the trademark nutrition of any academic gathering.

I sat in on Trinna Frever’s presentation on Recollection and Remembrance, as well as Katja Lee’s enthralling talk on Montgomery’s self-branding with particular focus on The Alpine Path. Maud’s focus on crafting her image for the public and for herself was apparent for both speakers and led to some riveting discussion. I also enjoyed the question period following presentations on predestination, “future memories” and the conflict of modernity in the Emily books, by quick witted Balaka Basu, the venerated Andrea Valenta and brilliant Laura Breitenbeck, respectively.

After some yummy refreshments, I dug my teeth into Melanie Fishbane’s multimedia presentation on sexy Gilbert Blythe—Oh, how I love you Jonathan Crombie!—and even played Diana in a dialogue highlighting his place in our cultural memory. Later topics included Walter Blythe and the World Wars (Gwen Gethner), liminal spaces in Anne’s House of Dreams (Poushali Bhadury) and Queen Victoria’s role in the Emily books (Holly Pike).

Sitting around all day works up an appetite, so we found ourselves at the Anne of Green Gables Chocolates in downtown Charlottetown, where I picked up some delicious Avonlea cheese. Yes, I’m an Anne fan, but I’m also a cheese fan and I would eat this yummy stuff if it was called by any other name. It’s twice the price in London, Ontario, so I consider this a score.

The evening was topped off by a glorious cocktail reception, hosted by the Heirs of L.M. Montgomery for the conference speakers. Kate Macdonald Butler and Sally Keefe Cohen throw a superb party, with delicious appetizers and a flowing bar—all at the Great George Hotel where Regis and Kelly stayed on their recent visit to the Island. Did you read that folks? Regis and Kelly! One of the bartenders told me that he was assigned to be their personal slave and assured me that Kelly is super tiny in real life, and so is Regis.

Actually, I was more impressed to find out that Anne Murray had stayed there, but it’s all subjective.

I left the party still hopping and expect my roommate to come in late and certainly not sober. That’s it for today! Tomorrow is my big talk, and I’m super nervous. I hope whoever is blogging tomorrow is kind.

Cultural Memory, Day 2 (22 June 2012): Melanie Fishbane

Guest post by Melanie Fishbane

My name is Melanie Fishbane and I am thrilled to be writing my first blog post for the L.M. Montgomery Research Group. I’ll be giving you my impressions of the second day of the L.M. Montgomery and Cultural Memory Conference. By the way, if you want a more in-depth play-by-play of the day’s events, do follow the #lmmi2012 or #lmmipei hashtags on Twitter.

Alas, I was a little behind today with my tweeting, having walked to the conference with my travel companion and roommate and was a little late for the first speaker. Those who know me know that I am not a morning person. Getting anywhere for 9 AM is a feat in itself. But arrive we did and listened to papers that both stimulated and stirred our imaginations.

The first special panel was on Memory, Communities and Readers.  From memories of family vacations that led to lobster trap coffee tables, to finding that rare edition in the most unlikely of places,  Davida Mackay, Christy Woster, Jeanne Kaye Speight and Mary Beth Cavert recounted how L.M. Montgomery’s works had influenced their lives.

The Keynote panel that followed was a mixture of sadness and joy for us.  Because of a recent death in the family, one of the rockstars of Montgomery scholarship, Elizabeth Waterston, was unable to attend the conference. However, her editorial buddy and dear friend, Mary Rubio, read Waterston’s paper, “L.M. Montgomery’s Journals: Changes in Cultural Landscape, 1982–2012” out loud, providing her own commentary as well. I shall not lie: when Rubio held up the newly revised The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years, 1889–1900, I did a little jig in my seat. I simply cannot wait until tomorrow when there will be a book release party with Rubio signing copies of the new edition. The geek girl in me is squealing.

Elizabeth (Betsy) Epperly followed with a brilliant discussion on “Remembering Home: Memory, Meaning and Metaphor in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Ingleside,” which was so amazing that it made me want to run home and read it right away. Also, just when she started to talk about the last two paragraphs of the last novel that Montgomery published in her lifetime, the lights went out.

The afternoon panel discussions continued to delight us as we discussed concepts of memory, re-interpreting truths, and asking ourselves “what is Montgomery’s ‘true voice’?”  Vappu Kannas discussed versions of memory while editing Montgomery’s selected journals and William Thompson explored social resistance and psychic re-visioning in the Emily books. While Cynthia Sugars talked about hauntings and ghost stories in The Story Girl, giving me pause when thinking about this morning’s “electric failure.”

The final panel of the afternoon were two fascinating papers by Andrea McKenzie and Yoshiko Akamatsu about Montgomery’s posthumously published novel, The Blythes Are Quoted. And our blogger from yesterday, Vanessa Brown, did an excellent job describing her detective work in finding a ledger that is connected to Montgomery’s suicide note. (See, Vanessa? No reason not to be kind!) These insightful papers give us much to ponder about Montgomery’s last novel and her final days.

Then we all brown bagged it and hopped on the bus to Belfast for a quick visit to the Sir Andrew Macphail Homestead,  where Montgomery once visited and met Canada’s Governor General, Earl Grey—the story has to do with them sitting on the steps of an outhouse and people avoiding it as they didn’t want to disturb the GG in his discussion.  We really wanted to know where that outhouse was, but there were way too many mosquitos out tonight to do an adequate search of the property.

The night ended with an intimate evening of music at St. Paul’s Church for the Festival of Small Halls, a local musical festival where musicians from Atlantic Canada play at local small venues. Built in 1824, the church still had some of its original markings. It was beautiful and the sound was incredible. Dylan Guthro, Irish Mythen, Nathan Wiley and Matt Minglewood charmed the audience with their folk and blues medleys and good humour. L.M. Montgomery conference attendees were specifically welcomed by the organizers who mentioned that Montgomery’s husband, Ewan Macdonald, had lived in the area before they were married  and that one of the members of the church actually lived in the house!

I cannot wait for tomorrow which not only includes a silent auction and our banquet, but more informative and interesting papers on this fascinating topic of Montgomery and cultural memory.

Cultural Memory, Day 3 (23 June 2012): Christine Chettle

Guest post by Christine Chettle

My name is Christine Chettle, I’m a Ph.D. student at the University of Leeds in the UK, and this is my first time at an L.M. Montgomery conference. As a lifelong fan of L.M. Montgomery’s work, and particularly of her Emily trilogy (I named my pet hedgehog after Ilse Burnley because she kept climbing out of her cage), I was really excited to attend the 2012 conference on L.M. Montgomery and Cultural Memory and share some of my work on Charlotte Brontë and the Emily books. However, I also felt quite shy, as I hardly knew anyone. But I shouldn’t have worried. L.M. Montgomery is a writer who knows all about the dynamics of community—both the pros and the cons—and because of this, perhaps, L.M. Montgomery lovers seem to share her sense of community, and in a particularly kind way. At this conference, there have been no Josie Pyes or Miss Brownells!

Throughout Day 3 of the conference, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on L.M. Montgomery’s connections with a number of differing communities. First of all, the educational community: Jennifer Litster, Benjamin Lefebvre, Tara Parmiter, Diane Tye, and Åsa Warnqvist all provided complementary insights into her interactions with various entities, discussing her connections to, respectively, an ambivalent Scots heritage, fluctuating audience receptions, traditions of ghost stories, processes of memory, and the dynamics of folklore. Later, thanks to the presence of Jean Ledwell and Lesley Clement in my panel session, I discovered her links to New Zealand literature and to visual art. Miss Stacy and Mr. Carpenter would definitely have approved.

Mr. Carpenter, with his enthusiasm for Emily’s PEI heritage, would also have enjoyed Sarah Gothie’s presentation on the Green Gables museum and Judy Plum (of the Pat books) would have loved Jean Mitchell’s exploration of Park Corner, PEI through the light of Silver Bush. A presentation from the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario gave an inspiring view of Montgomery’s influence beyond PEI in Leaskdale, Ontario. In the spirit of matriarchs Rachel Lynde and Miss Cornelia, they have nurtured Montgomery’s home in the Leaskdale community from a forgotten derelict to a thing of beauty (and with these ladies at the helm it will quite possibly be a joy forever).

At the conference banquet this evening, we had the opportunity to hear about Åsa and Stefan Warnqvist’s lovely romance. The conference coincides with a number of their anniversaries, falling as it does around the important Swedish celebration of Midsummer’s Eve: nine years ago they met, five years ago they became engaged, and four years ago they came to PEI for their honeymoon. This is a happily-ever-after that I can imagine Valancy and Barney Snaith enjoying!

My table at the banquet was the “international” table, representing Montgomery’s worldwide reputation in communities across five different countries (the conference included delegates from seven countries) apart from Canada. The international table included sa We laughed and talked exuberantly, sharing our passionate love of Montgomery, our earlier adventures with Montgomery-inspired YouTube clips and fan-fiction, and our speculations on vampires as cultural texts. Maybe at the next conference, we’ll start a newspaper, like the King children in the Story Girl books, or tame a lion, like Jane and her friends in Jane of Lantern Hill. But for tonight, we limited our adventures to the dance floor, where I tried out moves I generally only use in Zumba class to the sounds of Meaghan Blanchard’s inspired musicianship. If Anne Shirley had been there, I’m certain she would have done the same.

Throughout the whole conference, we’ve all been aware of Simon Lloyd’s and Pauline MacPherson’s fantastic guidance, and and this evening, all the delegates paid enthusiastic tribute to their work above and beyond the call of duty in nurturing and organizing this event. Like Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, they’ve made sure that everyone has found a home—however briefly—at the 2012 conference.

And then, of course, we all went to the pub. . . .

Cultural Memory, Day 4 (24 June 2012): Vappu Kannas

Guest post by Vappu Kannas

My name is Vappu Kannas and I’ll be giving you my impressions on Day 4—sadly the final day—of the wonderful L.M. Montgomery and Cultural Memory conference. I came to PEI all the way from Helsinki, Finland, where I’m doing my Ph.D. on Montgomery’s journals.

As seems to be a habit among the guest bloggers, I too was a bit late for the first session of Day 4. Like Melanie, I’m not a morning person and sometimes wish conference sessions happened late at night (perhaps in a pub). However, I was able to catch the last few minutes of Kate Sutherland’s talk on Montgomery’s legal battles. I’ve heard Kate’s earlier papers and I’m always so fascinated about her insights on this aspect of Montgomery’s life. Then, Adeline Carrie Koscher from Massachusetts talked about the New Woman in our cultural memory and aptly demonstrated that Anne of Green Gables is a New Woman character. The panel was completed with Emily Woster’s great talk on her Ph.D. project on Montgomery’s “reading autobiography.” I can’t wait to get my hands on Emily’s dissertation! (By the way, Emily’s sister’s name is Anne.)

The second and last panel of the day was a special one. Dana Gerberi and Sandy Wagner talked about the very concrete aspect of Montgomery’s cultural memory: her handiwork, or, more specifically, hooked mats and quilts. Dana connected the hooking of rugs with the hooking of stories, and showed us that many of Montgomery’s fictional characters (as well as herself) are characterized through their quilts, needlework, and so on. We also heard a nice piece of local folklore which states that Ewan and Maud stood on a hooked rug made by Maud’s grandmother, when they were married in Park Corner in 1911. Sandy showed us some elaborate patterned quilts with names such as “Flying Goose” and “Rising Sun”; somebody in the audience even mentioned a “Tuxedo pattern.” I wonder what that looks like.

That’s the end of my “serious” notes, but this is where the fun field trip part begins! The now-famous Bus Tour of Montgomery Places took off around midday. With our brown paper bags (containing lunch), we ventured out of Charlottetown to visit or re-visit all the important Montgomery-related places: Park Corner/Silver Bush (Anne of Green Gables Museum), Montgomery’s Birth Place in New London, Green Gables, and the Macneill Homestead in Cavendish. It was great to be back to those enchanting places that I saw for the first time in 2010 with my new LMM friends and my parents. In addition to visiting the museums, I enjoyed some nice chatting time with Mary Beth Cavert in the bus, and getting to know William (Bill) Thompson from Edmonton, who was visiting the LMM places on PEI for the first time.

Another special moment was a joint endeavour to clean Frede Campbell’s grave in the Geddie Memorial Cemetary, where we stopped briefly. Frede was a very important friend of Montgomery’s and she describes Frede’s death, which devastated her, in a long entry in her journals. Initiated by the always vigilant Vanessa Brown, it was a touching moment to see these friends of Montgomery, and thus of Frede, scratching off the lichen from the gravestone with their bare hands. We all went back to the bus with a little bit of cultural memory under our nails.

The day ended at the Macneill Homestead in Cavendish where Montgomery used to live from 1876 to 1911. Unfortunately the actual house is not there anymore, but a walk around the grounds and what used to be the old apple orchard brings Montgomery’s times vividly back. There’s something very soothing and peaceful in the atmosphere at the Homestead. We took the same little short cut path that Montgomery used to take to go to church, and heard some wonderful Island poets (Deirdre Kessler, Judy Gaudet, David Helwig, and Hugh MacDonald) recite their own poems among Montgomery’s and Milton Acorn’s poems in the Cavendish United Church, where we could also see Montgomery’s old organ, so instrumental in her meeting her future husband Reverend Ewan Macdonald. . . .

Through the misty (and a bit ghostly) evening we headed back to Charlottetown, after a short visit to Montgomery’s grave. Luckily, this wonderful conference does not have to end in the rather sad sight of Montgomery’s final resting place, but in the new beginnings of people flying off to their various destinations. We all leave PEI with our own unique but shared memories of the last four days. With ideas for fan fiction and Emily and Anne spin-offs (Anne meets Tarzan, Emily turns into a vampire, Walter meets Dean Priest etc.), I can’t wait for the next conference in 2014 to continue all the conversations began here.

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