Books·Canadian

Clifford

Clifford is a book by Harold R. Johnson.

Harold R. Johnson

When Harold Johnson returns to his childhood home in a northern Saskatchewan Indigenous community for his brother Clifford's funeral, the first thing his eyes fall on is a chair. It stands on three legs, the fourth broken off and missing. So begins a journey through the past, a retrieval of recollections that have too long sat dormant. Moving from the old family home to the log cabin, the garden, and finally settling deep in the forest surrounding the property, his mind circles back, shifting in time and space, weaving in and out of memories of his silent, powerful Swedish father; his formidable Cree mother, an expert trapper and a source of great strength; and his brother Clifford, a precocious young boy who is drawn to the mysterious workings of the universe.

As the night unfolds, memories of Clifford surface in Harold's mind's eye: teaching his younger brother how to tie his shoelaces; jousting on a bicycle without rubber wheels; building a motorcycle. Memory, fiction, and fantasy collide, and Clifford comes to life as the scientist he was meant to be, culminating in his discovery of the Grand Unified Theory.

Exquisitely crafted, funny, visionary, and wholly moving, Clifford is an extraordinary work for the way it defies strict category and embraces myriad forms of storytelling. To read it is to be immersed in a home, a family, a community, the wider world, the entire cosmos. (From Anansi)

From the book

Clifford showed me how the knights in the old days jousted.

"See this." It was a post he'd dug into the ground a little taller than my five-year-old self, with a board nailed to the top at right angles. One nail — because nails were precious and not to be wasted ¾ and a bit of plywood on one end. The other end of the board, an eight-foot two-by-four, that he didn't trim off, either because he didn't want to spend time sawing it, or because he would get in trouble for wasting wood, was left jutting out on the other side of the post. "That piece of plywood is the shield. Now I'm going to come down the hill on that bicycle. That's my horse. And this" — a pole about six feet long — "is my lance."

"You watch." He took me by the shoulders and stood me off to the side. "Now you're going to see how it was done."


From Clifford by Harold R. Johnson ©2018. Published by House of Anansi Press.

Interviews with Harold R. Johnson

Harold R. Johnson talks to Shelagh Rogers about his latest book Clifford. 17:04

Other books by Harold R. Johnson

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.