The Sunday Edition

'Time is the great editor': Brian Brett chooses his literary executor

The award-winning memoirist, journalist and poet is facing a difficult health challenge, so he asked a young friend, writer Chris Oke, to be his literary executor. Chris’s documentary is called "The Great Editor."
Brian Brett (Photo courtesy Erin Marie Byrnes)

[Originally published on Sept. 24, 2017]

You may remember Brian Brett. He's a bit unforgettable.

The award-winning memoirist, journalist and poet was on the program last year, discussing his latest book Tuco: The Parrot, the Others and A Scattershot World.

Tuco was an African grey parrot who Brett lived with for 25 years, teaching him about human-animal relationships and giving him new perspectives on the idea of otherness, which he already knew far too well.

Brian Brett and his African grey parrot Tuco. (Sharon Doobenen)

Brian Brett was born with a rare genetic condition called Kallmann Syndrome, which left him biologically androgynous, unable to produce male hormones, and led a doctor to declare that he wouldn't live past the age of 40.

Now in his late 60s, having far outlived the doctor's prediction — and even the doctor himself — Brian Brett is once again being forced to come to terms with the idea of his own mortality.

A dizzying string of recent health scares — a superbug infection, a heart attack, and liver cancer — seemed like a strong suggestion that he get his affairs in order; something that, for writers, includes assigning the role of literary executor.

As luck would have it, he knew just the man for the job: his former farm hand — a young aspiring writer who showed up at Brett's Salt Spring Island farm seven years ago to repair a deck, help with chores and talk poetry. 

That young man was named Chris Oke, and Chris's documentary is called The Great Editor.

Click 'listen' above to hear the full documentary. 

Chris Oke (left) and Brian Brett (right). Photo courtesy of Erin Marie Byrnes.
Brian Brett on his farm (Photo courtesy Erin Marie Byrnes)


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