George Sipos was born in Budapest and raised in London, Ontario. For more than 25 years he was the leading bookseller in Prince George where he operated Mosquito Books while also teaching at the local college. He left the book trade in 2005 to become manager of the Prince George Symphony. That year he also released his first book of poetry, Anything But The Moon (Goose Lane Editions, 2005), nominated for the Dorothy Livesay Prize. He subsequently took a job as executive director of ArtSpring, a performing arts centre on Salt Spring Island, and released his second collection, The Glassblowers (Goose Lane, 2009) as well as The Geography of Arrival (Gaspereau, 2010).

In The Geography of Arrival, George Sipos revisits the city of London, Ontario, where his family settled after immigrating to Canada from Hungary in 1957. It was shortlisted for the 2011 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction. Divided into short chapters, each related to a different local landmark, the book depicts the world through the eyes of a boy getting the hang of North American culture, and of an adolescent finding his way in the larger world. This book was tentatively entitled London Landmarks.

Moving chronologically, Sipos traces his interior, personal geography across the particular landscape of 1960s' London. After his family settles in a downtown apartment, there is the baffling discovery of a plastic hockey-player figurine in the cereal box and the theories he and his father develop to explain it. Sipos shares his fear of opening his eyes underwater at swimming lessons, his first subway ride on a trip to Toronto, and his early love of public speaking, fencing and choral singing. He tries to live-trap a rabbit in the park, recalls the year the fall-out shelter stole the show from the All-Electric Dream Home at the exhibition, and savours the joy of public skating at the outdoor rink on Elliott Street. In one of the book’s most absorbing passages, a teenaged Sipos guides his stage-frightened priest through the first service after the changes to the Mass brought about by the Second Vatican Council.

“A few years ago,” says Sipos, “someone I knew moved to London, Ontario, the place where I had grown up in the late 50s and early 60s. She was totally new to the city and I set out to write her a series of letters describing certain streets and buildings and neighbourhoods as I remembered them, knowing of course that this was bound to be a false guide to anything that might still be there. The wrecker’s ball (or memory, which is much the same thing) had
probably assured that whatever I wrote would
be more fictitious than not. As it turned out, our correspondence didn’t get very far, but by then the project of writing about certain landmarks was started in my mind. Over the next several years I came back to this unreliable geography and continued to write what ultimately became a nominal guide book. What it’s a guide to is not so clear. The London of the mid-twentieth century? Maybe. A particular protagonist’s coming of age? Maybe. An album of snapshots of how a person grows into a mental and aesthetic and even scientific self? Perhaps.”

BOOKS:

Anything But The Moon (Goose Lane Editions, 2005) 0-86492-427-5

The Glassblowers (Goose Lane, 2009)

The Geography of Arrival (Gaspereau, 2010) $25.95 9781554470808

[BCBW 2010]