Dear friends of KevinfromCanada,
This is Trevor Berrett from The Mookse and the Gripes blog. I’m so sad and heavy-hearted to let you know that, after a lengthy illness, Kevin passed away on Wednesday evening. We will miss his enthusiasm, his intelligence, and his kindness. I know many of you have already heard the news, and words of sadness, love, and appreciation have been flowing.
I first ran into Kevin back in 2008 on the now defunct Man Booker Prize forum. He dove into those conversations with gusto, unafraid to voice his opinion and push others to articulate theirs as well. He loved to read and to talk about books. I was just starting my blog, my career, and my family, and Kevin befriended me and encouraged and supported me in every aspect. Though he was the one experiencing physical pain and eventually fighting cancer, he was always upbeat, clever, funny, and amiable, even when pushing me out of my comfort zone.
I was excited when Kevin started his own blog — this one — in January 2009. Because he had already become a part of the community, there were many welcoming voices, thrilled that Kevin had his own platform we could come to for steady and solid conversations about books. He didn’t let us down, posting over 500 reviews here in the next few years. Looking back at his first review just now, a review of Patrick McCabe’s The Holy City, I chuckled when I saw the first comment from his lovely wife, Sheila:
I am Kevin’s wife, and am much relieved to see that he has been “pursuing his joy” and blogging about great literature. I was a little afraid he was a drug dealer, or perhaps running some hedge fund from his computer, given all the time he has devoted to his workstation.
Imagine my relief — I can certainly relate to how Harold Nicholson must have felt.
Sheila frequently commented to encourage Kevin and to befriend his readers.
On this blog and through private correspondence, Kevin engaged lovingly and passionately with the online reading community. For me, relationships with people like Kevin, that are deeply meaningful regardless of the miles between our homes, are the best parts of having an online book community. The books are great, but it’s sharing them that really counts.
To that end, not long after I met Kevin he started sending me books by Canadian authors. I am not the only person to receive such a package from Canada. Kevin was proud of his country’s literature, and he introduced me to many authors I’ve been following ever since. Soon he invited me to join him, Alison Gzowski, and Kim Forrester on the Shadow Giller Jury, giving me the wonderful opportunity to engage with Canadian literature and, even better, discuss it with the group.
I’m thankful he was my friend for the past eight years. He’s been a force for good in my life and in the book blogging community, touching many of us through genuine friendship that went beyond the books themselves. I will miss him.
Below are some words from other people Kevin befriended and supported, often with but not limited to wonderful discussions about books.
Alison Gzowski: I met Kevin (and his wonderful wife Sheila) for the first time in Chester, Nova Scotia. They were friends of my father and his partner and I’d heard so much about them that I would have been intimidated . . . but in minutes somehow Kevin mentioned that he’d read and loved Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. I don’t think anyone else there had even heard of that book and we were off to the races, starting a reading friendship that is decades old. And it was more than just reading of course, though his passion for reading opened up worlds to me. He was a wise advisor, a helpful friend and great company. Even when what he said took me by suprise. Once about three years or so ago I went to Iceland and somehow boarded in Toronto and landed in Reykjavik with a passport that had expired six years earlier. After the airport police released me, I had to go to the Canadian embassy and apply for a document so I would be able to fly home eventually. The woman there, named Elizabeth, sat me in her office and said I had to get four people to vouch for me over the phone. I called Kevin first. I told him the problem, passed the receiver to Elizabeth who put him on speaker phone. She asked how we knew each other (through my dad, but now the Giller). What I did for a living. Check. Then asked him to describe me physically. “Well, you can tell that she doesn’t go to a gym, and she looks like she doesn’t believe in hair salons.” Once again he nailed it!
Kim Forester: I never met Kevin personally, but I felt like I knew him. We often exchanged emails about books we’d read or ones to look out for, but our online friendship went beyond literature: he used to provide excellent career advice when my own journalistic career went through a few bumps in the road. His wisdom and kindness always shone through, and he was always very encouraging. I imagine he would have been inspiring to work for. It was through Kevin that I discovered an interest in Canadian literature. When he asked me to participate in the Shadow Giller Prize in 2011 I was honoured and delighted: it promptly became the highlight of my reading year. I will particularly miss Kevin’s blog. His reviews were insightful, erudite and forthright, and I have him to blame for an ever-growing pile of novels I bought on his recommendation. The book blogging world won’t be the same without him.
Linda Grant: Kevin was a man after my own heart, a journalist with an enormous love of and understanding of literature. He read to understand, to make sense of, and of course for pleasure, but with his newsman’s ear he seemed to sort through the rubbish and find what was worthwhile. I only met him once, when I was speaking at the Calgary literature festival. We spent an entertaining few hours in his study where he mined me for information about the literary scene in Britain. He was confined to a small space but commanded everywhere with his intelligence and curiosity.
Max Cairnduff: Kevin’s was one of the first voices I started to follow online in the world of literary blogging. He wrote with all the skill and insight you’d expect of a veteran newsman, and with a warmth and sense of humour that made him an essential read. Conversations with Kevin inspired me to start my own literary blog, and I know he did the same for others. Those blogs he inspired in turn helped inspire a few more, which makes Kevin part of them too. His words continue to ripple out, inspiring people in some cases who never read him but whose own efforts have been encouraged by those who were first encouraged by Kevin. Kevin helped introduce me to Rocky Mountain Cuisine and to a wealth of great literature. He was a fine and good man and will be much missed.
Lee Monks: Kevin was a fantastic guy. His excellent blog was always a great place to find things to add to the TBR pile, and I always looked forward to another of his affable, pellucid reviews. You felt his love for literature in the reviews of books he didn’t like as much as those he did; he always managed to suggest sadness that he couldn’t be more positive about something. There seems to be fewer and fewer people as passionate as Kevin was about literature. His example is there to be followed, and I hope there are enough willing to follow it. I had fun corresponding with Kevin intermittently, on all manner of subjects. But the turn of all conversations always veered back to books, of course. He had 4,000 of them in his basement; I wish I’d wandered around in there with him just once, and I’ll always regret never meeting him, but it was privilege enough to know I could email him from time to time and get the usual generous response. He will be sadly missed by an enormous number of people, which tells its own story. Thank you, Kevin.