Even for someone in the top ranks of the arts industry, work and play are kept separate.
That’s why for Christopher Deacon, managing director of the National Arts Centre orchestra, the reading he does at home and the reading he does for work rarely cross paths.
“We all read a ton of email every day, and I think we tend to discount that as not significant. But actually, you kind of get information overload,” says Deacon. “So what I’m looking for in my recreational reading is really a change of pace and to be brought to a different world.”
Deacon and his orchestra are talking about doing a creative work inspired by Dear Life, the short story by Alice Munro, but that’s about the extent of it. “That’s unusual for my reading to relate directly to work,” he says, “and even in that case it’s a bit tangential.”
Dear Life comes from one of three books on his current reading list, Munro’s book of short stories of the same name. The Canadian author earned last year’s Nobel Prize in Literature, where she was deemed the “master of the contemporary short story.” Dear Life is her 15th collection, published the year before, and now at 83, Munro has said it’s her last.
Next up is The Royal Ballet: 75 Years, by Zoë Anderson, who chronicles the history of London, England’s internationally renowned classic ballet company, started by Ninette de Valois in 1931.
“She was starting with nothing. She had herself, no venue, and no dancers. She created a company around her,” says Deacon. And although there’s plenty of dancing at the NAC, he says it too has nothing to do with work. “My interest in the ballet is a lifelong interest, and it’s more like an extracurricular thing,” he says.
Deacon doesn’t own hard copies of either of those top reads; nowadays, his reading list is almost all on his trusty e-reader. Last on the list is a hardcover of The Massey Murder by British-born author Charlotte Gray, who now lives in Ottawa.
He describes Gray as an author who “turns real-life history into a ripping read by her storytelling ability.” The Massey Murder chronicles the murder of a member of one of Canada’s wealthiest families in Toronto in 1915, and the trial of the family’s young domestic servant whose ambitious lawyer sparked great debate over who was the real victim.
“She brings together all the salient facts but as well all the threads to the story that make you interested in why these people did what they did,” Deacon explains.
Those are all quite enriching reads, but there’s also one more that’s not on Deacon’s official reading list: the owner’s manual for his new camera.
“That’s something I can dig into, playing with the camera, learning the things I would not normally do … just by going page by page through the manual and trying it all out.” It’s not the traditional sort of reading, but it does the job.
“These are things that are a bit like doing crossword puzzles,” says Deacon. “It’s a way of forgetting about everything and checking out.”
This post is part of our annual KT summer reads issue. Read all of our other profiles right here.
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