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Charlotte Gray on the Truth and Truthiness in Biography

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Published: 20 Apr 2009

Respected Canadian writer delivers the Hugh MacLennan Memorial Lecture

Respected Canadian writer delivers the Hugh MacLennan Memorial Lecture

Charlotte Gray, one of Canada's best-known non-fiction writers, explores the line between imagination and invention in contemporary biography, in the Hugh MacLennan Memorial Lecture, presented by McGill University Library, Friends of the Library and Blue Metropolis Foundation on Thursday, April 23 at 5:30 p.m.

The lecture will address the evolution of biography from reverential chronology to a mix of fact, imagination and interpretation, encased in fictional techniques. Sometimes the result is a compelling portrait that rings true -- but not always. How does a contemporary biographer tread the line between imagination and invention, and how does a reader know whom to trust?

Gray's most recent book, Nellie McClung, is a short biography of Canada's leading women's rights activist, in Penguin’s Extraordinary Canadians series. Her other works include: Reluctant Genius: The Passionate Life and Inventive Mind of Alexander Graham Bell, Sisters in the Wilderness: the Lives of Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill, Flint & Feather: the Life and Times of E. Pauline Johnson and A Museum Called Canada.

Gray, born in England, came to Canada in 1979. She holds a BA in Modern History from Oxford University, and has received honorary doctorates from Mount St. Vincent University in Nova Scotia, the University of Ottawa, Queen's University and York University. An Adjunct Research Professor in the Department of History at Carleton University, she is the 2003 recipient of the Pierre Berton Award for distinguished achievement in popularizing Canadian history, and vice-chair of the board of the Canadian National History Society. She is a member of the Order of Canada.

Named for distinguished Canadian author Hugh MacLennan, Thursday’s lecture is one of a number of events sponsored by the Friends of the Library each year. The Friends promote awareness of the McGill Library, support library activities and services, and seek to enhance the Library’s role on campus and within the Montreal community.

The Leacock Building, room 132, is located at 855 Sherbrooke Street West

RSVP: rsvp [dot] libraries [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Email), 514-398-4681

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