Monday, November 21, 2005

Giller Dress

I’d had an idea I wanted a green dress for the Giller and I had an idea I wanted satin. For a couple of weeks my mother went around with a scrap of material in her purse. We had gone for coffee and my mother said, Oh. She opened her purse and took the scrap and it flickered in her fingers under the lights. It was gauzy green and covered with sequins. We looked hard at it but it was difficult to picture the whole dress. It wasn’t satin.

So when I got to Toronto Laura took me to Cabaret Nostalgia on Queen Street West and there was the dress in the window. It was exactly the dress I wanted. It only had to fit. It was pretty unlikely that it would fit, but it was also likely that it might.

When I came out of the dressing room one of the men who owns the store offered me a pair of shoes to try. They had very high heels. I put on the shoes and stood and then my arms flew around like windmills and I was tipping and then they flew around in the other direction and I was tipping backwards and he caught my hand and there I was in the full length mirror and there was no sense pretending I didn’t want that dress. I wanted it.

But I pretended for a week. I did some interviews and went to a party for Alma Lee and met everybody and read at Harbour Front went to readings and when the week was up I went back to the store with a posse of women and I bought the dress. The man who owned the store gave me a complimentary rhinestone necklace for good luck. It had been agreed either rhinestones or pearls and rhinestones won out.

The day of the Giller, after rehearsal, I got in a taxi to get my hair done. It was pretty late but my friend since grade one, Sandra Dower, had agreed to fit me in. She had me describe the dress over the phone. I thought about how it was an antique and how the woman who had altered the straps said they don’t make dresses like it any more and that it was the sort of dress her grandmother might have made and she showed me how the seams were hidden and the craftsmanship. I told Sandra how I couldn’t really draw breath in the dress, not really. When I finished describing the dress she said, I’m not doing an upsweep. I said that was fine with me. I said I hadn’t pictured an upsweep at all. So she said, Well come on then.

There was hardly any time left but there’s nothing Sandra can’t do with a curling iron. And we talked about everything that had ever happened to us and our sisters and our parents and then we went downstairs and a young woman at the Shopper’s Drugmart Cosmetic counter named Lauren did my make-up. She said she could do the whole thing with samples except for the mascara. I’d have to buy the mascara, she said.

There was another woman with a basket on her arm full of chocolates that she was giving away to customers. The woman with the chocolates said, I saw all those ringlets from behind and I said to myself there must be an occasion.

I had my eyes closed and Lauren was putting lipstick on me. Sandra was watching over Lauren’s shoulder and she said, This woman has been nominated for the Giller and everybody said Congratulations and the woman gave me a chocolate but I said if I ate it I wouldn’t fit in the dress. She said keep it for later. Her husband had been in publishing in New York and Lauren was studying literature and it was getting dark outside and Sandra and Lauren agreed on the shade of eye shadow and Lauren didn’t want anything with shimmer. The last touch was the mascara and Sandra said, Doesn’t that just finish the whole thing off nicely. And Lauren held a mirror for me.

Then I went out and hailed a cab and flew down Yonge Street in the early evening traffic.

Now the dress is tucked away in my closet. What do you do with a dress like that? A closet in an old rickety house in downtown St. John’s with rain and dark skies and frost on the front steps in the morning and the pigeons flying up. All the folds and gleaming shininess.



6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ann Walmsley writes:
The Giller Dress journal is as shimmering as Alligator itself. Shoppers Drug Mart makeup scene is a gritty foil to the artifice of award-night dressup. I have a swatch of white silk taffeta that you might want for dress-hunting for the Orange prize (hoping you'll be nominated).

9:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just finished Alligator. Damn it, grrl, how you do that thang! It's like a lovely grand collage, all bright little bits and pieces hanging off it and fluttering and twisting and saying, no, no, look HERE. But all stitched and tied together so firmly it will never fall apart. Astonishing.

10:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i haven't yet read alligator, i am saving it for the holidays as an end-of-semester treat. BUT i am so glad you posted details about how you dressed up for the gillers. i have to admit i was wondering what you'd wear (you've hit celebrity status i think when fans want to know what you wore to awards ceremonies). maybe your daughter could wear the green dress to a formal or prom or something? good luck with your writing. your blog posts are inspirational.

10:42 PM  
Anonymous C. Hewitt-White said...

Dear Lisa Moore,

I was reading Alligator last night in bed while my three-year old daughter was sleeping next to me. She woke up and asked me why I was still reading the book about crocodiles. She then asked me to read it to her. So, to not lose her interest, I paraphrased the parts I was reading that might have captured her. I was on pages 36 and 37. I explained what an archbishop was, and talked about how a long time ago the archbishop wrote letters with long sentences, and these letters are still in a big library, and you can read them only if you wear white gloves. i told her they were brittle and had an old-man smell. she said "what's an old-man smell?" i said, "i dunno. maybe cigars? when i think of old-man smell i think of the smell of cigars, but i can't say for sure what the author was thinking." she asked who the author was and i showed her the picture on the back flap. she was excited you are a girl. she said, "we can ask her what the old-man smell is." so i am posting this comment - lisa, what is an old-man smell?

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Melinda Reidl said...

What an amazing and sassy literary force is this jeweled-one called Lisa Moore. Every morcel of her witty prose sparkles and jabs with the warmth of penetrative insights and the tenderness of one who knows the power of simple truths. I had the pleasure of Lisa's charismatic insights at the Humber School for Writers this summer. Her delivery and vivaciousness was simultaneously mesmerizing and charming. She, to my absolute delight offered kind words following my delivery at the student reading night. I rode on cloud nine for an entire week. What a literary treasure is this fine and salty word-sorcerer.
In gratitude--Melinda Reidl

3:53 PM  
Anonymous J.G.Cooper said...

Hi Ms.Moore!

This is nothing to do with Alligator. Way back in 2006, you did a doc called Hard Rock and Water. Can you tell me what freighter company you took to Iceland from Newfoundland?

I would like to go!

I will soon be receiving your novel " February ".

Best of luck on the Giller.

Madstone@shaw.ca

1:26 AM  

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