July 22, 1953|
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
|Died||January 21, 2010
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
|Occupation||novelist, playwright, screenwriter, filmmaker, musician, educator|
|Notable work(s)||Whale Music, King Leary, The Ravine|
|Notable award(s)||1989 Governor General's Award for Fiction for Whale Music and winner of the 1988 Stephen Leacock Award for King Leary|
Born in Toronto as the middle of three sons in the family of four of Bruce Quarrington, he was raised in the suburb of Don Mills and studied at the University of Toronto but dropped out after less than two years of study.
He wrote his early novels while working as the bass player for the group Joe Hall and the Continental Drift and as the guitar accompanist for Cathy Stewart, a Canadian singer who was popular at the time. One of his novels, Whale Music, was called "the greatest rock'n'roll novel ever written" by Penthouse magazine. His non-fiction books and journalism were also highly regarded — he earned or co-earned more than 20 gold awards for his magazine articles alone.
Quarrington's most consistent musical colleague has been Martin Worthy; their friendship began in high school. He was also a high school friend of songwriter Dan Hill, with whom he re-united toward the end of his life to collaborate on musical projects. Quarrington collaborated with many artists (a defining element of his overall body of work) who achieved recognition in their respective disciplines. These include Nino Ricci, Joseph Kertes, Dave Bidini, Jake MacDonald, John Krizanc, Christina Jennings, Judith Keenan, Michael Burke, Peter Lynch, Ron Mann, Robert Lantos and many others.
Quarrington's novels are characterized by their humour (King Leary received the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour in 1988) although they address serious subjects. His protagonists are largely emotionally crippled antiheroes who have withdrawn from society; typically, in Quarrington's work, an agent of some sort — a young woman in Whale Music, ghosts in King Leary, a hurricane in Galveston — challenges the protagonist's carefully ordered life and draws them back into the fold of humanity.
His novel The Ravine was published in March 2008. At the time of his death, Quarrington had completed a short film adaptation of the work (Pavane, 2008) and was collaborating on a television series adaptation of that novel, which he claimed to be semi-autobiographical. "It's about a writer who squanders his talents in television, drinks too much, screws around and ruins his marriage," Quarrington has said. "The reason it's 'semi-autobiographical' is the guy's name is 'Phil.'"
During his time, Quarrington has been an influential figure in Canadian literature, not only as an author, but also through his participation in teaching (Humber College and University of Toronto), publishing circles, organizations and events. He befriended many Canadian writers, including Timothy Findley. Quarrington and Findley held a mutual admiration for each other, with Findley once quoting that Quarrington was "an extraordinary writer with a rare gift." As a youngster, Quarrington came from a very musical background, and this showed consistently in his writing. While writing a review blurb for Leonard Cohen's book, The Favourite Game, he admired Cohen's "poetic craftsmanship." Another time, in typical whimsical Quarrington fashion, he declared, "I seem to like authors named John — John Fowles, John Gardner, John Irving. John Gardner is my favourite — he's sadly not so well known these days."
Cinema and television
Quarrington's film adaptation of Whale Music, cowritten with director Richard J. Lewis, was nominated for numerous Genie Awards, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, in 1994. Actor Maury Chaykin won best actor for his portrayal of the drug-addled Desmond Howl.
He won the Genie Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1991 for Perfectly Normal, a comedy that combined ice hockey and grand opera. Perfectly Normal opened the Toronto International Film Festival; at that time called Festival of Festivals In 1991. Perfectly Normal received excellent reviews from Maclean's Magazine.
Quarrington has also worked in the television industry, acting as writer and/or producer on such shows as Due South, Power Play and Moose TV, the latter winning Best Comedy from the CFTPA Indie Awards 2008.
Quarrington's work for the stage includes Dying is Easy, The Invention of Poetry, Three Ways from Sunday and Checkout Time. He was a long-time board member of the Toronto Fringe Festival.
Quarrington was also the lead singer/guitarist for the blues/roots/country ensemble Porkbelly Futures. Their first CD, Way Past Midnight was released in late 2005 by Wildflower Records (owned by singer Judy Collins) and spent six months on the "Americana" charts. Their second CD, Porkbelly Futures, was released by Cordova Bay Records in April 2008. It contains many of Quarrington's original compositions. His songwriting was also featured on the last CD put out by Porkbelly Futures, titled The Crooked Road which was recorded and released after his death, and features a photograph of Quarrington on the back cover. Quarrington's solo CD called The Songs was recorded just prior to his death and was released posthumously in June 2010, also by Cordova Bay Records.
In their teens, Quarrington and Hill also occasionally performed together as a folk music duo, billed as Quarrington/Hill. Paul and Martin Worthy achieved number one hit status with their tune "Baby and the Blues" in 1980.
After being diagnosed with lung cancer in May 2009, Quarrington continued his plans to embark on various concert tours with Porkbelly Futures, while continuing to produce his own solo CD and the Porkbellys third release; complete his non-fiction memoir Cigar Box Banjo: Notes on Life and Music (Greystone Books, May 2010), deliver multiple screenplays for episodes of a television series for Shaftesbury Films (Notes on Euphoria, dir. John L'Ecuyer) as well as star in a documentary film initiated by friend and colleague Judith Keenan; the film, Paul Quarrington: Life in Music, is an adaptation tied to his written memoir.
Rheostatics, who had broken up in 2007, reunited for a live tribute show to Quarrington produced by Humber College for Toronto's International Festival of Authors. Also appearing to celebrate his body of work in multiple genres were Christina Jennings, John Krizanc, Michael Burns, Wayson Choy, Nino Ricci, Paul Gross, Alistair McLeod, Joe Hall, Porkbelly Futures with David Gray, and talented family members Christine Quarrington, Tony Quarrington and Joel Quarrington. Michael Burke announced the launch of Quarrington Arts Society / Société des Arts Quarrington, to provide support for working and emerging artists committed to multi-disciplinary practices.
Quarrington's final collaboration with Hill and Worthy, a song about his journey with cancer called "Are You Ready", was completed just ten days before Quarrington's death. The song was conceived by Quarrington and film producer Keenan as the focal point for their feature documentary. Many other songs were also conceived and produced by Paul during this fertile creative time, including "All the Stars" (created just days after the diagnosis) and "Wherever You Go," all of which are included on the posthumously released CD.
Quarrington died of lung cancer in Toronto on January 21, 2010, aged 56.
Galveston, published in the United States as Storm Chasers, was nominated for the prestigious Giller Prize. He lost to Alice Munro — which, Quarrington stated afterward, "was hard to feel upset about. It's like losing to Chekhov."
In February 2008, King Leary was put forward by Dave Bidini as one of the five books considered on CBC Radio's Canada Reads. Bidini ultimately prevailed, and King Leary was named the book that everyone in the nation should read.
His short film Pavane, adapted from his novel The Ravine, garnered a Remi Platinum Award Houston's WorldFest, was juried in several other US festivals, and was broadcast in Canada on Bravo!FACT Presents and CBC Reflections. He and the creative team for ShowCase earned the CFPTA Indie Award for Comedy for the series Moose TV.
On June 10, 2010, Quarrington was posthumously awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters by Nipissing University. His daughter Carson accepted the award on his behalf.
- The Service (1978)
- Home Game (1983)
- The Life of Hope (1985)
- King Leary (1987)
- Whale Music (1989)
- Logan in Overtime (1990)
- Civilization (1994)
- The Spirit Cabinet (1999)
- Galveston (2004)
- The Ravine (2008)
- Hometown Heroes: On the Road with Canada's National Hockey Team (1988)
- Fishing with my Old Guy (1995)
- Original Six: True Stories From Hockey's Classic Era (1996)
- The Boy on the Back of the Turtle (1997)
- Fishing for Brookies, Browns and Bows: The Old Guy's Complete Guide to Catching Trout (2001)
- From the Far Side of the River - (2003)
- Cigar Box Banjo: Notes on Music and Life (2010)
- The Second (1990)
- The Invention of Poetry (1989)
- So You Think You’re Mozart (1991)
- Checkout Time (1996)
- Dying is Easy (1997)
- Heart in a Bottle (2001)
- Three Ways from Sunday (2007)
Short Films by Quarrington
- Seventh Seal Inspired by Paul Quarrington (2010)
- Pavane, Screenwriter & Director; Fizzy Dreams, Crush Inc., BookShorts Inc / Bravo!FACT / CBC Reflections (2008)
- Angel Takes All: No Limit Texas Hold 'Em (2006)
- A Man's Life Writer/Director Short; Moondog Films
- Mann Over Moon Writer/Director Short; Fizzy Dreams Inc. Producer (2000)
- Mump and Smoot in the Princess Who Wouldn't Smile Director Short, Canadian Film Centre
- Vulnerable (2010) Screenwriter; Producer Greg Dummett, CineAmerique
- Camilla (1994) Writer Feature; directed by Deepa Mehta and starring Jessica Tandy. Majestic Films / Shaftesbury / British Screen
- Whale Music (1994)Co-Writer Feature, Alliance / Cape Scott; Genie Award Best Song
- Giant Steps (1992)Co-Writer Feature; OB & D Films
- Perfectly Normal (1990)Co-Writer Feature; BSB / Bialystock & Bloom / Skyhost; Genie Award Best Screenplay
Series and One-Offs
- Notebooks on Euphoria / Shaftsbury Films / The Movie Network
- Keep Your Head Up: Story Editor and Barna Alper Productions / CBC
- The Don Cherry Story consultant / CBC
- Men With Brooms Co-Creator and 1/2 hr comedy series in development with Writer Serendipity / CBC
- Moose TV Writer and 1 hour comedy series Exec. Story Editor Rezolution Films / Showcase
- BookShorts Moving Stories TV / Story Editor & Host / CLT
- Puck Hogs Story Editor Feature in development with Protocol Ent.
- Call Forward Story Consultant Feature; Protocol Entertainment
- Whiskey Echo Story Editor Miniseries; Barna Alper Productions /CBC
- 1-800 Missing Writer and Hour long drama series; NDG Creative Producer Productions / Lion?s Gate
- Cradle Will Fall Writer MOW; Barna Alper Productions
- Chilly Beach Writer and ? hour animated comedy series. Story Consultant March Entertainment / CBC
- Tom Stone Writer Hour long drama series; Alberta Film Works / CBC
- Men With Brooms Story Consultant Feature starring Paul Gross / Whizbang/Serendipity Point Films
- Power Play Writer and Exec. Story Editor Serendipity Point Films / NDG Productions / Alliance Atlantis / CTV WGC Award
- John Woo's Once a Thief Writer Alliance / NDG Productions / CTV
- Due South Writer, Program Drama Series; Alliance-Atlantis / Consultant CTV / CBS; Gemini Nomination Best Writing
- Writer Paul Quarrington dies of cancer. Globe and Mail, January 21, 2009.
- Paul Quarrington entry in The Canadian Encyclopedia.
- "Paul Quarrington’s father taught at York", YLife, January 25, 2010.
- "Writer Paul Quarrington remembered." Masthead 22 January 2010
- "Paul and me and one last song. About dying." Maclean's, February 3, 2010.
- "Paul Quarrington & literary influences"
- Klein, Jeff Z. & Hackel, Stu. "Remembering Two Storytellers From the N.H.L.," The New York Times, Sunday, January 24, 2010.
- "Paul Quarrington: Each day like it's my last". National Post, October 16, 2009.
- "Rheostatics Reuniting For One-Off Performance". Chart, October 16, 2009.
- "Quarrington wins $20,000 Matt Cohen Award". cbc.ca, October 19, 2009.