I must have met Ben McNally weeks after moving to Canada. The details are a little fuzzy on when that was. It might have been at Harbourfront for IFOA, or maybe at Nicholas Hoare, where he was selling books when I rolled into town.
There's something I can't quite pin down, equal parts shared hippy values, a certain sense of humour, a depth of kindness that spills out of his eyes – it's a delight to know Ben. I feel like I've known him much longer than I have.
Finding a connection like that when you move to a new country, like I did, is a gift. It makes a city feel like home faster. It means the world.
And his store feels like magic. I spin around islands of books, clustered by a system that draws connections for me, leading me to discover. Time disappears in the quiet and wood and ceilings that fall away to make room for lofty thoughts. It's just like a bookstore should feel.
Since I've only known Ben as a bookseller, I have a hard time picturing him doing anything else. So I asked what he did before, or between, selling books. The answer surprised and delighted me. I drew a little comic about his answer to make it easier for you to picture.
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The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.
Teva Harrison is a writer and graphic artist. She is the author of the critically acclaimed graphic memoir, In-Between Days, which is based on her graphic series about living with cancer published in The Walrus. It was named one of the most anticipated books of 2016 by the Globe and Mail, which also named the author one of 16 Torontonians to Watch. She has commented on CBC Radio and in the Globe and Mail about her experience. Numerous health organizations have invited her to speak publicly on behalf of the metastatic cancer community. She lives in Toronto.