With his latest book Midnight Light, Dave Bidini heads to Yellowknife to work at a newspaper preserved by and for the community

Dave Bidini is having a Sally Field moment.

He did it. He finally did it. You really, really like him.

And he now has the proof — for the first time in his book-writing career he can now call himself a “bestselling author,” as his latest tome Midnight Light: A Personal Journey to the North has hit the Top 10 in Canada.

“It’s been many years, but I finally got there,” he says with a laugh. “I think I’m being rewarded for sticking around a little bit.”

He has longevity and diversity going for him, as anyone who knows the name Bidini can attest. There’s his lengthy tenure in indie Canart rock act The Rheostatics, there’s that writerly life which has produced a dozen books — many of them hockey related, such as Keon and Me, The Best Game That You Can Name and Tropic of Hockey: My Search for the Game in Unlikely Places — as well as a couple of plays, his TV and film doc work, and then his journalisming for several Canadian publications, as well as his own independent community newspaper startup in T.O. the West End Phoenix.

So. Yeah. He’s done and is doing stuff.

And the latest stuff he done did, Midnight Light, ties together a couple of his creative lives, with Bidini travelling to Yellowknife to work at the local newspaper, The Yellowknifer, and to write this book documenting the people and the place, and how they’re inextricably linked.

The writer will be in Calgary for several Wordfest Imaginarium events this week. Prior to his appearance, he had a conversation with theYYSCENE, beginning with his newfound status as a bestselling author.

Q: Why do you think this book?

A: Well, I do think the north, or the idea of the north is emerging, rising in our national consciousness, I believe, and our national imagination is starting to recognize it a little more through the work of others. And so I think people are compelled a little bit, or compelling themselves to learn about this great massive parcel of land and people and culture that exists at the top of the country. So I think maybe that’s why. Maybe it is something a little bit to do with the writing and the work being established or my work being established a little bit more, but I also do think that people are really interested in finding out about the place that I wrote about.

Q: I agree and I do think you write about it very vividly and very romantically.

A: I am a romantic dude, I believe in romance … Part of romance is the romance of discovery and probably if we’re not discovering, especially in Canada, then we’re not alive. So I embrace that romance. And romance beats cynicism as far as I’m concerned.

Q: I’d read an interview where you’d said there is no cynicism up there, it’s a very non-cynical place.

A: Yeah, it’s interesting because I think in a place where mere survival is the order of the day you don’t really have time to sit around feeling cynical about the modern world. I also think in the north there’s a closer connection to the ancient world, I suppose, or the other world. It’s really not so much about charging into the future, although there’s part of that, it’s more simply about maintaining a life and a presence there. So, being in a part of the world where just being alive, continuing to be alive against the elements, it feeds less into that navel-gazing that affects us down south, that’s for sure.

Q: I love the fact that your purpose there was to write about the place, but to also continue doing what you’re doing in Toronto, which is journalism.

A: That’s interesting, too, how that whole niche and block of our culture or one of them, which has been disfigured, I suppose, in other parts of Canada, is still an important thing in the north. And I know, it’s ironic in a way that I would have had to have gone that far from the alleged hub of media in our country to actually find vibrant and confident media, albeit in a traditional (sense). In the north it preserves, like a lot of, even in terms of artifacts … The newspaper is preserved the way the woolly mammoth is preserved in ice. The winter just freezes everything into place and that can be a difficult thing and a hard thing, but it can be a beautiful thing, too.

Q: When you get outside of the major centres you see how vital (newspapers) are for community, and the fact that they’re being killed is sad. You very well know that.

A: Yeah. You have to have community in the north, people have to continue together … there has to be strength in numbers to survive those elements and to even just feel not desolate and not alone and not isolated — people have to be together. And I think the presences of the newspaper is a function of that, for sure.

Q: Did you get that sense when you were working there?

A: Well, yeah, and the Black Knight Pub across from the courthouse in Yellowknife, you have people who just got out of jail, drinking with people who are going to jail, drinking with people who have put them in jail (laughs), drinking with people who’ve gotten them out of jail, drinking with the reporters, drinking with the mayor, drinking with the MLAs. There are not a lot of places to be together especially in the crush of winter, but there are enough places in a city that size, for sure, they are all drawn to those hives, and that’s beautiful, too. It brings people from a lot of different persuasions and backgrounds and identities together. And that’s hard in the big city. We look for pockets of it in our neighbourhoods, it’s nice that it’s so (preserved) up north.

Dave Bidini appears at Wordfest’s 2018 Imaginarium on Wednesday, Oct. 9 at 5 p.m. at the Memorial Park Library, Thursday, Oct. 10 at 5 p.m. at the Memorial Park Library, and on Thursday, Oct 10 at 9 p.m. at the DJD Dance Centre. For tickets please go to