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By Ben McNally

When Toronto mayor David Miller and Michael Ondaatje unveiled the first Project Bookmark Canada plaque at the east end of Toronto's Bloor Street Viaduct last week the ramifications assumed international proportions.

Considering the unseasonably cool temperature and the 11 a.m. time, the event drew a large and enthusiastic crowd, including a high school class that walked across the bridge to observe. Several of the local literary lions were in attendance, including but not limited to Glen Downie, Anne Michaels, Linda Spalding and Alyssa York.

Several well-read copies of the featured book were tendered to the author for his signature, and the immensely popular mayor, whose support for the arts and the arts community has been unflagging, had his picture taken repeatedly with groups of students and others in attendance.

Michael Ondaatje, whose novel In the Skin of a Lion is immortalized on this first plaque, made a short but potent speech about the background to the book, and as he read the passage that appears on the plaque ( "I haven't read this book in a long time," he apologized unnecessarily) a red-tailed hawk circling in the clear air above slowed and dropped down for a closer look.

The brainchild of Miranda Hill, who opened the proceedings, the plaque is the first in a proposed nation-wide initiative that pairs a specific geographical location with a literary selection that embodies it. Miranda Hill deserves all the credit for having the vision and persistence to have brought things this far, but she'll need help if she's to accomplish the national presence that her idea deserves.

If you'd like to help you can visit www.projectbookmarkcanada.ca.

There was considerable media coverage here, but it did not escape the notice of the international community of book lovers either. Check here to see what the Guardian books blog had to say about it.

Only in Canada? Congratulations Miranda Hill.

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