The Names of Things is a book about a man and a generation. Born to a working-class family in Toronto, David Helwig grew up in the haunted town of Niagara-on-the-Lake long before it became a fashionable summer destination for charter coaches of American tourists. David won a scholarship from General Motors to attend the University of Toronto and launched himself into theatrical productions at Hart House and mingled with such writers as John Robert Colombo, Henry Beissel, Edward Lacey, David Lewis Stein and Edna Paris.
After working in summer stock with young actors including Timothy Findley, Gordon Pinsent and Jackie Burroughs, he spent a couple of years in the suburbs of Birkenhead, then moved to Kingston where, in the 1960s he shared the world of little magazines with Tom Marshall and Michael Ondaatje and the world of prisons with the inmates he taught. In the 1970s he worked under John Hirsch at the CBC. He edited books for Oberon Press. He was part of the generation of young Canadian writers who believed they could achieve anything. He also shares a touching account of family life, of learning to be a father. Poetry, some of it never before published, catches the echoes of the life he lived. From childhood during the Second World War to becoming a grandfather at the millennium, this is the story of one man and his connections with the history of Canada in the latter part of the twentieth century.