Thursday, August 28, 2008

Eli Hessberg And I Discuss Andrew Davidson's The Gargoyle

A couple of days ago I was searching for coherent reviews of Andrew Davidson's The Gargoyle. Four Google hiccups later, I landed on the website of The Literate Housewife. The Housewife had posted her reaction to Entertainment Weekly's Gargoyle immolation, and there was a discussion happening among commenters regarding whether the EW review was right, wrong, or perverse. I find those kind of reviews funny. What would EW have said about Salinger's Nine Stories? "Salinger writes like Brad Pitt smokes: at night, and not very often."

Visit the Housewife's site. The posters are smart, insightful, and rational. There was no screaming, no caps lock ranting, no Jew-baiting (Davidson's not a Jew, but he could be); there was only intelligent debate.

All the way down the page I found the following comment, posted by someone named Eli Hessberg. Hessberg was frothing over the good press being poured over Davidson's first offering. His post was alternately cryptic and biting, and it ended in a snap. It seemed like something that I would write, so I contacted Hessberg, asking him if he'd be interested in debating/discussing, on this site, the merits of Davidson's work. He agreed, and so over the next few days we'll be taking apart Davidson's work with callow, academic precision. Or at least as precise as rusty knives can be.

Here's Hessberg's first comment re: The Gargoyle

Too many similes. That’s it. And forget taking it easy with candy-coated criticism. Davidson sold this book for big money, and it ought to be reacted to/against honestly. The prose is bad. I’m sorry, but that’s just the truth. That doesn’t mean that you can’t like the book. Or think that it’s good. And I’m sure that Davidson is a fine person. But his sentences, taken in sum, read like a hardboiled detective novel that’s sat too long on Milton Berle’s beside table. How many puns? How many wisecracks? How many pithy, whispered punchlines? If Davidson were Woody Allen, I could understand. But he’s not a comic novelist. Is he supposed to be a cynic? Fine, he’s a cynic, but not a particularly funny one.

I didn’t like Herzog, but it worked. I thought that Absalom, Absalom! was like reading (on) broken glass, but the depth of the prose was just impressive. Davidson wrote a bad burlesque of a Showtime movie meets The English Patient meets Red Dragon.

That intrigued me. Here's Hessberg's second post, in which, a day later, he reacts to his diatribe:

Reading over my post, I realize that it’s too pointed by half. So thank you for seeing the nascent argument that’s half-hidden by overreaction. The EW review was a capsule joke. It’s the kind of thing you’d hear coming out of Glenn Beck’s mouth. There’s really an opportunity here to produce a rigorous appraisal of Davidson’s work, but you can’t rely on a ‘paper or a magazine to get this one right. Reading the first hundred pages, I saw the influence of countless novels, sit-coms, movies, old radio shows, and famous stand-up routines. Someone could point out the difference between literature and fiction; someone could make the point that this is more of a novelization than a novel. I’d like to read an analysis of Davidson’s use of mysticism, and the possibility that this novel is such a commercial success because of its genre bending. Look at Stealing Dawn. I wouldn’t read that on a coconut husk raft in the middle of the South Pacific. But it sells more than Great Gatsby reprints. So go figure.

But, for some reason, the adulation just bothered me. And it still does. Davidson’s unwittingly done something kinda interesting: he’s written a commercial novel that combines easily digestible insights with a sci-fi love story. It’s like Tuesdays with Morrie and an Anne Rice novel all in one. A good way to make money, but a Marian Engel (CanLit reference; Engel was a mid-tier author of serious, and I mean serious, fiction. See The Glassy Sea, Bear, etc.) he’s not.

Hessberg, surprisingly, is Canadian; he teaches at Kwantlen College in Surrey, B.C. He's the first person I've seen question the Marianne/Marian Engel reference, and he's the first person I've seen use Milton Berle in a review. If only he were a single woman with an Emma Richler shrine, Daniel Richler could finally have a friend. Here's an excerpt from our email discussion.

David: You seem angry about Davidson's success. Why?

Eli: I'm not angry; I'm just confused. I can take the commercial success, but not the critical success. It seems like people are taking this book much too seriously.

David: Why would you say that?

Eli: Because they're talking about learning from it. As if it's teaching them something about life. As entertainment, it's fine. I didn't have fun reading it, but it wasn't bad. I mean, I didn't hate it. It was just okay. But profound? That worries me.

David: What do you think of the print reviews?

Eli: I think they're all bullshit. Good, bad, they're all bullshit.

David: I agree. They're calling this book an "event." This isn't going to sound fair, but The Waves was an event, Babbitt was an event. Look Homeward, Angel. I don't want to compare The Gargoyle to those books, because it's not trying to be The Enormous Room. But they've removed that line.

Eli: Who has?

David: Critics. It's as if these books are being published in a sit-com, in a movie. So, not real, but representing the truths of an emotionless, vapid world. Again, that might not be fair to Davidson, but I don't know how to react to this book. I don't want to hate it so viscerally, but I can't accept it as literature. But as something like The Devil Wears Prada...well, I think I can be happy with that.

Eli: But why would that matter to you?

David: Why would it offend me? Because it just seems too easy. Like an episode of 2.5 Men. It takes fifteen minutes to write, and everyone's driving a Mercedes.

Eli: So write something like that. A Jurassic Park thing. What's that line from that Kubrick movie? "You're an idealist, so I pity you, as I would the village idiot."

David: That's nice. Thank you.

To Be Continued...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Jonathan Franzen Sings "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" (And Gets Two)

So far this site's dealt with my web-like connections in the back rooms of the CanLit community. Who heard whom say what, and where did they clean the shovel? But I know American authors, too, so why not include stories about them?

I'm remembering the time I watched Jonathan Franzen try to sing Paul Simon's 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. We were in D.M. Zwelonke's basement, and Marilynne Robinson was complaining that she hadn't heard a Simon song in years.

"I'll sing one," Franzen said.

"You can sing?" I asked.


"Sing She Loves Me Like a Rock," Robinson begged.

"I don't know that one."

"Well, what do you know?"

"50 Ways to Leave Your Lover."

"That's good, too."

"Is anyone going to back me up."

We all looked at Marguerite Yourcenar. "No way," she said.

Franzen started drumming his thighs, trying to get the right brushing/rustling sound of Simon's intro. "'The problem is all inside your head,' she said to me." He actually knew the words. "The answer is easy if you take it logically." And his voice wasn't bad. "I'd like to help you in your struggle to be free." He coughed. "There must be fifty ways to leave your lover."

Then he missed the next verse. But that was okay. We were right into the chorus--the best part.

"Just slip out the back, Jack. Make a new plan, Stan...No need to be coy, Roy..."

And that was it. He was out of lyrics.

Robinson was shocked. She tried to cue him. "Just get yourself..."

He had no idea. The man had lost his way after seven lines.

"Hop on the bus..." Nothing.

Finally Franzen picked up his wine glass, half-full of pinot grigio, and threw it against the wall. It didn't break; rather it bounced off the Hans Hofmann reproduction and landed in Richard Wright's lap. "I know that song!"

"I'm sure you do," I said.

"I fucking know it!"

No one was laughing.

"Just drop off the key..." Robinson started.

"Shut up! Just shut up!" Franzen shouted. "Everyone, leave me alone. Just leave me alone." And he ran out of the room, smacking his open palm against the door frame.

I'm not going to try to defend the story. It's strange; it doesn't make much if any sense. But it's just something that happened to me one night in New York City. After it was over, I turned to Robinson: "That could never happen in Etobicoke," I said. "Never."

"Etobicoke," Robinson repeated. "That sounds like a nice place."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Distinctively Canadian Pornography

Distinctively Canadian Pornography

A few days ago the CRTC okayed a license for a pay-per-view channel called Northern Peaks. NP is billing itself as the first Canadian porn provider, and the race is on to pun, allude, and simile the way to the perfect print headline. The Globe and Mail did a decent job with Debbie Does Deer Lake, but their junior proofreader/headline writer/intern had nothing on The Star’s senior summer student/headline writer: “Softwood?” the headline read. Then the deck below: “Canada to battle U.S. for skin supremacy.”

Metro did a little better: “Beaver.” Fine, that was inevitable. A bit of a non-sequitur, but you can understand where it’s coming from.

Now attention’s shifted to the influence that CanCon rules’ll have on Northern Peaks’s schedule. Where’s all this Canadian porn coming from, and how will we know that it’s Canadian? Suddenly it’s 1972 again, and we’re all reading about the garrison mentality, ice queens, earth mothers, and Native-inspired rape fantasies. And that’s just Atwood’s diary.

I volunteer myself as the Robin Matthews of the Canadian pornographic nationalist movement. I’ll be the irrational rhetorician. I’ll love Canadian porno; I’ll go to the U of Ottawa and screen a DAP scene in Robert Service Hall.

It’s funny that people are starting to debate the possibility of an essentially Canadian sex scene. A professor called to tell me that he’d seen an early release of one of Northern Peaks’s Canadian flicks, and that he had, in fact, been able to achieve orgasm while masturbating with two wooden spoons.

“Why wooden spoons?” I asked him.

“Well, you know what they say about heroin? About how addicts are always trying to recapture the feeling of that first high?”

“Yes,” I said.

“It’s the same way.”

“But how is that the same?”

“David…When Alice Munro gives you a hand job, then we’ll talk.”

What is a Canadian pornography? Let’s look at it from a literary-critical perspective. Is it about survival? I’ve slept with eight Canadian women, but we’re talking about third-generation Toronto Jews. Sure, they were born in Canada, but none knew a goddamn thing about Paul Stuewe. And they were all from Toronto. Even if they were from Calgary, they were from Toronto.

But I have slept with a “Canadian” woman. So I’ll talk about that. This was a real Canadian: a Protestant from Sault Ste. Marie. Her father worked for Abitibi-Bowater, and her mother shopped at Sears. This was a true Canadian.

What was the sex like? First she’d lock herself in our room, refusing to let me in.

“Can I just get my wallet?” I’d ask.


“You know that it’s my birthday?”

“I’m tired. Go away.”

“Fine. Fine. I’ll leave you alone. But, please, don’t smoke in bed.”

“I’m not smoking.”

“I smell something burning.”

“That’s the flax.”

“Oh. Okay. Listen, before I go….don’t you think it’d be nice if we went out for dinner tonight? Had a nice meal. A bottle of wine.”

“David, I’m not in the mood. I’m going to slide your wallet under the door.”

“What are you doing in there?”

“Sugaring off.”

“Sugaring off what?”

“Some maple syrup.”

“What are you burning?”

“Nothing. Pine.”


“Well, the cauldron won’t heat itself.”

“When are we going to have sex? I can’t even remember when the last time was.”

“When we played that game.”

“What game?”

“That fantasizing game.”

“Oh, right. You pretended that your father was an overbearing Mennonite.”

“And you were hired on for the harvest.”

“Why don’t we do that again?”

“David! It’s only June. We just planted.”

“It’s sex! It’s a natural thing. Are you so threatened by it that you have to lock yourself in that room?”

“Last time you almost killed me.”

“Was it my idea to screw in the Bay of Fundy? While the tide came in?”

“No! But it was dangerous.”

“Well, didn’t you say you wanted to be on the bottom?”

“Maybe tomorrow.”

“Yeah. Right. And maybe Demi Moore would’ve been great in Cat’s Eye.”

Is there any Canadian XXX aesthetic? There is, and it’s literary. I’m just remembering some of my old CanLit classes. “Fuck Pauline Johnson,” someone would say. “Fuck Ray Smith.” “Fuck E.J. Pratt.”

“Great,” I’d say, “we’re playing Jeopardy? What is ‘What does Mavis Gallant do on long weekends?’”

And, incidentally, you can have sex in a canoe. You’ve just go to know where to put the paddle.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My Friend Matt Zandusky: "David, I Just Saw Alice Munro Buying Tampons. I Kid You Not."

My friend Matt Zandusky lives at Bloor and Mount Pleasant. Every few days he calls with a bullshit story about some celebrity whom he saw shopping for luggage, or walking a cat. Last week he called to tell me that he was in the Mount Pleasant Shoppers Drug Mart, standing behind Alice Munro.

"David, she's buying Tampax."

"How do you know who Alice Munro is?"

"I saw her in the 'paper."

"It's not Alice Munro."

"It is. I'm telling you, it is."

"Is she paying with a credit card?"

"She's not at the register yet."

"Alice Munro doesn't shop at Shoppers Drug Mart. She orders direct from Lourdes."

"This is Alice Munro. Wait! She's at the counter. Damn, she's paying with cash. She just took out a hundred. Can you believe that? Wow, look at that roll. She's got about a four-inch wad of cash in her hand."

"I'll talk to you later, Matt."

"Maybe she's buying them for her daughter. Or her granddaughter."


"This is a mystery, Dave. A real mystery."

"Tap her on the shoulder. Ask."

"You think I should?"

"Yeah. Absolutely.'

So he tapped her on the shoulder; he asked. "Excuse me. Are you Alice Munro? The writer?"


"You look just like her."

"I'm not her."

"Doing some shopping today?"

"None of your business."

"My friend loves your work."

"I am not Alice Munro."

"Okay. Fine. Have it your way. Nice dress, by the way. I think it's inside-out."

Monday, August 18, 2008

What If Alice Munro Married Margaret Atwood?

Last weekend Ellen DeGeneres married Portia de Rossi. What a couple. Ellen--the comedienne, producer, actress--marries Portia--the actress, producer, comedienne. They're now just Jason Bateman's sperm and a Toys R' Us away from a perfect life.

The whole thing made me wonder what would happen if Margaret Atwood married Alice Munro. Gay marriage is legal in Canada, and the Canadian arts scene lacks a true power couple. We've got Ivan Fecan and Sandra Faire-Fecan, but I'm talking about real people: gritty, strident, reclusive, talented people. And since Pauline Jewett and Grace Hartman are dead, Alice and Margaret are the natural choice. Yeah, Alice and Margaret could really make this country an okay place in which to live.

I can picture them walking hand-in-hand toward Pusateri's on Avenue Road.

Alice: We're out of milk.
Margaret: It doesn't expire till Wednesday.
Alice: It's Thursday.
Margaret: Since when?
Alice: This morning.
Margaret: It was just Tuesday.
Alice: Two days ago.
Margaret: And you say that it's Thursday?
Alice: Right.
Margaret: I just remembered something!
Alice: What?
Margaret: We need milk.

And what domestic bliss. Here we find the two writers sitting down to dinner:

Alice: Don't forget the corn. It's in the microwave.
Margaret: I won't forget it.
Alice: You always forget it.
Margaret: No balsamic vinegar on my salad.
Alice: I know you don't like balsamic vinegar. Why would I put it on your salad?
Margaret: What's that dressing that I like?
Alice: Honey mustard?
Margaret: No. It's French. We had it a few weeks ago at Sotto Sotto.
Alice: That's an Italian restaurant.
Margaret: And they don't have French dressing? Do they serve Perrier?
Alice: We were not at Sotto Sotto a few weeks ago. You're thinking of Susur.
Margaret: No. I'm thinking of Sotto Sotto.
Alice: Well, you're wrong.
Margaret: Oh, wait! I just remembered: Renee's. That's the dressing.
Alice: That's a brand, not a flavour.
Margaret: Are you sure?
Alice: [A ringing is heard in the background] Get the phone. It's probably for you.
Margaret: Fuck. It's probably Nino Ricci again.

And together at night, getting ready for bed.

Margaret: Where's my toothbrush?
Alice: Where did you leave it?
Margaret: Beside the sink.
Alice: Then that's where it is.
Margaret: It's not there.
Alice: So where is it?
Margaret: If I knew that would I be asking?
Alice: I didn't touch your toothbrush.
Margaret: Well I didn't move it.
Alice: I certainly didn't.
Margaret: Then where is it?
Alice: [Looking in the garbage can] Here!
Margaret: Why's it in the garbage?
Alice: You must've thrown it out.
Margaret: I did not.
Alice: Then you must've knocked it into there by accident.
Margaret: I never!
Alice: I don't know what to say. I didn't touch it.
Margaret: Right!
Alice: So what are you going to do now? Not brush your teeth?
Margaret: I already did. I got a new thing yesterday at the dentist's.
Alice: A new toothbrush?
Margaret: Yes.
Alice: Then maybe you threw out the old one.
Margaret: Why would I throw it out? I don't even need it anymore.

Or just walking along Yonge Street.

Alice: I want children.
Margaret: We've had this discussion.
Alice: My mind hasn't changed.
Margaret: It's not a good idea.
Alice: You always say that.
Margaret: It's true.
Alice: It is NOT true.
Margaret: Alice, It's just not possible.
Alice: Why?
Margaret: Because: neither of us drives a white van.

A reality TV show that I would watch.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What I Told Kit Dobson About The Time That I Accidentally Broke Margaret Atwood's Crystal Ball: "Great, Now She'll Never Read My Palm"

Kit Dobson emailed me a couple days ago. He was nice; he didn't say anything about the tone or content of my Dobson-related posts. He was just a little curious about my motives. But, more than that, he wanted to offer some advice: People will read this stuff, people will see your name attached to this stuff, and people will (if necessary) hate you for it. Try getting a job when a quick Google search of "David Adler" returns a 400-word essay on whether Scott Symons would've been a top or a bottom had Karl Ulrichs just asked nicely.

"Don't worry," I told Kit, "it won't be a problem."

Let me just reiterate that KD seemed like a very decent guy with a fine sense of humour. So I imagine that he laughed just before he warned me one more time.

"Nope," I said, "it's not an issue. I'll be fine. Atwood told me that everything would work out."

That confused him, so I had to do a little storytelling. Fine with me.

Not many people know this, but Margaret Atwood--the Canadian writer--is passionate about New Age Spirituality. She loves it. RBC is actually offering a Visa with her face etched onto a laminated wedge of healing crystal. And her tarot card collection is among the largest in Rosedale. A couple months ago I went to her house for a palm reading, stopping along the way at Bagel World to buy a Chocolate Ring.

"That, Kit," I said, "was when the trouble started. 'Too much chocolate!' she screamed when she saw the ring. 'Who's going to eat all that?'" She was apoplectic, and in trying to wrench the pastry box from her hand, I accidentally knocked over her crystal ball. Well, one of her crystal balls.

She shrieked so loud that Graeme heard her in his bedroom two streets down.

"Give me your hand!" she said, lunging at me. I showed her my palm. She looked, studying intently. "Fuck," she said.

"Bad news?" I asked.

"No, no. I just realized that I forgot to cut my nails."

"What about my palm?"

"You'll live a long life. You'll be very happy. One day you'll meet Robert Harlow."

"You can tell all that by looking at my palm?"

"No. I got that from the crystal ball. But since that's now broken..." she trailed off. The ball was indeed useless, cracked into four large wedges of clear glass on Atwood's walnut floor.

"So how do you know?"

"Because if I had to meet him, there's no way you're getting out of it."

"And that happiness stuff? Look, I'm writing for a website now, and some people have mentioned that some of the more, well, some of the cruder things could anger the wrong crowd."

"No, I don't see that being a problem."

"Not at all?"

"Not at all. Go ahead. Keep writing."

"Look, I feel terrible about the crystal ball. Let me pay for it. Please, it'll be my pleasure."

"Not necessary. I'll just bring up one from the basement."

"You have two?"

"Ha! Just two! I've got six packed away in the fallout shelter."

"You have a fallout shelter? Why?"

"I'm keeping it for Barbara Gowdy. It's the only vault I know that locks from the outside."

So, Kit, thanks for your concern. But as long as Babs Atwood's predictions are coming true, I'll be okay.

And tonight I'm invited to her house for dinner. Can you believe that? What kind of wine do you bring to a seance?

Friday, August 15, 2008

How Many SSHRC Grants Does It Take To Buy A House In Florida?

A few months ago my father told me that he was looking into buying a house in Florida. Both (sets) of my grandparents have owned homes down there since the early-mid '70s. One side has a condo in Hollywood, the other has a townhouse in Fort Lauderdale. As Jewish kids my cousins and I would go south every winter, eating Chinese food on Christmas Eve, and enjoying snowless nights of mini golf.

Six months ago the Canadian dollar was trading at $1.15 USD. I was eating Rosh Hashana dinner at my mom's parents' house; my cousins were there, my aunts and uncles were there, and both sets of grandparents were there.

"Did you buy U.S. dollars?" my mom's mother asked my dad's mother.



"How much do we need? We're only there four months."

"But next year!"

"Well, next year's next year. But look: this isn't all so good. Do you know what places around us are selling for?"

"I know."

"I can't believe it. Almost what we paid thirty years ago."

My SSHRC grant had just been renewed, and that morning I'd looked at a really nice Cartier self-winding watch: "What'd you pay thirty years ago?"

My dad's father: "A hundred and thirty-five."

Me: "And what did you put down?"

Him: "About forty."

My SSHRC grant paid thirty grand a year. And it was renewable for four years. So one hundred and twenty thousand dollars. Canadian. Add fifteen percent for the conversion, and that was a condo.

"Why?" my grandfather asked. "Are you thinking about buying something?"

"I've got this grant. Why not?"

"Now's a great time to buy. Prices can only go up."

So I did it; I bought a condo in Florida. I called SSHRC: "Look," I said. "Instead of sending my cheques to, you know, where you've been sending them, my graduate director told me that this new address is, according to him, the location of some new processing station for grant money."

"Okay," the SSHRC man said. "Do you have that address handy?"

"Sure," I said, riffling some papers. "Uh, it's Wachovia--that's Wachovia Bank--1623 Atlantic Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. And that's care of Russ Kleinberg, mortgage officer. Okay? And the account number is 1921-3341-9343. Regarding David Adler."

"Mortgage officer? Are you sure that's correct?"

"Yes. Absolutely. The university's outsourcing. Russ...Russ is handling all of our business. We're buying mortgages now. The whole English department. Five percent yield, you know."

"This doesn't sound quite right."

"Can you read back that account number?"



"Is that a savings account?"

"Savings and mortgage. Mortgage-savings. Saving on my mortgage."

"Excuse me?"

So now I own a two-bedroom, two-bathroom codominium in Fort Lauderdale. Prices have gone down, but my mortgage is locked in.

Last December I had my grandparents over for a housewarming party. I'd just flown in from Toronto, grading exams on my Air Canada flight, landing in Miami, driving an hour through miles of fenced-in, concrete city. I'd hired a Florida-based designer furnish the place with some leftover OGS money, so everything was perfect when I walked through the door. (The walls are cream, the floors done in twelve-inch terra cotta tiles, and I've got a lot of rattan furniture. It's not modern, but it's comfortable.)

"David," my mom's father said. "How can you afford a place like this?"

"I wrote a really good proposal."


"Post-colonialism's big right now."

"I don't know what he's talking about."

My dad's mother: "Look at the floors."

Me: "They must've liked my bibliography."

My mom's mother: "It's beautiful. What are you going to do with all this room?"

Me: "Oh, that's where I'm putting my New Canadian Library collection. All three editions. Complete."

So now my dad's getting a place right around the corner. We can go to Bennigan's, we can go to Jai Alai, we can go to Sawgrass Mills.

"It's the Canada Council, David," he told me. "That's where the real money is."

"I'll remember that."

"Oh, I almost forgot. You know who lives two doors down?"

"At your new place?"



"W.H. New."

"But you're right on the beach. Lauderdale-By-The-Sea."

"I know. Apparently he likes to sail. I'm going out with him tomorrow. He's taking me all around South Beach. We're going to talk about Henry Kreisel."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Spelling Smaro Kamoboureli

After reading my last Dobson post, a commenter observed that I'd misspelled Kamboureli. And I guess s/he was right. I'd used two Ls, and the correct spelling uses only one.

But I'm not the only person to have spilled such a hot cup of coffee in his lap.

At Northwest Passages, the biggest CanLit bookseller on the Web, you'll find Robert Kroetsch's wife, Smaro Kambourelli.

Go to the U of Guelph's site and there's ole Kambourelli one more time.

The University of Alberta's conference website. Again, Kambourelli.

And Ryerson's library homepage. Click your way to their Roy Kiyooka page, and there's Pacific Rim Letters edited by "Smaro Kambourelli."

Volume 115, Number 5, December 2000's issue of MLN. Look for the review of "Smaro Kambourelli's" Scandalous Bodies.

Steven Bruhm's President's Message in the March 2007 ACCUTE newsletter? No mention of "Kambourelli." But their conference programme? Yeah, two Ls.

Robert Barsky's website at Required reading for CLT294:"Kambourelli, Smaro (ed.). Making a Difference, Oxford, 1996 (0195410785)."

I'm going to stop now. But, in closing, lists for sale eleven books written by "Smaro Kambourelli." By "Smaro Kamboureli"? Seven.

But one L is right. It's Kamboureli. Ten thousand Google hits can't be wrong.

So, again, Kamboureli is right. Who cares is SFU's library spells it as Kambourelli? It's just not fair that Albert Braz's review of Domenic Beneventi's Adjacencies, a review published in the Spring 2006 edition of Canadian Literature, quotes "Smaro Kambourelli."

All right. That's enough.

I'm going to close this post by quoting some lyrics from Swanee, one of my favourite Al Jolson songs. Why? Because, for some reason, Smaro Kamboureli always makes me think of Jolson. Then Gershwin. Then, sometimes, Anita O'Day. When I read A Mazing Space, I kept waiting for Sportin' Life's next scene:

Swanee - how I love ya, how I love ya
My dear old swanee.
I'd give the world to be among the folks in D-I-X-I-E-ven though my mammy's waiting for me,
praying for me down by the swanee.
The folks up north will see me no more when I get to that swanee shore.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Will McClelland & Stewart Publish This Blog? The New Canadian Blog Series

This morning I got a call from Mary at McClelland & Stewart.

"Are you David Adler?"


"The David Adler who writes the Canadianist blog?"

"It's more of an online magazi--"

"We want to publish it."

"Really!" I was shocked.

"Do you write anything else? Fiction? Stuff like that."

"I write fiction. Academic criticism. Why?"

"We're starting a new series: The New Canadian Blog. I know, it sounds weird. Blog is singular, right. We're working on a name. Basically, it's a collection of Canadian blog posts--posts on Canadian literature. And we found your site. We love it. Everyone here reads it. I mean, you know Norman Levine? Well, he's dead now. But you knew Norman Levine. And all those things he said about Peggy...You're just about probably the funniest Canadian critic in Southern Ontario."

"Right. That's very kind of you. Thank you."

"And I remember that episode of Friends with David Chariandy. He was so tall!"

"May I ask how you found the site?"

"Oh, Annabel Lyon called. She said that we had to read it. Do you know her? She's really nice."

"We've never met."

"She said that you're a Jew. Is that true? Really? Do you know Irving Layton?"

"Irving Layton's dead."

"Oh, right. You probably just sat on him. For shiva, right."

"Look, I love the idea of working with M & S, but I'm not sure that you understand what this site's really about."

"Sure! Sure we do. You're in it. You're right in it."

"But it's not that simple."

"Can we see some of your fiction? Can you send it over? Douglas Gibson just retired, so we're finally looking to get away from that posthumous stuff."

"Oh? Whom did you publish posthumously?"

"Oh. Ha! Graeme Gibson. But don't say anything, he doesn't know yet."

So I sent them a couple things. Will it go well? If they can get past the part where Neil Bissoondath cuts down his jean shorts, making the world's only Speedo with a button-down crotch, I think this blog's going hardcover.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Did I Say Something About Kit Dobson?

When I started this CanLit blog, my only consideration was that I'd have fun writing things about Canadian authors whose archives I'd raided over the years. It's easy: you just tuck the papers into your belt, and leave. But wear a long shirt. (I've got a great autographed copy of Adele Wiseman's Magder's bill for a 3/4-length sable coat.) Fine. It's been great fun, and I've enjoyed every article. But I never thought that I'd have an audience. "Google might help," a friend said. And it has. A week ago I wrote something about a CP24 newscast. Five days later I had about twenty hits stemming from Google searches for "Pooja Handa nude pics."

We're just a humble Canadian writing institution. Every time Dennis Lee sells a book, this site gets a hit. Last week we hit 1,000. If Dennis looks thin lately, well, you've got to understand the correlation.

But today was different. Alive after three stab wounds, and two-hundred hits on my Kit Dobson post. Two-hundred. Is Kit from a Catholic family? How many brothers does this man have?

I'm really tempted to perform an in-depth reading of Dobson's work; I guess that I could share an unfinished article that I'm readying for SCL. I like the man as a critic, and he's got a really vibrant take on contemporary PC fiction. But I want to see how far this thing goes. Does Kit have fans? I can understand two-hundred hits (my post about Milton Berle's penis is up to 134), but that's over four months. Two-hundred hits over twelve hours? I just re-read the post, and I don't see any references to a Miley Cyrus defloration. To paraphrase Rudy Wiebe, Where is the traffic coming from?

I have a feeling that a lot of this could have to do with David Chariandy. He's huge right now. Absolutely huge. In the checkout line at the grocery store, I couldn't help but notice that David and Candice Bergen were seen at Sardi's. It was a Tuesday night, and on Tuesdays Sardi's accepts loonies at par.

"Chariandy Sells Suncor At $96" was the headline. Good for him.

So maybe they're searching for Chariandy, and ending up here. Great. Then I'll post my article on "monocultural multiculture" in Soucouyant. That should be fun.

Could this be the start of a CanLit trend? Just think, one of those hits could've been Smaro Kamboureli. Christ, now I'm excited.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

David Almost Dies; Pizza Hut With Andre Alexis; Saved By John Metcalf's "The Lady Who Sold Furniture"

I was stabbed last week. Once in the shoulder, once just under the shoulder, and once just below the title of my hardcover copy of John Metcalf's The Lady Who Sold Furniture. Right now there's a tube leading from my my AC joint to a wad of gauze that's taped to my pectoral muscle. Luckily, like Robert Kroetsch, I don't have much chest hair. So getting the tape off is really almost fun.

Here's how it happened. I was outside a bar at Weston Road and Lawrence, and I was waiting for Andre Alexis to pick me up. But he was late, as always, and I started walking. About a hundred steps east on Lawrence I heard a guy shouting. I turned to look at him.

"What are you lookin' at?"

I turned away.

"Don't you be turnin' away from me."

It was Alexis.

"What happened to your car?" I asked.

"It broke down."

"It broke down, and you walked all the way here?"

"It broke down and I biked all the way here."

"So where's your bike?"

"It broke down."

We kept walking. About twenty minutes later, just east of Jane, Andre saw a Pizza Hut. "Let's go in," he said. "I like the thick crusts."

"Let's just go for a drink, okay. That was the plan."

"But this way we'll get a base."

"That pizza's all grease."

"Hey! I like the thick crust."

This argument lasted for about five minutes. I was too tired to keep going. If Andre Alexis wants a thick crust, then Andre Alexis will have a thick crust. I've seen it happen at least twelve times. Once I was at one of his readings and a guy in the audience was eating an apple. "You know what I could use right about now?" Alexis asked himself. "A thick crust." He looked at the audience. "Is anyone here hungry? Let's split a pizza. Show of hands: who likes the thick crust?" Another time, at the dentist's office, he had a pizza delivered to the waiting room. When the receptionist asked what he was doing, he just said, "The thick crust calls, my dear." This night was a variation on the theme. "You want a pizza?" I asked. "Fine. We'll get a pizza."

"You're sharing."

"I'm not sharing."

"This is authentic, Chicago deep-dish pizza, man."

"You mean they freeze it all the way down in Illinois?"

"Nooo! This is always fresh!"

"That's Pizza Pizza, Andre."

"This is Pizza Hut! Look at that roof. Now that's a hut."

At about that point, a guy walked up behind me and jabbed something in my hip. "Gimme your money," he said.

I gave him my money. Why argue with a man with an eight-inch hunting knife. He turned to Alexis. "And you."

"Where are you from?" Alexis asked.

"I'm from gimme your money."

"Jamaica's a fine place."

"Gimme your money."

"We were just about to order a Chicago, deep-dish pizza."

"Okay. Gimme your money and your ticket."

"My what?"

"Your ticket. You're going to Chicago."

"No, no. We were going to order a pizza."

"Just gimme your money."

At this point I stepped in between them. "Look. He probably only has twenty bucks. Don't you have something that he can autograph. Really, it would be worth much more. I know that Eva-Marie Kroller, if you called her, would really--"

"Shut up."

"...And told her it was tax deductible--"

"Just give me the damn money!"

"...Justin D. Edwards said that Morley Callaghan--"

And that's when he stabbed me. It was the Morley Callaghan allusion. I know it. Never mention Morley Callaghan's name during a robbery. This was the second time I'd done it, and neither had ended well. The first time I was at Bay and King and a guy told me to give him my shoes. I said, "Morley Callaghan died in these shoes!" and the guy fractured my forearm with a pipe cutter.

We went into the Pizza Hut to call the police. "Ask the ambulance how long they'll be," Alexis told me.

"Just order the goddamn pizza already."

"...If I could get some SERVICE around here."

At this point I was flat, face-first on the floor. "David! David!"

"Yes," I mumbled. You can mumble Yes. It's a three-letter word, but it can be mumbled.

"David! Do you like onions? They have red onions. On the pizza."

"No onions."

"David! David! The bill's $18.46. Do you have a penny? That way--"

"I know. They give you a quarter."

"Stay awake, David. Don't sleep. Don't go to sleep on me...It's almost ready."

"I'm really...I'm really tired."

"Don't close your eyes! Don't close them! Here, read something."

And he gave me a copy of TLWSF. "I've read it already."

"How many times?"


"Oh, you've got to read it twice."

When the pizza came out, Alexis bit his lip. I'd bled onto the all-weather carpet. "This is a large? Come on! Can you look at this, David! I can't eat this myself. What value."

I'm recovering, but it'll be a few days 'til I can move my right arm. In the meantime, I'm eating leftovers.
All Posts On This Site Are Intended As Juvenalian Satire. If They Veer Into Horatian Satire, That's OK Too. Just, Please, Don't Take Them Too Seriously. PhD Students Can't Afford Libel Suits. CUPE Doesn't Cover Court Costs.
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