Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Canadian Writers Are Tough; If They Were Nuts They'd Be Chestnuts...Or Maybe Acorns

I have a friend who likes the hardboiled American writers. He can't stop talking about Raymond Chandler's knuckles. He found a picture of Chandler's hands; he enlarged it at a Black's and hung it on his wall.

"Look at those fingers," he keeps telling me, whenever I'm over. "The man was a puncher. He was a brawler."

"So?" I tell him. "Canadians aren't any different."

He knows that I like Canadian writing; he knows that I have many friends among the canonized Canadian elite.

"Canadians are..." and he waved his hands in disgust. "They're punks, David. They couldn't break a chair. Hammett could've owned them. Spillane would have choked on their bones."

"Not Camilla Gibb," I said, "she's all meat."

"You know what I'm saying."

And there is the idea out there that Canadian writers are wimps, thin and lithe. Someone once told me a story about David Helwig trying to figure out how to use a Black & Decker cordless drill. He couldn't figure out how to replace the bit, and then he couldn't turn on the thing. And when he finally got it on, he couldn't operate the safety. Then he got the safety popped, but he couldn't figure out why the bit was spinning counter-clockwise. Finally he just said, "Fuck it, who needs a deck anyway?"

"Look; let me tell you something. David Chariandy's tough."

"Who's David Chariandy?" my friend asked.

"He's a Canadian writer."

"Oh. Then he can't be tough. You're lying."

"I'm lying? I once saw him beat up," and I said this knowing my friend's mentality, "a huge black guy."

This seemed to impress him. "A huge black guy?"

"Yes. A huge black guy. Granted, it was his grandfather..."


"That was a joke, okay. A joke. But Russell Smith. Russell Smith is tough. I was once on a TTC streetcar with him when some crazy guy decided to take out his dick and wave it at all the women on the car."

"And what did Smith do?"

"He twisted it in a knot."

"He twisted it in a knot?"

"He just grabbed, pulled, twisted."


"That's tough. You won't see Latimer do that."

"Well, he grabbed, he pulled...but I don't think he twisted."

"And Atwood," I had to get in a shot at Atwood, "Atwood is like steel."

"She is?"

"Yeah," I said. "She's cold, she's unfeeling, and she rusts if you leave her out in the rain."

"And she's a fighter?"

"She fights everyone! Bob Rae pushed her at the Gillers. He just bumped her; he didn't mean anything by it. She took care of him."


"My uncle did the crowns."

So Canadianists shouldn't feel ashamed. M.C. Blais could throw Michael Chabon down a flight of stairs any time she wanted. We're just that good.

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