17 January 2012

A Masterful Display

Hugh Garner describes his first Canadian Authors Association meeting:
It wasn't as bad as I'd expected it to be, it was worse. I found myself perched on a collapsible chair on the outer perimeter of a group of chitty-chatty elderly ladies whose broadened A's, mink stoles and social pretensions matched perfectly their complete ignorance of contemporary writing. They looked to me like the offspring of Crimean War field officers and Dickensian almshouse gruel-servers, which they probably were. Their twitterings were composed largely of Can Lit name-droppings (first names, if you please) of writers deceased, defunct and deplored. God, how I wished I'd stashed a pint of rye in my inside pocket! 
Things got underway with a welcoming speech by a sour-pussed broad who probably spent her daylight hours chasing kids off her lawn, between composing prose that would turn the gut of a pterodactyl. She then introduced the "distinguished speaker of the evening," who turned out to be some old guy in a brown tweed suit from Kingston, Ontario, who would give us "an entertaining and informative talk on Service," spoken with a capital S. 
I found myself becoming interested, for while I've never been a Robert W. Service fan, and can only recite a couple lines of his poetry, at least a talk about him promised to get the meeting much closer to earth than I'd imagined it could ever get. 
The speaker, to polite applause like the fluttering of fans, jumped right into his subject, and riding the thermal updrafts of his verbosity like a bespectacled hawk, soared off into an incoherence that would put shame to poetry critics of a college quarterly. It was a masterful display of socio-literary bullshit. As a matter of fact it took me almost a quarter of an hour to realize that the Service he was talking about was not the author of the Songs of a Sourdough but the service of such laudable petit-bourgeouis organizations as the Rotary, Kiwanis and Lion's Clubs.
One Damn Thing After Another (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1973), p. 201.