Can-Lit: Our National Snobbery Disorder.
This is a piece I wrote some time ago at the invitation of the National Post. More relevant than ever, I believe.
The late Marian Engle once confessed to me that she occasionally enjoyed the “guilty pleasure” of reading a mystery. That sums up a common notion: a properly brought up Canadian is expected to feel guilty about reading a book that claims no pretension but to entertain. (I didn’t feel guilty about reading Bear.)
This priggish attitude toward popular fiction is deeply imbedded within our cultural establishment. By establishment, I mean the literature departments of our universities, the book pages of our journals, institutions such as the Canada Council and provincial arts bodies, the CBC, and the big publishing houses.
The infection may have begun in our libraries, and it found a host in our historic inferiority complex, a belief that our culture was little, provincial, unknown. To cover up our shame, that condition has morphed into a national snobbery disorder.
From the University of Saskatchewan
Press Release October 2016
SASKATOON – He is one of Canada’s best-known novelists, an award-winning crime writer who has also been lauded for his work as a lawyer, journalist, environmentalist and civil rights activist.
On October 22, the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) will pay tribute to alumnus William Deverell when he receives an honorary Doctor of Letters during Fall Convocation ceremonies at TCU Place.
From The Blog / April 1, 2015
Sing a Worried Song is out … and I’m outa here too
“It takes a worried man to sing a worried song. I’m worried now, but I won’t be worried long.” It’s an old folk song that Arthur Beauchamp can’t get out of his head. But poor old Arthur will have lots to worry about, including his possible violent death.
Whatever happens to him is out of my hands now. Sing a Worried Song is out in hardcover and as an e-book as of today. Now I must return to my untitled, half-finished work-in-progress.
I’m on my way to ferry and airport.
I’m going off to commune where there’s no phone, no Internet, no email. For three plus months!
Guess Who Just Hacked Your Blog…
Guest Blog by Bill’s Best Bud / April 2, 2015
That’s your parting shot? “I’m going off to commune where there’s no phone, no Internet, no email.”
You’re off to commune with whom, some hippie muse? Shit, man, we must have missed each other by a crotch hair.
Maybe that was you getting on the ferry as I was getting off. I said to myself, that can’t be Bill. That wild Einsteinian jungle of hair, the cheap sunglasses, the shirt half tucked in. No, couldn’t be you, I decided—you were always a snappy dresser. Back then. In those times of yore.
Don’t bother scrolling down to see who hacked into your blog—yes, it’s me, Bry Pomerantz, faded wunderkind of the big screen, your long-lost, long-ignored side kicker.
The Wild Hippie Lawyer
Guest Blog by Bill’s Best Bud / April 4, 2015
Yeah, I clipped that item from the National Post. I had no idea. The deep end? You may have tiptoed near the edge. But divorce? Shacking up with hippies?
Flashback to this summery scene: I was sitting on a bench in Stanley Park. A bench I hoped to sleep on if it didn’t rain. The Screenwriters Guild had just denied my appeal to get my membership reinstated. I was homeless, hungover, as taut as a stretched condom, exhausted from ranting on the public pathways.
The final blow had just been delivered that morning: Sue announced I was domestically redundant, and gave me my walking papers. (You won’t know Sue, she was after your time. She’s a lawyer. Also, expensively, an afficionada of fine chopped flake.)
Bry’s Blog / April 7, 2015
Good morning, Blogosphere, I’m back. Hey, Bill, in case you stop by an Internet shop—do they exist where you are?—to check your emails, I have sent a couple to your old Yahoo account. No answer. But of course, anything from muy amigo mio, unheard from for thirty-three years, goes straight into Spam.
I was hoping you might at least glance at your website, your blog, and see my entreaties to make contact. Or maybe one of your cult following of good-humoured, nonconforming eco-liberals, or a relative, your agent, publisher, somebody who knows where the fuck you are, will get word to you that Bry Pomerantz has hacked into both your writing studio and your blog.
My Near-Death Experience
Bry’s Blog / April 13, 2015
Just had a near-death experience. I was strolling up your driveway when an old pickup rattled down the hill toward me. My only hope was to cannonball into the second growth. Blue Dodge, crumpled fender, peace decal: I told myself to remember these specifics if I survived.
He that filches my good name
Bry’s Blog / April 22, 2015
Good afternoon, Bill, wherever you are. Still not receiving? Or are you finally tuned in to your blog? I suspect the latter. I see you sitting tight, hoping I’ll go away. I know now why you ran off. Not to escape the horrors of civilization. To avoid me, Bry Pomerantz.
Not just because of the vast guilt and remorse you feel over plagiarizing plot, twists and title of Needles. Yes, the book’s goddamn title—you don’t remember who came up with that? How did I feel when my name didn’t even appear in your acknowledgments? Imagine the sense of being buried alive. But now you have defamed me. You’ll be singing a very worried song if I sue for libel, bub.
You had erased all your files from your computer (or so you thought), but you forgot to clean out your trash, and there it was, Worried Song2.doc, which I took to be an early draft. I got a few hundred pages into it. I appear as your nemesis. I am the literary analogue of the fucked up character who so prominently lurks throughout its early pages. Brian Pomeroy. Way to come up with an original name.
Lust. Thrill. Kill.
Bry’s Blog / May 14, 2015
Okay, on-re-reading your partial manuscript (the copy on your computer ends at page 201), I’m thinking Brian Pomeroy comes off not too bad. Shrewd, edgy, witty, and the island ladies think I’m hot. I am in rich contrast to your Arthur Beauchamp, the emotionally self-abusing yet somehow lovable fusspot.
Sing a Worried Song. I get the title, but I’d have advised something harder. You have a vengeful thrill killer on the loose. What about, simply, Kill Arthur! Or, in the modern style, Lust. Thrill. Kill. (Title of a script I wrote in my noir phase. It’s available.) Or how about Thrill Killer Puzzles Police. Wurtz – that’s the guy you prosecuted, right? Who threatened to get you…
How does it end? Or do you know? Page 201—is that when the muse died of blockage of creative juices? When the walls closed in and you decided to go away somewhere and start life again?
As for your main plotline, let’s see, we have a sadistic, psychopathic killer on the hunt for the prosecutor who sought to convict him. Oh, dear, that’s Needles. We already did that one, didn’t we, Bill?
LSD-laced punch at a parent-teacher soiree.
Bry’s Blog / May 27, 2015
INT. BROWNING PUB—NIGHT.
[A country saloon. Six-stool bar, a dozen tables, divers locals, a folk singer no one is listening to. Pool balls clacking. One barstool remains unoccupied, next to Moose: tattooed biceps, rubber boots caked in the offal from his fish boat. Pomerantz enters, takes the empty seat, refrains from asking him how many dolphins died in his nets today.]
MOOSE: You the screenwriter who was coming on to Ingrid?
[Pomerantz orders a pint while he toys with the question. Given that his only outings have been to the store to buy groceries or smokes, he wonders if this heavyweight is the island clairvoyant. All comes clear as Ingrid emerges from the women’s and blows Moose a kiss.]
MOOSE: I’ll join you in a minute, baby. [To Pomerantz:] Bill Deverell’s brother? [The tone is distrustful, hostile, and Pomerantz wonders if he is Skyler in disguise, on a killing spree, aiming at him because he’s miffed he can’t find Arthur Beauchamp at home. (Oops. Where did that come from? Ah, yes, Sing a Worried Song.)]
POMERANTZ: Brother in the spiritual sense.
MOOSE: Yeah, what movies have you written?
[Closeup on Pomerantz’s sweaty face .]
The Death of Literature
Bry’s Blog / June 15, 2015
About your website, Bill. Can’t you kind of release some air from it so it’s not so anal-retentive with text-heavy excepts, reviews, awards, and your other little ego-warming back-slappers? So, okay, you have a honourary D. Litt. (They just want to put you out to pasture, Bill. Means you’re over the hill.)
And your blog, man, with that cheesy, snotty Horace Widgeon, the straw man you invented to make you look stylishly hip and au courant. Kill him, Bill. Hire me instead. I’m annoying in my own way, but at least I’m real.
Happily lacking in your blog, however, is the bright-eyed chattiness one expects online these days, the sharing of one’s innermost banalities, the borrowed opinions about love and art and planetary survival introduced by the blogger’s favourite cloying quote, tucked into the screen’s upper-right corner, something perhaps from Confucius: A hint of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers.
I’m in You’re House!
Bry’s Blob / June 18, 2015
Though I spell checked this sucker, It will appear oblivious very quickly that I am fairy snookered, so I won’t pretend I didn’t just Polish off the twenty-sifter of rum I found stashed in the caboose of your liquor cabinet. I promise not to touch the 18-year Glenmorgie with the “happy birth day!” scrawled on the box, which I get your saving for your triumph ant return.
Love that bullet holed No Trespass sign at your door. Yeah, I’m in your house now, I’m your official house sister until Ingrid comes back. If she ever does.
I’m worried now but I won’t be worried long
Bry’s Blog / June 20, 2015
“It takes a worried man to sing a worried song.” Hey, Bill, I couldn’t get that hoary old blues out of my freaking head. Couldn’t remember the last stanza until good old Arthur recited it (page 326). “I asked the judge what might be my fine. Twenty-one years on the Rocky Mountain line.”
Story of my life.
Okay, Bill, I’m sober and I’m flabbergasted. Respectful of your privacy, I climbed to your loft, your office-in-home, solely intending to enjoy your pretty pastoral view from windows high up. But on your desk, giving me a come-hither look, was an opened, padded brown envelope with the full 330 pages of your final copy edit.
Moose, Me, and Sonia’s Pointers
Bry’s Blog / July 12
Did I mention I was working on a screenplay? Not Needles, Bill, that awaits our negotiations and out-of-court settlement. My current project has a mind-control theme, a subtle Stephen Kingish horror flick. No ghouls, vampires or brain-eating zombies. A New Age guru shows up in a small community and starts drawing everyone into his web like helpless flies, emptying their minds through some transformative process. Only one man resists: a cynical screenplay author and lush who is working on a script with the very same theme!
Sheep in the Garden, Sonia on the Futon
July 17 / Guest Blog by Bill’s Best Bud
Yo, Bill, I want you to know I’m settling in here real fine, and living small, pretty well keeping to your loft studio, where I crash on the futon. I brought up the TV so I could watch the old-movie channel. One of these days they’re going to show “Duck, Chuck,” I heard it was on their list.
The main bedroom is out of bounds, still stinks of the BuggerOff I sprayed. You may have to wash the bed covers. I’d do it myself, but the washing machine is on the fritz. Also, the toilet overflowed again. “I’m backed up too,” said the plumber. Maybe next week.
I vacated your writing studio just in time. A family of otters has taken up residence underneath it. Stinks worse than Moose’s boots.
That’s the good news. The bad news: I forgot to lay in some brew, and can only confess and seek forgiveness for getting into your 18-year-old Glenmorangie last night. I had company to entertain, I was up against the wall. Took a photo of it first for your memories.
The Astonishing Events That Transpired While I Was Away
Bill’s Blog / July 19, 2015
Terrible news greeted me on my return from Costa Rica. An old friend is in a coma.
I saw nothing amiss on pulling into the yard but on entering the house saw signs it had been lived in—by some grubby drifter, I assumed, though I didn’t call the RCMP right away in case he was, as it turned out, an acquaintance.
I raced through all the rooms, finally up to the loft, my office, where in the midst of the disarray was a printout of a screenplay treatment by Bry Pomerantz. My printer was still on, as was his laptop computer. Mr. Pomerantz is a fellow writer whom I haven’t seen for decades and only occasionally heard from: calls from distant locales, usually after midnight, when he was ingesting cocaine or crystal meth or similar high-speed narcotics.
Cluttered about were several empty bottles: beer, wine, an 18-year-old Highland malt. More nervous-making was the shaving mirror on my desk, with a straw. One of the windows was wide open, and an ashtray perched on the ledge had a collection of butts and what appeared to be cannabis roaches.
It was when I peered out the window that I saw the body, lying supine on the grass. I was calling 911, frantically shouting information, as I raced down there, and in my haste I fell and bruised my hand on the rocks lining the nearby flower bed. Following instructions, I found his pulse and confirmed that he was breathing.
Great credit goes to our island’s emergency responders, who were here in fewer than nine minutes: ambulance, police, even a fire truck. The Medivac helicopter was already on its way from Victoria.
Mr. Pomerantz has now been two days in a coma in Victoria General Hospital. He had a concussion and a broken arm but otherwise his physical systems are all working.