Monday, August 14, 2017
I feel very uncomfortable doing this but a number of factors compel me to get on with it, so here goes. Without going into this too personally, due to events beyond my control, there are a fair number of threats, most indirect, but some quite direct, and many very specific (what exact kind of gun should be put to what exact part of my body) made against my life. Mostly just suggestions that I be killed, etc, (quite graphic etc, often) with motivation, sometimes a cost estimate.
While I try not to let this affect how I do things too much and I know that the internet (which I love and is mostly a net gain, in part because it is through the internet that I came to know many of you good people and how i have managed to do much of my work) I have for a few years now declined all invitations to do public events. Several people who have looked at these things have been advised me against doing all anyone-attends-posted-online affairs and if you see me say I am in a place, I am not there anymore.
It’s not a huge thing and I know most threats are empty but I believe the advice is correct, given the number and nature of these posts and messages.
Anyway, now I have this book coming out and a number of literary festivals have kindly invited me to attend and I can’t. This is a disappointment to my fine publisher and of course and I really enjoy meeting readers.
I will have an invitation-only book launch here in Toronto, late September, when the book comes out, and I very much hope many of you will come.
The point to this post is this, I did promise, contactually and otherwise, to promote my book, and attend a number of public events. I can’t, and a fair number of you are in media one way another, and so here’s my pitch, I will happily answer questions about my book, and work, write you a few lines about life in general, donate a recipe for your publication, pop in to your podcast, wander in to whatever it is you got going. You name it, I will do it.
So, please keep me in mind if you have a space of slot I might be able to fill and thanks very much for your time and interest if you read to the end of this.
This VERY strange statement appeared today, posted on a Facebook friend's page, so it got into my feed. A very big question mark immediately formed over my head. I didn't know much about this writer, whose name I will mask for now, and when I looked up her publisher, this is the description I saw about her (which, as an author myself, I know is traditionally written by the subject):
(Writer Under Threat) is smart, funny and very beautiful. She has the prettiest eyes. She describes her hair as iconic. That's how men think of her breasts. She is also a gifted writer. Elle Canada, The Globe and Mail, The Walrus and Explore Magazine are four of the publications lucky enough to have her in their pages. She has a lovely laugh and has been nominated for ten National Magazine Awards. She is also an excellent cook, terrific in bed and weary of self-deprecating chick writers.
So I sort of got the fact that this was a humourist of sorts, but what about that statement about her life being in danger? And therein lies the dilemma of social media.
As a humorist, a satirist I assume, irony and exaggeration are her stock in trade. Fair enough; I expect that. But what do I make of this rather long and elaborate statement? Is there any truth in it at all, or is it just an irony-tinged way of saying, "Hey, guys, I don't feel like doing any book promotion this year"? If so, those who are in on the joke, her loyal readers/fans/"in-crowd", will probably immediately know what she is talking about, and perhaps are chuckling away to themselves right now - threats on her life! Right! That's a million laughs.
Certainly the way she expresses the threat ("what exact kind of gun should be put to what exact part of my body. . sometimes a cost estimate. . .") borders on the flip. Her statement a little later on that it's "not a huge thing" seems equally puzzling. Threats on her life are not a huge thing?
So I was left in a state of confusion that made me unaccountably angry. It's happening again, I thought. Happens every time I turn around. We don't know what to take seriously, and what to - not. The whole thing was confusing in the way only social media can be confusing, triggering a weird, irrational shame. It's because you don't know whether or not you're being hoodwinked, and you feel you should know. You should know what's going on, but everyone seems to be speaking in some sort of mysterious code.
My first reaction when I saw this was, good grief, why is my Facebook friend in so much trouble? Then I realized it wasn't my Facebook friend at all, but this author (unknown to me - I don't live in Toronto) whom my friend was quoting. So, who was she, and why (actually, really, I mean) was she not going to promote her book?
People just don't go around randomly shooting authors, or making threats against someone who is no threat to them. Not in Canada, anyway. But if it IS true, what the hell is going on? She is a lovely, laughing, iconic-breasted humour writer, is she not? I just can't see who'd want to gun her down in cold blood. It makes no sense.
The truth is, I have absolutely NO fucking clue what to make of this, and it makes me very very uneasy. Just doubting it is giving me doubts, although I find I'm doubting half of what I read these days.
What do we take seriously in this era of fake news? What/whom do we (mis)trust? I was all ready to accept this at face value, until that little voice (the one I generally trust) said, "Wait a minute."
Wait a minute. We have no proof at all that any of this is real. If it isn't, it's a great way to play on the paranoia that runs rampant these days, a way to tweak everyone's vulnerability and then suddenly say, "Hah! Had you going there, didn't I?"
HAS she got me going? For no reason, I mean? How big a fool am I, anyway? IS there anything to this? Yes, no, I don't know. I feel ridiculous for not knowing. If it's satire, after all (the way she makes her living), if she's not really going to be murdered in cold blood at a book signing, then perhaps the intended reaction really is a mixture of exasperation, bewilderment and baffling shame.
The question: is it alive?
Beneath the glistening glaze lies "something", perhaps even food.
May contain meat from a can.
Paralyzed shrimp trapped in aspic, lying in state on a bed of creamed glop.
Tuna treat coated with Ann Page Sparkle Gelatine Dessert, Lime Flavour.
A rectangle of white sludge festooned with designs from the cave paintings of Lascaux.
Spherical objects under red jelly, origin unknown. Eggs are optional
Squint closely, and a fierce face leaps out from the plate.
Drunken lima beans bob and flounder in congealed orange fluid. Happy holidays!
A veritable riot of arrested life forms, held in rigid suspension by the miracle of. . . gelatine.