Sunday, January 04, 2009
Tale out of the Ontario Arts Council.--or, how the novice writer, almost always a pr..., got some money
What follows is in the form of a fictional memoir from the vinyards of Canadian publishing.
Who the hell wants to be sued?
The grant administrator was a man nearly of my own background, greying and fairly recently arrived.
First thought in my mind was parvenu.
Hm. Wonder if he knew the word. Probably did. You had to speak French to be a Canadian bureaucrat.
But off the boat and already my boss.
Anyway, his smallish grey eyes are peering at me through thick brows and high cheekbones, "Anyway, it's only $360 dollars.
Hardly enough to get drunk on....and I know you guys drink."
Three hundred and sixty dollars for my Light Over Newmarket. Four years in the writing and tinkering.
The grant had come from an editor's recommendation of the book by House of Anansi Press...I suppose I could have gotten more, but I had stupidly tried to hit up the editor fo a loan out of pocket, so desperate was I at the time. It had been my turn to be an asshole.
"Listen now," said the editor, while kind of undulating seductively, "We are not such good friends."
Jeez, would I have to blow this guy to see the book reach print?
So I watched him go into a pigeon hole, pull out my manuscript, along with a form. "I will recommend you for an Ontario Arts Council grant because I can see your book between covers." He gave me back my script, but along with the grant approval by Anansi..
"So why don't you print it?
"Anansi has no money right now. All that's keeping us going is our bookkeeper who throws in her own money, out of purse-- and grants to guys like you, out of which we get a percentage. Publishing in Canada is government don't ya know."
So manuscript tucked under my arm and grant papers for somebody with the elegant monicker of
Steve Physical. Steve Physical the bureaucrat. I was soon on my way to Bloor Street to at least get the money.
F*ck this guy called Art. What I needed now was money.
And Steve Physical, the bureaucrat was going
to obtain it for me.
There was some exchange of patter whille Steve Physical cut the cheque.
"Tell me," I had said to him, "Do you sometimes feel llike a fish out of water, being out of your own country and culture? Do you like this culture?
"What's not to like? I got a job, haven't I? You haven't got a job."
Why, you parvenu bastard, I'm keening. Just off the boat and you've got the super job....Been here pretty well all my life and I almost have to blow the doorman.
"You've done some journalism, haven't you. I read some of you stuff in the Star. S'matter. They fire you?"
"It was a summer job, Later, when I made the front page, things seemed to get difficult.' No stars at the Star,' the managing editor had said....
I guess I got the Polish mark. Like the one at university. C+."
"We all get the Polish mark," Steve was saying. But I guess It's really paranoia. Hell, I'm paranoic too I might not have this job by January, with the change in government."
So Steve Physical wasn't all physical. Not made of stone.
But he spoke English so badly. And he had the job.
Must have been his good handwriting as I could tell by the cheque.
Ah. Writing for money in Canada.
"I got job. You no got job."
Well, I sure as hell am not giving the doorman a blow job this time.