Saturday, February 05, 2011

The loneliness of the long distance bastard



While a young reporter, arts critic and general bum-boy around a small funky newspaper (Chores! Chores! Chores!), I once took a poke at some of the subjects of my stories to task, using such descriptions as
"Surfing dolt from California", or "writes like I f*ck--badly", and "Why can't that garbagemouth shut up--Can't he see I'm busy?

It was a good thing I had a mature editor. "Look, Trapper, you can't use libellous depictions of people like that. That's just plain ignorance. I'm starting to think you're becoming and expert on the hatchet job. To be sure, it seems of late you've been sharpening a miniature hatchet for just about anybody you write about. One of the people wrote in and said anybody who uses the monicker 'dolt' for some film maker shouldn't be in this business.

It was agood, think, to get my knuckles rapped.
For example,
to describe some top Canadian writers as Skanky Whores was probably not going to do much for my own literary endeavors. Better form, I suppose, was to take the SNL route of forty years ago, where Bill Murray really pushed the envelope by saying to Jane Curtin, (after a vapid mock -interview on one programme), "Jane, you ignorant slut!"

That was so off-the wall that it was actually funny!
But I was not Bill Murray.
More like the late John Belushi, I suppose.

Ah, blame it on my childhood....That's what all the miscreants say. "I was my mudda dat dunnit to me."

Fact was, I was just out of the Service (a constraining life for five years) and I guess I was abusing my newfound freedom and empowerment by telling the whole world to suck a hotchee.

So I toned things down, became a nice guy--as nice as a formerly well-known S.O.B could be-- and sought style more than insult.

Until I came across the following article in Vanity Fair, by way of The Wicked Witch of Publishing:

His buck teeth give the impression of puerility. He listens impatiently and impulsively interrupts. He makes stabs at humor. He is long winded, affected, fussily articulate, eager to impress, insubstantial and slightly glib. He exaggerates. He has hit-and-miss witticism. He’s arrogant, not especially intellectual and a Star Trek Fan. His mind wanders. He’s a prince-in-waiting. He has the personality of a 24-year old geek. He’s provincial, sarcastic, uses poor judgment and lacks conviction. He’s condemned to stand apart from others. His career has progressed in prodigious and unearned ways. He’s timid. His efforts are half-hearted. He’s a light-weight. He’s out of his depth, fails to impress and elicits pity. He doesn’t always wear shoes in the office. He promotes people based on how “fun” they are. As a reporter, he was competent if unspectacular. He hides behind barbs. No weight seems to adhere to him. He has no radiance (power). He’s not deeply respected. He’s a lightweight cheerleader. He has a high-pitched and zany laugh. He’s overmatched. He looks dismayingly small. He’s shrinking. He’s childish. He’s goofy. He’s steered his inheritance into the ditch. He’s squandered billions. He’s the wrong person at the helm. He’s an unappealing and stereotypical figure. He’s weak and pampered. He’s a diluted strain of the hardy founding stock. He’s a man who sees himself as both journalist and business manager, but who, in fact, is fully neither.

Wow. A hatchet job on probably the most powerful print media figure in America, Arthur Sulzberger
--By some guy named Mark Bowden.

Reader responses were not slow in coming.

Sample:

Bowden’s article is long-winded and full of poorly weighted contradictions. (Whoever edited his article at Vanity Fair: You’re FIRED!) On the one hand, he portrays Sulzberger as a failure-in-waiting for making bad decisions, even though, according to Bowden, everyone felt those decisions seemed smart at the time. On the other hand Bowden reluctantly agrees that poor, dumb bastard Sulzberger had the foresight to create what is now “the best newspaper Web site in the country.”



Seriously,

Mr. Bowden should have had an editor like I had.

...Who told me "if you come on like that, you shouldn't be in this business."

...And yet and yet, doesn't this Mark Bowdon write like a devil? The style is hilarious!
You gotta be a devil to earn your halo?

Just wonderin'.

##

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

blame it all on the pluperfect subjunctive...scrod indeed...

Mona said...

Newly found freedom does that to you....

On the other hand, it can make you quite reflective and inward turning too...

Devil earning his halo :D :D

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Anonymous,

Just to be cute, shouldn't that be indickative?

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Mona,

Looking back at it all, I was probably promoted beyond the intellect of a young fool.

Charles Gramlich said...

Generally when I have the urge to exericise my creative sarcasm, I try to rethink and hold off. I'm really quite the angel if all be told.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Journalism is probably a young man's game, and very competitive--at least in the Sixties.
I recall a CBC news announcer from back in the days when you read your script from an actual sheet of paper in front of you.
An intern deliberately pulled out his Bic Butane and set the script on fire.
The announcer sucessfully ad libbed that portion of the newscast, only to be thrown off enough to announce nervously, at the end, "This is the Canadian Broacorping Castration."

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www.oneinamillionunlimited.com/ Deanna "Dee" Brasseur has commissioned a coin where all the profits go towards the finding of a cure for PTSD. Only one million will be cast, each with it's own unique number. A collectors item and all for a very good cause.

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ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Michael,

I sure miss the old co-ed Air Force...It was so much like high school!
It is too bad the major domo of the Pine Tree Line Web Site is no longer with us.

But it's great to have people like you still propping it up!

Take care.

Donnetta Lee said...

Oh, the debbil made you do it. That outspoken creative urge. Ya just have to say what is on your mind. And there is plenty. D

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Donnetta,

Some friends in the past had suggested that a typewriter in my hands was a dangerous thing. "Can't trust him with one.":)

benjibopper said...

Among other things, Bowden could use a little more of the old show don't tell.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Benji,

Yeah, I guess.

But I am (understanably?) attracted to that blunt New York "now-I've got you, you son of a bitch" way of writing--for some reason.

Makes me enter into a world of associations and psychological space I never thought of before.

the walking man said...

Seems to me that the opinion of a critic is worth two things. whether it be good or bad it is good for book sales because people will want to see the truth or error of the opinion and the second thing if it is in print with a little bit of chewing to soften it you can always wipe your ass with it. You should have had your managing editor put his opinions in writing.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Mark,

I have always had the luck to have had good managing editors.

To do a segue, it strikes me now in my dotage that I was probably a bad apprentice to a good master.

But when young, what the hell. Raise the shit!

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