“I’ve seen the future, brother/It is murder.”Paul gives consideration to a change of concerns, as he has experienced it, and casually flips-off the Gray Lady by conclusion.
I read it several times. Before I went to bed, I wrote down, “Jay Scott was the first celebrity death to hit me hard.”
|What can I say? I'm a sucker for smoking jackets and turquoise jewelry.|
But let’s get it out and see what happens.
Thirty years ago Jay Scott was the chief reason I bought The Globe & Mail on Fridays and Saturdays. The chief reason, but hardly the sole reason. The Arts & Books section also ran weekly columns by Stan Persky, Rick Salutin, Robert Fulford, John Bentley Mays. Those are just the names I immediately recall. It frequently ran pieces by Margaret Atwood, Carol Shields, John Irving, Timothy Findley — etc. The kids in short pants included Russell Smith, Lynn Crosbie, Mark Kingwell, Leah McLaren.
Scott stood out as a sensualist with a piercing intellect — a near perfect balance for a film critic. I wanted to write like Scott did, and not just about film — about everything.
Anyway, here we are. I won’t comment on my own writing except to say the stuff I’m proudest of feels to me like it attains something of what Scott was about.
This won’t be that. But I miss settling into my IKEA Eames knock-off, fresh coffee in one hand, newspaper in the other, positioning myself in the morning sunlight and perusing every single page of the Globe & Mail’s other sections before unfurling Arts & Books at the very end. All the other pages in the newspaper felt like a warm-up run for the main event.
I still have an Eames knock-off. Coffee is still a habit, and the Saturday Globe & Mail still has a section devoted to arts and books and tchotchkes and shit. They call it “Distractions” or something like that. Needless to say, it’s an emaciated version of what used to be.
If it were to fold, would I miss the Globe? Well ... kinda. My wife likes the crossword puzzle, and I enjoy pulling the page out of the newspaper for her, just before I bin the rest of it. But otherwise, no. Reading it just depresses me, and not only because it’s a shadow of its former self. I can tell where its writers are going within just a few sentences. The element of surprise is long gone, the potential of revelation rare to the point of near-extinction.
The truth is I already miss the Globe.
And I’m increasingly missing the New York Times.
The Globe, the Times — in the 90s it felt like I’d left the Sunday School classroom and arrived in another chamber where I could more freely explore what it felt like, and what it meant, to be alive at that particular moment. That earlier list of names — obviously the preponderance is largely male and entirely pasty-skinned. But it is also remarkably Queer, and seems at least pointed in a promising direction.
In this moment, to be alive is to feel the inexorable pull not to the Sunday School classroom, but someplace considerably less forgiving. And maybe that is where humanity is required to be at this particular moment. Our home and host has an astonishing capacity to forgive our transgressions against it, one we have long taken criminal advantage of. And this doesn’t begin to address people we have held in similar contempt. Humility, contrition and repentance are unfashionable words, but they seem to be what is called for.
Reading the newspaper pages, or social media blurts, I am not at all confident we have the foggiest idea what humility, contrition and repentance even look like. Never mind forgiveness. Or atonement — one of Madeleine L’Engle’s favourite words. “At-one-ment,” she would stress, again and again.
Atonement. Maybe it looks like this?