Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Everything changes. Nothing changes. (part three)

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Continued from Everything changes. Nothing changes. (part two)

Two years later, when I was up for tenure at York University, the professors preparing my file, sent copies of all my political writing in the Telegram... about French Canada, the emergence of Trudeau, the middle east, etc.... to three professors at the University of Toronto, one an historian and two political scientists, for evaluation. They wrote back saying pretty much the same thing; they had had no idea I was writing such fine stuff... one even used the word brilliant... two confessed they couldn't explain why they hadn't known about my work, but one (who wrote regularly in the Star), spoke for all of them, or so it seemed to me. "I have not read and do not," he said, "read the Telegram on principle."

This struck me as totally crazy.

I had grown up in a house where all three papers were read every day as a matter of course (my grandfather had told my father that the daily newspaper was the working man's university). I had taken it for granted that a political scientist would want to stay abreast of what was being written in the conservative press.

Well, be that as it may. Time has passed, Things have changed. The Telegram is long gone, but I still read three papers every day because we have the National Post. Now, I am not a Conservative, I am not a Zionist, as a Catholic sensibility I am not orthodox, I was adamantly opposed to the war in Iraq, and I couldn't believe that intelligent men could hitch their wagons to so obvious a knucklehead as George Bush (but then, my father had explained to me when I was but a schoolboy that it was not only possible for honest men to be honestly stupid, it was possible for intelligent men to be stupid for all their intelligence), and so on... yet, and this is the point, I enjoy reading the Post every morning. In fact, I look forward to it. Nearly always, it is provocative. True, in some ways it is as predictable in its right wing rants as socialists are predictable in their left wing rants, and self-congratulatory piety is always irritating and finally boring whether from the left or right. But their editorial pages are always surprising, too, in a way that the good grey Star is never surprising (I sometimes wish the Post would re-hire three of its originals; Christie Blatchford (a wonderful story teller from inside a courtroom), Noah Richler to give them, again, real book pages, and Joe Fiorito (for a totally surprising change of story telling tone). As for the Globe, I have learned to never bother reading the received opinion of Marcus Gee and I sometimes feel I have been Wente'd into lethargy, but it is there, it is solid, it is solid as Timothy Eaton Memorial Church is solid... it is a very particular voice in this town, a necessary voice, as is the Star (sometimes, reading through its Saturday bulk, I have the feeling that I am driving through the helter-skelter landscape of 905, all on one Toyota run). I cannot imagine being without these papers; I remind myself regularly how lucky I am, as a citizen, to have them; and when I travel, I miss them.

To be continued.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Barry Callaghan

Barry Callaghan is an award-winning author, poet, editor and publisher. He is one of Canada’s most preeminent men of letters. His most recent collection of short stories, Between Trains, was published by McArthur & Company in 2007.

Go to Barry Callaghan’s Author Page