Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

THE FRIENDSHIP OF WRITERS

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If you use Facebook, and I suppose you do, you are likely familiar with an impertinent little feature it shoves in your face. Near your incoming messages will be the presumptuous statement, “People You May Know” next to a couple of names and pictures. Below is the injunction, “Add Friend.” You should be aware that sooner or later the name and picture of your worst blood enemy will pop up in that space — the very person you would least like to have as a friend, even in Facebook’s warped definition of the word.

It will be a mystery how Facebook came up with the name of that person: you haven’t uttered or written his or her detested name in years. Did Facebook use cybernetic ESP, or a more conventional method like wiretapping?

You are bound to question Facebook’s motives, too. Foremost among them must surely be a malicious sense of mischief. Facebook will not rest content until it can connect the two of you, and make you go to war again.

At least, Facebook does make us ponder on the nature of friendship and, more specifically, the friendships that writers share with each other. Since Facebook is omniscient and will know if you are a writer, it should also know that writers’ friendships are equivocal, and subject to constant revision.

As François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac (I give his full name because he deserves all the credit he can get) so wisely said, "It is not enough to succeed, others must fail."

Now, I know that the more tenderhearted of you will rejoin that writers should be mutually supportive encouragers, and companions in misery who unite in opposition to the hostile universe of philistines and rejoice in one another’s rare triumphs. We should also give all our worldly goods to the poor.

In any event, to rejoice in another’s success may not be quite the selfless, sincere, and generous act it is presumed to be. After all, if your friends succeed, the glory reflects on you. He’s my friend!

Still, friends are friends, even when they are writers. To La Rochefoucauld’s aphorism we can add this equally valuable, variously attributed one:

“Friends are God’s apology for relatives.”

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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Fraser Sutherland

At last count, Fraser Sutherland has published fifteen books: one of them short fiction, four nonfiction and ten poetry, His most recent poetry collection is The Philosophy of As If. A freelance editor, he may be the only Canadian poet who is also a lexicographer. Born and raised in Nova Scotia, he lives in Toronto.

Go to Fraser Sutherland’s Author Page