Thursday, August 6, 2009


Last week, Russell Smith of the Globe and Mail had an interesting column about the fine art of parody. Like Smith, I've also had writing students do assignments in which they have to parody the prose voice of another writer, with the understanding that they're not mocking the writer's style but trying to channel their literary spirit in a new context. It's a surprisingly difficult exercise, and one that really gets them thinking about the specifics of diction and syntax, and how any one writer establishes a unique way of communicating on the page.

Smith ended his column with a call for sample parodies, of one paragraph in length, aimed at either the humourless elevated lyricism of so much CanLit (aka, the school of Michael Ondaatje and Anne Michaels), or even his own hyper-urbane prose style. I was procrastinating over a massive to-do list (still am, in fact), and thought it might be fun to do my own version of Russell Smith, transported into an unlikely context. Here are the results:

How Conservative

Stephen stood in the gloom of the grand foyer at 24 Sussex and confronted his double. Before the mirror, he had tied the half-Windsor seven times and yet something still felt amiss. The oceanic blue of the Italian silk contained a leitmotif of grief that perfectly complemented his two-buttoned jacket, hand-cut to hug his newly svelte physique. (The kelp diet and Pilates had done wonders). And yet he was gripped by a sartorial uncertainty that he knew Iggy—he of the foreign surname and casual worldliness—could never share, not with a hockey-loving Reach for the Top nerd from Leaside. His RAZR trilled in a pocket—a lambent bar of Donizetti—and he flipped the phone open with immediate regret. “’Sup, S-Man? It’s Stock. The ride’s here and this blow ain’t gonna snort itself!” Stephen glared into the driveway and saw the limousine idling and, emerging from its black steel and smoked glass, the grinning visage of the Okanaganite. Stephen was seized by a Proustian despair, a sense of lost time. The Okanaganite had tried to match a fuchsia Farmer John wetsuit with a pair of tan brogues—after Labour Day! How could he ever conquer the nightclubs of Bytown, let alone bestride the international catwalks of power, Stephen wondered, when he couldn’t keep his own caucus in pleated slacks?

No comments: