Sunday, May 17, 2009

Death By Prose

by Wayne Clifford

It wasn’t that I’d caught him, most of the way through a party at Big Name’s place, with my wife, twice, once in the laundry room, once on the little balcony off the guestroom (it was a breezy summer evening, and in another moment, her black lacies would have flown from her big toe, some regrettable liberation’s flag!). It wasn’t that I’d caught him in the sack with my kid brother after that literary soiree at Three Named Poetess. Not even the incident with my wire-haired pointer, Grisham. No, it was that, after the quick-witted apologies and really clever excuses each time I caught him, his review in the Grub and Moil of my novel in alexandrines, The Cold-Footed Pastor of Gimli, (a passionate tale of Rosie, warm-everythinged and Irish-Cree, and the new-in-town Lutheran preacher, Yan, who was, well, cold-footed (I knew the novel had everything The Great Canadian One could ask for: Winter! Long, long winter! Mounties! Mounties mounting Mounties! Mounties mounting their horses with Tazerish abandon! Baptists! Lutherans! Seal-slaughter!)) was so heavy-handed, it landed like a clot of lead on the composing room floor. Or, more contemporaneously, a splat of weighty polysyllables too flabby to do a push-up between them.

I’d have revenge. I wrote a piece for the anthology he was editing. I knew he’d read it just for the pleasure of rejecting me, and, because it would be brought out by that press using as its mascot the fish-eating flightless bird of a continent no one owns nor wants to, I didn’t even care that the prose started out predictable and pedestrian. No! I mixed every metaphor I could manipulate! I punned pathetically! I advanced the plot academically, I narrated nuancelessly! And I inserted on the penultimate page a priceless paragraph, poetical, paradoxical and so startling with its freshness, that I knew, after the stretch of drivel I’d given him, his aesthetic sense would blow as surely as he’d blown my hound.

So that’s my story, dear reader. Death by prose. And I’ll pull a Mulroney if you ever mention it again.

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