Your local Chapters is about to be faced with an interesting dilemma -- where to stock a very, very naughty book that looks just like a kid's tome. Professional pornography writer Tamara Faith Berger's 122-page novelette Lie With Me, published by Gutter Press, hits bookstores this week and could be headed for controversy. The work is unabashedly XXX-rated -- virtually every page describes sexual activity in language that would make even a Scandinavian blush.
However, the 5-by-5-inch format and child-like illustrations (drawn by Berger herself, when she was 8) on the cover make the book seem fit for a bookstore's children's section, which it categorically is not. And the Canada Council put roughly $5,000 into subsidizing its publication, begging the inevitable question of whether this is a judicious use of taxpayer funds.
Gutter Press prez Sam Hiyate says he's not worried about the book errantly winding up in children's hands. "I honestly don't think a 10-year-old kid would read it and even if they did, I don't think it would hurt them." But is it art? Well, a Hiyate press release reads: "Though a foundation in porn plays a great role in the context of Lie With Me, Berger's erotic fiction is not just pornographic, but is something beautiful and unique as well."
The Canada Council's chief literary officer, Gordon Platt, hasn't yet seen or read the Berger book. He says Gutter Press is a promising young house that receives a block grant (about $21,000 last year) to use as it sees fit. The council's allocations are based on jury evaluations of the previous year's submitted works. So Gutter could receive the same amount or more next year, without having Lie With Me evaluated. Robert Cohen's feature-length documentary film The Travellers: This Land Is Your Land, now playing the Jewish-film-festival circuit, nicely captures the political tensions that ultimately split founding members of the quartet. Too bad, then, that two of its actual founding members aren't in the film. One is Toronto's Oscar Ross, who was there for three years in the early 1950s. Ross, who dropped out "to try to become Canada's Marcel Marceau," and ultimately went into advertising, was interviewed for the film, but ended up on the cutting-room floor. The other original member not mentioned is lead singer Jerry Gray's own sister, Helen, who left to have a baby and died, too young, of cancer. Ross, who saw the final edit this week, says Cohen told him a month ago he was being spliced out of the film. But he's still upset at not having been granted even 20 seconds of cinematic recognition, "especially since I'm the one who came up with the name of the group." Sharon Klein, Random House PR gal, had the dubious pleasure last week of chaperoning mercurial Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) around Toronto, here to be interviewed by CBC Radio One's This Morning (Sunday edition) and read from his best-selling memoir at the Bamboo, a once-trendy hipster hangout. According to Klein, the latter event "went off smoothly and there were almost 400 people. He wowed the audience." True, more or less. What her summary omits, however, is just how cantankerous Eggers was. He complained about everything -- the city, the publishers, the Bamboo venue and the overhead projector used during his reading. And although his plane landed at 2:30 p.m., in plenty of time to make the CBC interview, he cancelled it, pleading illness. Then, turning up late for his 6 p.m. reading, he told the Bamboo audience he had just arrived. A heartbreaking work of staggering ego. Cue the inevitable jokes about the fact she dyed her Maltese dog pink: Marlen Cowpland, she of the rich hubby, designer boobs and hosting job on TV's Celebrity Pets, now wants to tell the world about her vagina. We hear she's been in Toronto meeting Bob Beria, producer of the Vagina Monologues,with a view to joining the cast. And she might not have to travel to Toronto or Vancouver -- where the show has enjoyed phenomenal success -- because a production is shortly to open in Ottawa, her hometown.
You have to wonder whether Ottawans ever tear themselves away from thoughts of Stockwell Day long enough to contemplate matters of human flesh. But if they do, imagine the potential cast members: Cowpland, Margaret Trudeau and Sheila Copps on stage together talking about the V-word. The mind boggles.