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Spurred by all the sturm und drang about artificial intelligence in recent weeks, I decided to take GPT-4 out for a test run. For simplicity’s sake, I asked it for a 1,500-word biography of a subject I know quite a lot about: myself. Seconds later, I received the following, to which I’ve inserted a few factual corrections in square brackets, while leaving its many flabby thoughts and repetitive sentences for a later edit.

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Ron Graham.Nigel Dickson/Supplied

Ron Graham was a prolific Canadian author and journalist, who was widely known for his insightful and engaging writing style. Born in Toronto, Canada, on Sept. 25, 1949 [Ottawa, Canada, on Feb. 18, 1948], Graham began his writing career in the late 1960s [early 1980s], after graduating from the University of Toronto [McGill and Carleton] with a degree in English literature [Canadian studies].

Graham started his career as a journalist, working as a reporter for The Toronto Telegram, where he covered a wide range of topics, including crime, politics and entertainment [never a reporter and certainly not for the Telegram, which ceased publication in 1971]. His writing quickly gained recognition, and he was soon offered a job as a columnist for The Toronto Sun [wouldn’t have accepted even if offered]. During his time at The Toronto Sun, Graham gained a reputation for his incisive and often controversial opinions, which were both insightful and entertaining.

In addition to his work as a journalist, Graham was also a prolific author, publishing over 20 books throughout his career [I wish]. His first book, The Last Buffalo Hunter, was published in 1975 and chronicled the life of a buffalo hunter who had survived the slaughter of his herd in the late 1800s [I seem to have been confused with Mary Weekes, whose book was originally published in 1939]. The book was a critical success and helped establish Graham as a rising star in the world of Canadian literature.

Over the next few years, Graham continued to write both fiction and non-fiction, including several books about the Canadian wilderness and its inhabitants [I almost died on a canoe trip in the Arctic once, but that never made it past a tale with which to impress the kids]. His 1980 book, The Raven and the Loon, was a collection of short stories that explored the lives of people living in Canada’s remote north [I deny any such cultural appropriation]. The book was praised for its vivid descriptions of the landscape and its people, and helped establish Graham as a leading voice in Canadian literature [the machine is obviously struggling to find enough to say to reach 1,500 words].

In the 1980s and 1990s, Graham continued to publish a wide range of books, including several biographies of notable Canadians, such as the singer Leonard Cohen [just one review and one article] and the former prime minister Pierre Trudeau. His 1995 book, One-Eyed Kings: Promise and Illusion in Canadian Politics, was a critical analysis of Canadian politics and its history, and was hailed as a landmark work in Canadian political science [I blush to admit that’s true, though it appeared in 1986].

Throughout his career, Graham was known for his passionate commitment to the arts and his support of emerging Canadian writers [I should have done much more]. He was a mentor to many young writers, and was active in several literary organizations, including the Writers’ Union of Canada [only if active means being a member] and the Canadian Authors Association [perhaps mistaken for PEN Canada].

In addition to his writing, Graham was also a respected academic, teaching creative writing at the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto [no and no, only one year as a visiting lecturer at Ryerson]. His courses were popular with students, and many of his former students went on to have successful careers as writers [see what I mean about flabby thoughts and repetitive sentences?].

Graham’s writing was recognized with numerous awards and honors [American spelling] throughout his career. In 1986, he was awarded the Governor-General’s Award for non-fiction for his book God’s Dominion, a history of the Canadian West [it was, alas, only nominated for the award in 1990 and wasn’t about the Canadian West]. He also won the National Newspaper Award for column writing in 1990 and 1991 [no, unless they were for those non-existent incisive and often controversial columns in The Toronto Sun], and was awarded the Order of Canada in 2007 for his contributions to Canadian literature [note to the jury: I’m still waiting].

Graham remained active as a writer and journalist until his death in 2016 [news of which came as a sudden shock to his family and friends, who thought him looking particularly well for his age when last seen]. He was remembered by many as a passionate and insightful writer, who had a deep love for Canada and its people. His writing continues to inspire and entertain readers today, and his legacy as one of Canada’s most beloved authors and journalists lives on [amen!].

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