With all the drama encircling Toronto, its mayor, its mayor's brother, and a rogues gallery loosely-sketched of persons-of-interest, Emily M. Keeler was facing a light existential crisis. The truth (or alleged truth) seemed way stranger than fiction. As she says, "When something this surreal takes over the news, it's like, what's the point?"
A writer, fiction editor and founder of Toronto's Little Brother Magazine, Keeler says she had trouble squaring drama of the whole Rob-Ford-maybe-smoked-crack thing with its "narrative possibilities." While everyone combed through headlines, tweeted anonymously sourced personal histories of the Ford family, and knocked on doors on Dixon Road, Keeler pursued a different tack for making sense of the drama. She solicited short fiction from a number of writers that dealt, in one way or another, with Rob Ford.
Everything Is Fine sees Ford (and the Fords, and Toronto) reflected through the perspectives of nearly a dozen writers. In ROBot Ford, Natalie Zina Walschots imagines our mayor as a malfunctioning automaton originally built by a lonely Doug Ford, a neat sci-fi twist on the elder brother's usual casting as the string-pulling Lady Macbeth in the Fordian political tragedy. In 320 Rue Dixon, Al Jardine reviews the scandal as if it were the unfinished final film of French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville. Taking its cues from a Daily Currant comedy piece, Jowita Bydlowska imagines Rob Ford's evil twin as the source of all his political snafus.
A note at the back of the volume dutifully clarifies that though the names suggest real people, "their personalities and behaviour are completely fictional" - a nice bit of ass-covering boilerplate. While it may be technically true, Everything Is Fine offers more than just a chance to fancifully imagine the sordid private lives of public figures.
When the Fords themselves seem in large ways unknowable, our mayor a Teflon cipher seemingly built to wick off scandal like a pair of Docker's mobile khakis, fiction like this allows us to fill in the blanks, to make sense of Toronto's predicament. Because if the Fords - and the various people that wobble in and out of their personal orbits - don't seem at times like full-on literary constructions, they're at the very least cartoon characters. If truth is stranger than fiction, then fictionalizing the truth proves stranger still, yielding only greater gains by exchange.
These are some of our favourite passages from Everything Is Fine.
All the things he loved, from his coffee to his vodka, were ordinary. Even when he stood in front of the town's councillors, leading the city, he wished he was doing something ordinary, like coaching a high school football team. Andrew Kaufman, Smoke and Mayors.
Like several of the kinder, gentler stories in Everything Is Fine, Smoke And Mayors imagines Rob Ford as a kind of oblivious, bumbling oaf. (Let's take for granted that it's kinder and gentler to imagine someone as simpleminded and oblivious, rather than actively malicious.) In Smoke And Mayors, Ford begins to suspect that he's not magic, as everyone keeps telling him he is. Kaufman drives at the more modest, simple, ordinary ambitions and pleasures of a man who may have rolled well out of his depth.
Shambling frontman R. Ford suggests a complicated gag where somebody dressed a large baby in David Thomas costume and put it on yelps with Pere Ubu. Chris Randle, Habitual User (2)
Randle's pair of Habitual User passages rank among the collection's more experimental pieces. The above section is from a fake Robert Christgau review of Fordism, an album by The Ford Five. Of all the big, baby-faced men Rob Ford has been compared to in the past, Pere Ubu frontman Dave Thomas had never occurred to us before.
If you've been up close to Don you see through the distortion of television. He'll be bigger than you expect. Television puts him in a box, bisects him behind a desk. He has the frame and heft of an ex-hockey player, sure, but he's most likely older and frailer than you imagine; your clearest memory of him is most likely from fifteen, twenty years ago. People get older, decay. His goatee and remaining hair are Santa Claus white. His jowls hang heavy and sad like a hound dog's over his sharp, pronounced cheek bones, which seem to hold everything up. His ears are longer and fleshier than on TV, his eyebrows surprisingly whispery and in- substantial against a skull still ruddy in blotches and slightly moist with sebum, dry along his neck fat where the high collar chafes. Spencer Gordon, Black On Blue
The "Don" here is a certain flamboyant CBC sportscaster who's expressed a fondness for Mayor Ford. It's a beautiful description, in a piece that's otherwise wholly unflattering toward the certain-unnamed-co-host-of-Coach's-Corner-who-isn't-Ron-MacLean that it (fictionally) depicts.
We stop fighting to watch the press conference. Ford's grin says, you can't fuck with me. He looks like the date rapist on a Monday morning realizing that he got away with it. Or he isn't quite even cognizant of having done anything wrong. Dumb. Sweat along the brow. The real fight isn't left versus right, it's the willfully stupid versus the willfully hopeful. Zoe Whittall, Sober
Again, something that nails how a certain you-know-who looks in a way the papers could never nail down. Whittall's story articulates the level of obsession around the Ford crack video scandal and its fallout, where refreshing Twitter and keeping glued to CP24 have come to define the rhythms of day-to-day life.
The sky above the field is the colour old jeans. Stephen Thomas, Inside
Thomas' story centres on Doug Ford, and this digs right into the muck of the mayor's brother's consciousness. It's like he's scrambling madly for a metaphor and the only thing that bubbles to mind is "old jeans." It's terrific.