The invitation comes in the mail. "Sky Gilbert is launching his new memoir -- and you're in it," it says.
Great hook, I think. Wonder if everybody got this kind of treatment.
It turns out no. Some people got the "Sky Gilbert is launching his new memoir and you're invited" invitation.
Minutes later a colleague plops a copy of Ejaculations From The Charm Factory on my desk with the relevant passage underlined:
"NOW magazine has never supported Buddies because one of their editors, Susan G. Cole, hates pornography and is not too fond of kinky sex or men."
I look on the bright side. He spelled my name right. Plus, he imagines I have infinite power at NOW magazine, which might send my associates around here into paroxysms of laughter, but wouldn't exactly injure my reputation.
Then again, NOW gave all kinds of support to Buddies in Bad Times events during Gilbert's tenure there. What he means by no support is that NOW never put him on the cover. This is something that has always distressed him, since at the time he was one of only two playwrights who had a Canadian theatre company formally mandated to put on his work. The other was William Shakespeare. These kinds of circumstances tend to encourage delusions of grandeur.
Hates pornography? Sure, when it exploits its subjects. Not too fond of kinky sex?
Oh, well, you never want anyone to get too personal, but I can see how someone could read my book on pornography and come to that conclusion.
A journalist friend calls. She says Gilbert's impugned my reputation as a journalist and critic, questioning my ability to deal with stories and art objectively.
Then I get to the last bit. "Not too fond of men." He goes too far. Surely this is slander. It goes against everything I believe and have written, to say nothing of diminishing my status as one of the city's premier -- OK, call me stupid -- Blues Jays fans.
What's up with this? With the current glut of T.O.-based tell-alls -- we have Carole Pope's, Jeanne Becker's, Mendelson Joe's -- egomaniacs have started scribbling their small-minded memoirs and saying whatever they please. Who's gonna make these people accountable for what they write?
OK, I'll sue. I call my lawyer. I complain that saying I'm not too fond of men makes it look like I can't function with male co-workers. It perpetuates a stereotype of lesbians. It's ludicrous, damaging, and I'm pissed off.
I can feel myself swelling with self-righteousness. But damn those lawyers, they're always slowin' you down.
"Well, now," says my advocate, "the issue is whether there's been a lowering of esteem in the public eye. You'd have to prove there's been a negative effect."
"What? I have to wait till something horrible happens?"
"Well, your case would be stronger if it did. Or we could get the editor of the Globe to say that he'd never hire someone described in that way."
"Oh, great," I mutter.
"How much will the whole thing cost me?"
"Yes, well, libel lawyers don't come cheap, and neither does the law. Usually if you settle before trial, you'd get maybe somewhere between $15 and $2o,ooo."
"That's good," I allow.
"And that should only cover the legal fees."
"Well, at least you'd have had your say. Most people do settle because they get tired of paying legal fees. If the case goes to trial and we win, we could get something like $70,000, which would cover maybe half the legal fees. But that could take something like five years.
"Uh, and it's usually the Conrad Blacks of the world who do this kind of thing," he says pointedly.
"Besides, you don't want to make it look like you don't think people should say bad things about anybody. Have you read any of NOW's 10 Worst features lately, say the one about the landlords?"
I'm stuck with it. Unless I'm Conrad Black or Garth Drabinsky, another ultra-litigious character, or the Reichmann family, who litigated relentlessly against Toronto Life, I can be verbally targeted by any wacko.
As I'm considering what Conrad Black and I might have in common, I pick up Saturday's National Post.
And there is my nemesis again. Sky Gilbert Takes Aim, says the headline.
Wow, I marvel. Amazing what kind of attention you can get for a bitchy book.
Omigod, and there's my name, in bold print -- with that damnable smear beside it.
This is better. Maybe I'll take Gilbert and the Post to court. I feel my gorge rise as I scan back to the beginning of the feature.
"Gilbert leaves nary a person unswiped by his manicured claw," it reads. "Here are but a few of the upstanding citizens that merit a meow."
And look at the big names on the list: Robertson Davies, Irving Layton, Moses Znaimer, Michel Foucault, Timothy Findley... and me.
Then again -- thanks, Mr. Gilbert, for the plug.