Niceness and Its Discontents

The Walrus, December 2010


Over at the Walrus, they’ve posted some of the December issue including my profile of Stuart McLean, which can be read here.

An excerpt:

When McLean was a boy in Montreal, he had the unusual habit of pretending to be a preacher, delivering ad hoc sermons to his parents’ friends. In a way, he remains a frockless clergyman, a parson in the guise of a popular entertainer. He is a deeply religious writer, but not in any narrow, sectarian sense. Rather, he articulates an unshorn natural piety that even unbelievers can accept. At the heart of all religion lies a feeling of gratitude for the simple and mysterious fact that we exist, that for reasons unknown to us we’ve been brought into this world and allowed to enjoy fellowship and earthly pleasures. It is perhaps no accident that his show airs on weekends, traditional days of rest and meditation. A century ago, many Canadians listened to homilies in church on Sundays, a practice some still follow. But now we can stay at home and hear secular sermons on CBC.

There’s already been some gratifying responses to the essay, including this twitter exchange between Nicholas Hune-Brown and Clare Hastings:

Nick Hune-Brown:

 Hungover in bed with issue of @walrusmagazine. Jeet Heer’s piece on Vinyl Cafe is bang on. He’s my fav Walrus essayist these days.

 Clare Hastings:

 @nickhunebrown @walrusmagazine Jeet Heer’s essay was kind of freaky – kept hearing Stuart Maclean’s voice reading it to me…

 Nick Hune-Brown:

 @clairehastings Love the voice, but CAN’T STAND the homespun yarns.

 Clare Hastings:

 @nickhunebrown I fall firmly in the “love the stories” camp, b/c they remind me of my childhood – post-church family lunches, cheese toasts.

I was very pleased by what Clare Hastings said about the article (“kept hearing Stuart McLean’s voice reading it to me…”) because in crafting my piece I was deliberately trying to mimic McLean’s storytelling voice. I’ll have more to say about the issue of criticism via parody later.

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