Sunday, January 29, 2006

A gleam of brilliance

I read Ray Guy’s column in The Independent last Sunday about what might happen at Loyola Hearn’s first cabinet meeting. Now, Guy is at a fraction of his peak powers. Back in the day he could make Joey Smallwood crap his pants every time he wrote a column in The Evening Telegram.

He was feared and he was brilliant. There are many pretty good columnists operating in Newfoundland right now, but none of them have the Fear of God reputation that Guy could install in people when he was writing in his prime. It’s a pity, really.

I mean, Russell Wangerski is good, when he's not rambling on about rambling brooks and streams. Craig Westcott is pretty damn good (I know for a fact the premier has cursed on him), but I'm biased because he's a friend. Same thing with Barbara Dean-Simmons in Clarenville. She's a friend, and she's also probably too busy to do it as much as she would like.

Averill Baker had potential, but she keeps hammering away at the same points over and over and over again. Peter Fenwick is well past his prime. I haven't read enough of Bill Rowe, but the first few I did read didn't wow me. I think the last really exceptional columnist in the province was Mark Critch, now that I think on it.

So no, there is no one at Guy's level back in the day. No one that Danny Williams worries about, for example.

Anyway, Guy’s column wasn’t brilliant. Not by any stretch. But you could see the flashes, like this bit:

Mr. Harper: Here’s my big question, Loyola. What’s the first thing to pop into your mind if you have to make a cabinet decision?

Mr. Hearn (After a colleague whispers in his ear): What the Jesus would I do? No, no. I mean, what would Jesus do?

Mr. Harper: Close, Loyola, but wrong. What would George Bush do? There’s not a Canadian, present company included, fit to ask what Jesus would do. George Bush does because he’s got Dick Cheney to tell him. Jesus tells Cheney, Cheney tells Bush, Bush tells Fox News.

Mr. Hearn: Bless us and save us, Stephen. You mean to tell me there’s not a Canadian fit?

Mr. Harper: Too long in the wilderness, my culturally defeatist newfie friend. Too long steeped in Satan-led blasphemy, abomination, idolatry, sodomy ... and that is our Job One. By the way, what’s the report on, er, strange bedfellows in your district?

Mr. Hearn: John Crosbie.

Seriously, not bad at all. Some of the other stuff rambles or falls flat, but there’s enough cleverness in there to remind you why politicians were terrified of him back in the 60s and 70s. It would be nice if there was an equivilent to terrify the politicians of today...

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1 comment:

Colette said...

At the age of 10, I discovered Ray Guy. It was the mid-70's and my parents had bought three compilations of his columns (which I still have and re-read from time to time). I learned a lot of recent Newfoundland history from his columns and he wrote some of the tightest short essays I've ever read. I always swore that if I became an English teacher, every September I was going to sit the little bastards in my classroom down with several of his essays and say "That's how it's done. Go ye and do likewise.". (From the previous remark you can see why I did not become an English teacher much to the relief of assorted tennagers and their parents, no doubt.)

Actually Craig, you do have a touch of him in some of your columns--not the heavy political stuff but the lighter stuff he wrote. I think Ray Guy doesn't have a politician that's worthy of him these days. He doesn't have much sarcasm left--just bitterness. With the proper fodder though, who knows?