Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My dad is going to hate it

I am my father’s daughter. I have his eyes and his shoulders and his skin, and his love for talking in circles. But our opinions couldn’t be more different. This of course makes for fascinating "conversation" when we get together -- the kind that causes my sister to flee the room and my husband to cringe politely on the couch. It gets heated, sure, but never above bath water because we both know our limits. We’re experienced blowhards. We’ve been debating the same issues for 10 years in the hopes that -- one glorious day -- the other will give in.

I visited my dad in Ottawa on the weekend and, as per tradition, we stood on our soapboxes and got into it: abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia. But soon the conversation turned to more serious matters: books. 

My father used to read literary fiction — Hemingway, Steinbeck, Updike, Salinger. In his later years, though, he switched to Christian novels almost exclusively because:

1) They're easy to read, which, 10 years into his retirement, he appreciates
2) He can relate to the values
3) "They talk about what actually matters in real life” — which, to my father, means religious faith

Things caught fire when I asked my dad what he was reading. He told me he gave Michael Crummey’s Sweetland a try. Crummey is literary writer, so I was excited. Maybe my opinions and tastes were finally winning my dad over, I thought. Maybe he was giving in!


“I stopped reading it after the first page,” my dad said.

Why, I asked.

“Because the author went too far, Em. There was no need to say what he said! And if I ever see him, I’m going to give him a piece of my mind!”

My dad was referring to offensive language, he clarified when pressed, but he wouldn’t say what language exactly. He was really pissed, though, and I feared that he'd be scared off literary fiction for good! And just when it pulled him back in!

In my panic, I tried reasoning with him from the author's (so, my) point of view:

1) Bad language is sometimes necessary to create realistic characters.
2) Just because Michael Crummey used a bad word doesn't mean Michael Crummey is a bad guy.
3) Would you, like, chillax, dad? It's just one word in a book of 85,000!

But my dad didn't care. The word, whatever it was, was so repugnant that he returned the book to the store, demanding a refund. He would have preferred a personal apology from Michael Crummey himself, but he lives in Newfoundland, which, my dad conceded, makes that logistically unlikely.

I’d rarely seen my dad so irate. It was a fire that usually only came out of him when debating the state of women’s professional tennis. I begged him to tell me what the exact word was that set him off, but he wouldn't repeat it. So, later that night, I downloaded the novel. And much like Serena Williams in a crowd at Wimbledon, the offending phrase was impossible to miss:

So, yeah. I now know for certain that my father will HATE my novel. 

I just hope he doesn’t demand a refund.


  1. Oh man. I love the fact that your dad wants a personal apology from Crummey. That is a formidable amount of conviction. It's a good thing we don't think about what our parents/friends/neighbours will think when we're actually doing the writing. We'd never get anything done. And g--dammit, I can't wait to read your fucking book.

    1. Oh man, tell me about it. I didn't think about it at the time, but now I'm almost paralyzed by the fear of his reaction. I just counted how many times I use "Jesus" in vein: 18. And omigod -- I just realized that I actually wrote "Jesus Fuck"!! I need to write an addendum to this blog post!!

    2. Ha! Cracked me up. I was really nervous for my dad to read my book, too. I was worried about the church/Sunday school parts. :) But, he was very kind and even seemed quite proud after he read it. I think he did tell my aunt not to recommend it to her church friends. :)

  2. That's great, Tara! Maybe there's hope for me yet. (And btw, Hi! I hope you're good!)

  3. I'll always say it: I love your dad. He had me at his first "Saso"-"say so" pun. Would you be willing to take out one Jesus Fuck in your manuscript for your dad? That would be an interesting reversal of the conundrum you raise about its limited importance in a manuscript of 85,000 words!

    1. Darn it, Alana! There is no room for rational ideas on this blog!

    2. But hopefully room for Saso-say so puns.

    3. Alana, there's always room for Say-so.