Sunday, 22 July 2012

Jan Wong or Paula Todd: Who'd you rather?




I was noodling around my Kindle last week, looking for something good to read. The bestsellers were a bust. I'm not going anywhere Fifty Shades of Grey sequels after having nearly ralphed through the first instalment. And the Hunger Games? Kid stuff.

Besides, fiction bores me stiff. I can rarely slog through a novel, anymore -- even by authors whom I admire like John Irving. Maybe I'm getting old and the attention span is going.

So I went looking at some of the Canadian non-fiction titles.

I came across the Kindlet, the one by Paula Todd, about her successful search to find Karla Homolka. I do love true crime and thought this might just be a booklet for a sun-dappled backyard.

So I took a sample. What a piece of crap. The first paragraph nearly made me hurl my Kindle into the dog's mouth.

From the smudged window of the rattling prop plane, I see the Caribbean up close for the first time. It's exactly as advertised: emerald ovals of jungle floating in turquoise water under blue sky. (A description nobody needs who's ever been to the Caribbean, in other words, most of us.) I'd love to have a bikini in my bag (ewww!) and a holiday by the sea. But that's not in the cards. I'm here to find a serial killer. I won't have time for the beach.

Really, Paula, really? So I put it down. Besides, Paula Todd has already blabbed the whole story to anyone who would listen. Spoiler alert: she found Karla, her husband and three rug rats. Then Karla's husband kicked her out.

The rest of the Kindlet -- why they call it a Single, I don't know -- is all about Paula Todd and how smart she is. Oh yes, interspersed with judgmental bad writing. Here's another sample:

"The front-desk clerk eyes me suspiciously: "Really, you are on holiday alone? Where is your husband? He should be with you, yes?...I assure the clerk that my husband, busy working, will eventually join me...In reality my husband is a VETERAN TELEVISION PRODUCER..."

More about Paula, not enough about Karla.

Took another crack at the Kindle and this time, bought Jan Wong's book, Out of the Blue, which is about her ousting from the Globe and Mail after she embarrassed the paper by writing what everybody knows about Quebec. That it's not a friendly place for immigrants (or Anglos). Jan dealt a death blow to her career when she basically said in a piece about the Dawson College shooting that all mass killings in Quebec (three) were at the hands of immigrants who felt marginalized in Quebec. Even Marc Lepine, who was responsible for the killings of women at L'ecole Polytechnique, was from immigrant stock.

According to Jan, all the impotent editors read the piece, even complimented her, then the paper ran the story. Ooopsie.

Looks like the execs from the Globe lost their memberships to the Beaver Club.

Imagine what Graham Fraser would have thought.

As a result, Jan got canned, and had a meltdown.

Cool.

But in between descriptions of various kinds of mental illness, she manages to throw people like editor Edward Greenspon under the wheels of a semi. She makes him, and the rest of Globe management, look like a bunch of dicks.

This is a great book. It's well written and it's chock full of dirt on how the real news business runs.

Not like the Newsroom.

While Jan is as full of herself as Paula -- maybe even more so -- at least she's writing about something interesting.

Nowhere in Jan's book does she discuss her bikini wax.

And for that, I recommend Jan Wong's book. Also because she had to self-publish it because her publisher ran scared. That alone is worth the cost of admission.

(p.s., I tried to find Paula Todd on Twitter, but she will only let you follow her if she approves of you. I rest my case.)

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