So, suddenly, for one day at least, the huge declines in North American newspaper readership are reversed, as the public demands a 75-cent keepsake memento of the Obama election: an heirloom either to put away for the generations, or else to hustle for 12 bucks on E-bay for a couple of months.
But inquiring minds might wonder: Could those sold-out newspaper boxes provide a lesson to the publishing industry? Namely: If you happen to have actual news to report once in a while, you might stand a chance of engaging a potential reader.
There are as of this morning six daily newspapers serving my local market, including a pair of free-distribution sheets, but not counting NYT, WSJ, USA-T and the Racing Form. The content of the Toronto press regularly ranges from the simply dreary to the flamboyantly idiotic. Firmly in the second category is the column written by Mr. Shinan Govani for the National Post.
I’ve only recently — in fact, just today — taken an interest in his work, despite the striking similarity of our names, his first and my last.
By dint of a shared penchant for bold-facing the identities of people you’ve never heard of, Mr. Govani may be compared to antiquities such as Leonard Lyons, author of the Lyons Den column, which once giddily covered the Broadway beat. However, unlike Mr. Lyons, Mr. Govani’s job is made difficult by two factors. Toronto has no equivalent of the Broadway scene of the 1940s. And Mr. Govani apparently has no ability to turn out anything as demanding as a full sentence.
Lacking this skill, he is compelled to fill his small bit of Post space with a featurette entitled “What Shinan Has Been Eating,” wherein he proudly records how he scarfed down a chicken pot pie: “Grub that fills, and is ambiently attuned to the recession!” Mmm, of course: It sticks to the old ribs, and, you see, it’s ambiently… attuned.
Since the main body of his column provides further inventory of his recent intake (“There was mac ‘n’ cheese, and there were make-your-own-roast-beef-sandwiches. There was coconut cream-pie. Naturally.”), I must gather that Mr. Govani is cataloguing his food consumption for a specific purpose which may advance scientific understanding of how nutrition co-relates to bad writing.
This sort of documentation of sustenance intake is more usually handed over to one’s caregiver, and not to a general-interest readership. Matters correspondingly attendant to output, such as descriptions by Mr. Govani of his stools, urine and spit-ups, would not normally fall under the category of anyone’s favorite reading matter, but what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, I suppose he would affirm.
Ten years ago, when the Post launched, its yuppie British editors took delight in spreading whimsical post-modern touches throughout their rag. Anticipating that the day would quickly arrive when no one could be bothered to read a newspaper, and firmly clutching their return tickets to Heathrow, these nihilists offered up a menu of whimsy, frivolity and head-scratching weirdness to counter-balance the grey columns of news. The recipe has since been adjusted, so that the news component has largely been removed, but you still get a heavy offering of oddities such as Mr. Govani’s ledger of consumables. The Post is far from the only North American daily to steer in this unwelcome direction, but it is the one they toss on my lawn each morning.
I tend to forgive The Post its eccentricities, since it costs nothing, and gives me something to cushion the goods I carry in my laptop bag. It’s certainly a well-designed and well-printed effort, and occasionally a repository of the prison diaries of its founder, Conrad Black, thus providing the honest world with a means of keeping an eye on him from a safe distance. This arrangement with Mr. Black’s jailers may be in lieu of forcing him to maintain another form of monitoring device, such as an ankle-bracelet. If the intent of providing him with these writing exercises is to keep him out of further mischief, such as insulting the screws in his Florida facility, or turning fink, or becoming a punk, then I say let him keep writing.
The other Post screwballs should really just hang it up, while there are still opportunities for advancement in, say, the direct-channel retailing game. I refer specifically to frightened, confused David Frum and his unfussy spouse — who is, of course, daughter of the venerable Peter Worthington. The lady, whose name escapes me right now, carries on many of the same literary traditions established by her dear old dad, including the generous application of non-sequiters, and dismissive one-word commentaries: balderdash! These techniques always made Worthington seem like a crank in his Toronto Sun column, but for some reason they are especially unappealing in a more current life-form, especially one who is a wife and mother.
But, listen to me complain, will you? It’s plain that no one is supposed to actually read anything in The Post, or any other 21st century newspaper. It’s equally plain that newspapers aren’t intended as information sources any more; they’re merely cheap curios for collectors with an eye on long-term appreciation.
What Shannon Has Been Eating
- $1.94 all-beef hot dog and Nabob coffee combination platter at Sam’s Club snack bar (insist on getting diced onions in a little cup — marvelous!);
- half of a chocolate chip cookie provided by girl handing out samples at Sam’s Club;
- 8-10 Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds from other sampling girl at Sam’s Club (exquisite!);
- passed on the cheese spread/cracker thing the third girl offered me at Sam’s Club;
- passed on the little sausage on a toothpick.
What Shannon’s In-laws’ Poodle, Betsy, Has Been Eating
- big plate of freshly-cooked chicken, leg-quarter, with some kibble moistened in an au jus;
- bowl of water accompaniment;
- likely a bug, or maybe some plant growing in the yard (was pretty sick for a few days.)