May 6th, 2013 .

Fan-tastic Writing

Pat Morden

If you follow this blog, you’re used to me carping about common errors in grammar and awkward, wordy, unclear writing. I often sound like a bitter and hyper-critical wannabe writer, which pretty much covers it.

But the fact is, when I read something good, I am genuinely delighted. Which is why I devote this post to my favourite columnist, Tabatha Southey.

Southey is my Saturday morning treat. After I’ve waded through the more serious content in the Globe and Mail, I turn to her column and thrill to her sharp, insightful and oh-so-funny satirical essays. Does a little green bug of talent envy sometimes eat me from the inside out? Yes, it happens, but it doesn’t get in the way of my enjoyment.

This week she riffs on the recent discovery that cannibalism may have been practiced by the inhabitants of Jamestown, the first permanent British settlement in North America. “I’m sure eating one’s fellow colonists made sense at the time,” she writes. “It’s just a good thing it never made it into the Constitution.”

You see where this is going, right? If cannibalism had been enshrined in the Constitution, we would we now be debating “cadaver background checks.” The National Cannibalism Association (NCA)  would insist that, “Cannibals don’t kill people. They just eat people.” The NCA would form an alliance with PETA, based on the idea that animals are the natural beneficiaries of cannibalism.

Southey writes: “Turkeys would get off easy at Thanksgiving, where custom would dictate that the oldest or most wayward or most annoying member of the family would be ceremonially consumed. If you think American Thanksgiving is fraught with familial strife now, imagine those NCA-sponsored ‘Ask yourself, is that turkey any louder and more obnoxious than your brother-in-law Dougy?’ mailouts arriving in September.”

Like all great satirists, Southey’s jokes have a pointy end. At first the little pinpricks make us giggle, but eventually they make us uncomfortable. Southey does it while writing with elegant simplicity. Yes, I’m a groupie and I’m not ashamed of it.



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