I had a grand time at Indigo Books at Toronto's Manulife Centre on Wednesday night, and I thank Heather Reisman for very graciously including me in her roster of extremely distinguished authors. The joint was SRO - and from quite early on, as Eye On A Crazy Planet reports:
My pal Mitch Wolfe, a writer for Canada Free Press, mentioned to me that he arrived at 4 pm for the 7 pm start. Even so, it was so crowded he was still only able to watch in a densely packed standing section at the rear of the large seating section made up of line after line of occupied folding wooden chairs.
Scaramouche was also in attendance and saw Heather and me as a mismatched Donny & Marie - she's a little bit country, I'm a little bit rock'n'roll:
Let's just say that à la Donny and Marie, their preferences weren't exactly in synch. For while Heather was a little bit--and sometimes a lot--left of center, Mark was shake, rattle and rolling on the opposite end of the political spectrum...
She strikes one as someone who dips a toe or two into his works, but never fully dives in. A case in point: she opened the proceedings by asking Mark to read an excerpt from a piece about the funny names of authors of books featuring Christmas projects, a piece she said made her "laugh out loud." And, yes, it was amusing, in that trademark Steynian way. At the same time, however, one could see that this was the sort of Steyn column that most appealed to her--light, comical and devoid of anything un-PC, or, indeed, anything political at all. For me--and for many of the Steyn fans I know--that is a mere appetizer. A tasty but insubstantial hors d'oeuvre.
I like to think of it more as a gateway drug. In this case, the "Potpourri Roasting on an Open Fire" excerpt served a purpose. My security had noticed some surly young men in keffiyehs hanging around. I took a relaxed view of them myself, but the minute I started reading about my old pal Martha Stewart and her coxcomb topiary they figured it was infidel homemaking night and there was no way you'd get the full 72 virgins for blowing up a guy in mid-mulled-cider recipe. So off they wandered.
As to the larger point, actually Heather's been quite a reader of mine since the early days of The National Post. She doesn't agree with me on the politics, but it's her store and she doesn't have to have anyone in there she doesn't want, so it's rather decent of her to extend her hospitality, and I'm always chuffed when she does.
My memory of the ground we cover on these occasions isn't always terribly precise the morning after, but fortunately Laura Rosen Cohen has a blow-by-blow account:
My good friend Blazing Cat Fur got a shout out for breaking the Mosqueteria story. Reisman brought up the subject, and for those of you who don't know about it, it's the story of how a Toronto District Public school allows Muslim prayers in their cafeteria, in an area heavily populated by Muslim immigrants. The boys go in the front, girls behind, and menstruating girls must identify themselves as "unclean" and sit behind the "clean" girls-all this after going through separate male and female entrances.
I do recall that I suggested to the crowd they rearrange themselves the same way - men at the front, women behind, and "unclean" menstruating women at the back. "Oh, c'mon, it'll only take a couple of minutes." I wasn't entirely joking. Heather suggested the school was "allowing" these arrangements rather than "forcing" them on everybody. But I think that's to overlook the ever more confident culture of coercion in western Islam: Actually requiring grown-ups, including Heather, to sit as those Toronto schoolchildren have to sit is a good position in which to ponder the likelihood that those so raised will prove to be functioning members of a pluralist developed society.
My old boss Conrad Black was there, and I used him as the butt of a couple of cheap jokes. After I said something about how welfare "incentivizes" certain behaviors, Heather said, "'Incentivize'? Is that even a word?", and consulted Conrad on the matter. He averred that it was.
At any rate, the genial back-and-forth incentivized large numbers of the crowd to buy my book - and even my CD - and I was merrily inscribing autographs until late into the night. It was great to see so many of you there, and I look forward to the next time.