Sometimes it’s hard being Dave Bidini.
On Saturday, the CBC Canada Reads finalist and National Post columnist wrote about his quest to find a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, a book he hoped would help him “stop being a terrible person.” Unfortunately, Bidini’s journey was thwarted by a bookstore clerk who “wore horned-rimmed glasses and an ironic, squaresville sweater” and was probably named “Malcolm or Derek or Phillip.” The clerk explained to Bidini that the shop only carried copies of the satirical Eat, Pray, Fart, and so Bidini walked away, shocked that this independent bookstore did not have a “single copy of one of the top-selling books of the last 10 years.”
The description of the store and the clerk offended fans of Toronto’s Type Books and its occasional staff member, writer Derek McCormack (who happens to sport distinctive eye wear). As the Twitterverse mused why anyone would “make fun of” Type and McCormack, Bidini wrote another column, this time, a direct apology to both.
In the piece … certain living figures found themselves tarred by a brush I hadn’t intended to wave around. For instance, there was a composite figure that some people misidentified as being Derek McCormack, the great Toronto writer and occasional bookseller. Even though I don’t think the portrait of the character was too unflattering, it was never my intention to draw Derek as the character’s model…. I have known Derek for twenty years, and consider him to be a friend. His co-workers, reacting as I’d hope my co-workers would, felt I was taking a shot at him, and fair enough, but, again, I was not. If this was misconstrued, I am sorry.
I also wrote about an independent bookstore that people thought was Type; it was not, even though I described it as being adjacent to a park. Some also thought I was making fun of independent bookstores for not stocking Eat, Pray, Love, but this was not my intention. Really, I could care less about Eat, Pray, Love and whether anyone stocks it…. I am indebted, as a writer, to stores like Type — independent bookstores — and to people who work there. I feel like a jerk for even suggesting the slightest hint of this, and let me state, unequivocally, that I believe independent bookstores are the backbone of Canadian bookselling, and that, when it comes to Chapters/Indigo, well, I wouldn’t make fun of people who work there, either. At least, if I did, it would be in the context of good writing, something that was probably lacking in my last Post column.