Writer in Residence

Writers on TV Survey: Spencer Gordon

By Carey Toane

Dear reader, this is my last post as writer-in-residence. It’s been a slice, and I’m sorry it’s over. I leave the last word to the funny and talented author and co-founder of one of my favourite literary magazines, The Puritan, Spencer Gordon.


Name: Spencer Gordon

Recent work: Cosmo (Coach House Books, 2012)

How much time do you spend watching TV in a week?
Hmm. Probably 10 hours?

How much time do you spend watching TV in a week when the new Downton A Abbey/Game of Thrones/etc comes out?
The same. I'm never up to date with any new show.

How much time do you spend reading in a week?
Hard question: total time reading for all pursuits and endeavours, including work? Gosh. A conservative figure would be 15?

Do you identify as a TV binge watcher?
Not really, though I have watched episodes of television shows back-to-back.

Do you stream shows online?
Yes, illegally. All the time.

Do you post about TV on social media?
Yes, occasionally.

Favourite TV show:
For all-time, it's The Simpsons. Today we all know The Simpsons is terrible, and not even ironic-watch-oh-look-at-how-bad-this-is terrible, but from seasons ~1 - 11, this was maybe the greatest episodic comedy of all time, and certainly of the 90s (with Seinfeld and a few other notables in a close second). I have profound and intense memories of watching, then endlessly reciting and quoting in my miserable school halls, each new episode as it aired from about 1993 to 2000. Today's cabbage patch kids are the first people who don't (and won't) get the 1000s of Simpsons references claiming permanent real estate in our brains, and for that I feel hollowed out, gutted.

Right now, my favourite show is Bar Rescue. If you haven't seen Jon Taffer lose his giant waxy mind, you're missing out on a beautiful experience between you and Spike TV.

Favourite Canadian book/short story TV adaptation:
Probably Carrier's "The Hockey Sweater." I probably watched it 900 times in the 1980s and early 90s, while my thoughts and emotions were still forming in a Gak-like paste. This was the very definition of Canadiana and childhood. I'm afraid to watch it again because I might explode with nostalgia.

Worst book/short story TV adaptation of all time:
I think the only honest answer here is 99 percent of Canadian book/short story adaptations are awful. But the worst book TV adaptation of all time has got to be Tarzan. I mean the 90s Tarzan, starring Wolf Larson. Here, watch the trailer. There was no way I could watch this as a boy. It was just, like, the most boring half hour of television. When I used to hear that terrible jungle-beat intro I would scream.

Canadian book/short story you would like to see on TV:
That's easy: my own!! hahahahahaha. Or, if that's not allowed, how about The Sisters Brothers? This was a visual, cinematic story that would translate well if not directed by the people who shot Guy Vanderhaeghe's The Englishman's Boy. Anything but that.

Graphic novel that you would like to see made into a TV series:
Does Cathy count? Was that made into a TV show? How about Ziggy, or Family Circus? Those are graphic novels, right?

TV series that could be (mistakenly) based on a book:
Hmm. Maybe Happy Valley? Broadchurch? They're both dense, character-driven, addictive British TV series that have a noir- and thriller-vibe to them. They could have easily been a series of paperbacks.

Favourite book trailer that could work as a TV commercial:
None. No one wants to watch your book trailer.

Are TV series the new novels?
No! I'm not going to say that television can't be an art form, or it isn't proper art or anything, but a television show simply isn't a novel, and it can't achieve the same things a novel can, just like a novel is not a painting or a song.

Do you ever watch TV the old-fashioned way, y'know, on the television?
Only at my parents' or at a friends' with a television, but that's rare.

How does that feel?
Nice! And slow. Commercials, mang. Commercials are still intense.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Carey Toane is a librarian, journalist and poet. Her first collection of poems, The Crystal Palace, was published in 2011 by Mansfield Press. She lives in Toronto, where she is currently working on a collection of poems inspired by and dedicated to Twin Peaks. She is on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/careygrrl

You can contact Carey throughout the month of May at writer@openbooktoronto.com