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Letters R.I.P. : Recollections of Crad Kilodney

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Letters R.I.P. : Recollections of Crad Kilodney

This is a world-class city? This is a hell-hole of idiocy!
         — Crad Kilodney

I feel able to write these recollections precisely because I never knew Crad Kilodney. Except as writer and publisher. At a great distance.

He hit the streets of Toronto a couple of years after I went far west. On my scattered few times back in Hogtown, during his fabled sidewalk decades, our paths never crossed. I would have known who he was. But I don’t know what I would have done if I had found him peddling his remarkable products. Likely, respect his sardonic desires to not get personal.

Kilodney probably came onto my horizon through mentions in Books in Canada. Scanning that periodical was part of my "job" as a librarian throughout the eighties and nineties.

Being thus well-situated to try to ferret out details, over the years I took desultory stabs at sleuthing out his bio, but I never turned up more than a few tantalizing tidbits.

The main source about his life remained his own non-self-revelation in Contemporary Authors. Back then, you had to be savvy to find anything in the intricate workings of that labyrinth of series and supplements and indexes, or even to realize what piece of the puzzle you were looking at. (That was part of why I had a job.)

Double-checking the online version just now, I can view a still-skeletal-looking Contemporary Authors entry that was last updated in 2007. Such overwhelming contemporaneity already makes for a lot of amusement. (There is nowhere that at least one muse will not go.) Kilodney may never get around to telling those scurvy data-purveyors about how he died in April 2014.

Unless you are a librarian — these days, even if you are one — you are not likely to realize that most of the content of Contemporary Authors is derived from an especially unreliable source. Namely, the self-described author. Big "reference" publishers go ape over this sort of cheapo opportunity to expand their margin and grow the profits. (Incidental item: I remember a library school prof getting all hopped up about being invited to "contribute" personal data to that very enterprise.)

Free stuff can be just as bad. There’s a lot of unintended humor in the current Wikipedia article on Kilodney. His bio-bibliographical entry leads back to nothing, except for two recent newspaper obituary sources. I’m guessing Kilodney could groove big-time on that genuflection to partial authorities. But the varied rictuses of old Sikipedia is a topic for another day.

I remember trying to read every single snippet of the Kilodney corpus that lay to hand in my large academic library. All didn’t amount to much. I’m pretty sure my harvesting in the stacks winnowed down to three non-anthological titles:  Lightning Struck My Dick (1980), Pork College (1984), and Putrid Scum (1991). Since at the time I was rattling around the hollowed hulls of academe, that middle title brought me special joy.

The skimpy set of Kilodney holdings is just as it should be. His three thin tomes skulk in the bowels of an institution that regularly proclaimed how it was collecting "comprehensively" in the area of Canadian literature. As a chunk of the Kilodney oeuvre, the three titles would add up to about one-tenth of what could have been acquired.

Instead of tracking down books, bibliographers at the time were fixated on a tortuous standardized assessment process designed to demonstrate how good the library was doing. The inescapable acronym, NCIP, stood for North American Collections Inventory Project (not Negate Crad If Possible), even though the effect was the same.

I marvel at how a single 1991 excrescence from Kilodney’s own disreputable Charnel House imprint ever managed to slip past the gatekeepers. It could be that the library’s mechanistic blanket acquisition plan fired a blank, and failed to execute the intruding volume.

For the most part, I’ve never been a very good completist. After all, consistent failure would become monotonous. Gaps in a personal reading history can be even more significant than what gets read. There is something coruscating and evanescent about how reader intersects with text, and getting too programmatic tends to zap the aura. So me and Crad met up happenstance in that tiny trinity of his titles.

Nobody is nonpareil, but Kilodney for sure asymptotes certain limits. I could credit him with out-Pynchoning Pynchon. Admittedly, his relative obscurity helped. Maybe, only maybe, I have just now finally found out what Kilodney’s "real" name was all along. Whatever that elucidates.

Of course Kilodney stands in a tradition. You can’t not. To the extent that his project was unselfconscious, his sally forth into Canada-aka-Toronto becomes all the more delicious. To avoid tedium, let me wink at a single ancient highwater mark of his sect and then shut right up:  Lucian of Samosata’s Vitarum auctio. Oh, and nictitate at a lowwater mark scribed a little later in Apocolocyntosis by one who here remains nameless.

CanLit. O, CanLit. Kilodney perspicuously persisted in thinking outside the can. To go by his own Contemporary Authors data, he arrived in Canada sometime during 1973. Anyone well acquainted with the convoluted immigration policies of that tumultuous period will understand what that implies. Kilodney had to be organized, he had to make application from outside the country, and he had to be patient. In other words, he really worked at making the move north. Unless perhaps he arrived before 30 November 1972. Then none of the foregoing is true.

Kilodney’s absence from the Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada (2002) is no accident. I did footwork on quite a few biographical entries that wound up as fodder for the canon. When I asked the chief editor/author whether Kilodney would be included, the answer sailed back slathered with disdain:  No. That exclusion may have been one of Kilodney’s greater achievements.

Becoming a hoaxster is one of the surest paths to attracting literary scorn and vilification. A métier at which Kilodney excelled and wanted to excel. Even so, he was a second-rater compared to Edgar Allan Poe. But I think he might have been OK with that failure.

When I gaze at the constellation that Kilodney occupies in the CanLit infirmament, I also see twinkles from Willie Thomas, Thomas Lee York, H.S. Bhabra, and Michel Basilières. I might be able to name more luminaries if there were fewer gaps in my reading.

If this piece constitutes a perverted tribute, it could find no happier aetherial home than Vancouver Media Co-op, an inclusionary venue where authors are given freedom to pester and fester at unedited will. Appropriately, producing prose for VMC pays even worse than sidewalk vending.

Of these recollections, more are true than you would ever believe.

WARNING :  This text fabrication site will persist in being unstable. Cite or slight at your own risk. Last updated 1 July 2014 at 9:22 am Vancouver time.

See also:

The Crad Kilodney Literary Foundation

Crad Kilodney on Video (in the Vicinity of York University 1992)

Connoisseur of the Bizarre

Cranky and Courageous

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A 21-pun soil-loot to Con…uh…duh on 1 D'jaLie 2014

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