About the Author

Russell Smith

Russell Smith was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and grew up in Halifax, Canada. He studied French literature at Queen's, Poitiers and Paris (III). Since 1990 he has lived in Toronto, where he works as a freelance journalist. He has published articles in The Globe and Mail, Details, Travel and Leisure, Toronto Life, Flare, NOW and other journals, and short fiction and poetry in Queen's Quarterly, The Malahat Review, Quarry, the New Quarterly, Carousel, Kairos, Toronto Life and other journals. Russell appears frequently on television and radio as a cultural commentator. In 1995 he won a Gold Medal at the American City And Regional Magazine Awards. Russell Smith is the author of six works of fiction; his first novel, How Insensitive, was short-listed for the Smithbooks/Books In Canada First Novel Award, the Trillium Prize and the Governor General's Award for Fiction. In 2005 he was a juror for the Governor General's Award in Fiction (in English).

Books by this Author
Confidence

Confidence

edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback
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Diana

Diana

A Diary in the Second Person
edition:Paperback
tagged : erotica
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Men's Style

Men's Style

The Thinking Man's Guide to Dress
edition:Paperback
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Excerpt

SUITS
All the world is not, of course, a stage, but the crucial ways in which it ­isn’t are not easy to specify.
ERVING GOFFMAN
You need one. I ­don’t care if you work in your basement. I ­don’t care if you’re an artist. A grown-­up man needs at least one suit for special events. And once you have one, a good one which fits you and ­doesn’t make you feel constricted and displayed like a prize cake, you will wonder why all your clothes ­aren’t suits. You will want to buy three more. The standard men’s uniform of loose but sober jacket and trousers is a remarkable con­fidence-­giving garment: people will treat you differently when you are in a suit; they will look at you differently, they will ask your opinion, they will expect you to take care of trouble.

Women like men in suits. They may tell you other­wise — particularly if they are associated with a university in some way, or artists. Academics and students in, say, English, or philosophy, may squeal with disgust at the idea of a “dressed-­up man”; artists will giggle, as if the idea is just embarrassing. This is because in these circles to admit attraction to a man in a suit is to betray the solidarity of one’s working-­class comrades and to delay the inevitable revolution. “Suit” is synonymous with “fascist baby-­eater,” or at the very least “insensitive boor” or “uptight suburbanite.”

Obviously the honest expression of aesthetic response and/or sexual desire in these circles is not going to be exactly unfettered. In other words, ­don’t believe a word of it.

I have found that there is almost no woman, no matter how many pairs of Birkenstocks she owns, no matter how devoted to her organic garden, who does not react with some slight tremor of the heart, some mild increase in blood pressure and dilation of the pupils, on seeing a man — particularly her own man — emerging from a cocoon of olive cotton and stepping forward in the sober costume of authority, his shoulders squared, his posture righted, with crisp collar and cuffs.

Part of the bad rap of suits, among bohemian men and women alike, is that our ostensible nonconformists never seem to picture good suits. They always imagine bad ones: the ones their dad or their first husband wore to tense family events; they picture green double-­breasted ones, or pale grey pinstripes with a waistcoat and slightly flared trousers, all of them hot and stiff and shiny and looking like faded posters for movies set in Atlantic City in the eighties.

I have often taken men, highly resistant men, shopping for their first grown-­up suit. They have tended to be artistic types, writers usually, who have managed to make it well into their thirties without leaving their teenage uniform of jeans and running shoes, and who on occasion have never even learned to tie a tie. Each required a new suit for a special occasion (a wedding, an interview, a book tour), but I think each had also come to a stage in his career that made the suit symbolic of a decision to embrace a new kind of life, a life of success that would have a public component. In short, adulthood.

The procedure was for them fraught with misgivings both ideological and aesthetic. Several of them had old suits hanging in their closets, suits which they had been forced to buy by parents or bosses in previous lives (double-­breasted and green) and which they felt they had to wear, like a kind of absurd, lit-­up party hat, as one of the penances of certain excruciating obligatory events, such as weddings or graduations or Easter church services. They thought — consciously or not — that suits had to be rather tight and hot and itchy and that they had to be unfashionable and, bafflingly, that they had to be in pale colours. The first-­time suit buyer nervously gravitates for some reason toward dove grey and beige. I suspect that this comes out of a fear of formality. My guys felt, instinctively, that a lighter-­coloured suit was a kind of compromise, and that it was more youthful. Charcoal and navy, they thought, were “bankers’ colours,” colours that a young man ­doesn’t feel he can carry off without being rich and grey-­haired.

They could not have been more wrong, of course. If you are buying only one suit, that suit must be versatile, and a pale suit is only wearable in summer, which is not a long season in most of the G8 nations. You can, on the other hand, buy an extremely lightweight navy suit that is wearable year-­round, and you can haul it out for cocktail parties and funerals alike. My friends tended to think that navy was somehow square — until they saw themselves in navy by Boss or Armani or Paul Smith or John Varvatos or the more forward lines of Canali or Zegna. All that defiant contrariness goes away when they come out of the change ­room wearing both jacket and trousers (this is important — you have to see the whole thing) of a soft, lightweight, dark-­coloured new suit of elegant cut, with proper shoes, a white shirt, and a silver tie. They see this in the mirror and they are amazed. Their first expression is always one of surprise verging on shock; this quickly changes to a wide smile. They realize that a new part of themselves has been discovered. They look manly but not old; confident but not conservative.

If the new suit fits you properly, you will not feel “dressed up.” It will not be constrictive or feel unnatural; it ­shouldn’t make you feel self-­conscious or delicate about how you stand or sit. You ­shouldn’t notice it. And neither should other people: they should notice you, how strong and fit and clever you’re looking.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Muriella Pent
Excerpt

The flotsam of bottletops, glass shards, paper strands like seaweed
washed up on the curb, the receding waves of visitors flash
as whitecaps in the sun. And when the tide goes out
it leaves the concrete dusty. We scavenge what we can,
boys in ragged khaki shorts, looking out to sea.
This is a tide that burns and leaves
the taste of money in the mouth
and bananas in the sand.
A girl sits in shadow, sullen as heat. Her skin
is velvet dust. And although her mouth is tightly shut,
I know it hides a cave of wet, with hidden glints
of metal, flashing like traps. I know her salt already.
I will turn into an arrogant god, metamorphosed
into shepherd, warrior, whatever shape
is primed for rape
by respected purveyors of myth.
I will pay and take her. I will carry her away.
For Jupiter she would kick, shrink from the scratch
of feather and beak (how oily that down, up close!).
For Apollo she would shiver and freeze with fear,
wooden in retreat. For me she is merely cold, silent as a bruise.
A ground that many have trod becomes compact and hard.
We have known so many visitors here,
we exchange the roles of conqueror and slave
like blocks slid around a grimy board,
in the cafés of the port. It is my turn now.

Marcus Royston
(from “Island Eclogues XII”)

MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR

It’s almost impossible for me to imagine that a full year has passed since last year’s spectacular and highly successful Trillium Ball. I can still remember the highlights of that night — the fabulous music from the Caramba Tango Ensemble, the stunning performance of an excerpt from the new ballet Rodeo by members of the National Ballet, the hilarious auctioneering style of our resident comedian, Marv Dunleavy (who also moonlights as the President of Dunleavy Goldfarb Investments). In that one night we raised, thanks to the generous donations of all of our corporate sponsors,* as well as by our generous Members, in excess of $300,000 for the Princess Alexandra Hospital Redevelopment Fund. Well, we have had no time for those memories to fade before getting right back into the swing of the preparations for this year’s Ball, and what a preparation it has been! I am pleased to announce that this year’s Ball is on an even grander scale than ever before, and promises to be even more dazzling and entertaining than last year’s — if that’s possible! We are proud to announce the participation, this year, of the Fur Board of Canada, who have donated seventeen luxurious coats for our silent auction, and the generous donations of six of the city’s top chefs (including Damian Buhr of Coterie, Kenneth Woo of Pearl, Bodo Kraftmeyer of Elements, and Ritchie LeBlanc, ex of Mirage) for our Trade Routes Food Stations, plus the usual fun-filled costume parade and steel-drumming by the Caribbean Cultural Society. I have nothing but awe and admiration for my fellow board members, and my vice-chairs Sandy Dunleavy, Gaye Northwood, and Sonia Gjurdeff, who have donated more of their time in putting this massive project together — along with the usual time-consuming obligations of family and demanding husbands! — than I would have thought humanly possible. I have had the honour of working with a board composed of the most dedicated and hard-working volunteers I have ever had the privilege to meet, and so it is with many thanks that I invite you to enjoy the fruits of their labours. This year’s proceeds will go the newly launched Lupus Research Centre of the Princess Alexandra Hospital, and it is an honour for all of us to be associated with this much-needed initiative. And finally I offer my thanks especially to those without whom none of this would occur: the generous patrons who have bought tables. Now sit back and enjoy a well-deserved evening of entertainment, and above all, have fun!

Muriella Pent
Chair, Organizing Committee

*a full list of corporate sponsors will be found on pages 3–5

Photo by Andy Nottingham, styling by Nadir Group. Mrs. Pent’s wardrobe courtesy of the St. Regis Room at the Bay.

A checkerboard of yellow light on the carpet. Her head is on its side. She can feel the pile making an imprint on her cheek: gentle bristles. She can’t at first make out why the light is so perfectly divided in squares. The windowpanes, their leaded squares. There is dust hanging in the shafts like a kind of mist. It is hardly moving, just hanging. From outside, the sound of a lawnmower, incongruous so late in the year. She stretches her hand out and strokes the pile. Her fingertips feel sensitive, as if she can distinguish the floral patterns on the rug by caressing it.

With her nose this close to the rug, she can for the first time discern its dusty smell. It is a bit barnyardy. The rug is wool, and very old, dyed, by no doubt dirty hands, with vegetable extracts. She imagines that it has been carried by a camel at one time. Perhaps this is what camels smelled like.

A sweet smell too, like burning sugar. Spilled brandy, soaked into the rug beside her. It is a little dizzying. It is like something rotten. And there is brandy on her chest: her nipples burn a little where he has dripped the brandy on them, then rubbed it in. Then he filled his mouth with brandy and sucked her nipple into it. “Oh,” she says, as if hurt. It is almost the same feeling: her chest has filled with air. She expels it. “Goodness.” She shivers, rolls over onto him, runs her hand over his chest and soft belly. It is flat, but soft. There is roughness only in the very centre of his chest, a sparse patch like dying grass, a memory of fur. Even this stubble is soft.

He is breathing steadily, not asleep. His eyes half open. She strokes his nipple, which makes him sigh. He smells damp. His skin is salt. She thinks she probably smells stronger than he does. She can smell herself. It is not just perspiration. She has not ever smelled herself like this, or at least can’t remember it.

Her belly is sticky. That is him. She is curious to smell it, but does not want to touch her finger to her nose in front of him. Not that he would be shocked (he seems shocked by nothing), but it would be admitting a naivety.

Her eyes travel the room. She begins to take in minor damage. A smashed vase, thankfully only glass, on the hardwood beside the writing desk, a great lake of water, also soaking into the rug. Yellow lily petals floating in it, soggy stems everywhere. His trousers, twisted inside out, a dam at the hardwood’s edge. An anemone of wet silk: her panties.

Perhaps the fetid water is contributing to the vegetal atmosphere. Red rose petals float too: where did they knock them from? A dark ceramic vase on the mantelpiece stands intact. It is patterned with apples and grapes, and sprouts drooping roses. Her head brushed against it as he pushed her up against the stone, her head stretched back, his lips on her neck, under the portrait of Arthur. She must have been spraying rose petals about with her hair. She reaches a hand behind her head and extracts a few more.

That’s where they started, and then she doesn’t remember hitting the glass vase on the writing desk. She remembers slippping in the water in her bare feet, though, as he pulled on her skirt, and him catching her, his hand tight in the small of her back.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Young Men
Excerpt

"So." Dominic looked across the table at Gordon. Gordon smiled at him. He wore dark glasses, in which Dominic could see his own tiny, warped reflection. Dominic was also wearing dark glasses. They were both wearing linen shirts which fluttered slightly in the breeze. King Street rustled around them; it seemed full of women in dresses.

"So," said Gordon. "How are you?"

"I'm good. It's good to see you too. I just thought I'd call because—"

"Oh, of course, it's great to—"

"Just to see how you —"

"Would you gentlemen care for something to start?"

"Are you going to have something?" asked Dominic.

Gordon looked at his watch. "I have to be back at the office."

"I'll have a soda with lime," said Dominic.

Gordon said, "Do you have a fumé blanc by the glass?"

"Ah ..." The waitress's blue eyes wandered over them. "I'm not sure."

"Could you check for me?" said Gordon quietly.

"What I do have, which is similar, sir, is a Pinot Grigio, which is a little fruitier, but I find it —"

"You've had it?"

"I like it." She smiled, and Dominic had to look away from her bare neck and smooth bust. "Shall I get you a —"

"I'll have a glass of Chardonnay, whatever you have, the biggest you have," said Gordon, passing her the wine list with the tips of his fingers as if he didn't even want to touch it. "Something oaky, something I can chew on. I trust you." He smiled at her from behind his glasses.

Dominic resented not having ordered a drink; he felt cheated. He almost called her back as she swung away, but hesitated too long. He resented the feeling, distant as a hangover, that he still wasn't quite sure of the rules.

"Attractive," said Gordon.

"Terrific, in fact," said Dominic. "Monster. I'd forgotten what it was like, downtown. Stuck up in the frozen north." He had been teaching at a university in a suburb.

"It's particularly wonderful today." They both looked over the railing — they were practically right in the middle of the sidewalk — at the suits, walking quickly past them, and the folded newspaper and the bare legs. It was one of the first days warm enough for them. The breeze was enough to make Dominic shiver. A streetcar rumbled past and drowned something that Gordon said. Gordon took his cellphone from his pocket and laid it on the table.

"So," said Dominic.

"So," said Gordon. "How was it?"

"The teaching?"

"Well, everything. You got a lot of thinking done too, I suppose?"

"Oh, more than that. I got a couple of my own projects finished."

"Really? Did you? Well, that's good. That's terrific. And you have any, you have any definite plans for them?"

"Oh yes."

There was silence.

"Good." Gordon looked at the menu. "I always enjoy the carpaccio. I like a wet carpaccio."

"So do I. It's wet?"

"Wettish."

The duck crêpe with wasabe cream looks good."

"Actually, I'd warn you off that one."

"Ah."

"The crêpe is heavy. Stodgy."

"Forget it. I'll have carpaccio too."

"Let's start with that and decide on mains later."

"Fine." They folded their menus and smiled at each other's glasses. "So how are you?" said Dominic.

"Actually," said Gordon, "I'm good. Very good. A number of ... a number of things on the go."

"Excellent. Are you still at — "

"Well, for the time being, yes."

"Ah?"

"Yes. Something — a possibility has just presented itself to go somewhere else. It looks like a pretty sure thing. You understand that I can't be specific just yet about what it —"

"No no, of course, no no no. But you're happy — excited about it?"

"Oh yes. It would be a pretty interesting position. As I say, things are just about to be finalized, and I'll let you know as soon as I know for sure, and actually, I probably will want to talk to you then, because there are ways in which you might be able to, to —"

"To get involved."

"To contribute. In some way. Yes. This is one of the reasons I wanted to see you, to just touch base with you, see what you were up to, see if you had any projects on the go, if you were looking to get involved with any —"

"Oh, I'm always looking to get involved," said Dominic.

"Good."

"Have you gentlemen decided?"

Gordon opened his mouth but Dominic spoke as quickly as he could. "We'll have two carpaccios to start, please. And we'll order the mains later."

"All righty then." She leaned to gather the menus.

"Could we hang on to those?" said Dominic.

"Oh. Certainly." She was looking around as if someone was going to catch her.

"Since we haven't decided yet."

"Of course." She was still hesitating. "I'll just leave these with you then."

"That's what I'm getting at," said Dominic, and Gordon snorted. Dominic felt a wave of guilt like sudden nausea, but he smiled at Gordon.

As she swished away, Gordon said, "Her boss has told her never to leave the menus."

"Isn't that tough?" said Dominic, and felt it again.

"Isn't it. So." Gordon took a sip of his white wine. The glass was large, round and yellow with wine, misty with condensation.

"You know, that looks so good I think I might have a drink after all." Dominic looked around for the tall girl.

Gordon was frowning. "That's not exactly what I'd call oaky." He swallowed again and grimaced. "You know," he said, his voice deep with concern, "I'm not even sure that's a Chardonnay at all."

"Excuse me," said Dominic to the girl as she passed. "I'm sorry, I've changed my mind. I'll have a glass of wine too."

"Don't order this one," said Gordon, just so she could hear, and Dominic cringed again.

"I'll be right with you," she said. She was carrying plates of food.

"Anyway," said Dominic. "So."

"So. How's life otherwise? On the personal front, I mean."

"Well, you heard I — me and Christine are no more."

"Yes, I heard that. I'm sorry to hear it. Was that ... tough?"

"Yes, it was."

"That's too bad."

Another streetcar passed, so they didn't have to talk about it for a second. Finally Gordon said, "But I suppose it's better in the long run?"

"Oh yes. Much."

"Good." Gordon drank from his glass and grimaced again. "You know, I don't think this is what I ordered at all."

"Well, you did say you trusted her," said Dominic gently.

"I didn't trust her to give me a goddam Riesling or something. Hello."

"What can I get you?" She was at their side again, blushing a little, Dominic thought, but perhaps he was being optimistic. He studied her flawless skin.

"I'd like a glass of the Pinot Grigio you mentioned, and my friend —"

"Are you sure that's not what you brought me?" said Gordon.

She hesitated. "I'm sure that's the Chardonnay, sir. You don't like it?"

"I don't think it's a Chardonnay, but never mind. Let me try something else."

"Certainly." She shook her head slightly to clear a wisp. It was very controlled. "What would you like?" Her voice had a fine edge now; it was crisper.

"I'd like a fumé blanc, but I guess I'll have to —"

"There's a sauvignon blanc, a Pinot Grigio, and another Chardonnay, it's from Oregon, it's a little lighter, so —"

While this went on, Dominic stared at Gordon's cellphone, lying flat and small and heavy and meaningful on the table, as if it was threatening to ring, a silent threat to everyone around.

"Anyway," said Gordon, once she had gone. "Whatever happened to that project you had going with Pyramid?"

"Oh, Pyramid, that just, they really —" Dominic shook his head.

"Fizzled out?"

"I think they kind of took me for a ride." He sighed. Suddenly he was tired of caution. "They read my proposal, liked it, brought me in, I had all kinds of meetings, and then it was like everybody forgot about it all of a sudden, as if nothing had ever happened." Dominic squeezed his napkin into a ball. The waitress was weaving towards them.

"Who were you dealing with there, if you don't mind my asking?"

"Not at all. Mimi Bean."

"Ah. Mimi Bean." Gordon leaned back, smiling widely.

"What? You know her?"

"I've had similar dealings with her."

Dominic felt exasperated. He leaned forward. "Well what? Tell me what you know about her."

"Pinot Grigio," said the waitress, "and the Eyrie Vineyards Chardonnay. Are you finished with the first one, sir? I'm so sorry you didn't like it. We won't charge you for this one, sir."

"Thank you," said Gordon, as if to a small child. He smiled up at her like a grandmother. Dominic half expected him to pat her on the head. He wondered what Gordon had that made people react to him like this. Even he, Dominic, wanted Gordon to be pleased all the time.
Absently, she began to gather the menus again.

"If you don't mind," said Dominic.

"Oh, of course," she said. "I'm sorry."

He watched her hips slice the air in their tight black fabric and felt a sudden bitterness, at her, at Gordon. "Nice girl," he said, "but obviously not blessed with vast intellect."

Gordon laughed loudly. He threw his napkin onto the table and laughed some more.

Dominic blushed with his own success.

"Listen," said Gordon. "Did you ever have the impression that Mimi Bean'smotivation, in her dealings with you, did you ever have the suspicion that her motivations weren't entirely professional?"

"You mean, that her motivations may have been more social than professional?"

"So to speak."

"Did I ever feel that she might have just wanted to —"

"To bag you. So to speak."

Dominic laughed. "That's exactly what I thought. I thought it was my self-flattering imagination."

Gordon shook his head, leaned forward, and in a murmur began to tell him stories of Mimi Bean. Dominic listened closely, his heart pounding. This was the exciting part of being with Gordon. This was really lunch, this was really lunch on King Street. As Gordon spoke and chuckled, and he chuckled too, he watched the women passing on the sidewalk, brushing past him in envelopes of perfume, and felt that he was watching them knowingly, and thought that he might even try, today, before the end of lunch even, to smile at one.

"But I'll tell you one thing you may not have noticed, in case you ever do need to know," said Gordon, finishing up. His voice went even lower. "She's a little heavy in the leg."

"Ah." Dominic raised his eyebrows.

"Dresses very carefully. You'd never notice. But she's a little heavy in the leg."

"Thank you." They both nodded sagely and sipped their wine. The wine tasted marvellous. Dominic felt marvellous. He knew their linen shirts looked great together. When the waitress came back, he would not be afraid to make some crack about the menus and her boss watching, or even about the wine. He glanced at a woman on the sidewalk who had a white skirt and top on, and blonde hair; she carried a bunch of flowers. He pushed his glasses down and caught her eye. She stared for a second, and he smiled, as confidently as he could. She quickly looked away and quickened her pace as she passed, as if she had seen something that frightened her.

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