About the Author

David Staines

Professor of English at the University of Ottawa, David Staines specializes in medieval literature and culture and Canadian literature and culture. In the former, he has published Tennyson’s Camelot: The Idylls of the King and Its Medieval Sources, and translated The Complete Romances of Chrétien de Troyes; in the latter, he published The Canadian Imagination: Dimensions of a Literary Culture, The Forty-Ninth and Other Parallels: Contemporary Canadian Perspectives, and The Letters of Stephen Leacock. He has also edited volumes on Morley Callaghan, Stephen Leacock and Margaret Laurence, and co-edited volumes of the writings of Northrop Frye and Marshall McLuhan. A long-time friend of Carol Shields, he wrote Carol Shields: Cultural Context, a part of Library and Archives Canada’s Web exhibition Canadian Writers.

Books by this Author

Beyond the Provinces

Literary Canada at Century's End
edition:eBook
tagged : canadian
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Tennyson's Camelot

Tennyson's Camelot

The Idylls of the King and its Medieval Sources
edition:Hardcover
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Tennyson’s Camelot

Tennyson’s Camelot

The Idylls of the King and its Medieval Sources
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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My Financial Career and Other Follies
Excerpt

My Financial Career
 
 
When I go into a bank I get rattled. The clerks rattle me; the wickets rattle me; the sight of the money rattles me; everything rattles me.
 
The moment I cross the threshold of a bank and attempt to transact business there, I become an irresponsible idiot.
 
I knew this beforehand, but my salary had been raised to fifty dollars a month and I felt that the bank was the only place for it.
 
So I shambled in and looked timidly round at the clerks. I had an idea that a person about to open an account must needs consult the manager.
 
I went up to a wicket marked “Accountant.” The accountant was a tall, cool devil. The very sight of him rattled me. My voice was sepulchral.
 
“Can I see the manager?” I said, and added solemnly, “alone.” I don’t know why I said “alone.”
 
“Certainly,” said the accountant, and fetched him.
 
The manager was a grave, calm man. I held my fifty-six dollars clutched in a crumpled ball in my pocket.
 
“Are you the manager?” I said. God knows I didn’t doubt it.
 
“Yes,” he said.
 
“Can I see you,” I asked, “alone?” I didn’t want to say “alone” again, but without it the thing seemed self-evident.
 
The manager looked at me in some alarm. He felt that I had an awful secret to reveal.
 
“Come in here,” he said, and led the way to a private room. He turned the key in the lock.
 
“We are safe from interruption here,” he said. “Sit down.”
 
We both sat down and looked at each other. I found no voice to speak.
 
“You are one of Pinkerton’s men, I presume,” he said.
 
He had gathered from my mysterious manner that I was a detective. I knew what he was thinking, and it made me worse.
 
“No, not from Pinkerton’s,” I said, seeming to imply that I came from a rival agency.
 
“To tell the truth,” I went on, as if I had been prompted to lie about it, “I am not a detective at all. I have come to open an account. I intend to keep all my money in this bank.”
 
The manager looked relieved but still serious; he concluded now that I was a son of Baron Rothschild or a young Gould.
 
“A large account, I suppose,” he said.
 
“Fairly large,” I whispered. “I propose to deposit fifty-six dollars now and fifty dollars a month regularly.”
 
The manager got up and opened the door. He called to the accountant.
 
“Mr. Montgomery,” he said unkindly loud, “this gentleman is opening an account, he will deposit fifty-six dollars. Good morning.”
 
I rose.
 
A big iron door stood open at the side of the room.
 
“Good morning,” I said, and stepped into the safe.
 
“Come out,” said the manager coldly, and showed me the other way.
 
I went up to the accountant’s wicket and poked the ball of money at him with a quick convulsive movement as if I were doing a conjuring trick.
 
My face was ghastly pale.
 
“Here,” I said, “deposit it.” The tone of the words seemed to mean, “Let us do this painful thing while the fit is on us.”
 
He took the money and gave it to another clerk.
 
He made me write the sum on a slip and sign my name in a book. I no longer knew what I was doing. The bank swam before my eyes.
 
“Is it deposited?” I asked in a hollow, vibrating voice.
 
“It is,” said the accountant.
 
“Then I want to draw a cheque.”
 
My idea was to draw out six dollars of it for present use. Someone gave me a cheque-book through a wicket and someone else began telling me how to write it out. The people in the bank had the impression that I was an invalid millionaire. I wrote something on the cheque and thrust it in at the clerk. He looked at it.
 
“What! are you drawing it all out again?” he asked in surprise. Then I realised that I had written fifty-six instead of six. I was too far gone to reason now. I had a feeling that it was impossible to explain the thing. All the clerks had stopped writing to look at me.
 
Reckless with misery, I made a plunge.
 
“Yes, the whole thing.”
 
“You withdraw your money from the bank?”
 
“Every cent of it.”
 
“Are you not going to deposit any more?” said the clerk, astonished.
 
“Never.”
 
An idiot hope struck me that they might think something had insulted me while I was writing the cheque and that I had changed my mind. I made a wretched attempt to look like a man with a fearfully quick temper.
 
The clerk prepared to pay the money.
 
“How will you have it?” he said.
 
“What?”
 
“How will you have it?”
 
“Oh” – I caught his meaning and answered without even trying to think – “in fifties.”
 
He gave me a fifty-dollar bill.
 
“And the six?” he asked dryly.
 
“In sixes,” I said.
 
He gave it me and I rushed out.
 
As the big door swung behind me I caught the echo of a roar of laughter that went up to the ceiling of the bank. Since then I bank no more. I keep my money in cash in my trousers pocket and my savings in silver dollars in a sock.
 
(1895)

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The Bombay Plays

The Bombay Plays

The Matka King & Bombay Black
by Anosh Irani
introduction by David Staines
edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback eBook
tagged : canadian
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The Loved and the Lost

The Loved and the Lost

by Morley Callaghan
afterword by Edmund Wilson
introduction by David Staines
edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback
tagged : literary
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Elements of Literature

Elements of Literature

Canadian Edition
edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback
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Margaret Laurence

Margaret Laurence

Critical Reflections
edited by David Staines
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : canadian
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Stephen Leacock

Stephen Leacock

A Reappraisal
edited by David Staines
edition:eBook
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The Worlds of Carol Shields

The Worlds of Carol Shields

edited by David Staines
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
tagged : canadian
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Understanding Me
Excerpt

Predicting Communication via the Internet (1966)

By the mid-1960s, McLuhan had made the world aware that television was a medium that held modern man in its thrall in profound ways that did not meet the eye, and he did this in the most old-fashioned way possible by saying it to as many people as he could.
On May 8, 1966, This Hour Has Seven Days, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation TV public affairs program, featured McLuhan in an interview with the journalist Robert Fulford. McLuhan has the novel idea that the teenager of the mid-sixties was a far more realistic, serious, and meditative creature than the teenager of the previous generation, all because of television and its “involving” quality.
In this interview McLuhan also accurately predicts the sort of “interactive” communication that has become possible in the past decade via the Internet.
***
McLuhan: The planet is going to get a great new processing from the meteorologists and from all sorts of scientific therapists. It’s going to be put in apple-pie order so it will be nice to come home to once in a while, back to the old homestead from outer space every once in a while.

Fulford: You’ve been writing about the mass media for a good many years and now you’re an object of the mass media. How has this changed your view of it, if at all?

McLuhan: Let me instead explain why this has happened, because, if you notice, the mood of North America has suddenly changed very drastically. Things like the safety car couldn’t have happened ten years ago.

Fulford: Why is that?

McLuhan: It’s because people have suddenly become obsessed with the consequences of things. They used to be obsessed with mere products and packages and launching these things out into markets and into the public. Now they’ve suddenly become concerned about what happens when these things go out onto the highway, what happens when this kind of program gets on the air. They want safety air, safety cigarettes, safety cars, and safety programming. This need for safety is a sudden awareness that things have effects. Now my writing has for years been concerned with the effects of things, not their impact, but their consequences after impact. Unlike the fantasy world, the escape world of movies, TV creates the enormously serious and realistic-minded sort of person, well, almost Oriental in his inward meditativeness.

Fulford: This is the teenager of today?

McLuhan: Yes, he’s becoming almost Oriental in his inwardness.

Fulford: He’s so thoughtful and serious.

McLuhan: Yes, grim, whereas the movie generations of the twenties and thirties were a coon-coated bunch of superficial types, had a good time and went to college but not for knowledge and that sort of thing. All has changed.

Fulford: And changed because of television?

McLuhan: Very much. Television gave the old electric circuitry that was already here, gave it a huge extra push in this direction of involvement and inwardness. You see, the circuit doesn’t simply push things out for inspection. It pushes you into the circuit. It involves you. When you put a new medium into play in a given population, all their sensory life shifts a bit, sometimes shifts a lot. This changes their outlook, their attitudes, changes their feelings about studies, about school, about politics. Since TV, Canadian and British and American politics have cooled off almost to the point of rigor mortis. Our politics require much more hotting up than the TV medium will give them. TV is ideal when you get two experts like ourselves discussing TV. This is good TV because there’s a process going on of mutual challenge, discovery, and processing. Now TV is good for that, and the same with ads. If the audience can become involved in the actual process of making the ad, then it’s happy. It’s like the old quiz shows. They were great TV because it gave the audience a role, something to do. They were horrified when they discovered they’d really been left out all the time because the shows were rigged. This was a horrible mis­understanding of TV on the part of the programmers.

In the same way, most advertisers do not understand the TV medium. Do you know that most people read ads about things they already own? They don’t read things to buy them, but to feel reassured that they have already bought the right thing. In other words, they get huge information satisfaction from ads, far more than they do from the product itself. Where advertising is heading is quite simply into a world where the ad will become a substitute for the product, and all the satisfactions will be derived informationally from the ad, and the product will be merely a number in some file somewhere.

Instead of going out and buying a packaged book of which there have been five thousand copies printed, you will go to the telephone, describe your interests, your needs, your problems, and say you’re working on a history of Egyptian arithmetic. You know a bit of Sanskrit, you’re qualified in German, and you’re a good mathematician, and they say it will be right over. And they at once xerox, with the help of computers from the libraries of the world, all the latest material just for you personally, not as something to be put out on a bookshelf. They send you the package as a direct personal service. This is where we’re heading under electronic information conditions. Products increasingly are becoming services.

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