Thanks to Phil Dellio for scanning and transcribing this interview with Dave Rave from Toronto's Nerve Magazine. I can't make out the date but Nerve published between 1984 and 1988 only. Photos by Chris Buck.
(captures of pages and more images follow interview).
(captures of pages and more images follow interview).
Crad: Paperback Pariah
interview with Dave Rave
It’s an average day and I’m in an average frame of mind as I tread the paved plane allocated for pedestrian beings. I’m walking down the glorious cavalcade of Yonge Street south of Bloor when I’m visually accosted by the spectacle of an average looking man wearing average clothing with a piece of average looking cardboard on a string around his neck. The cardboard sign sports the legend: “Abnormal Bedtime Stories.” Obviously a crackpot; I’m intrigued. I have a soft spot for crackpots, and make it a habit of associating with them as often as possible. He returns my stare, and his eyes appear to say, “Buy my slab of words—they are capable of altering your body chemistry.” Alas, the pittance in my pocket is only enough to secure me a gallon of non-Apartheid connected lager; my thirst for new words juggled in new ways will have to wait.
For several years I avoid the piercing glare of this crackpot/genius who sells books like a newspaper vendor. But one day I casually approach this man—whose ubiquitous presence has now become as familiar as the sturdiest of Parkdale rubbies—and buy several slim samples of his thoughts.
I am promptly saved.
Crad Kilodney; make yourself known.
I have a degree in Astronomy; the only professional job I had in that field was as a lecturer in a planetarium for exactly four months. Then I quit—and never went back to it. I have no formal training in writing at all—I’m completely self-taught.
You emphasize that fact in your books: “I have no credentials what-so-ever.”
It’s my way of thumbing my nose at the whole concept of people going to university to learn ‘creative writing.’
What’s your impression of the way news is translated by newspapers.
When I read the papers, I’m more interested in looking for bizarre little filler items; I have a great interest in the offbeat. When I come across something in a newspaper that’s completely bizarre, I cut it out and put it in my notebook, because I never know when it might be useful. That’s really what makes a newspaper worthwhile; the rest of it is so much verbal hamburger.
You were employed for several years as a manuscript reader for a vanity press—Exposition Press. How were you hired in that capacity?
I got that job just by chance—I was hired on Friday 13th, and it was raining like hell. I would read manuscripts and would handle correspondence and do jacket blurbs: that job had a tremendous impact on me because I became aware for the first time of all the lunacy that is out there in the world, especially in the minds of people who want to write. Vanity press tends to attract a lot of crackpot literature and a lot of totally incompetent writers. During the time I was there I made it a practice to photocopy anything that passed across my desk that I thought was really bizarre, and I collected a whole boxful of stuff. They’re completely stupid and very naive, and that’s the kind of thing I like. I’ve put things into my stories that are virtual plagarisms from specimens that I collected during that job, sometimes with a little touching up. There’s nothing that comes across more convincingly than something that’s naive and is the product of a deranged mind.
You cut an eccentric figure out there; a solitary voice in the wilderness of Canadiana; a paperback pariah. Your reputation not only precedes you, but to an extent overwhelms the actual reality of your craft. How do people generally react to your selling ‘literature’ on the street like a common panhandler? People have been brought up to worship the craftsman of words...
I see no indication of that on the street. I think most people have no idea what I’m doing, they don’t have the curiosity to find out, and even if they do know, they don’t care. People in this city are very timid, and it’s easy to intimidate them. I probably do scare a lot of people but I try to look reasonably approachable. But if a person is too afraid to come up and speak to me, too bad. I’m not going to try and cajole someone who is that much of a worm.
Why don’t you sell your books on Queen Street? Wouldn’t this be more lucrative turf for your ‘Polymorphous Humour’?
There’s no reason to go there. Why pick Queen Street, because it’s supposed to be sophisticated and arty? I’ve had experiences with those people and I don’t particularly want to go down there and try to gain their approval.
Were you not the acclaimed Reverend Crad Kilodney, knowledgeable Sex Advice columnist in the now defunct Rustler skin-rag?
If you want to see, I suggest you look for second-hand copies in any of the magazine stores in this city. You wouldn’t believe the things I got away with in that column! I planted one letter that caused the police to come up from Tillsonburg and pay me a personal visit. I signed a letter with the name of their Deputy Police Chief, and they thought that one of their own officers had sent the letter, which they wanted to examine for hand-writing samples. I had a reason for using that name, but I won’t go into it.
Many of your stories hammer the Canadian Mentality; do you find this country easy bait for your cutting commentary?
I am a Canadian, I’ve been here 12 years, and I have every right to criticize this country. Just look around you—of course it’s an easy country to criticize! But then I’m a chronic malcontent. Canadians are a kind of domestic animal that have been bred to go to work, and then go shopping, and that’s it.
Have you ever been stopped by police and had your offerings scrutinized?
Not anymore, they all know me by now. There was one occasion when I had copies of Lightning Struck My Dick—which, of course, is a completely inoffensive book—and I had a mini police convention around me in about 15 minutes, and they were trying to figure out what to do. They had a long conference, and finally decided that they would just go away.
Do you think any word, phrase or sentence printed in this age can be deemed obscene?
I don’t think anything should be censored, and I’m completely categorical about that. I really would make no exceptions, I would allow complete freedom in terms of taste and explicitness. I get offended by things I see every day; but do I have the power to ask the government to get rid of these things? No. I have to live with the knowledge that every day of my life I’m going to be offended by the same things, so if other people get offended, that’s their tough luck. I don’t think there’s anything that I’ve ever written which could possibly be worthy of being censored.
Have you ever read the Bible?
I’ve read it cover to cover, and you wouldn’t believe some of the things in there. There’s a great chapter in the Book of Judges about a man who offers his concubine to the crowd to be raped, and then afterwards he has no use for her, so he cuts her up into small pieces, and scatters the pieces on the ground. That’s the Bible. In fact, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the famous atheist in the U.S., recently published a condensed version, with all the violent and obscene parts of the bible—about 400 pages—and it’s selling like crazy. It’s called The X-Rated Bible.
I noticed that the old man from the Censor Board in Terminal Ward showed his true colours at the end.
I believe that censors are really dirty-minded people, and that’s why they take the job. People who make an effort to be morally superior in public are really just the opposite secretly.
Proof positive in Secrets of the Financial District.
Exactly. I’ve spent a lot of time in the financial district, and a lot of the things that I’ve attributed to characters are fictitious, but I don’t think there’s anything in that story that is beyond possibility.
Why did you write the preface imploring your readers to aid in administering a violent end to Finance Minister Perrin Beatty?
That guy’s going to be President. I decided to put him in my book because he was the man who banned the November issue of Penthouse over some allegedly obscene photos, so I thought he should be rewarded.
To what degree should your readers delve into the psychology of your writing?
I’m willing to give the reader complete freedom to approach it the way he wants. It’s impossible for me to assure myself that every reader will take every story exactly as I intended it. Terminal Ward was, in my opinion, a very serious book, yet people have said to me that it was the most hilarious book they’d ever read. If you throw something tragi-comic at people, their own personalities will determine whether they view it in comic terms or tragic terms.
Would you like to reside in the Terminal Ward?
I don’t even want to think about dying! I just can’t project myself into the future that much. I don’t like to think about getting old.
Do you think the old men were glad to be there?
Oh yes, that’s the way I intended it.
Why is the failed writer in that story such a dried up old shithead?
Every writer has to start out with a desire that is in conflict with a fear of failure, and the vast majority of people who try to write don’t get anywhere. (The character) James is an example of that.
But he despises the whole human race.
Of course! To that extent there’s a lot of me in him. But he’s a completely human person! My dream life is very violent; you wouldn’t want to hear about it.
Giant flying saucers appeared in the sky, and I went over to a fire hydrant with a ray gun mounted on top. I fired the ray gun at the saucers, and they exploded into tons of confetti. A paper bag also came down, which then turned into a giant rubber eye that floated in front of me. It meant to scare me, so I forced myself to stare directly into it and order it telepathically to move aside. To my astonishment, the eye secreted a huge blue teardrop and disintegrated. I looked up and saw a billboard showing a scene from my childhood—that extraordinary day as I walked home from school, which I have never spoken of to anyone. I felt like crying, but the tears wouldn’t come. Then the scene changed into an ad for Zud Soap, portraying an idiotic young man with a bar of soap in his mouth.
That was a little story I wrote while on vacation in Florida. I hadn’t slept for three days and I was so deprived of sleep that my subconscious just started erupting. I’m not going to say I hallucinated, my mind just started to get unglued. When I finally did fall asleep I had very vivid dreams, and that’s what supplied most of the material for Dream Street. Having written that, I put it into a context where it would have an artistic and even moral point. The story deals with our willingness to open our eyes and see.
Did Pork College become a smash hit with students, as you had hoped?
No. I think most students are asleep on their feet, they’re already beyond hope. Maybe 10 per cent of them can become humans.
In the preface to that book, you stated that it could be appreciated on two levels; the intelligent level and the mindless level.
You mustn’t take these things too seriously. I like spoofing the poses that writers take in their prefaces. I think that writers are ideal subjects for satire, in some ways they really deserve to be kicked in the ass. Whenever I have put myself into a story, it’s always been a deprecating situation, where I cast myself as a schnook.
As a scribe of the Human Condition, you have carte blanche to make profound statements about the ironies and contrasts of city life.
You know why? Because I’m a very troubled person. I have difficulties in coming to terms with what I see, so when I write something absurd, I guess it’s my way of coping with them. I really don’t have the answers, I don’t know what to make of it all. So I confess that I’m a very bewildered human being.
Do you believe in fate?
Oh yes! I’ve had a very strange life. I have an irrational conviction that I’m fulfilling something that’s destined. I have these occasional...I won’t say ‘flashes,’ but mental experiences that really go beyond words, that leave me with this conviction that everything is according to some plan.
“My brother’s stories are the product of a diseased mind”—Morton Kilodney, M.D.
Does Morton really exist?
No. But I thought it would be good to invent him, and have him condemn me on the back of my own book. What other writer in Canada would do that?
But he claims that you’ve been chronically depressed since childhood, and that your romantic life has been a series of disasters.
Well, a lot of that is true! But I couldn’t write that myself.
Do you think you have “a diseased mind”?
I don’t worry about whether I do or not. To tell you the truth, maybe I do and maybe I don’t, but I don’t give a shit.
Expect two more thin volumes of Kilodney’s wayward wit in the next month, which he promises will be “the most absorbing collections I’ve ever published.” In the meantime you can find him loitering on the corner of Yonge and Hayden streets or on Bloor and Bay. If he fixes his stare on you, you will find yourself powerless to resist.