Dave Bidini is a man of many talents: musician with Rheostatics, publisher of the local Toronto paper West End Phoenix, opinion writer (often in the pages of The Globe) and author. He returns to books with his latest Midnight Light: A Personal Journey to the North (McClelland & Stewart), a recollection of his summer in Yellowknife as a newspaper columnist. Here, Bidini rhymes off a lifetime of things he’s seen, read and remembered.
What did you read as a kid?
Comics, church pamphlets, hockey pictorials, dentist office magazines, Tarzan penny books, box scores, summaries, newspapers over old men’s shoulders, religious books with the spine falling off, skywriting, street signs, chalk words coloured on sidewalks, CNE letters (“FOOD”), Eaton’s and Simpsons catalogues, INCREASE YOUR STRENGTH! and BE SEXUALLY ACTIVE FOR LIFE! billfolds handed out near a sketchy Yonge Street arcade, The Star, The Globe, The Telegram, blackboard scribbles, cartoon bubbles, the poster on my cousin’s bedroom wall (LET IT BE), smoke ring Os from a living-room uncle, and Lassie.
What did you read in grade school?
Homework assignments on Xerox’ed paper, Fantastic Four, Hockey News, the Toronto Sun, ads for sea monkeys, Gardens pixelboard slogans (TREVOR JOHANSEN INJURES SPLEEN!), movie posters (Shaft, Planet of The Apes, The Parallax View), horoscopes over old women’s shoulders, popcorn boxes, chocolate packets from the U.K. found adrift on the street, the poster on my other cousin’s bedroom wall (HANG IN THERE, BABY), TTC subway stops, graffiti, Jokes for the John, America’s Dumbest Criminals, Strength Down Centre: The Jean Béliveau Story, paperbacks on my parents’ wooden nightstand (Catch-22, Portnoy’s Complaint), Chariot of the Gods, tattoos on sailors' arms, billboards over the Gardiner Expressway, the Etobicoke Gazette and Guardian, dotted TV-screen crawl, and Aquaman.
What did you read in high school?
The look in your eyes the first time I saw you, James Joyce, I Heard the Owl Call my Name, Playboy, Penthouse, and Oui (sometimes Screw) found in that hole in the park, exam sheets, Scott Young, Ian Hunter’s Diary of a Rock’n’Roll Star, Michael Ondaatje, DRUGS: A HORROR STORY and whatever else they passed around health class, Circus, Hit Parader, New York Rocker, Creem, Shades, Yeats and Alberto Manguel, Reid Fleming, World’s Toughest Milkman, Al Purdy, NME, Blue Jays game programs, hours and hours of album lyric sheets and inserted rock star “musings,” Edgar Cayce, James Baldwin, fanzines, Hollywood Map of the Stars, the credits at the end of The Blue Lagoon, a death certificate, a prescription, thumbnail listings for The Edge, Auto Trader, the classifieds and Paul Quarrington.
What did you read in university?
Gord Downie’s favourite book (Winesburg, Ohio), Edith Fowke, crappy fiction written in wet notebooks long buried at the bottom of an old suitcase, Thomas Boswell and Roger Angell, our first album and concert reviews (good and bad and in-between) Harper’s magazine, Highway 1 road signs pointing to Dogpound, Ma-Me-O Beach and Wetaskiwin, Now and Eye, the label tag sticking out the back of your cool new bra, CD liner notes, Trouser Press, Borges and Barthes, Crad Kilodney, Riding On the Roar of the Crowd, Kotzwinkle, Alice Walker’s story about Elvis, The Book of Daniel, the credits at the end of Mean Streets, personals in alternative weeklies, the Village Voice, Joe Matt, Seth, Ed the Happy Clown, Nerve magazine and Roddy Doyle, whose girlfriend (now his wife, Belinda) passed an early printing of The Commitments to me on a bridge in Dublin and said, “You’re a musician, you might like this."
What are you reading now?
Lots of things. But mostly the look in your eyes the first time I saw you.