I could read the newspaper when I was three, and I was writing my own opinion not long after I graduated to solid food. By the time I was into my early teens I was the official smart-ass of my class and school, and writing was second nature.
My old man — the clever fellow he was — walked into my room one day and dropped a tattered copy of “You May Know Them as Sea Urchins Ma’am” by Ray Guy on my bed.
“Here,” he said. “If you’re going to be a writer, learn from the best.”
I read the entire book that night, and not long afterwards sought out a copy of the Stephen Leacock award-winning “That Far Greater Bay” in the school library to continue my studies (I’m pretty sure I never returned it.).
I could write a lot of flowery prose to describe the man’s style and tact, but I will simply say he was an unparalleled genius and his work absolutely inspired me. Reading those two books was what convinced me I had to have a job someday that entailed creative writing of some sort, and wouldn’t you know it, here I am running a magazine and writing for The Telegram.
His comedic writing was without peer in this country as far as I am concerned, and he used that humour to change the face of government and politics in this province in the 1960s-1970s. Instead of attacking politicians, he used a much more effective tactic: he made it OK to laugh at them.
You have to “giggle the bastards to death,” I believe he once said.
He won national Newspaper Awards for his feature writing, and even managed to translate his writing abilities into radio and television gigs including feature spots and television productions.
His columns describing little hints of outport existence are worthy of heritage protection because they are the true chronicles of life around the bay, described in perfect “put you there” detail.
So many people and writers over the years have tried to imitate and copy his style, but nobody ever really comes close (check out some columns by a certain former Independent editor for some of the most hilariously failed examples).
Alas, there was only one Ray Guy.
Today in the wake of his untimely passing, a lot of people will be singing his praises, talking about his colourful life, and celebrating his genius — and rightly so.
But I’ll just simply say thanks.
Jamie Baker is the managing editor for The Navigator magazine, www.thenavigatormagazine.com
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