From the Vault
Historical Reporter (image)
Mother Knows Best (image)
Sports Reporter (image)
Surfing is Surfing:
an essay on Grant Shilling
by Clayton Webb
Don't Care What You Say
in the Woods
off Main Street
& Play & Adults
People, Vulture Culture & Cars
of the Fittest
Travel & the Dead
& Roll Road Kill, Kill, Kill!
by Grant Shilling
K. and I woke to each other and long silence and tea. We do this well
together. Eventually we settled into conversation about a Spin magazine
article about these teenage boys who were lovers and how one murdered
his parents, getting the other to finish the job.
I told K. that I don’t normally read this stuff and that I had
to stop reading this article after a while because it was so disturbing.
What disturbed me the most was that the profile of the boys didn’t
seem that different than boys I knew. Boys who resent their parents.
Bad boys who hang with other bad boys, bringing out the worst in each
other and then trying to top it.
It made me think of some of the troubled teenager boys I know and my
responsibility to them.
K. and I talked about the idea of ‘influence’ and role models,
etc. Why? Why bother? When to draw a line – to protect yourself
or others. I told K. how I was disturbed about what the boy –
the very cute boy (The piece was called “About a Boy” which
is after a Patti Smith song after Kurt Cobain which suggests some pop
murder/ suicide self-fulfilling genre) was saying to his parents.
“This is for not letting me play my White Zombie tapes…”
The utter banality of his complaints should serve as a warning to anyone
responsible for the care of children or teenagers.
I don’t have any children--nor do I plan to--and as a result I
make it a point to keep the company of a variety of younger friends
and I often wonder what my role in it is. Not being the parent, but
the older friend to these young folks is a mutually agreeable situation.
In some cases their mothers have been my lovers or close friends. In
some cases these young adults could also be my lover--if events were
allowed to go that way. But this doesn’t seem appropriate, beneficial
or necessary. It just suggests a level of understanding and comfort.
Too young to be my lovers--but old enough to murder.
In one situation I would very much like to talk to a boy who doesn’t
have a male role model.We used to be close- but both our relationships
with his mother are fucked, so we remain estranged. He sees a therapist
What K. and I then began to discuss is, is publishing stuff like this
harmful, does it promote more of the same etc.? Eventually K. and I
dropped the subject because it was a sunny day and she was headed off
to work and needed less stress--not more, before heading off.
Well, I headed of to the beach (I’m a bum remember) and picked
up a New Yorker to read. I read an article about “The Shock of
“True Crime,” is the name that has attached itself to journalistic
and literary accounts of human ghastliness, explained the New Yorker
article. The article by Alex Ross discussed a lot of things K. and I
questioned, and issues I hadn’t even considered, perhaps because
I’m not a crime/mystery novel reader.
The article did talk about books I’ve read; Capote’s In
Cold Blood, and Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter (25th anniversary
edition of the Manson’s prosecutor’s book). “The author
deserves thanks for insuring that Manson will undoubtedly never leave
jail, but the book that maintains his infamy also maintains his fame.”
I have a friend who is interested in serial killers ( I’m sure
you have one too ). He tells me he is interested in serial killers because
he’s interested in what makes them tick. ( A response that is
I had my serial crime loving friend read this ‘fiction’
from the Summer Fiction New Yorker. It was a story by Nancy Huston.
The story deals with a frustrated college professor who goes on a killing
rampage on campus.
Well, my friend thought so also. He said it reminded him of three actual
college campus murder stories.
Did he like the story?
“Because it talked more about the victims than the murderer.”
Which is exactly why I liked the story. It made the victims real.
My concerns about the relationship between media and murder and how
it effects young people is in a way a media manufactured concern. If
none of us read (sometimes I’m glad people don’t read so
much) or saw ‘true crime’ stories on tv, would I think it
is a necessary topic of discussion with some of the kids I know?
I’ve talked to many people about the Spin murder story and New
Yorker ‘true crime’ articles and their relation to people
I know. The most consistent aspects we focussed on were boredom, and
small towns and boredom.
On the Hastings bus I ended up talking to a most attractive woman from
small town BC, whom, I was surprised to see on this floating mental
asylum known as a bus on a Hastings Saturday night. She looked vulnerable.
And we talked about vulnerability and eventually ended up talking about
the Spin article etc.
Her eyes just got wider and wider. I feared that I was weirding her
out at first and became a ‘suspect’ myself. But no. She
talked about the necessity of leaving her small town behind because
she couldn’t” grow” there. She talked about the routines
friends of hers had fallen into: work and drink and porn videos.
Then she grew silent and her eyes soft and she said,”There were
two guys who weren’t into all that and I worked out with them
over Christmas when I went back home. Then I came back to Vancouver
and in the spring, those two guys were arrested for a murder they commited
in the fall. I was with them all that time – they had done it
already and I never knew.”
The fiend in our midst?
“A sound relationship with one’s neighbours depends on a
careful balance of knowledge and ignorance, and the kind of mind that
would readily believe in a serial killer living next door does not rest
easily at night,” writes Ross.
Well, for now I’m sleeping fine – but I’m beginning
to wonder –y’ah know?
Terminal City September 19 – 26, 1996