Linden MacIntyre Punishment The fifth estate CBC Fuelled by fiction fueled by fiction


I mentioned recently that I was going to have the opportunity to go out to dinner with none other than LINDEN MACINTYRE with a couple of colleagues. So, that happened. The other day. It was great! 

On Wednesday, I turned up at work wearing ever-so-slightly more makeup than usual. When I popped into circulation, I was directed to the office of my colleague with whom I’d be meeting Mr. MacIntyre. We chatted a bit and agreed when to meet up to head off. 

Mr. MacIntyre and my other colleague—who picked him up at the airport—arrived at the library so we could all go to the restaurant together. I didn’t know either of my colleagues particularly well, and Mr. MacIntyre not at all (obviously) so my anxiety was running a smidge higher than usual (yeah, I turned into a blithering idiot, but what can be done, really?). 

After cordial (and awkward, on my part at least) greetings, we made our way out to the car. Me being me, I didn’t know where exactly to walk. AND I WAS THINKING ABOUT IT. There were four of us, and only one of us knew where the car was parked—because it was hers, obviously. But she was chatting with Mr. MacIntyre, and so was the other lady, so I was just kind of awkwardly in front, and then kind of awkwardly trailing behind. The car was a sedan, and I got into the back seat—AND SO DID MR. MACINTYRE. I FELT  SO WEIRD. I wanted to say something but my thoughts were a cloud of nonsense. I think I cleverly (not) remarked upon the weather, but in my state, I think it came out in a squeaky voice that no one actually heard. So. Yeah. The other ladies did the talking. 
Then when we got out of the car, I did the awkward walking thing again. Eventually we made it to the table. But then more awkwardness ensued because I was weirdly in front again and the waiter was putting the menus and cutlery on the table, blocking off one side. While I stood waiting, I blocked everyone off from the table… 

So. Now we’re all at the table. With menus. You know, looking at them. As I wasn’t paying for my meal, I was looking at everything and thinking, hmmm, that looks good but it’s kind of pricey so I shouldn’t get that. But if I get this, I’ll want fries, but will that make me look like a kid because I’m already quite a bit younger than everyone else at this table?! Sometime during this inner turmoil, the waiter arrived to take our orders. Everyone seemed to know what they wanted. When he got to me, I just sputtered, “I’ll have the chicken parmesan.” Phew, I thought. I least I managed to say something I actually enjoy. 

The chatter was pleasant, small-talk stuff. The food arrived pretty quickly actually. And, oh boy. I looked at my bowl-plate thing, and thought, WHAT ON EARTH HAVE I DONE. Chicken parmesan. Chicken. Cheese. On pasta. Not just any pasta. SPAGHETTI. IN PUBLIC. SEATED ACROSS FROM LINDEN FLIPPIN’ MACINTYRE.
I have enough trouble eating easy things under normal circumstances. Gees. I took a deep breath. And spent the rest of the meal worried my face was covered in tomato sauce. 

I had been reading Punishment in anticipation of this dinner. I thought I would ask a lot of clever, deep, philosophical questions, doing my English degree justice. I thought I would talk knowingly about the characters, and the moral situations they faced. But nope. I just occasionally added to the topics brought up by the others. And half the time I didn’t know anything worth adding. I was pretty significantly younger than the others at the table, and not particularly up to date on my politics. So, I didn’t know what they were talking about when it was something from “ten, maybe fifteen” years ago, or “back in ’92.” And I didn’t know what they were talking about when it was about the political climate today in Canada because, well, I don’t spend much time living in the real world—I spend my time in books…  So, when I wasn’t feeling awkward, weird, or really young and uninformed… Wait, what am I talking about. That’s how I felt pretty much the whole time. 
My feelings aside, Mr. MacIntyre seemed like a really interesting and kind man. It was great listening to him talk about his experiences writing, and promoting his books. It was also particularly interesting hearing him talk about his experiences with the correctional system in Canada. His journalism led him into a correspondence with a young man who the system had failed, and was continuing to fail.* He used this man as an example while explaining his thoughts about the ineffectual and dehumanizing nature of corrections in Canada. It was once about actually “correcting” and rehabilitating. But now it seems to be all about punishment. He spoke about how we throw everyone in prison and punish and dehumanize them… and then eventually they are back out in the world we expect them to just fit right back in. But that’s not how it works. I can’t remember if this is something that he said at dinner or something from his book, but the sentiment was, “If you treat people like animals, they will behave like animals.”

This was all exceptionally thought-provoking. I have almost never given any real thought to the justice system in Canada (or anywhere else). I’ve only thought of it in terms of entertainment, and, you know, just a thing that also exists in real life. This chat also shed more light on his book Punishment as I was still reading it. It seems like Tony has similar views to Mr. MacIntyre. The system needs reform. But is that going to happen anytime soon? Who knows. 

After the dinner, we went back to the library for the reading. I, unfortunately, had to go work in circulation, but I did manage to sneak over for a bit! Mr. MacIntyre did an excellent job—but who’s surprised? He’s a famous broadcast journalist. I tried to snap a few pics, but he was standing right in front of a big window and, despite the blinds being drawn, the sun was shining right on in.

So, here’s is what I took away from this experience: 
1) I am an idiot on many levels. But oh well.
2) Perhaps if you know where you’re going to dine before something like this, check out the menu beforehand so as to avoid chicken parm fiascos.
3) Linden MacIntyre is a very interesting fellow. And he’s written both fiction and nonfiction. Backlist binge, anyone? YES PLEASE.
4) As noted above, the TBR has grown. He also recommended Dead Wake by Eric Larson. I was on the fence about this one but LINDEN MACINTYRE TIPPED THE SCALES SO I IMMEDIATELY WENT OUT AND BOUGHT IT. Obviously.

5) Libraries are super awesome. That I already knew though. But it was reaffirmed. 
6) I’m going to make a fool of myself at BEA. But again, oh well.
7) I did something a little outside of my comfort zone, and I’m glad. It may not have been a total success on all fronts (“Where has my sentence-forming ability gone, brain?! Speak!”), but it was such a great opportunity!
Have you ever had such an experience (not necessarily with an author)? Have you ever met an author you admire? What would you do if you did? 

*He wrote a non-fiction book about this man, titled Who Killed Ty Conn? I AM SO GOING TO READ IT. 

Beth is the founder and editor of Fuelled by Fiction. She is a twenty-something east coast Canadian girl who loves writing about books and feminism.