Turvey swears at me - “#$%* off !”


am not particularly drawn to guys who like to single me out and swear at me.  

But Turvey does that, and usually I appreciate it.
My copy of his story is not signed by the author, not a 1949 first edition, not even particularly old.  But it is special to me because it is a hard-cover copy of the “original unexpurgated” version of the book published in 1976.  This means it contains more swearing than the first and earlier additions.  It also, evidently, has a value as what some booksellers deem a “rare, out-of-print” version worth $76 CDN plus shipping in handling. (My brother-in-law bought it for something less at Allison the Bookman in North Bay and delivered it to me by hand around my birthday last year.)
When Earle Birney submitted his manuscript to McClelland and Stewart in 1949, his new publisher feared negative reviews, censors, and adverse reader reactions to the proposed army talk: references to “bodily functions” and the use of four-letter words that his 1940s editors regarded as gratuitously “vulgar.”  Birney, of course, had good reason to include those words.  He was trying to reflect the authentic dialogue as he heard it during his Canadian army service during the war.  But even Jack McClelland, himself, balked and was among the vigorous advocates for the softer language and judicious edits. 
Birney said he would rather produce a dirty-talking piece of reality than an expurgated best-seller.  His publisher did not agree. M&S carried the day to produce a sanitized first-edition Turvey in 1949, and that was the version that won the Leacock Medal a year later.
Birney may have acquiesced because he had been worn down through the rejection of Turvey by publishers in the U.S. and Britain, who thought it was "too Canadian" or conversely who did not understand a Canadian story that did not talk about “mounties, trappers, and pious habitants.”  He also knew that he would not have had any better luck getting the swear words past his poetry publisher Ryerson Press with its roots in the church.

Turvey in its original form with swear words mollified, twisted and lifted out still drew reviews the commented on its language. Given that Leacock Medal decisions were and, probably continue to be, very much a reflection of their times, it is possible that a seemingly crude and more offensive, but authentic swearing-filled Turvey would have been passed over for the Medal in 1950. It's possible.
In any case, society and Canadian arts changed over the following quarter century, and in the post-Woodstock, post-Vietnam, post-Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, M.A.S.H. world, McClelland Stewart decided the time was right to dust off the original manuscript and send the swearing out into the world in the 1976 “unexpurgated version” of Turvey that now sits on my shelf in its slick Robert-Crumb-Keep-on-Truckin-type cover that speaks seventies-style subversion and fits with more swearing.
Thanks to my less visually stimulating Kindle copy of this new version of the book, I was able to do a quick search and count of some of the likely four-letter offenders - cited here in this discrete, delicate, inoffensive, publisher-wanting, and award-seeking Blog with asterisks.  
In this particular review of the book, I was impressed by Birney, the poet, in his diverse use and application of these four-letter words.  They rarely appear in the same word combinations.
F*** is applied in five different ways.
“What the F***”
“Flying F***”
“F*** you”
“I’m F***-ed”

“F***-ing”
A harsh C word is used twice but in combination with other letters.
“those ****s back in Ottawa”
“that ****-faced sergeant”
And the bodily function-related  S*** is used as follows.
“Holy S***”
“Sunday, S***”
“The S*** of the Commandant”
“S***-faced turkies”
“Up  S*** creek”
“that recruitin’ S***”
“Horse S***”
“Have to sweat S***”
“Pinch of coon- S***”
“S***-brown battle dress”
One swear word, popular in many military circumstances, however, did not even survive into my liberated 1976 version of Turvey   -  and according to Birney in correspondence on file in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto (Earle Birney Colllection) was there in the first manuscript submitted to McClelland and Stewart in the 1940s -  the word was “****-sucker.”

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(Before I got this hardcover Turvey,  I read the unexpurgated Kindle e-book version. I like to use the text-to-voice feature of my Kindle and listen to the book being read on headphones, particularly when I am in the dentist's chair and seeking diversion from all the scraping and picking sounds. During one such visit, my dentist and her assistant saw the device and asked me to demonstrate the text-to-voice feature  which I did for them, without my glasses, right on one of those unexpurgated passages  - the  "I'm F****ed" one .  It was a true "Turvey" kind of moment.)

Other Turvey Trivia