Culture & Conversation

Big Brat

Li’l Bastard is David McGimpsey’s road-less road trip, a poetic adventure rooted in Montréal, Los Angeles and Nashville, among a few others. And very much like the aforementioned absentee road, the often quirky poetry book finds its strengths not just in its printed, visible words, but in what’s between the lines.

What you find is the universal themes of aging, death and personal angst. A Montréal English teacher, McGimpsey constantly makes fun of himself, even dressing up as a mascot to shout conventional literary wisdom to the students who call him a pig on And while the man might go to Nashville, Chicago and L.A, the book starts and ends on the “Île Metropoledance,” as he calls it, with is underground city “basically a group of connected malls.”

The book is littered with factoids, but which end up to be quite false. Was American author Philip Roth really the child “Mikey” who liked Life cereals in the infamous commercials? No. It might be fun to entertain, but it’s not true. It was John Gilchrist (according to a quick Wikipedia search). This is, of course, irrelevant, since all the pop culture references ranging from Moby Dick to Justin Bieber to Hemingway to Rebecca Black are merely a means to jump head first into McGimpsey’s quirky, self-loathing and at times repetitive universe.

My philosophical uncle would say

‘When you’re old, suicide will seem redundant’

Like me, he took TV shows personally

And cried at the thought of any goodbye

There is an unassuming melancholy to some of the poems, often sporting out of context or witty titles such as “Jesus loves you, but he doesn’t love-love you; I mean He thinks you’re okay but He’s going through some things now and is not interested in something more meaningful.” Don’t fret, they are not all that long. Or that funny.

Besides the self-deprecating introspection, the collection of poems is often funny, its poet deserving of the moniker “Li’l Bastard.” Since he is in Montréal, and he does acknowledge French-language culture, perhaps it could be more appropriately titled “P’tit Tannant.” What else would you call a man putting his hands in his pockets so he could freely give you the finger, or use verse so originally as to come up with cake inscriptions such as “Blow the Candles. I want to see my real friends,” “Dead Father, Dead Father, blah blah blah,” and “Let’s End Polio Really Soon, OK?” You won’t always know why, but the verses will strike a chord.

David McGimpsey’s book is a quick read, unless you want to focus on each verse — and you can. There’s probably either a lot more or a lot less wisdom in these lines than is immediately palpable, but the creative writing teacher at Concordia has earned that title as well (on top of Li’l Bastard): the writing is creative, funny, and reveals the sometimes innocent, sometimes tragic, pleasures of reading and writing. McGimpsey is obviously having a lot of fun, and so are we.

Joseph Elfassi is a Montréal based writer, photographer and filmmaker. His book reviews can be read on

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