28 February 2014

Freedom to Read Week: Condemned by Coren

How Do You Spell Abducted?
Cherylyn Stacey
Red Deer, AB: Red Deer College Press, 1996

Newspaper columnists don't always write their headlines, but I think Michael Coren had something to do with this one:
Suddenly your dad is no longer a man to be loved or trusted
Published in the 31 July 1996 edition of the Financial Post, the column that followed lit amassing gas beneath the seat of Alberta backbencher Julius Yankowsky, who called for the book to be banned and its publisher's funding to be pulled. The MLA aped the columnist, repeating Coren's assertion that it was "hate literature", all the while acknowledging that he hadn't actually read the thing. After all, How Do You Spell Abducted? is 135 pages long, and some of the words have eight letters. Just look at that title!

A few months later in Books in Canada, Coren reported that the controversy he'd started over Do You Spell Abducted? had been "so much fun" – his words, not mine… as are these:
It begins with bad old Dad, divorced from good old Mum, forcing his way into his ex-wife's bedroom and screaming at her until she weeps. He then kidnaps the kids and they are so terrified they think he might kill them all and then commit suicide.
Well, no.

Dad never forces his way into any room, least of all his ex-wife's bedroom. Mum does indeed weep, which has been known to happen in divorces. Dad leaves with the kids on what is meant to be a vacation, but it soon becomes clear that he has no intention of returning. That stuff about the kids being "so terrified they think he might kill them all and then commit suicide" was fabricated by Coren; it isn't in the book.

Michael Coren is currently employed by the Sun News Network.

Not to be outdone or ignored, in the 19 August 1996 Western Report an anonymous reporter bravely worked to fan dying embers with the claim that "the fictional father threatened to kill or prostitute his progeny". It's a lie, plain and simple, but then the late magazine was never tied to the truth. More crap follows:
Her book features three other men: a crabby oldster, a fat and stupid state trooper and a good Samaritan who has been unjustly denied legal access to his own children.
There is no "crabby oldster" in the novel. The state trooper, girth never mentioned, is pretty sharp. The good Samaritan, named Dusty Andover, is a very fine and generous gentleman. He has never been denied access, legal or otherwise, to his children, though there is estrangement. Dusty's adult offspring – no sexes mentioned – begrudge his having spent their inheritances in fighting their mother's cancer.

How Do You Spell Abducted? is a rotten title, but the book isn't half bad. The characters, particularly the father, are well drawn. The plot is believable, disturbingly so, though the resolution is forced and fantastical.

I can say these things because, you see, I've read the book. I have Michael Coren to thank for bringing it to my attention.

Object: An unattractive trade-size paperback. The cover illustration by Jeff Hitch depicts a scene that does not feature in the novel.

It will be forgotten before we can say 'bleeding-heart neurotic'.
— Michael Coren, Books in Canada, Oct 1996
Found in most of our larger public libraries. Used copies are cheap, but I encourage anyone considering purchase to buy it new. Yep, How Do You Spell Abducted? is still available. Setting It Right, Michael Coren's book from the same year is long out of print.


  1. What a bizarre story. I despise a manufactured controversy. I don't know what's worse: so-called journalists manufacturing outrage, or people blindly becoming outraged themselves without doing any thinking for themselves.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I'm with you, Kelly. It reminds me a bit of the controversy generated last year over beloved Anne Shirley (of Green Gables) .

      It will not surprise you to learn that Sun News Network, Michael Coren's current employer, modelled itself on Fox.