Marketing (1995): Muffins

In 1995, albeit thirty years late, I released my first vinyl 45.Novelist Leon Rooke is blessed with a reading voice for performance and a stage presence that combines the impassioned evangelism of a Jimmy Swaggert with the dark helliery of a Jerry Lee Lewis (does that word exist? I’m thinking of a colliery, but it’s not about coal. I’m thinking of Jerry Lee Lewis’ hit single ‘Great Balls of Fire’! I’m thinking that Jerry Lee Lewis would KNOW what helliery was, if he happened to come upon it. Quite possibly Leon Rooke would, as well).

‘MUFFINS’, as it’s called, is a short out-take from a novel-in-progress that resonates equally with BOTH the sort of sixteen-year-old ‘young lady’ who would dye her hair purple as a fashion statement

AND with her beleaguered mother who, if the truth were to be known, and in spite of every reasonable and considered effort at understanding and compassion, did really wish that her daughter had not, in fact, DONE that very thing, with her hair.

‘Muffins’ was recorded in front of a live audience and three television cameras in the back room of the Rivoli on Queen Street West in Toronto on April 10, 1995.

In late August, seduced by waves of advance promotion, Books in Canada commissioned a fashion shoot with Leon Rooke in a tuxedo posing in a mint-condition 1959 Corvette convertible roadster parked behind the Porcupine’s Quill in a lot adjacent to a branch of the West Credit River.

Sunday, September 10, Leon Rooke in the Corvette followed revered broadcaster Shelagh Rogers dressed in her finery as Town Crier at the head of an ungainly parade which opened the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival. Television cameras from BRAVO, CITY and TVO followed the procession.

Taking advantage of the Canadian Book Information Centre’s ‘Book Bits’ promotion programme, 240 audio cassettes of the Muffins recording were released simultaneously to radio stations across the country.

The influential art magazine Border Crossings from Winnipeg reviewed Muffins as a piece of pop sculpture and allowed as to how ‘Rooke’s ante-bellum, ribald, wonderfully-enunciated narrative voice dollops out venom and wit and wisdom in equal portions.’

Le Devoir, a newspaper not frequently given to reviewing English-Canadian literature, calls Muffins an ‘anachronisme rigolo’ and ‘un geste de defi bien’.

The October 1995 issue of Books in Canada features Leon Rooke on the cover and trumpets his ‘hit single’. The lead article in the magazine is devoted to Muffins in which the author is quoted as saying

‘McClelland & Stewart would not have the faintest interest in doing such a book as this little Muffins book. And my prevailing sense is that they have scant interest in my work overall … So I suppose the answer really is that simple. I suspect I’m considered very off the wall, very eccentric, very offbeat, not nearly mainstream enough, too quacky, too grotesque, too weird, too unconventional, not exciting enough — who knows?’

Muffins sold 536 copies, worldwide, in the twelve years following its release in September, 1995.

This entry was posted in Tim’s blogs and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.