Review of John Gormley’s The Gormley Papers: I’m Right and You Know It
(Saskatoon: Indie Ink, 2013)
Contributed by Dwight Newman, Professor of Law, U of S
John Gormley is a unique figure whose popular conservative-leaning Saskatchewan talk radio show is an institution in itself. On his show, Gormley is ready to challenge conventional beliefs and call for a new era of optimism in Saskatchewan – often to the chagrin of those with different ideas. His latest book, The Gormley Papers, gathers together a series of Gormley’s newspaper columns from recent years. But it doesn’t read like musty old newspaper columns, as the words leap from the page. Whether or not one agrees with him, it’s a collection worth owning, reading, and re-reading to be reminded of the bold and unique insights that Gormley voices.
Some will be looking for the kind of political meat that made Gormley’s best-selling Left Out: Saskatchewan’s NDP and the Relentless Pursuit of Mediocrity a Canadian best-seller. Even deeper political insights are present in some of the central chapters of this book, but in a form tangibly resonant with real life. Chapter 4, “Crime Story”, sees Gormley engaging up-close in a ride-along with the police in their daily lives and encountering the victims of some of the worst offenders known. Chapter 5, “The Political Animal in All of Us”, has him engage with topics ranging from the sacrifices made by politicians of all stripes, and dissects the ways in which people will play process cards to interfere with democratically chosen policies.
Gormley is ready to call things as he sees them and is thus ready to label harshly those like the “obtuse and self-absorbed morons” (p. 113) who protested the G8 or the “race-peddling nitwits” who stir divisions for self-centred goals (p. 117). Some will find such brash panache a bit surprising amid the typical niceties of Canada’s chattering classes. But many will find it refreshing – and will also know to take it in a well-meaning, provocative spirit of fun. His humourous attacks on those who wear bow ties or wear hats indoors are almost as harsh.
The beginning and end of the book, though, are significantly about one of Gormley’s central messages – the power of positive attitudes. Where those advocating bigger government often do so by trading on individuals’ fears, Gormley reminds us with the simple things available to us so easily that “[w]e live better today than most of history’s kings” (p. 17). He doesn’t deny the real challenges that sometimes aren’t cured by attitude alone – much of Chapter 2 draws on his longstanding mental health advocacy. But he is also ready to take on the “rectal oculosis – crappy attitude on life” (p. 135) that discourages people from trying, that discourages people from building. He wraps up with Chapter 11 on “Lessons for Life” – this book is in many ways lessons for life from a conservative-leaning and optimistic iconoclast. It’s a wonderful collection that will have you thinking, have you laughing, and ultimately have you feeling uplifted with opportunity and possibility.