The Corner Boys of Brigus: A review
Once upon a time, the town of Brigus boasted four corners, Pinkston Square, Hawthorne under the tree, Hiscock’s Corner, and the Anglican school.
Men habitually met on the quartet of corners from 7 to 9 p.m. According to Brigus native, Eric Payne, they were there to escape their wives for a few hours.
As a young person, the inquisitive Payne was “ interested in history, culture and the human condition.” He “ was forever thinking of how to infiltrate the mysterious order of these men.”
At 15, Payne “tried to be a part of this society of fellowship. I stood near, but not quite so near as to show overt intrusion so I would not be driven away, as they had done in the past.”
He listened intently to “ talk of the weather, the fisheries, past and future prospects, and many other topics.”
Two summers ago, Payne was inspired by a former provincial lieutenant-governor, Ed Roberts, to commit to paper what Payne had heard in those early years in his hometown. The result is a book entitled The Corner Boys of Brigus.
“I’ve been doing a walking tour (of Brigus) for the past few years, to explain the past glories and the new development of the newly restored homes,” Payne says.
“I began hanging out on the corners with the elders and became fascinated with their stories. They filled in the gap. They brought past families to life through stories, folklore and humorous tales.”
Payne’s book is intended as a presage to the four hundredth anniversary of Brigus in 2012.
“ I’ve told some of the tall tales, as told to me by the last corner boys I was privileged to befriend,” the author adds.
The author hopes those tales, which are related in 14 brief chapters, will bring many families into the “ broader landscape of the town’s history.”
The entire book of 73 pages can be read in a single sitting.
Today Payne stands on the corners to reflect on the passing of the corner boys of Brigus. His book is meant to serve their memory.
Payne chose to have his book published by PublishAmerica of Baltimore, Maryland. Of course, this is the author’s prerogative.
The crunch comes when one reads a statement from the publisher hidden inside the book: “PublishAmerica has allowed this work to remain exactly as the author intended, verbatim, without editorial input.”
In other words, the book was published evidently without the assistance of an astute editor.
As a result, numerous errors have crept into the work, effectively destroying any hope of it being regarded as a definitive work in the field. Three examples will suffice. First, on page 15: “ Then the most famous in Newfoundland and not so to the rest of Canada, Captain Robert Bartlett was in charge of the SS Roosevelt on the occasion of US Admiral Perry claiming the North Pole.” The American explorer’s name is “Peary,” not “Perry.”
Second, page 68: “ The Vindicator Lane has rock walls on boat sides that are very well preserved.” Even a grade-school student would know that “ boat” should be “ both.”
Third, page 69: “ The lane gets its name from the newspaper the Vindicator witch was published in Brigus by the Thomson’s Newspaper Inc. from 1898-1903 and went on sale every Wednesday for 2 cents.”
Reality check: “ witch” should be “ which.”
These three errors, which are replicated throughout the book, are inexcusable and regrettable. The book is painful to read. The value of the history depicted suffers from the multitude of errors. Unfortunately, the book cannot be taken as a serious work.
As a published author and editor myself, I readily champion the cause of fellow writers and editors. However, in this case, “ The Corner Boys of Brigus” is woefully inadequate. A judicious edit would have worked wonders. As it stands, readers will be thrown off by the errors that almost pop off the pages. What went wrong? Payne went with PublishAmerica, which uses the digital printing technology known as print-on-demand, because he “could not find a Newfoundland publisher,” he explains. “I had it edited a f ew times but, by using spell check, I seem to have missed so many (mistakes).”
Meanwhile, as a first-time author, he hopes his book “ will find as many readers as possible.” I hope it does, for his sake.
Payne has a few ideas in mind for possible future writing projects. I encourage him to seek out an editor who will turn his manuscript into a professional book.