This satirical column is by Edward Riche, a St. John’s writer.
A deal was announced today for the restart of the idled Newfoundland writer Pierce Chippett.
Chippett stopped producing poetry and short stories in 2016 when the market for his material collapsed for the ninth time in his career. He subsequently went into “warm idle” mode, staying in the basement apartment of his younger, and gainfully employed, brother Ned.
Under the terms of arrangement Pierce Chippett will be converted to a sustainable writer of conventional television drama. The province has agree to assume liability for Chippett’s earlier work, several collections of experimental short fiction including Rando Bay and Licking The Shopping Cart and poetry Forms/Moisture, now considered to be hazardous to the environment. Television is comparatively “greener” as it recycles far more material than other forms of creative writing.
The new writer will be rebranded “Kimberly Gabor” and is scheduled to begin producing screenplays for television by July, with a plan to reach production of at least five pages a day by September 2023.
“I’m happy for the job it brings to our community,” said Ned Chippet, “and it means getting him out of the basement and into his own place, which is really important for my marriage.”
Under the terms of the agreement Ned Chippett will retain a minority interest in his brother, continuing to house him until he finds something affordable in the downtown.
It is not the first time the province has taken an interest in the failed writer. Pierce Chippett received a Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council grant of $750 in 2009 to produce a chapbook of villanelles, These Are The Bad Ideas, which was later deemed “defamatory and obscene, if occasionally amusing” moving its publisher to destroy all 250 copies of the work.
Advances in artificial intelligence mean television writing may soon become totally automated, making Chippett permanently surplus.
“I didn’t mind ‘warm idle’ so much,” said Chippett. “I read some stuff I’d been meaning to, wrote the beginning of a decent stage play and lost 20 pounds walking my brother’s dogs. I started some experiments with the sonnet and some crazy short fiction in the fourth person, but I guess whatever of that can’t be used in a three-act structure with four commercial breaks is headed for the blue bags. Can’t say it’s been terrible here in the basement. When I’ve been idle I’ve at least been warm.”
With the House of Assembly closed again, opposition leaders voiced concerns about the deal in the parking lot behind Confederation Building. There was agreement that the province needed the writing but concern that it would again be on the hook for any liabilities if Chippett’s teleplays turn out to be as troublesome as his stories and verse.
There is also uneasiness that so long as the province continues to indemnify Chippett every time his career stalls it will merely be an incentive for him to continue writing commercially unsuccessful material. Advances in artificial intelligence mean television writing may soon become totally automated, making Chippett permanently surplus.
Chippett was born Marlon Coveyduck in 1961 but adopted by Verna and Vincent Chippett in 1966. As a boy he attended Virginia Woolf Elementary in St. John’s and participated in its Smallwood government’s “Young Writers For The Future” program, part of a larger plan to modernize the Newfoundland canon by creating one. The program also included the establishment of the “Labrador Storyboard Mill” at Stephenville and the “Burning Boat” writing and drinking group in Rabbittown.
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