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Less 'd?collet?', more 'coll? ? la r?alit?'.

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As a distant observer of the Julie Couillard and Maxime Bernier debacle in 2008, I observed that media attempted to press every last drop of pulp and juice from the bare bones of the story. As well, a number of Québec variety show caricatured Couillard and her circumstances in the most crude and clichéd terms.

News outlet – even purportedly high-minded – were eager to stick epitaphs onto Couillard, like used bits of gum that rude chewers discard without any concern for the mess they make. How many media websites boosted their internet hits by posting an attractive Couillard photo?
Biker chick, Mata Hari, courtesan. Surely that couldn’t be all there was to her life?
When I purchased My Story, the young woman working at the sales desk asked as she handed me the receipt and my change, “What’s the book about?” I mumbled something about confidential NATO documents and a cabinet minister, and she announced loudly, “Good for her! She deserves to tell her story.”

Dr Dawg thinks that Couillard is a defiantly ‘ballsy’ name for a woman. I disagree with the title he gave his post about her. Although Bernier expressed scorn and contempt towards her, and resorted to typically HarperCon tactics when blaming and shaming her, Couillard's measured response is relatively dignified. Her book does not resonate with fury and her account is far more credible than most of the speculation and gossip published.
Julie Couillard was born in the late sixties in a cultural and social milieu that valued beauty (for girls) and brawn (for boys) over brains. She had ample opportunity, as her parents' modest fortunes rose and crashed, to carefully observe who held power, how they secured it and how they maintained it.

A woman – or a man, for that matter – doesn’t wake up one morning with the notion that she will seek a career in organized crime. One doesn’t go knocking at the door of a biker club with one’s curriculum vitae in hand.

Though it may be possible to chart an upwardly mobile path in that business, with a little brain power. Those with ambition but no organizational acumen will soon find themselves in the St-Lawrence river, wearing concrete galoshes.

How does a woman penetrate the bikers’ world of organized crime? As most of the men do, first by working at the bottom level of their multi-tentacled service industry: sex, drugs and money-laundering. In Julie’s case it was her happenstance attraction to over-confident, preening braggarts – con men really – for whom she provided the required accessory to their alpha male posturing that opened a door. It’s all there in her autobiography, predictable really when you understand why Julie looked for and found these archetypical male figures.
The element that radiates from Couillard's inadvertently pathetic and slightly banal account of her life is poverty; not only material though certainly there is that, especially in her early years. The adults present show appalling parenting incompetence with regard to their ability to nurture the young Julie, and to provide inspiration, hope, joy and continuity.
As I waded through chapter after chapter describing grim events in a matter-of-fact style that was totally devoid of drama, something tugged at my memory. It seemed as though I had read similar accounts before, but where?
In the long pauses I took from reading the book – a page-turner, though not in a good way as I tried to put distance between Couillard's bleak reality and my imagination – I recalled where I had encountered such narrative.
Joyce Carol Oates. Every single female protagonist in every one of her literary creations embodies many facets of the harsh complexity of Julie Couillard’s life.
During the 1970s, as Oates became a more transgressive writer, her female characters began to define themselves, not as characters in a male author's plot but as authors of their own lives.
Intriguing, disturbing, struggling, withdrawn, disenfranchised, cunning, hardy survivors. Those are some of the traits found in Oates’ female characters. And a fairly accurate portrayal of Julie Couillard, in her own unadorned and blunt words.
eta: political cartoon credit - Chapleau, of course.

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This page contains a single entry by published on January 17, 2009 7:11 PM.

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