Dating back to Volume 50, Issue 10, this snippet, written by a UC alumnus of almost thirty years prior, tries to account for the sheer monster that is The Gargoyle. It is the only official account of the Gargoyle’s history in existence and is endorsed in full by the current editorial collective.
University College was founded well before any of our great-grandparents were old enough to produce our grandparents. As the first non-sectarian college in Canada, it attracted — and continues to attract — a motley assortment of religious and sexual deviants. Despite such a student clientele, UC is at the heart — physically, socially, and academically — of the University of Toronto, which is known throughout Canada as a bastion of mainstream academic froth. How do the students of UC reconcile these apparently competing roles of being anti-establishment while residing at the heart of the establishment itself?
With its remarkably non-existent school spirit and lack of student clubs, there are few outlets for UC students to express their collective discontent. Such were conditions that in 1890, unprecedented riots swept across campus resulting in the burning and looting of the main UC building. This unstable environment has been a veritable breading ground for intellectual terrorists and otherwise unstable minds. They have included ‘health’ expert Tony Clement, and Crohn’s disease discoverer, David Cronenburg.
Although the international community has taken no legal or military action against the college, by 1950 the administration was clearly aware of the need to reform. It was in this post-war environment that the UC Literary and Athletic Society — fondly known as the clitoris — doled out a few hundred dollars in order to formally resurrect the underground literary journal The Gargoyle.
Despite its newfound endorsement by the establishment, The Gargoyle had been manifesting itself in various guises since 1848. It began as a pre-Harlequin romance journal, whose racy subject matter often earned it the wrath of the establishment. Early contributors included renowned occultist, suspected transsexual and and tenth Prime Minister of Canada, William Lyon Mackenzie King. In 1903, the paper was forcefully shut down following an editor’s reference to rumours of bizarre masturbation techniques among the college’s faculty. The ensuing RCMP raid on the original offices remains etched in the memory of all subsequent Gargoyle editors.
By the time it was reborn in 1950, The Gargoyle had undergone immense transformation in the dark literary underworld of Toronto. Though rumours of contributions from Ernest Hemingway and William Burroughs remain unsubstantiated, the underground Gargoyle of 1904 to 1949 had amassed a large cult following around Canada. Needless to say, this audience was incensed at what they perceived at the paper’s “selling out” to the U of T hierarchy.
Although providing often poignant commentary regarding student politics, The Gargoyle struggled to maintain its anti-establishment roots. Perhaps the lowest point came with its 1968 editorial piece arguing for a broader genocidal military campaign in Vietnam and increased police brutality in both the United States and Canada. Some readers misconstrued the article as satire, while those closer to the editorial board’s inner circle knew the grave realities of the publication’s fall from grace.
Hurt by the contributions of such corporate magnates as Naomi Klein and Paul Schaffer, The Gargoyle continued to languish in mediocrity as the twenty-first century approached. At the turn of the millenium, most UC students remained unaware of their college’s student publication. Those who did manage to notice a few copies identified it as a “newspaper” rather than a respected literary periodical.
However, The Gargoyle‘s mediocrity began to disintegrate in September of 2001. Some have pointed to the incoming staff’s close ties to al-Queda in order to explain the paper’s growth following 9/11. However, most terrorism experts agree that the subsequent war in Afghanistan likely disrupted any tactical aid that Osama bin Laden or the Taliban may have been supplying to the new staff.
The new editorial board consisted of a discontented cross-section of the UC community. Many of these men, women and people of ambiguous sexual identity have gone on to prominent military and civilian careers. They would advance to such roles as public librarian, slaughterhouse worker, Queen’s Park vagrant, professional chain-smoker and freelance pompous asshole.
However, perhaps the most elusive member of the paper was editor-in-chief and wanted serial murderer Denice Delyle Stumper. Taking a page from Johnny Cash, Mr. Stumper murdered his father at the age of 12 due to philosophical differences over the gendered connotations of his first name. Sent to Rikers Island prison at the humble age of 13 (due to a misprint on his birth certificate), he made valuable contacts with facility’s literary elite. After a failed attempt at joining the Nation of Islam, Mr. Stumper, who is of Ukrainian-Samoan heritage, founded his own untitled bi-annual publication. Although it received modest reviews from fellow inmates, Stumper’s efforts earned him the credibility he needed to join The Gargoyle‘s editorial board upon his escape six months into his sentence. From the fall of 2001 through the spring of 2004, his talents, vision, and explosive temperament fostered an atmosphere of creative energy and obsessive paranoia unknown in the history of Canadian literary periodicals.
Boasting stellar reviews from such notables as Noam Chomsky and Dan Savage, The Gargoyle appeared invincible going into the early months of 2004. One Eye Magazine columnist described the production room scene as “wilder than G’N’R’s dressing room on that ’88 tour.” The pre-production orgies were temporarily interrupted in March of 2003, as all but two editors carried GPAs below 1.0 and needed time to purchase their books before exams. However, the sessions regained full force in April and continued unabated until the dreadful incident of February 2004.
Editorial member (name deleted due to pending lawsuit) invited a friend to the usual production melee at this time. In the interest of bringing fresh material to the dynamic publication, this editorial member invited his friend to compose a short poem for publication. Mr. Griff’s resulting ditty was inadvertently published without editorial approval due to the editorial board’s ongoing strike for better beer and non-vegan pizza. Although regarded by some as a misunderstood masterpiece, Mr. Griff’s condemnation of a contributor’s insatiable greed and egoism brought the wrath of U of T’s powerful gambling lobby down upon The Gargoyle in full force. Likening the greed of high-stakes gambling to a religious cult-like experience was more than some gambling activists could take. “For years we have been ridiculed for our practices, but never with such hate as we have seen in the pages of TheGargoyle” read one press release. Other social, religious, and extra-curricular associations joined in the protest against the embattled journal, forcing the media-shy Stumper to flee Toronto (though not before badly injuring himself in a horrific car crash at the corner of College and Spadina).
“Scholar” T. Homer-Dixon pointedly argues that many of the student associations that ganged up on The Gargoyle were acting out of resentment for the paper’s monopolization of credibility among U of T organisations. [* note — Homer-Dixon (likely) adopted his current name to commemorate his fondness for the works of Matt Groening and Willie Dixon.]
Whatever its causes, the assault on The Gargoyle was more than its members could bear. By April, some members remained certified alcoholics, but the majority had lapsed into sobriety. With Stumper back in prison (this time in Panama for money-laundering and extortion), the centre could not hold. The U of T Family Association of Sane and Caring Intellectual Surgeons and Teachers used its leverage in the resulting disciplinary proceedings against each staff member from her/his/its place of residence (the resulting empty doorways and stairwells were subsequently converted into student spaces for SMC students). With the office closed due to a police investigation of Mr. Stumper, most editors fled Canada in search of warmer climes. The resulting stragglers were banned from student journalism and, following a lengthy trial, executed by lethal injection at McLennan laboratories.
Members of the current staff have been hand-selected by the University of Toronto board of directors in order to restore dignity and intellectual reverence to this publication. While opinions are mixed among the student body, most members of the UC and U of T leadership are pleased with their (c)overt operations. As one administrator boasted, on condition of anonymity, “Our mission is almost complete. Like the Polish resistance in the sewers of Warsaw, the students of UC will be crushed and demoralised by the force of our administration — and then lulled into submission by a false sense of freedom embodied in The Gargoyle. Only in this case there won’t be any communists.”
Shawn Cronin (UC class of ’77)