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Crad Kilodney was a landmark figure of Canada’s DIY zine scene. Between 1978 and 1992 he wrote and self-published a series of chapbooks under his own Charnel House Publishing imprint and sold them by hand on the streets of Toronto. He could always be found on Yonge Street, rain or shine, with his stapled and photocopied books in hand and a pipe in his mouth.
Crad sings the praises of tobacco in one piece fittingly titled “Why I Love Tobacco.”
“Tobacco is the greatest plant that God ever set upon the earth. No other plant has given more people more delight. It is as American as apple pie and Thanksgiving. Tobacco is comfort, pleasure, tradition, and civility. It is a gift of Nature.”
Crad was born in America and fondly remembers his introduction to pipe smoking in Michigan at age 17, when a package of tobacco cost lest than 50 cents. In 1965 pipe smoking was popular among college men, eager to seem smarter than they were. Smoking was allowed on planes, in restaurants, classrooms and libraries; it was part of the normal American way of life. Crad was aware of the harmful effects of tobacco, but like everyone else, he didn’t care.
“Of course, everyone knew that smoking too much could kill you. Our gym teacher lectured us about it. But who was ever influenced by his high school gym teacher?”
Crad despised censorship and believed the war on tobacco was a form of ideological suppression as distasteful as book burning. In another piece entitled “How the Tobacco Industry Should Retaliate,” he lays out a ten point plan of how tobacco companies could combat the government regulations opposing them. His strategy includes an alliance of all tobacco companies throughout North America, a full stop on all corporate sponsorship, a temporary tobacco embargo in select provinces and states and limited production runs of cigarette brands named after anti-tobacco politicians.
“You’ve won when the government stops trying to sue you, tax you to death, or call you murderers, and when tort law is reformed to protect the tobacco industry. If the tobacco industry acts as one entity, it can flex its economic muscle and get North America’s health Nazis to back off. And that’s just what it should do. Tobacco is a legal product, and smokers are not social criminals.”
Crad’s father was a heavy cigarette smoker and died of emphysema at age 66. Crad claimed that in his own 36 years of pipe smoking he never inhaled and had an X-ray of his crystal clear lungs to prove it. He took particular pleasure in combining smoking with reading and writing, believing that tobacco gave strength to the written word. Crad wrote 32 books in his life and attributes their creation to a combination of caffeine and tobacco.
“All real writers smoke. That’s my bias, and you won’t disabuse me of it. Tobacco is the thinking man’s vice. It’s a natural mood regulator: when you’re hyper, it calms you down; when you’re depressed, it picks you up.”
Crad was firm believer in fate and reincarnation. He claimed that he was a “rich idler” in his previous life and was making up for it in this life with his writing. He was also sure that he smoked in his previous life and imagined himself spending hours in a luxurious personal library smoking a pipe and reading endlessly.
“I think most likely I was a minor scholar at some northern university where the winters were long and snowy and perfectly suited to quiet evenings at home with my pipe and my books. And every night, before my housekeeper went to bed, she would see the light on under the door of my library and knock and poke her head in. “Professor, would you like anything before I go to bed?”
“No, thank you, Martha,” I replied, blowing a little cloud of Latika above the pages of a particularly amusing novel. “I have everything I could possibly want.”
After his death on April 14, 2014, in accordance with his wishes, the Crad Kilodney Literary Foundation was launched, a website dedicated to preserving and promoting his works: www.cradkilodney.com
His short story “The Last Interview of Crad Kilodney” appears in Geist 93 and is forthcoming to geist.com.