Godfrey and Me — A Guest Post by Mark Satin June 14 2017
The following post was recently written by Mark Satin in response to Sarah MacLachlan’s note after Dave Godfrey’s passing.
Sarah, – I have just read your lovely encomium of Anansi co-founder Dave Godfrey. Since it includes a mention (and photo!) of my Manual for Draft-Age Immigrants to Canada, I thought you and your readers might enjoy knowing how Dave came to acquire the book for Anansi. It was not through the usual literary channels, and says a lot about him.
As you point out, Anansi’s first office was in Dave and Ellen’s basement at 671 Spadina Avenue. Well, the Anti-Draft Programme office – where I counseled draft dodgers seven days a week and often late into the night – was in a ramshackle one-story office building at 658 Spadina, just a couple of hundred yards down the street. Sometime during the summer of 1967, Dave discovered us, and began drifting into our office whenever he was in the mood. I always enjoyed seeing Dave. He was fascinated by the scene, dozens of (mostly) beautiful and gentle and often terrified kids pouring in every day from every part of the U.S., and sometimes he’d sit on one of our couches – usually the one under the wall-size Canadian flag – and talk quietly with them, letting them know in so many words that they could have a life here, a good life, and that decent, hard-working, upstanding Canadians like Professor W. David Godfrey wanted them here.
As the summer wore on, I let Dave know I was working on a handbook for the kinds of people I’d been counseling. I told him I was hoping the Anti-Draft Programme would publish it, but by the time I was finishing the book I’d changed my mind, and one September night I walked Dave out of the office and up Spadina Avenue toward his place, plucked up my courage, and asked if he’d like to publish the book. I told him the absolute truth: I didn’t trust our anti-capitalist, entrepreneurially challenged, ambivalent-about-money-and-mainstream-attention Anti-Draft Committee to do the right things for the book. And I said I wanted a “real” publisher’s name on the book – I knew it would assure the kinds of kids I grew up with in places like Moorhead MN and Wichita Falls TX that they could trust its contents.
Dave listened politely to my pleas and said he’d “think about it.” But he didn’t seem enthusiastic, and we were almost at his house. So I confided to him that the first edition was, in fact, already underway – the first chapters were being set by hand on an ancient hot-metal typesetting machine in Michael Rosenbaum’s dank basement. And after Michael, one of the first guys I’d counseled, finished typesetting the book, he’d be printing our first 5,000 copies on an ancient printing press in that same dank basement. (Michael made his living printing leaflets for businesses, but what he really lived for was printing “revolutionary tracts” – his phrase – at night; and he charged the Anti-Draft Programme cost for materials, nothing for labor. That’s $25 a week less than I was getting for my labor. Meanwhile his wife, Patti, was several months pregnant.)
Dave stopped walking and stared at me as if Michael and I were crazy. He finally managed to say he was sure that a first printing of one or two thousand would be sufficient. I became indignant, and told him – with all the conviction a 20-year-old can muster – that the 5,000 copies would be gone within two months, and that our next printing would be a lot bigger, and that if I had Anansi’s imprint on it I could get it discussed in newspapers and magazines across North America, and it would then sell at least 50,000 copies, and we needed to sell at least 50,000 because we needed to make Canadian immigration a credible option for all young Americans who opposed the Vietnam War, so credible that they’d talk about it with their friends and families; and that would help millions of “regular Americans” finally wake up to what they were doing in Vietnam. I was almost shaking when I got through.
Dave and I stared intently at one another. He still saw me as nuts, I was sure of that, but I knew he also felt a determination in me that he could identify with. And I saw and felt those exact same qualities in him. His lips were pursed tight. I could tell I was facing a difficult and probably mercurial person, but one that could move mountains. Or at least the consciousness of North Americans. It was a beautiful moment of mutual recognition, and of course we said nothing about it to one another. That’s how men were in those days. Instead, Dave turned away from his house and began walking back down the street. He told me that Anansi lacked the expertise to edit the Manual and that he had no desire to print it. But he would be willing to put Anansi’s name on it and help promote and distribute it, and Anansi and the Anti-Draft Programme would share the profits 50-50. I was overjoyed, but tried to look nonchalant. In fact, I chose that very moment to tell Dave that I expected that “tens of thousands” of unauthorized copies of portions of the Manual would be produced and distributed by anti-war groups across North America, and I didn’t want Anansi to “hassle” them. Dave agreed to that cheerfully – even though it meant our profits would be taking a back seat to the widest possible distribution of the Manual’s life-giving information.
As we continued walking up and down Spadina, under the night stars, we realized – or rationalized! – that we’d be helping to model something new in the world, a mutually beneficial arrangement between a business and a non-profit organization. Today, corporate-nonprofit partnerships are all the rage (I was a fellow a couple of years ago at the Tokyo- and San Francisco-based Future 500, which promotes them), but in the Sixties they were barely more than a gleam in a couple of dreamers’ eyes; and two of us lived in Toronto.
So that’s how the Manual was “acquired” by Anansi. When Dave and I parted ways that night, he told me he’d send me a contract. If he ever did, I never saw it, and I never even thought about that – both Dave and I operated on a different wavelength back then. And anyway, everything Dave hoped for and I anticipated came true. The Manual sold 65,000 copies (making it Anansi’s best-selling book of the Sixties), and at least 30,000 copies of portions of the book were produced and disseminated by anti-war groups. Anansi’s alluring imprint and I helped get the Manual mentioned in over a dozen key periodicals, including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and – this still astounds me – The New York Review of Books. Most of all, the looming presence of the Manual and the discussions it provoked among families and friends across the U.S. helped end the war. Dave lasted 18 months at Anansi and I lasted even less long at the Anti-Draft Programme, but what we concocted that night on Spadina Avenue affected the world forever.
First published in 1968 by House of Anansi Press, the Manual for Draft-Age Immigrants to Canada was a handbook for Americans who refused to serve as draftees in the Vietnam War and were considering immigrating to Canada. Conceived as a practical guide with information on the process, the Manual also features information on aspects of Canadian society, touching on topics like history, politics, culture, geography and climate, jobs, housing, and universities.
The Manual went through several editions from 1968–71. Today, as Americans are taking up the discussion of immigration to Canada once again, it is an invaluable record of a moment in our recent history.