Monday, September 14, 2009

The snotty, inbred Canlit establishment

Today’s installment of the Post’s series on the state of Canadian literature has one of my favourite crime/mystery novelists, William Deverell, taking some good shots at the cultural establishment:

... a common notion: A properly brought up Canadian is expected to feel guilty about reading a book that claims no pretension but to entertain.

This priggish attitude toward popular fiction is deeply imbedded within our cultural establishment.

... "Popular fiction" has become a term of vulgar connotation, but it reeks of ironic paradox: obviously we sobersided Canadians ought to be reading unpopular fiction.

... I gave a workshop in popular fiction ... during which I was instructed by a Canada Council spokeswoman, in severe tones, that it does not support writers of crime fiction.

... It is to Canada's utter shame that William Gibson, with his vast trophy case of awards, has not been honoured in this country with a Giller or a G.-G. Meanwhile, Margaret Atwood is acclaimed for her speculative fiction.

... Douglas Coupland's scathing critique of Canadian literary pretentiousness: "There is a grimness about CanLit," he wrote, in which typically authors are supported by the government "to write about small towns and/or the immigrant experience." Coupland refuses to accept Canada Council money.

... the Brits knight their genre writers, the Yanks lionize them, but the Canucks (or at least our persons of letters) continue to treat them like unwashed in-laws tracking mud into the parlour. So sad.

And earlier in the series Barbara Kay observed:

... a numbingly familiar pattern of CanLit fiction: "Me, me, me and my
extraordinary capacity for sadness. Welcome to the unrelenting self-regard of
CanLit, where it's all about nobly suffering women or feminized men."
For this to persist in a country of 32 million suggests a good deal of intellectual inbreeding among the cultural establishment. Sad indeed.

4 comments:

Frances said...

The late Arthur Upfield, Australian mystery writer, had one novel skewering the Australian literary establishment as it then was. I just wish I knew who the skewerees were. Perhaps Mr Deverell could do the same to Can lit.

Xanthippa said...

The problem stems from the staff in our Universities... THAT is the source of this cancer.

Our professors TRAIN young people that pretentiousness = intelectualism. They beat their individuality out of them and only those willing to fit into their pre-tentioned mold will be allowed to graduate...and form the next generation of pretentious pseudo-intellectuals...

JR said...

Frances, Good idea! Maybe he's got something in the works.

Xanthippa, Sounds about right. If universities are good at anything it's cranking out the p's - pc, pomo, pretense and pseudo- :)

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