ALICE MUNRO

Greetings,

Normally I’m a very open-minded person when it comes to writers in Canada. I’m of the mindset that getting as many Canadian voices as possible out into the publishing arena is a good thing, given that it ensures a relatively healthy and dynamic series of stories being told by Canadians, for Canadians (and when the stories are really good, for the world).

However…

I have a bone to pick over a certain writer named Alice Munro. She’s a Canadian author, lives in rural Ontario, has published numerous short stories over the past 40 years and is quite talented. Yet she represents a lot of what is wrong with the institution of CanLit.

There’s a kind of generational divide in Canada over authorship these days. Whether it be the difference between an urban fantasy ride of the likes of Russell Smith or the neo-pastoralism of Alice Munro, I’m a young person who desperately believes that we’re constantly rewarding authors of middle age and beyond who earned the respect of critics a long time ago and not enough of the younger crowd of authors. These people include Smith (whom is a brilliant writer and a Queen’s graduate), Evan Solomon, Derek McCormick, Lynn Crosbie and their ilk.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed some of Alice Munro’s stories. However, when the literary establishment in Canada only seems interested in promoting safe, predictable stories that don’t challenge any conventional literary traditions, something is wrong. This is not to say that safe and predictable are always bad (honestly, you need variety in your literary diet) but what are books for if they don’t challenge you and entertain you?

There is, as usual, the debate over whether these “challenging” novels will sell as much as stories by the likes of Munro. CanLit needs books like Munro’s in order to survive. They may not be especially ground-breaking or original, but they are well-told for what they are and sell exceptionally well. Yet no publishing company in Canada has ever gotten rich off playing it safe all the time (mind you, few publishing houses in Canada are rich, period). You have to take risks to make money sometimes, and if commerce is the goal of publishing in Canada (and let’s not lie, publishing is a business like any other), it takes a combination of stories like Munro and Smith to have a truly dynamic and growing publishing industry.

So let’s celebrate people like Munro, yes. But celebrate our youth even more. We’re the future of the industry.

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PUBLISHING ON-LINE

Greetings,

It’s been nearly a week since I last posted on-line, I admit I’ve been a slacker. However, when you have nothing to write about, you shouldn’t add to the digital landfill that dominates the web.

Personal update: still working for SVN, which is always nice. I’m currently awaiting the results of my applications to my Master’s program (keep your fingers crossed for me) and I’m happy. This has been an uneventful year so far, but things are about to change, I have a feeling…

CONSERVATIVE PARTY OF CANADA LEADERSHIP RACE

Greetings,

I forgot to write this post earlier.

The CPC leadership race is about to begin and I can already tell you this party has little chance of making a dent in the Liberals’ control of Parliament come the federal election later this year.

First up is Stephen Harper. The erstwhile Canadian Alliance leader has a lot of policy experience but he’s not right for this job. He’s got little appeal outside of the CPC’s core supporters – let’s be honest, Alberta controls this party – and I can’t think of a single reason why core PC Party supporters would want him to be their leader. The optics of Harper leading this “united” conservative force don’t fit with the party’s goals.

Belinda Stronach is next. She’s pretty much the only hope for this party. She’s a businesswoman, runs Magna International exceptionally well, is well-connected in Canada’s business community and gives the party credibility beyond its’ traditional voter base (the stereotypical angry older white male vote). Her major weaknesses include: no public policy experience (As Prime Minister doesn’t count) and the fact she’s not all that different from Paul Martin, given they are both Titans of Industry in Canada.

Tony Clement is the wild card in this race. I respect Tony Clement immensely as a person and as a politician – he did a remarkable job during the SARS crisis last year and he didn’t deserve the fate bestowed on him during last year’s provincial election. Only problem is that few people outside of Ontario know who he is.

Chuck Strahl is the “what the hell” candidate of this leadership race (every party has one). Chuck is the prototype of the Canadian Alliance – angry as hell at “OTTAWA” and those central Canadians that don’t understand Western alienation. He’s going to be a tough sell east of Thunder Bay. Besides, can you really trust someone who broke off from his party after his candidate – Preston Manning – didn’t win a new party’s leadership race? (How people quickly forget – remember that Democratic Representative Caucus nonsense back in 2001?)

Peter MacKay should forget this idea before he even considers it (he’s not going to run but you never know). Never mind the fact he was the wrong choice for the PC leadership, he’s got nearly zero credibility now due to breaking his word with David Orchard, regardless if his deal with Orchard was never actually legitimate. The Tories would eat him for breakfast if he ran and I don’t blame them one bit.

Personally, if Stronach wins this race, she could help the party’s fortunes nationally and maybe move them up to a strong Official Opposition of around, say, 80 seats. That’s not bad and it would give the Liberals a solid voice of dissent to deal with. But, this all hinges on if the CPC can sell itself as a “national alternative” party and have policy platforms that don’t sound like carbon copies of the Liberals’ platform. And let’s not forget that there are two other parties still in the house – the near-death Bloc Quebecois, and the suddenly resurgent New Democrats. There is a major vacuum of Leftist ideologies in the House now that Paul Martin has shifted the Liberals to the Right, which means that the NDP could force out the CPC through the Liberals and NDP slugging it out for seats.

Canadians won’t vote for a party that preaches American-style Republicanism, that’s a fact. The CPC can’t be an intolerant, hyper conservative party and expect a national base of support, it won’t happen. The key is to sell itself as a solid, fiscally sound party that is a Big Tent in terms of accepting socially liberal viewpoints. Let’s hope the party opts not to repeat the mistakes of the Stockwell Day era and go for a candidate that might actually have a chance to build a national party.

MY BIRTHDAY

Greetings,

Well it’s my 26th birthday today. Yikes.

I was talking to someone last night at my alumni meeting about how so many people my age are now getting engaged, buying condos, et al. I’m not really in favour of this. Getting engaged this early in life seems like you’re letting yourself get entangled in the “domestic married bliss” at a young age. And while I sympathize with the condo buying – lord knows I would like that too – I’m more content to let things progress at a calmer speed. If you take care of everything in life too early, you’re more likely than not to have problems enjoying them later.

Maybe that’s rationalizing, but it’s the way I feel. We’re not our parents generation, which means we’re less likely to take the path of domesticity. The world was never built with safe guards in place.

Incidently, here are my rules for Greg’s Blog from now on:

1) No product placements

2) No wishy-washy views

That’s all.

SHAMELESS PLUGS, THE NEWSROOM AND PANIC

Greetings,

ME, THE CORPORATE SHILL: I realized this week that I was shamelessly plugging a certain product on my blog, pointed out with an ever-so-simple inference by a colleague of mine. The moment I knew that I was plugging a product myself, a la Global TV’s sudden usage of their broadcasters to plug new products on air, was when my blogging service, Blogspot, had ads on the top of my blog that pointed to this product. That brought out a combination of “what the f***?” and “I’m sucking the corporate teat!”

I’m willing to say that these items I indirectly plugged are cool and trendy and that’s all. They’re overpriced beyond imagination, represents consumerism at its most decadent and is quite irrelevant to your life in the grand scheme of things. It doesn’t take much to realize which product I’m talking about. Scroll down. Go ahead, I’ll still be here in a minute.

THE NEWSROOM: Here’s an article on Ken Finkleman, the mastermind behind the Newsroom, a scathing (and mostly accurate, I’m both happy and afraid to say) critique of the old art of “newsgathering.” I watched this show religiously in my last year of high school back in 1996-97. It was a scream back then and definitely helped me formulate an opinion on Canadian journalism, not so much that every aspect of the “news” is like the Newsroom but that you have to go into the business with your eyes open. It’s back on the CBC on Monday with new episodes, which I’m thrilled about. Rick Mercer (the other bitter satirist from the CBC) has a new show called Monday Report before The Newsroom, which will give Canadians a nice forum to vent the anger that seems to be growing amongst the Canadian public towards politicians, the media, business, et al. Of course, if it’s intelligent and funny at the same time, that means only a certain number of people in Canada will watch the shows (when ratings for exploitative clap-trap like The Simple Life creams news broadcasts in Canada every night, you know that tastelessness is in vogue), because smart comedies are bad for ratings.

OVERREACHING PANIC: I wrote on Thursday about this story involving a potential terrorist strike in New York City on February 2nd. You know, it’s time for me to admit the following: the news is dangerous to your health. And if you take it even remotely seriously all the time, you’re going to die an early death. Just as you would when a nuclear bomb goes off in a city centre. The part in my last post up to the New York Times’ Magazine part you can basically say was me being scared. So here’s another late New Year’s Resolution: I’m going to stop watching CNN for a month and see if I become less stressed. I’m willing to bet I will.

PETE ROSE, THY NAME IS PATHETIC: Never underestimate the hypocrisy and selfish tendencies of our professional athletes after you hear about the Pete Rose story. Now I’m not saying Rose is a moron and opportunistic for releasing a pandering, self-serving memoir right around the time of the Baseball Hall of Fame voting and actually admitting he did bet on baseball after more than a decade of denying it, but I sincerely hope Rose never gets admitted to the Hall of Fame. Or, if Major League Baseball decides to cater to the lowest common denominator and lets him get admitted via the Court of Public Opinion, there should be a note on his admission to the Hall that he’s in only because of his hits total and he has been banned from participating in any baseball activities due to his violation of gambling rules. I have little sympathy for the guy, because he seems to have this idea in his head that the only people who think what he did was wrong are the powers-that-be in Major League Baseball, not the fans. That’s a matter of opinion, of course, but in the professional sports world, hypocrisy seems to be part and parcel of the deal you make when you enter it. Rose just happened to be unlucky enough to have gotten caught. Still, what he did was wrong.

TERROR THREAT – NEW YORK CITY ON FEBRUARY 2ND?

Greetings,

An Italian newspaper reported on December 31st that a possible terrorist attack could hit New York City next month. According to a now-defunct web site that was blocked by the FBI, there is a possible threat to hit NYC with a nuclear device on the 2nd.

Now it is hard to determine if this is verifiable because the site no longer exists. And now that it is out in the open (although, oddly, no American media have picked up on this story) it is harder for this kind of attack to actually happen because more people are aware of the impending threat. The whole thing could have been a fake and overblown deliberately out of a new climate of fear.

In 2002, I read in a copy of the New York Times’ Magazine about how the real fear amongst members of the U.S. government and their federal departments – the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security – are more worried about the use of chemical, biological or nuclear warheads being used on American soil in a terrorist attack. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge was openly concerned about nuclear warheads going off in a major urban centre, which is completely understandable.

If that were to open, I can see three things happening to America (and subsequently, the rest of the world).

1) 9/11 would look like a warm-up act in comparison to a Weapon of Mass Destruction going off in, say, NYC. If that happened, millions would die. New York City would be completely destroyed, which would send America’s political and economic systems into complete chaos;

2) The President would probably be in a position to enforce even more Draconian security measures (hey, a WMD going off and killing millions is pretty much a promise that America as we know it ends) and, possibly, suspend the U.S. Constitution (including the Bill of Rights);

3) The President and Congress would have virtually unlimited mandates from the American public to wage total war against rogue nations potentially harbouring Al-Qaeda suspects.

This sounds alarmist, I know. But it’s hard to think of another potential outcome. Again, I’m not counting on the attack on the 2nd now, but you never know.

THE RETURN OF S.A.R.S? The Globe and Mail is reporting that a second case of SARS has been found in mainland China. Now that scientists have a better idea of how this disease works, they know that it is very likely the disease jumps from civet cats to humans. Hopefully this means that the disease will be contained much more effectively than it was last year. At the very least, Toronto is much more aware of the disease.

MY REPORTING OF BAD NEWS: Okay, I’m aware that this post today is negative. But I balance my negative stories with good ones usually, so I promise future postings will be more positive.