Monday, February 16, 2009

Tomorrow kids with peanuts are coming to feed us through the bars

The Globe and Mail has been looking at the lot of writers and publishers as part of the tough times in the industry. It's not news that Canadian writing rarely makes anyone rich and only Stephen Harper continues to believe that the arts are a gala-like affair where everyone dines on public money.
Susan Swan of the Writer's Union of Canada correctly identifies how poor most writers are and Marc Cote of Cormorant Books is correct that Canadian publishing is a difficult endeavour due to pervasive American influence.
Swan goes one further in noting that mines and oil fields are routinely helped along before the fact, by public money.
The different levels of Canadian government should play a significant role in the development of Canadian enterprise in all of the arts as well, particularly in a time of diminishing book coverage in the national media.
Where Marc Cote errs a bit, however, is in laying the blame for Canadian visibility relative to our American and British counterparts on a lazy media.
Cote notes it as a fact, but treats it like a symptom to be corrected somehow.
Even journalists fed on maple syrup and Canuck wine are not going to prevent teenagers from running across four lanes of traffic and the ghost of Robertson Davies to pick up a Stephanie Meyer novel.
It's the job of publishers and booksellers to get the Canadian story into the hands of Canadian readers, so it's puzzling for Cote to give Amazon and Costco a pass, then lament American cultural influence.
I'm not suggesting that American accounts are part of the problem per se, but American companies don't provide the taxes that everyone agrees are essential for Canadian publishing to stay afloat.
When I was much younger I never looked for a flag on my book of choice, but I did get to know Russel Smith, David Gilmour, Barbara Gowdy, W.P Kinsella etc. through the writers in residence programs in town and the CBC. A few bucks to keep the infrastructure intact will go a long way to maintaining a working literary culture and therefore a shot at a living wage for Canadian writers.
It seems to work for oilfields, sports franchises and potash.

Posted by Dave

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