Friday, September 11, 2009

Barbara Kay loves men

but doesn't care much for women. Or Canadian women? Or Canadian books written by women?
Or maybe just Canadian novelist Lisa Moore?
Maybe she just needs a nap.

"I then read February, which does take place in Canada, and ostensibly in the present (although it makes heavy use of the flashback, a now wearisomely belaboured vehicle), with critical attention.

I can report in good conscience I have no apologies to make for my pre-emptive "review." Like so many other Canadian novels, February is indeed dying in beauty, and it is worth a few paragraphs to explain why, because it is so representative of what the Canadian fiction publishing industry -- itself highly feminized by comparison to 40 years ago -- seems to like, and typical of what wins or is at least nominated for awards here.

Moore is an enormously talented writer, but like so many others of her sensitive, creative workshopped-to-death ilk, a writer's writer privileging an artistic, leisured rendering of memory and feeling over prole-friendly dialogue, action and, above all, plot."

(Sept 9)

Barbara Kay's "pre-emptive review" was an earlier column swatting a profile by Post reporter Katherine Laidlaw. Kay hadn't read the novel but felt qualified to say,

"Take, for example, Katherine Laidlaw's gushy July 9 Post profile of twice-nominated Giller contender Lisa Moore and her new novel, February. I don't know Katherine Laidlaw, but from her uncritical admiration for the novel's preternaturally CanLittish values, she would doubtless be shocked to discover that her selected quotations from, and observations about, Moore, while honorifically intended, smothered -- rather than aroused--my interest in reading the novel."

(July 15)

The dustup is here, but essentially Barbara Kay doesn't care for all the

"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: men immobilized in situations of physical, psychological or economic impotence (that is when they're not falling through the ice and nearly drowning), rather than demonstrating manly courage in risk-taking or heroic mode."

I'm not sure what "CanLittish values" Kay has such trouble with and it doesn't matter much because she then trots out the tired bits about some (very few) writers getting the occasional pittance from government grants so they can eat while writing. From her screed it sounds as if anyone with a PC and a dream just needs to get in line, but I never see this kind of invective hurled at police or firefighters, who presumably sit down from time to time.

In short, it's political so all your pretty sentences and introspection don't matter much unless your a Canadian version of Ayn Rand.

Sorry ladies.

Kay's opinions are as valid as anyone else, but maybe read the book before putting anything in print, and if CanLit isn't your thing, Canadians do write pretty damn good plots, too.

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