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A Word To The Converted
by Joan Barfoot

IT SEEMS pretty generally agreed that Canada now has a thriving and mature literature. Two comments in your AugustSeptember issue, however, appear to imply a sadly immature readership for that literature.

In his commentary on Margaret Laurence's Dance on the Earth, Timothy Findley objects to Laurence's criticisms of men, then says that ". . . it would be a pity if this book about being a woman went unread by men simply because they were offended by what appears to be a bias in its early pages." Is even a much?honoured author who has died not to be permitted her own last word on her own views? Are men really such babies that they would close a book on the grounds that it contains negative comments about their gender? Mightn't Laurence have had much nippier comments to make on the subject than the ones she allowed herself in Dance on the Earth?

The other objectionable piece, as already noted by some Books in, Canada correspondents, is Brian Fawcett's contribution to. the debate on racism in Canadian publishing. The essay suggested that books by minority writers don't often get published in Canada because the minority audience isn't big enough to make it financially worthwhile ? thus informing us that there is no systemic racism, that there are merely several million unimaginative, incurious, smug, and cosy WASPish Canadians who wouldn't be interested in reading anything beyond their own experience. Fawcett now admits merely to having expressed himself poorly. I think he expressed himself pretty clearly; it was his thinking that was inadequate, not to mention revealing.

At any rate, and leaving aside the huge and complex issues of racism and sexism themselves, let's try to give readers a bit more credit. Let's have a little hope that instead of feeling threatened, both men and members of the white majority could be grown up and curious enough to listen to other views and lives with which they're unfamiliar. Otherwise, why does anybody read? And whyever would anyone take the trouble to write?

Joan Barfoot
London, Ont.


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