Normally a residence, however temporary, in a town of such radiant intelligence as Oxford, will elevate the vision of the most navel-gazing of Canadians, but not so for Mr. Stephen Henighan (Letters, February) [not "Stephan", as I typed in error-man. ed.], who stubbornly refuses to realize that the future for CanLit lies in the literate neighbourhoods of the world, and not the backbiting regionalism of "back home".
The international success of Atwood, Munro, Davies, Richler, et al. has ensured us a place at the table in the foreseeable future. The latest incarnation of BiC ensures that we will have something of interest to contribute to the post-prandial conversation. Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen, we have arrived.
Mr. Henighan is dead wrong on every count but one. I must admit to sharing in his reluctance to accept the re-emergence of Michael Coren in BiC. This reluctance is exemplified in Mr. Coren's latest column, where once again he demonstrates the power of prejudice over clear thinking.
In an argument that would not survive any first year logic class and employing a method reeking of the cheapest kind of post-Freudian reductionism, Mr. Coren indulges himself in the most repellent and misanthropic bile imaginable. I am truly shocked that BiC editors allowed this stuff to pass. If I wrote a column decrying the spiritual authority of the Roman Catholic Church, citing the masochistic practices of mediaeval mystics and the sadistic torture of "heretics" for centuries, would I be considered as anything other than a hugely intolerant crank?
The key is this: who gets to define the terms "sexual deviance", "perversion", "degenerate"? A heterosexual conservative Catholic? A lesbian mother? A homosexual atheist? A celibate Buddhist? Was it Germaine Greer who said, "Erotic is what I like, and pornographic is what they like"?
I've just seen the December 1995 Books in Canada and it is superb. No less so for the description given to my book, The Invincible, by Eva Tihanyi. Her appraisal is by far the most accurate I've seen on what I was trying to accomplish. She is bang on. I look forward to reading more of her work and much more of Books in Canada.
Too Much Fiction
Please let my subscription expire. You devote far too much space to fiction.
Dr. Aden C. Irwin
Too Much Non-Fiction
I have renewed my subscription to Books in Canada with profound reluctance. You cannot believe my outrage at discovering that what was once a lively, accessible, comprehensive Canadian book review magazine has been transformed into a narrow-focused, stodgy-looking carbon copy of an American publication-the New York Times Book Review.
Immediately the new editor's witty editorial set the grim elitist mood. Quotes from Plato and Ezra Pound. Mentions of Proteus, George Eliot, Solomon..Can this be Books in Canada?
The magazine's stark format and design coupled with your disconcerting focus on non-fiction works only to narrow your readership. From a business point of view, one would think new owners of a publication would be working to expand their readership, not limit it.
As a Canadian author I cringe at the idea of estranging consumers from what was once Canada's only consumer book magazine. The devastating blows delivered to publishers in this country are taking their toll. And now the new BiC scores a decisive point in alienating prospective readers.
To my mind, your academic disposition has crippled a magazine that has attempted-over the years-to make CanLit more appealing to the general public, the buyers of books in this country.
Burnt Head, Newfoundland
Bloom, Grant, Nixon, Macpherson
Re: Fulford and Roger on Allan Bloom (December). I very much liked and enjoyed Allan Bloom as friend and colleague. He was one of the most witty and comical of men. But, a little perspective, please.
Bloom never tired of telling us that George Grant was wonderful, "Mr. Canada", yet seemed not to comprehend that Grant was a tory, a red tory, anti-liberal and anti-American. Bloom never tired of telling us that the U.S.A. was not "nationalistic" (never mind imperialist), but merely trying to spread democracy and the joys of American civilization. Sure. Imagine how Grant laughed at that.
Bloom supported the war in Vietnam. He was a staunch supporter of Richard Nixon. When some of us observed that Nixon was a meretricious thug, as clearly demonstrated in his early mud-slinging campaign for the Senate against Helen G. Douglas, Bloom bridled, arguing that if George McGovern were elected president over Nixon, his secretary of state would be Jane Fonda. Side by side with Socrates, eh?
Yes, Bloom was comical. And Ms. Roger says he taught her to read. That's nice. Maybe if she reads more she'll understand that the giant in the University of Toronto department of political science was not Allan, but Crawford Brough Macpherson. Brough, however, was not a ham nor was he surrounded by slack-jawed acolytes.
Didn't Pay for Coren
On May 11th of this year, I wrote to Books in Canada instructing you to cancel my subscription when it expired in November of this year. In my letter, I outlined my reason for cancellation, specifically, Michael Coren's offensive columns, "Coren at Large". In August of this year, I received a letter from Barbara Carey, Managing Editor, informing me that Michael Coren's column had been dropped. I have been a long-time reader of BiC and when my subscription renewal notice recently arrived, I decided to renew based on the letter I had received from Barbara Carey.
Imagine my horror when I opened my letter box the other day to find the rather large November edition of Books in Canada. A quick scan through the contents brought me to a complete halt at the inclusion of "Michael Coren at Large". I am appalled that a decision publicized in an edition of the magazine only one month ago is so clearly not being honoured. I further note that Barbara Carey has been replaced as managing editor by Gerald Owen. It didn't take long to discover that a Coren was promoting a long-dead fascist writer in his column.
I am frankly disgusted. I feel completely duped and coerced into paying for another year's subscription to a magazine that clearly does not reflect my values. I am writing to request that you immediately cancel my subscription (it was to have ended with this issue) and refund my money for next year's subscription. I await your early reply.
Congratulations on the larger format, and glare-free paper. Too bad you had to draw upon the worst of the "magazinist's art" in designing the cover. The crazed typography of the Generation X crowd hardly suits the lofty ideals of the editorial comments in this issue (November)-except, perhaps, the comment about "irrelevance".
Thankfully the inside is a little more subdued. Since I was a typesetter (Linotype) in the last years of that technology, my conservative tastes are not surprising. I do believe, however, that typographic balance and harmony-such as what the Idler practised-are more appropriate to Books in Canada.
I can only hope that this first, new, issue is merely an experiment, intended to grab your readers' attention.
Fred Sharpe, Come Home
Fred Sharpe's CanLit Acrostic has left Books in Canada and I miss it dreadfully. I always turned to it first and couldn't rest (or read) until I had solved it. I am sad!
I have two questions. First, is Fred Sharpe likely to return to Books in Canada? And second, if not, does he publish his puzzles anywhere else? I trust he is alive and well and that you can answer at least one of my questions in the affirmative. Preferably, the first.
I expect I shall get used to the new format. It seems a big handful. I love the contents, and do eventually always read it all.