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Letters to Editor

Alive and Dangerous?

I WAS SURPRISED to discover in Keith Nickson's survey of media coverage of books ("Literature in the Air," Summer) that Dostoyevsky, according to the "Imprint" producer Stan Lipsey, is the paradigm of "safe" literature. If Crime and Punishment is "safe," then what is dangerous? Few writers today dare to tackle the biggest questions about life with his exhaustive passion and depth, and none have come close to equalling him. But apparently what Lipsey and Co. mean by "alive" and "dangerous" is a puerile epater les bourgeois, if the Sky Gilbert episode cited is anything to go by. What are they going to do when they run out of taboos? Getting mooned once is a shock, but by the tenth time or so, who cares? What has it got to do with anything that matters?

Although I count myself a staunch member of the audience of "Imprint," at times I do find its relentless fixation on the au courant rather limiting, even offputting, as for example on the occasion when Richler and his panel dismissed Moby Dick because it only had men in it and was about cruelty to animals. I think they were joking, but I wish I could be sure ... And when Richler declares that rap is the poetic form of the late-20th century - well, really. When was the last time you saw break dancing? (I contend that Alexander Pope was the original master of rap; it's nothing more than heroic couplets in iambic pentameter after all.)

My real point is that media coverage of the book scene generally reflects the journalist's preoccupation with the topical. Works of fiction seem to be judged valuable by how "relevant" they are to the news issues of the day, not by their intrinsic aesthetic merit. "Imprint," to its credit, employs mainly writers, not journalists Barbara Gowdy, Michael Coren, M. T. Kelly, etc. - as interviewers and commentators. Although in some cases a lack of broadcasting experience can be a liability, as Nickson rightly observed they also deliver some of the more memorable moments in arts journalism.

Andrew Macrae


More Poetry, Please

OVER THE PAST couple of years, many of the members of the League of Canadian Poets have read with interest the column devoted to reviews of books of poetry by themselves and by other practitioners. Although we understand and appreciate the implied compliment in designating a section of your magazine "Poets' Corner," we hasten to point out that Canadian poets and their books are far from the dusty state of those found in urns in Westminster Abbey.

Why is it that the same cramped conditions (several reviews, each in two brief paragraphs, including quotations) are rarely extended to novels, short-story collections, or works of non-fiction? Can it be that the editors of one of Canada's pre-eminent literary reviews are saying that one form is less deserving of full consideration than others?

This is not to say that we don't notice each time space is allotted to an interview with a poet, alongside other interviews of a playwright or a novelist or a children's author. Or that it goes unobserved when a book of poetry is actually considered fully on its own.

No, what we are asking is that poetry, the longest-established form of literary expression, be given its rightful due. A journalist once said the reason that his paper didn't run reviews of poetry was because no one reads it. Odd, that sounds similar to the recent words of a politician about Canadian books. Well, Mr. Cook, if you don't let Canadians know that books by Canadian authors exist, how can you expect people to go out and buy them? Well, Books in Canada?

Blaine Marchand

President, League of Canadian Poets



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