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Foxfire Graffiti

Some months ago a group of people calling itself P.A.CT. (Parents against Corrupt Teaching) sent out to the residents of Halton County in Ontario a sixteen-page "flyer" devoted solely to its opposition to the classroom use (in one class, in one school) of the Joyce Carol Oates book Foxfire. Michael Coren's column (February) is a rehash of the P.A.C.T. document and must have taken him all of fifteen minutes to write. His "shocking" quotations, shielding the sensibilities of Books in Canada readers with dashes, were provided for him courtesy of P.A.C.T. on page 15 where someone took the trouble to list all the "dirty bits" from pages 12 to 313! All of these without the benefit of dashes were thus provided to households containing young children and everyone else, like myself, who had felt no need for P.A.C.T.'s information nor protection.

Mr. Coren has the right to mine any sources that he chooses to dash off a column for your magazine. Using material supplied to him by the Loony Right fits into his own perspective and thus, for him, kills two birds with one stone.

To round out his recycling of the P.A.C.T. material Coren denigrates the work of Joyce Carol Oates. This, given their respective statures in literature, is the equivalent of a Grade 5 student writing graffiti about the principal on a toilet wall. In addition he repeats, as substantiation of the moral degradation of the Halton School Board, the arrest of a School Board official on the charge of Sexual Assault. There was no such assault, the charge resulted from a police "sweep" of people, all adults, who were using a public park for their "meetings". As a former teacher in the Halton system I do know that the man's career has been destroyed by his arrest and the impact upon his family can be imagined. Coren and P.A.CT. publish this man's name presumably to establish a linkage between the book's selection and the existence of moral turpitude within the Board. Readers of Books in Canada will make their own judgement.

Coren's additional "boot in" qualifies him for an award from the parallel Honours System, the Order of the FCS (First Class Shit [all capitals in Mr. Wernick's original]).

Morris Wernick

Burlington, Ont.

Michael Coren replies:

I knew that Foxfire was full of obscenities and banalities but I did not believe that its supporters were similarly distended. I stand corrected.

Yes, Mr. Wernick, I agree with P.A.C.T and they with me and, yes, we refer to the same book. It is hardly surprising that we should use some of the same quotations to support our case. Your abuse is, sadly, predictable. More to the point, nothing you say addresses the central issue of the use of a book such as Foxfire in a high school. You indulge in juvenile vitriol, I indulge in cogent argument. You support Foxfire, I don't.

As to your reference to "the Loony Right", let me thank you. There are few sights as warming on a cold February night as that of a frightened and floundering liberal. And regarding your defence of the school board official who championed Foxfire and was later charged with Sexual Assault, you seem to have evidence of which the police are unaware. I advise you to act as a good citizen and call your local constable immediately.

In conclusion, I rather like your image of the toilet wall and appreciate its subtle linkage to the "police sweep" of those naughty male nocturnal gardeners in Hamilton. I thank you for being one of my many readers.

Foreign Presences?

The "new" BiC has been becoming less and less Canadian, and especially less and less Canadian fiction, and more and more American-International, and correlatively more and more pretentious. I can get non-Canadian content from all sorts of American and European journals; I can get pretentiousness from anything and everything coming from the USA. I don't want either from my Canadian magazines, especially not as with the main reviews in your February issue (13 Canadian, 10 non, 2 unclear).

I have been subscribing to BiC all these decades specifically for the Canadian content, and for the sensible, practical reviews-particularly of Canadian fiction-that have been characteristic of this magazine in the past. If BiC is no longer giving me the content for which I have been subscribing, why continue to subscribe?

Victor A. Botari


We are sometimes ambitious, and in the nature of things ambition often looks like, or actually results in, pretentiousness. So on one of his charges, Mr. Botari is arguably right.

But as for Canadian and non-Canadian content, I cannot make sense of his counts. There are in the February issue only two reviews of non-Canadian books, aside from one brief one (not "main" in Mr. Botari's terms), and there is one essay on a Pole and one essay on an American; an essay on the very Canadian Trevor Ferguson does compare him (favourably) to an American writer.

There are seventeen articles on Canadian books (including one interview and one essay). The children's section, with seven reviews and one profile, is exclusively Canadian. Two out of three brief reviews are on Canadian books. As for the columns, four Canadian first novels are reviewed; Douglas Fetherling (no continentalist!) does speak of capital punishment in the U.S., but takes a Canadian book as his point of departure, and argues that there is danger to Canada in what he describes; Michael Coren writes about a Canadian controversy, objecting to the presence of-as it happens-an American book on a Canadian curriculum. There is also the winning entry in the Writers' Union short prose competition.

Mr. Botari must have classified as "non", not just some books by Canadians that are not wholly on Canadian topics, but also some books by immigrants to Canada. - G.O.


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