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Archive for April, 2010

April 30th, 2010 • Posted in Literary Criticism

What’s Wrong with a little bloodsport?


 Terry Eagleton in the New Statesman on Christopher Hitchens (via readysteadybook):

I just turned down the offer of a public debate with him in the States. I’ve said what I want to say, and we wouldn’t have got anywhere – it would only have been a sort of bloodsport.

Even then, Christopher was mesmerised by the idea of America. He always wanted a bigger scene.

What was definitive for him, politically, was the fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1989. I think that was the turning point. The deep Islamophobic impulse he has stems from that. But he’s still an idiosyncratic mixture of various political attitudes that don’t always go together.

And I wouldn’t for a moment underestimate his formidable eloquence and intellectual resources. I think he is a superb writer. But I think that the radical was always at war with the public school boy who wanted to succeed.

April 30th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Audio Interview: Prof. David Staines on Northrop Frye, Evaluative Criticism, John Metcalf, and the best Canadian novels

David Staines is a Canadian literary critic, university professor (English at the University of Ottawa), writer, and editor.  He specializes in three literatures: medieval, Victorian and Canadian. He is editor of the scholarly Journal of Canadian Poetry (since 1986) and general editor of McClelland and Stewart’s New Canadian Library series (since 1988). His essay collections, include The Canadian Imagination (1977), a book that introduced Canadian literature and literary criticism to an American audience, plus studies on Morley Callaghan and Stephen Leacock.

But it’s not for any of this (save a defense of Callaghan in the face of John Metcalf’s condemnations) that I sought  Prof. Staines’ company. Rather it’s because he co-edited Northrop Frye on Canada (University of Toronto, 2001). Frye, Canada’s most celebrated literary theorist, a man many hold responsible for the dearth of evaluative analysis in Canadian criticism; a man whose thoughts and person Staines knows (and knew) very well; is the reason we met.

Please listen here to a conversation that reveals the author of Fearful Symmetry and The Anatomy of Criticism as a surprisingly self contradictory critic; speaks to the remarkable talent of Alice Munro and Canada’s current stock of strong fiction writers; outlines criteria for acceptance into the New Canadian Library; and identifies some of the best Canadian novels.

April 29th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Video: Jon Stewart’s message to Steve Jobs and the Appholes at Apple

Image: Paid content

So much for Apple as counter-culture underdog. Are they now The Man? Corporate Big Bro? Jon Stewart hopes not. Canadians go here. Americans here.

April 28th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Borges avoiding Neruda

Poetry Dispatch

Apropos Robert Fulford’s article on John Cheever, "Good Writer, Bad Man": During the late 1960s, Argentine Jorge Luis Borges said of Chilean Pablo Neruda

"I think of him as a very fine poet, a very fine poet. I don’t admire him as a man, I think of him as a very mean man."

When asked to elaborate, Borges continued:

"Well, he wrote a book — well, maybe here I’m being political — he wrote a book about the tyrants of South America, and then he had several stanzas against the United States. Now he knows that that’s rubbish. And he had not a word against Perón. Because he had a lawsuit in Buenos Aires, that was explained to me afterwards, and he didn’t care to risk anything. And so, when he was supposed to be writing at the top of his voice, full of noble indignation, he had not a word to say against Perón. And he was married to an Argentine lady, he knew that many of his friends had been sent to jail. He knew all about the state of our country, but not a word against him. At the same time, he was speaking against the United States, knowing the whole thing was a lie, no? But, of course, that doesn’t mean anything against his poetry. Neruda is a very fine poet, a great poet in fact. And when they gave [ Miguel de Asturias ] the Nobel Prize, I said that it should have been given to Neruda! Now when I was in Chile, and we were on different political sides, I think he did the best thing to do. He went on a holiday during the three or four days I was there so there was no occasion for our meeting. But I think he was acting politely, no? Because he knew that people would be playing him up against me, no? I mean, I was an Argentine, poet, he was a Chilean poet, he’s on the side of the Communists, I’m against them. So I felt he was behaving very wisely in avoiding a meeting that would have been quite uncomfortable for both of us."

Source: Richard Burgin, Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges, (Holt, Rhinehart, & Winston, 1968)


April 28th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Happiness, Bertrand Russell and the Ottawa Senators


In The Conquest of Happiness Bertrand Russell wrote, commonsensically , that the more things you cultivate an interest in, the richer and therefore happier your life will be.


Each Spring I cultivate an interest in the Ottawa Senators. I purposefully reacquaint myself with the names and attributes of the players;  I listen to The Team 1200; start getting pumped for the playoffs,  convincing myself that the team has a chance to go deep. In short,  I get emotionally involved, filled with hopeful anticipation. This is the best way to watch hockey. This is the way to get some joy.


One year we almost went all the way together. Most years however, it ends abruptly in tears. Why? Because the team wont change. No matter how many times I come back with love and forgiveness she just doesn’t seem to understand that I don’t care about having a ‘nice’ team, with a nice injury prone Captain, and nice high skilled snipers who score lots of pretty goals during the regular season, get paid stratospheric dough, and turn timid in the post season, or decide to get injured right before it ( ever see Crosby, or Gretzky, Messier or Yzerman, or any great team leaders missing the playoffs due to injury? Very rarely).

No. What I want is a nucleus, a core, a critical mass of tough minded, committed forwards (don’t touch the defense, it’s great), who palpably love to play the game; hard enough to get into the playoffs…smart enough to save all they have for the Cup run.

What typically happens is that Chris Neil, Mike Fisher and many of the less talented, lower paid, harder working under sung yeomen put it out there when it counts, while those opposite this, don’t. Alfie – while a central, important component of the team – often seems to play hurt in the Playoffs; Spezza plays skittish, afraid it seems, to get hit,  looking like he doesn’t want to be out there; Kovalev doesn’t play…he’s a bandit. We need to get rid of these last two, now. Think about how much ($8+ 5 million a year) this will free up for us to spend on the tenacious, committed type of post season performers we need.

It’s not about the regular season – save for getting into the playoffs – it’s about filling the team with durable, focused hard nosed skaters who can play it fancy and play it rough – who don’t think first about the money. Who insist on winning. Who return the love, and make us happy.

April 27th, 2010 • Posted in On The Book

Round Wheel Bookcase Treadmill thing…

From here (thanks JP):

Designer David Garcia’s ARCHIVE II, a round wheel book archive, functions as a nomadic library, where the user can travel with his own books. Once still, it creates a room for meeting and inspiration, generating a special acoustic echo for the reader inside the wheel.

April 25th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address

Morals of three stories:

1. You must believe that the dots will connect somewhere down the road; this will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the beaten path, and that will make all the difference.

2. Do what you love. Don’t settle for less.

3. Remember that you are going to die, this will help you avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. Have the courage to trust your intuition. Stay hungry, stay foolish.


April 25th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Times and Sunday Times to charge for Web Content

According to CNET: News International, the British division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., announced on Friday that two of its newspapers, The Times and The Sunday Times of London, will charge readers for using its sites come June.

The two papers have been offering their content in a combined news Website called Times Online. Under the new plan, News International would introduce separate sites for each publication in May.

The sites will reportedly charge one pound for a day’s access,  two pounds for a week’s subscription. Those fees will cover access to both sites, which will be available for free during a trial period.


Doubtless, if this gambit succeeds, the entire media industry will heave deep sighs of ulcer soothing relief. The interesting question here of course is: Will readership of free website content head north as a result of mainstream media charging? If so, will these free theoretically higher audienced sites then be able to ask more for advertising? If visitor pony up, will everyone with any worthwhile content start protecting their investments…start charging…and will we then be left only with a load of product-placed, subtly and not subtly sponsored bullshit to sift through in hopes of finding useful, valid, ‘accurate’ free information?

I can already hear the ‘you get what you pay for’ innuendo vibrating from the lips of traditionally ‘trusted’ media outlets who’ve decided to charge for their ‘superior quality’ information…

Wikipedia, the Gutenberg Project,, and other decent free information sources we currently benefit from…how long before they’re menaced by a big media sponsored barrage of heightened credibility questioning…

How long before Youtube (Google) starts charging for channels.

April 24th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Apparently all poets do this…

The Guardian

1927: During a summer walk in Appletreewick, Yorkshire W.H. Auden and Cecil Day Lewis came upon a dry-stone wall.


"A hundred yards from the wall, as if on a common impulse, we both began to walk faster: in fifty or sixty yards, we broke into a trot, and we were sprinting all out over the last thirty yards or so. Arriving simultaneously at the wall, we gave each other an amused but also sheepish look. I see now, beneath this absurdly trivial occurance, the glint of a mutual rivalry. but, if it did exist, it was natural enough at our age that it should; and we had a complementary repsect for eachother: it was at Appletreewick, I think, that we wrote down the names of all the living English peots we could remember: we then sorted them out into three columns: in the left column we put those whom we already excelled, middle column those we would excel one day, and in the right hand column (an extremely short one) the poets whom we had little hope of ever equalling.

from The Buried Day by C. Day Lewis (Chatto, 1960)

April 22nd, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Mobsta can’t be all bad…

This from the Globe and Mail:

Several Greater Victoria booksellers confirmed Monday that FBI agents have visited their stores in the past week and asked staff to be on the lookout for 80-year-old James J. (Whitey) Bulger, a known book lover and former Boston mobster with a long list of brutal crimes on his rap sheet.