Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Joel "The Hitman" Hynes

Below is a little taste of the Joel Thomas Hynes interview in the Fall 2007 issue of Atlantic Books Today (not online, as far as I know).

He comes off a little too WWF at times, or like a rapper looking for beef, but all the same it's great to hear a Canadian writer talking like this.
Response [to Right Away Monday] has been fantastic in the Atlantic region and a lot of Canada, but I've gotten slammed here and there because the book is dark at times and the subject matter is not exactly geared toward Oprah's Book Club. But in the end I couldn't care less about the response, because that's not why I write. I write because it's there in me and I have the ability anbd I'd likely go mental if I did anything else. I'm not writing a sentence hoping some conservative, petty dickhead sub-contracted by the Globe and Mail is going to get what I'm talking about.

[...]

Well, there's CanLit, and then there's literature. Meaning there's a lot of shit out there that's muddying up the bookshelves, and a lot of timeless, raw, and passionate writing that gets overlooked because of who the publisher is or because of markjeting ability or because the world has gone so fucking convervative out there that people don't want to see the bad stuff, the controversial, the dark stuff written down. It's the age of Prozac and everybody wants a happy ending.
I'm not sure the world has gone so conservative – culturally, morally, and economically, things can get fairly frontier-town out there, and that's not such a good thing – but it's true that Canadian publishing seems to represent a virtual (and occasionally literal) de-linking of a huge chunk of society from the rest the rest of the world, a perpetual High Tea held on a floating barge that's slowly taking on water. I've watched a lot of people in books – writers, editors, publicists, booksellers, myself – voluntarily and somewhat subconsciously adopt a kind of narrowed cultural vision in order to survive/thrive in the business. It's too easy to over-generalize these things, or to see dark conspiracies where there are only clusters of like-minded dullards (see: Henighan, Stephen), but there really are moments, when handling the "hot new" historical romance bringing us the latest in liberal humanist piety, when I just know that more than half the people responsible for bringing the book into existence – including, in some cases, the author – would rather watch Terminator than anything resembling a Merchant-Ivory film.

It's a small point, but a significant one: when the cloaks of Literature are donned, we must all become little Oxford dons and laugh with our mouths closed tight. One mustn't love; one must appreciate. One mustn't hate; one must scorn. And above all: one must keep the faith. Not real faith, of course, just a kind of vague belief that culture is good and books are important and the dance of the seven veils that is the modern world must be pooh-poohed in favour of eternal truths – truths that can only be accessed by writing like the love-child of Lewis Lapham and Isabelle Allende.

All of this sets up people like Hynes to over-react, to go out with both guns blazing, just so that they don't get mistaken for one of the dullards. (More of the same here.)

It all adds up to a funky situation. (So get up, get up, get get, get down, most CanLit's a joke in your town....)

4 comments:

Rob In Victoria said...

But how do you really feel?

john macdonald said...

Are you gonna take that comment sitting down ("conservative, petty dickhead sub-contracted by the Globe and Mail")? Come on! Where's the Nathan "Spinecracker" Whitlock we know and love!?

:)

nathan said...

Peace be upon you all.

john macdonald said...

You're lucky this isn't pay-per-view.