Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Not sure why, but I've been interviewed twice in the last couple of weeks about about Yann Martel's campaign to clutter the PMO with used books. To be honest, before I was contacted about it again, I had pretty much assumed the whole thing was done with, but no. One interview was for this story. I appear to get lumped in with some National Post types – not a comfortable fit, I hope, but oh well. I also did an interview for CBC Radio about it, though I'm not yet sure when that'll go out over the airwaves. I tried my best to make clear that this isn't a discussion about the need for arts funding – which is a whole other kettle of worms – but whether Martel's book-a-month club is at all effective. I don't think it is. Martel? Well...
Martel cites a recent funding boost to the Canada Council for the Arts as proof his campaign is having an impact.
Uh, yeah. A prime minister who killed a national daycare plan, who skipped an international AIDS conference, who is slowly stifling social programs, who is using a pointless foreign war as a political prop, who can't be shamed into anything – that man just got spooked by the prospect of getting more used books in the mail.

I asked this in my original rant, but here it is again: you don't think Yann is losing perspective, do you?

One thing I did say in the CBC interview – and I meant it sincerely – is that the best thing to come out of this is that we now have a dozen or so online mini-essays on some great books by a very intelligent, very talented (if more than a little precious) novelist. If you could just sort of squint your eyes to block out the context...

I honestly thought all of this would have been forgotten about long ago – and I'm sure most people on both sides of the issue have – but if he's going to keep calling us all to the barricades, clutching a battered paperback edition of Animal Farm (full of some student's marginal notings of "Irony" and "Symbolism"), I'm happy to keep playing the spoiler.

1 comment:

Finn Harvor said...

With all due respect, Nathan, I think you might be jumping to conclusions. Since, as Martel observes, funding to the CC has increased somewhat, who's to say that his campaign isn't one factor causing this? After all, Martel has been very focused in promoting above all the work of British, Russian and French authors, and it's entirely possible the Canadian government -- not to mention the Canadian reader -- has had the salutary experience of increasing its interest in, and admiration of, the literature of these great nations.