Thursday, September 17, 2009

Always good to see the national literature debated in the national papers. Pity these debates always take place within such narrow parameters. In this instance, the reactionary Barbara Kay lobbing softballs at novelist-first writers like Steven Galloway. At issue, lyricism versus narrative – again.

Kay’s provocation is hardly worth repeating, though I can assure you, unlike Kay with Lisa Moore’s February, I have read her articles and “have no apologies.” Galloway’s argument, on the other hand, provides the usual B+ response, setting in motion his own blindered outlook.

Where I take issue with Galloway is not his connoisseurial take on what is “neither a novel nor literature,” but his denial of new forms (radio, film, television, internet...) and their influence not only on the literature but as literature – a position typical of a novelist-first writer.

I have read novels (let’s call them fictions, too) “ripped from the headlines” (American Tabloid), just as I have read them as "sitcoms" (Pride and Prejudice), "action movies" (Heinlein’s Starship Soldiers begat Starship Troopers), and, sooner than later, tweets.

Because Galloway has reminded us that “[o]urs is not a homogenous literature,” I would hope that he might prove that to us one day by acknowledging this country’s post-genre, post-medium literary tradition. Until then, and in his words, “literature ceases to exist.”


  1. MT: I think that was what pissed me off about Galloway's (lack of) gall: wants to barricade lit (wants it to be literature) behind a stack of overdue library books. Introspective & boring, instead of expanding the parameters. - CB

  2. Oh yawnation.

    Much more alarming is that either piffle could be considered to constitute debate. The applied ramblings of Marge and Homer on any Tues @ 5 would be more compelling.

    Marc Cote had a much more interesting essay, which swiftly disappeared behind a subscriber key on the Globe before anyone could read it.

    Since when was what a novel's "about" an indication of anything.

    He may as well be invoking the Easter Bunny as artillery.

    More productive to discuss literature with a lamp post at this rate.