Tag Archives: Canada

Little Boxes #147: Peace, Order and Good Government

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(by Kate Beaton)

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Filed under chris randle, comics

A New Canadian Myth for New Canadian Times (By Sheila Heti)

 

image thanks to thirdi blog

 

The Globe and Mail—the newspaper I saw my father reading every day when I was growing up—published a profile of me this past weekend. In it, a familiar Canadian story was told: Canadian artist, neglected in Canada, finds acclaim in the States, and only then at home. While there is certainly some truth to this, and a lot of what I said in the piece seemed to corroborate it, I made a point of telling the journalist that my story feels different to me, as does the story of my latest book’s publication, and that I think it’s time for a new story.

Of course, what one says in an interview is always used to support the myth the journalist has—or in this case, that Canada generally has of Canadian artistic success. But it’s not precisely the case that n+1, or the article in the Observer, or the piece in the Guardian, caused the success of the book. Especially in a place like Canada, the ones who facilitate success are primarily the other artists.

While it seems from the article like I have been neglected, the truth is I have had tons of support over the years, more support than any artist could hope for – from writers, painters, musicians and poets.

It isn’t (and I suspect it never has been) the presumed engines of Canadian culture—The Globe and Mail, the Giller Awards, the Governor General’s Awards, etc.—that make Canadian artistic culture. My book was tepidly reviewed in the Globe three years ago. I have never received a Canadian award.

Meanwhile, during the seven years I was working on this novel, Margaux Williamson, my artistic collaborator, spent hundreds of hours reading drafts and giving me notes. I received feedback on drafts from the theatre director Chris Abraham, the novelist Christine Pountney, the artists Shary Boyle and Leanne Shapton, Coach House editor Alana Wilcox, Vancouver novelists Lee Henderson and David Chariandy, former CBC producer and writer Kathryn Borel, the artist Sholem Krishtalka, Geist editor Stephen Osborne, I could go on and on (the poet Ryan Kamstra, the essayist Mark Greif…). Rawi Haage lent me his Montreal apartment so I could finish an edit there. I have never received so much support in my life. These were people with their own work to do. But they helped me. As we all help each other.

The real story about my book and its “success,” it seems to me, is how it was supported by people who relied on their own judgments, without external validation, who influenced its shape.

The years I spent on my book weren’t years spent alone in my apartment, but a time when I spent weeks touring through Europe with the Toronto- and Berlin-based band, The Hidden Cameras (even though I’m a crummy musician, they still put me on stage with an instrument). I worked long hours in Margaux’s painting studio, travelled to the States to meet fellow writers and artists, and participated in the activist projects of Dave Meslin and the Toronto Public Space Committee, all of whom I learned from, whose work and thoughts developed my art and changed its direction.

We live in a place where the official rewards aren’t so grand, but that means something else happens: Artists slide between mediums, they work on each others’ projects, and new forms emerge. I often think of how the ethos here makes it easy to even find someone to rip tickets at the door of your show. We put hours into each others’ art, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the only rewards we can count on are the rewards of creating, the pleasures of doing it together, and the satisfaction of being in each other’s audience.

It’s a rich, complex, and intelligently critical world we inhabit: a world that produces great art, and that does not burn brightest when the CBC or the Globe take notice, or when the Americans or Brits do. It’s a world populated by writers and artists who give help and recognition without scoping the horizon for whether the arbiters are near. We are the arbiters. Whether the myth of Canadian achievement includes this world or not, this world exists. It’s true.

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Little Boxes #108: Red Hood

(cover of Susceptible, by Genevieve Castree, 2012)

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Tea With Chris: Be Not Content

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Thursday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:

Carl: Rudy Rucker has reissued a lost classic of ’60s acidhead lit, William Craddock’s Be Not Content, as an ebook. On the strength of his introduction, I bought it immediately – just six bucks!

I’ve been waiting for great country-soul-rock interpreter Kelly Hogan’s new album for 11 years. Like, actively waiting, pacing around and around my living room, looking at my watch. And as of today I can hear a preview on NPR of I Like to Keep Myself in Pain, featuring songs by Stephin Merritt, Vic Chesnutt, Jon Langford, Robbie Fulks, Catherine Irwin and more. And Booker T. on organ. Start listening, no excuses.

Thinking about copyright just keeps getting smarter and smarter, doesn’t it? Sigh. (Nice headline there, though, from my employer.)

Likewise, Jessica Cripin surveys the sorry state of men’s writing about masculinity. Luckily there are still novelists to read on the subject. And not just the obvious, like Chandler or Carver or some other Raymond. (Well, this one probably wouldn’t help much.) I spent the first couple of days of this week reading the Hunger Games trilogy straight through, and someone should write an analysis of how, for instance, the growth and near-destruction of the Peeta character (that name! phallic with the feminine ending) represents a voyage of negotiating masculinity and risking the boomerang-into-misogyny effect Crispin talks about. I’d go on but some of you haven’t read it yet – trust me, you’re missing out on a dozen hours of great wallowing in teenage dystopian head-trip adventure, not just sidelong gender studies.

If all of that was too grim, please let this fix it. And anything else that troubles you, ever:

Margaux: My great friend and collaborator Ryan Kamstra has launched an Indigogo campaign to help him finish his beautifully titled book, System’s Children. I am really excited about this book, and look! a painting of mine is the future cover. Your prize options for donating include an album, a book or A LIBRARY.

These two videos arrived separately in my inbox today. One regarding Canada’s WRONG-O move on Bill 78 followed by Canada’s WELL PLAYED Montreal! pots & pans action. The other, just another good day from Kanye and Jay-Z. They are best viewed as companions.

Chris: Alain Badiou, who recently published a new book about ~love~, articulates my main objection to online dating: “For me these [French dating site] posters destroy the poetry of existence. They try to suppress the adventure of love. Their idea is you calculate who has the same tastes, the same fantasies, the same holidays, wants the same number of children. [The sites] try to go back to organized marriages – not by parents but by the lovers themselves.”

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Filed under carl wilson, chris randle, linkblogging, margaux williamson