Post-literate

by Aaron Wherry

Yann Martel has compiled his letters to Stephen Harper in a book.

“I suspect we have with Harper – and maybe he’s not the first, but it’s the first time I’ve noticed – I think we have someone who in a sense is post-literate,” Martel, who won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2002 for “Life of Pi,” said in a recent interview.

“Of course he can read, of course he’s read books, of course he’s able to absorb a lot of information and he’s very intelligent.

“But I suspect in the making of the man, literary culture – so in other words, what novels, short stories, poems can bring to a person – that aspect hasn’t been very important so that’s what I mean by he’s post-literate.”




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Post-literate

  1. I can't imagine him reading anything other than briefing notes, magazine articles & press clippings.

    • I couldn't imagine him singing and playing piano with Yo Yo Ma.

      Doesn't mean it didn't happen.

      • I think it's time for him to go in the recording studio. Maybe he can do an Eagles song next.

      • I couldn't imagine him being Prime Minister.

        Doesn't mean it didn't happen.

        • No it didn't. It's just a lengthy nightmare.

  2. From the CP article: "What Is Stephen Harper Reading?", which hits shelves Saturday, contains 55 of the letters that Martel has sent to the prime minister every two weeks since April 2007.

    Well, I bet what he isn't reading is the over 55 letters some stalker-author has been sending…

  3. Mr. Harper, I firmly believe, is someone who is capable of many things yet is incapable of true leadership, or, to say (or write) incapable of heading the government of a modern country. While it is undeniable that Mr. Harper's education is very impressive, it still lies to be proven whether he has any policy to enact that education into reality. With his appointment of a Minister of Science that doesn't believe in evolution; with his statement that Québec is a unique Nation within a united Canada (well deserved, by the way), meanwhile declaring to cut culture budgets in the middle of an election (and all the rest of his gaffes), seems to point into the direction that he is a human being with the intelligence to do much, but no common sense to actually do anything.

  4. I admit to having found Martel's little game somewhat droll, but it's unfair to restrict his critique to Harper. It could be deployed against 90% of our current House and Senate incumbents.

    By the way, when's the last time Ignatieff sounded as if he read books (never mind wrote them)? He usually manages to sound as ill-read, or even less read, than Harper–something for which there is absolutely no excuse. For those of us who expected him to elevate the tone of national discourse at least marginally, Ignatieff has been a huge disappointment.

    • "By the way, when's the last time Ignatieff sounded as if he read books (never mind wrote them)?"

      When was the last time the media didn't portray bookishness in a public figure as arrogant, elitist and out of touch? They're even treating writers that way.

      • He was given lots of time, by the media, to demonstrate that he would bring his intellegence and 'worldliness' into the LPC and parliament.
        What he did was live up to the 'just visiting' ads.

        • "He was given lots of time, by the media…"

          What are you talking about?

        • Good fences make good neighbours.

  5. But I suspect in the making of the man, literary culture…hasn't been very important…

    …and that appears to include Biblical culture, which is odd for an evangelical Christian.

    When reading the public utterances of Diefenbaker, Pearson and Stanfield, one is struck by how often they used Biblical allusions–although none of them was considered (or considered himself) to be particularly religious. One is equally struck by how seldom such allusions appear in Harper's utterances.

    Of course, what this says about Harper is equally true of our entire national political discourse: it is almost entirely un-literary, as it is almost entirely un-semantic. It is totally destitute of the depth and integrity that lends words their significance. It is far too shallow to accommodate or deserve literary inspiration. You can't dock a battleship in a fish pond, and you can't sprinkle verses from Tennyson during a press conference summoned to announce the latest outlays from the EAP pork barrel.

  6. MacCross, you are wrong.
    He hasn't been given the carte blanche of majority yet to enact his vision.
    And what is true leadership anyway?
    Does leadership mean enacting social programs we cannot yet afford?

    Leadership to me, means paying off the national debt so we can start building that great society.

    Saskatchewan, a relatively well off province, now, has an interest obligation of $800 million annually.
    And that's not including federal or municipal debt.

    $3200 annually for my family of four. (Because there are a million people in Saskatchewan.)
    Pay off that debt and we have that interest money to construct a brave new world.

    In politics, we always have the Liberals who want to propose some new program that will add to our debt.
    The NDP always want to spend the money we make in the good times on new debt.
    And in the bad times they want to add to it as well.

    There shouldn't be any public debt beyond how we are going to pay for that new bridge.

    Public debt always goes up.
    And it seems to move in lockstep with the times.

    It never goes up or down.
    It just stays the same in relation to the cow that is being milked.

    I am tired of being milked.
    Aren't you?

    • AB eliminated its debt. where's their brave new world. Yes there's opportunity there. But if you walk the streets of Edmonton or Calgary you'll find the ugly face of poverty and despair hasn't been magically erased, despite all the evident economic success in recent years. In fact they're heading back into deficits and debt. Creating a brave new world wont be just a product of fiscal prudence, if ideed it's ever attainable.

  7. This Martel fellow sure sounds like one smug, condescending dude.

    I see the article says he's currently living in Saskatoon. Maybe spending a bit of time in the Canadian prairies will bring dude back down to earth. Prairie folk don't take kindly to arrogant patronizers.

    • Exactly. All I read in Martel is a tremendous arrogance.

      • Well, you win a Booker prize then.

        *sheesh* There's nothing more arrogant than this.

        Prairie folk sure are full of themselves.

    • "Prairie folk don't take kindly to arrogant patronizers."
      ————————————————————————-

      Rolls eyes

      • Perfect reaction of a liberal,
        and exactly why Libs hold only 7 seats out of 92 in the West.
        Keep rolling your eyes dude!

        • Prairie folks don't take kindly to….. what are we here back in the 1800's. Good grief.

          Arrogance – who is more arrogant than Harper.

          What utter BS

          • "Prairie folk don't take kindly to arrogant patronizers."
            Isn't' that' kinda smug and patronizing?

        • How arrogant. Prairie folk sure are rude.

        • Perfect reaction of a liberal,
          and exactly why Libs hold only 7 seats out of 92 in the West.
          Keep rolling your eyes dude!

          ———–

          As long as guys like you and Jarrid keep posting that's pretty much guaranteed.

    • "Prairie folk don't take kindly to arrogant patronizers."

      *snort*

    • I think the dearth of taxpayer funded galas for artists in Saskabush is taking its toll on our friend Martel (who, if memory serves, once described Canada as "the greatest hotel on earth"). It must be rather depressing. Perhaps we could pass the hat around so we can fly young Yann to Ottawa to take in the Yo-Yo Ma at the NAC.

  8. Well, shock folks, but who the hell does Martel think he is? Why would Harper, Ignatieff or Jack Layton, or anyone else for that matter, have to answer to Martel.

    He's just trying to get headlines if you ask me.

  9. Harper reads, but I don't think he understands what the words mean.

    He listens, but he cannot hear.

    He sees, but he doesn't look.

    He thinks, but he cannot feel.

    I think he's the quintessential suburban dweller, going through the rituals of life without actually living it.

    • Speaking of smug condescension, and along comes Anon/Ti-G*y as if on cue.

      • You could just guarantee a post about reading book would have wingnuts seething and frothing:

        • Ti-G*y sock-puppeting. You must be bored out of your skull, Ti.

    • I know exactly what you mean!

      He leads, but he doesn't guide.

      He drinks coffee, but he doesn't savour it.

      He pees, but he doesn't relieve himself. I mean, he's just going through the motions of peeing because everyone else doe it. Not because he actually has to go.

      "He thinks, but he cannot feel"? Did you write that with a straight face? How do you know what he feels? Everyone's a poet, I guess.

    • Aren't you the condescending pompous elitist smug prick.

    • Coming from someone like you, the words are meaningless, being the condescending pompous elitist smug individual that you are.

      • I LOVE it when people call other people things like "condescending pompous elitist smug". Oh the irony!

  10. Anyone who has young children, and makes parenting their number one job,
    knows that your free time is not spent on 'yourself'.

    • Okay, I'll bite — how is your free time helping your children? What about byour neighbours' children?

    • It's always more fun spending free time on one's spouse, true…

      *cough* (did I say that out loud?)

    • It's always more fun spending free time on one's spouse, true…

      *cough* (did I say that out loud?)

  11. I don't see what the big idea is here. So called 'post-literate' people have been around wherever there has been literacy in the modern world. I don't see how the author can honestly think this is something new. Post-literacy is as old as bored students in English class and as pervasive as Harry freaking Potter.

    • Proto-literacy is above all this — Omar freaking Keats.

  12. Jarrid speaks of condescention. True, it is that, but so much more.

    It's the sort of creepy narcissism that comes from a typical stalker, who by thrusting themselves on a public figure's life, presumes they've become an important part of it.

    Worse yet, he then writes a book about it as if all the world wants to be part of his fantasy relationship with the PM.

    • You're quite right, it's downright creepy behaviour.

      • In the book's introduction, Martel writes that while he doesn't know if Harper likes to read, he did say during the 2004 election campaign that his favourite book is the "Guinness Book of World Records."

        Now that is downright creepy. Unless untrue of course.

  13. Hey MacCross – the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc put a gun to Harper's head telling him to spend, spend, spend or they'd carry through their odious plan to execute their ignoble Coalition to run, and I"ll quote from the words of the ignoble December 1st, 2008 agreement, "Canada and Quebec". That's right not Canada, but Canada and Quebec.

    You seem to forget that the January budget came about with considerable pressure from the Coalition partners. Iggy was bragging about it. You seem to have a very short or selective memory, dude.

  14. post-literate means absolutely nothing. you could call harper culturally insensitive, or lacking in compassion, and it would be at least comprehensible.

    as much as i disagree with harper's politics, i think i disagree more with martel on what constitutes compassionate intelligence.

  15. Good point. No-one was forcing Harper to make bad decisions even if the opposition supported his budget. AC also made the point that Harper did have a choice if he really had objections to the opposition's plans for stimulus spending. He could have called their bluff, stood by his con principles and likely carried a lot of public sympathy, since many Canadians don't want money just hosed around – as Harper has done. There are always a million reasons foe not doing the right thing. Conbots claiming that Harper was forced by the opposition is both disingenuous and morally bankrupt – but why let that stop them?

  16. Martel was the guy who called Canada the "greatest hotel on earth".

    Asked to comment on the Conservative's "Just Visiting" ad campaign, he replied "I must be missing something. I don't get it."

    • ""greatest hotel on earth"

      That's called a metaphor. People who write and people who read like that kind of thing.

      Not prairie folk's cup of tea, obviously.

      • Now don't start slagging prairie people just because some so-called "westerners" pretend their opinons are laws of general application.

    • Martel was the guy who called Canada the "greatest hotel on earth"…

      …and is thus a perfect pen-pal for the guy who called Canada a "second-tier socialist" nonentity.

  17. I think a better way of describing Harper besides Martel's somewhat polite "post-literate" would be: "Harper is a philistine." Yeah, that works for me.

  18. I'm always amazed at the way people decide that because they disagree with someone on tax policy or whatever, there is something black in his very soul that must be analyzed.

    Does anyone think it's a coincidence that people you agree with politically always have wonderful human qualities and people you disagee with politically are always either evil to the core or too stupid to breathe?

    What a dumb question. Of course you don't.

  19. I tend to think of myself as a cultured, literate, and politically active person, and you know what? I don't give a flying fooey what Yawn Martel has to say. About anything.

    • I agree. If Harper is content to be perceived as an ignoramous, that's entirely his business.:)

  20. Who needs literature anyway? Martel implies that people's insights come only from their own narrow life experiences, unless they read literature. This is idiotic. There are plenty of insights in non-fiction books – and they aren't cleverly hidden either. I find it interesting that Harper, of our Prime Ministers since Trudeau, finds himself the target of this sort of thing. I recall reading that as a grad student, Harper stood out because he didn't just read the technical economics manuals, but also the original texts of important economic and political thinkers.

    Can you imagine Chretien reading Tolstoy? Paul Martin reading poetry in a dramatic voice? A single tear to the eyes of Brian Mulroney at the end of Great Expectations (which, now that I think of it, is a book that might speak to Mulroney personally)?

    Also in Harper's defence, he has fairly good taste in film. According to facebook his favourite films are Raising Arizona, Crimes and Misdemeanours and Lost in Translation. Its not exactly watching Truffault, but it is certainly a cut above the usual Hollywood garbage. Jack Layton, leader of a party that gets regular kudos from the arts community gave a more predictable answer – Star Wars. I think music is probably another source of insight and inspiration for Harper.

    Martel would not make a good teacher. He has decided that there is only one way to the truth – his.

    • as a grad student, Harper stood out because he didn't just read the technical economics manuals, but also the original texts of important economic and political thinkers

      Dude . . . if you are a grad student that is what expected and what you do. Thats why so many of those learn several languages, something that Harper has clearly not done, until necessary to learn a pedestrian form of French necessary for a political career in Canada. Now, if he did that while in high school, that would be exceptional. But I doubt that was the case, he was probably kept busy being statistician for high school sports teams.

      • You clearly have no idea of what it takes to survive in graduate economics courses. Many economists only learn the technical stuff and don't read the classics. Why? You aren't rewarded at all for reading the classics, only for being able to conduct rigorous econometric analysis (much as most biologists haven't read Darwin). Knowing about Keynes, Smith, Schumpeter or Marx is of little help in wading through modern articles in economics journals. As for language skills most economists would do well to master English before going after other languages.

        Your language comment is both bizarre and uninformed. I can't find a link, but it is my understanding that Harper went to French immersion at some stage when he was young. During the early 90's he was one of the only Reform MP's able to speak French with anything approaching fluency, and so he was their guy on Quebec TV. Harper's French isn't perfect, but I think that is more a function of his having few opportunities to use it until fairly late in his life. When you consider that only 11% of English Canadians are bilingual (and only a fraction of those are conversationally fluent), Harper is no slouch.

  21. Why would Martel waste his brilliant prose on someone he regards as "post literate?"

    Oh. I just got it. Not to prove anything or change anyone's mind. To promote himself.

    I haven't seen such a brilliant pomo self-promotion since American Idol Fantasia Barrino wrote a book about not being able to read. but I bet hers sells more copies at the end of the day.

    Maybe post-literacy is the future, Yann.

    • Oh, I dunno… mebby it's a compulsion. Tintoretto.

    • Shorter Joan Tintor: "If I can't have a career in writing, why should they?"

  22. 'Who needs literature anyway? Martel implies that people's insights come only from their own narrow life experiences, unless they read literature. This is idiotic. There are plenty of insights in non-fiction books – and they aren't cleverly hidden either"
    Sounds to me you're projectiing a little here – i think you don't like literature. But that's ok. i couldn't conceive of anything more boring then studying economic theory – each to their own.
    So Harper likes raising Arizona…interesting. If you can find out if he also thought The Big Leibowski was funny i might consider voting for…slap…slap…really why should it matter. Although i took pride in the fact that Pm Trudeau was an erudite man.
    I doubt Chretien read anything other than golfers digest. Mulroney i believe was a reader.

    • I have nothing against literature, but I take umbrage at the way certain people declare some particular activity (one they happen to engage in) to be so supremely important that it trumps all else. I find jesus freaks, people that talk about "lats", whole/slow/organic food people, and the literati to be particularly annoying incarnations of this for me.

      Also, if I was going to suggest reading material to the busiest man in Canada, I wouldn't suggest anything by the author of War and Peace (which doesn't seem Harper's style at all). Harper seems like more of a science fiction guy – why not a classic work (by a Canadian, no less) like Neuromancer? I could see Harper liking the wit of say… Kurt Vonnegut (not to pimp my adopted state at all).

      Reading is a very personal thing. Having to read something that is assigned by somebody else is never a guarantee that one will get what they are "supposed to" out of it. For instance, I could see somebody reading Brave New World and thinking… hey… drugs – what a great way to run a totalitarian society! Or a Christmas Carol and thinking "hmm… so I can be a jerk till I'm like 60, become a nice guy for like 5 years, and still not go to hell? Score!

      • Try The Sot-Weed Factor — both poem and book.

        • Hear, hear. Both are excellent.

      • What sort of books, music and leisure interests/hobbies our leaders engage in is a area of fascination for me. It humanizes them as much as anything else. Thatcher for instance was a devotee of Lecarre – which took me back a bit, as i couldn't stand her [ i grew up in the UK during her first term in office] Trudeau's broad range of interests was fascinating. In this sense i suspect Harper did himself a big favour at the NAC, because it looked authentic.
        It's odd how a politician can do himself/herself a lot of good by maintaining an air of mystery about their private lives, a little but not too revealing. Harper has a little of this, Trudeau made an art form out of it, Chretien became a master. Whereas Mulroney, Martin and Ignatieff are/were just too publically needy – a turn-off for me.

        • Is politics a substitute (a proxy) for staring directly at our own indecision?

  23. Where is Jack?

    • Sorry guys, I was sitting at a place in Buenos Aires called "Café de la poesía" reading Borges . . . and feeling blissfully out of touch with what ordinary Canadians value. Can't say the experience called me to question the importance of literature or Yann Martel's credibility, but I'm sorry I missed this thread!

  24. Yann Martel seems to think winning the Booker Prize means we have to care what he thinks throughout posterity. For my part, I seriously suspect Yann Martel is an alias for M Night Shyamyaalyan or however you spell it who does those “twist ending” movies like The Sixth Sense. I suppose back when he won the Booker that sort of thing hadn’t been done before.

    I for my part don’t really care what Yann Martel thinks of Harper. Like Sir Francis said, if its true of Harper, its true of 90% of the House of Commons. And why is that? Because Canadians don’t like their politicians too uppity and academic and smarty-pants, that’s why. Any intelligent person with a sense of self-respect is going to be sorely tempted by some other career than a political one. And until Canadians stop rewarding politicians for being “post-literate” and “post-crappy-attack-ads” the stupid show will roll on. So give yourself a wedgy before you start piously belaboring/rolling your eyes at your neighbour.

  25. Wherry whelps out another battlecry to those who need to hurl empty, insipid insults. Predictable.

  26. Wherry whelps out another battlecry to those who need to hurl empty, insipid insults, not so much post-literate as post-cognitive. Predictable.

    • "Whelps out another battlecry"???

      Post-literate indeed.

      • Wherry + yelps = whelps. Its a frequent occurrence.

        • I think you may want to go with "yerries". "Whelps" makes it sounds like he's giving birth to octuplets.

        • I think you may want to stick with "yerries". "Whelps" makes it sounds like he's giving birth to octuplets.

        • I think you may want to go with "yerries". "Whelps" makes it sounds like he's giving birth to a litter of puppies.

          • My first thought was Wherry + yips, but that proved to be even more loaded. My invented language skills really should be better after having spent a fair amount of time at Macleans site.

          • I think your and your friends' problems with Wherry is unrequited love. I've never seem him once respond to your bilious (and dull) personal attacks.

          • Fear of engagement. At least he has the sense to recognize that so much of his work is indefensible. He is taking the wiser route.

          • "Wiser route?"

            Go read a book. Or at least Maclean's.

          • yes, wiser route. There are good dictionaries online if you need to reference one.

          • yes, wiser route. There are some good dictionaries online if you need to reference one.

      • Good one.

  27. Maybe Mr Martel should be focussing his attention on young readers since thats what really matters.

    I hope his new book does well, I would hate to think he wasted all this time planning it and have it all go for nought. Although I admire his enteprenuership.

    • If the book doesn't do well that's OK. In all likelihood we paid him to write it.

  28. Our whole society is post-literate. How does this reflect on Harper, other than making clear that he's a product of our utilitarianism?

  29. "Perhaps if we had better quality contemporary literary works to inspire our imagination, we could forestall the post-literate age."

    And what would like to you? A comic book?

  30. Sorry, that should be "and what would that look like to you?"

    I'm singularly impressed by how hostile you are to the suggestion that Stephen Harper is unread.

    • Where is the hostility? My opinion is that Canadian literature is insular, self-referential, and generally weak at contributing much of value. While that may be a rather strong opinion, it is not hostile.

      • Yann Martel's work is certainly not insular, self-referential, or weak.

  31. 53 letters? So, it seems Martel is one of those people who thinks he deserves to be heard because he talks a lot. Not my favorite type of person.

  32. 53 unsolicited letters, its almost creepy.

    • Not as creepy as your obsession with Aaron Wherry.

      Harper's the PM, after all and his post-literacy is a matter of concern…especially for a writer.

      • This alleged post-literacy makes for a popular but empty talking point among his political opponents who are extremely nervous about losing even the stronghold of Toronto.

        • "This alleged post-literacy makes for a popular but empty talking point…"

          What evidence can you present that would demonstrate that this talking point is bereft of any substance? All we've had are assertions by the Harper Fan Club (a rather unlettered lot, but that's another discussion) that Harper is well-read.

          Given how exercised the Fan Club has become, I think the allegation is hitting a nerve.

          • Martel's allegation is bereft of any substance by his own admission. He admits this is simply conjecture on his part, and self-promotion.

            I've never heard of this fan club. Who are they?

          • "Martel's allegation is bereft of any substance by his own admission. He admits this is simply conjecture on his part, and self-promotion."

            Where does he admit this is "self-promotion?"

            I'd be more focused on the claim he makes that Harper's favourite book is the "Guiness Book of World Records." If this is true, it is significant.

            I actually don't agree with Martel's definition of post-literacy. It's not so much that people's experience isn't being shaped by the written word or that their imaginations are underdeveloped by a lack of exposure to literature (though this is indeed true), just that this is happening primarily though imagery which communicates emotions at the expense of ideas. It doesn't even the have the sophisticated orality of pre-literate cultures and in that sense, is post-verbal as well as post-literate.

          • "It doesn't even the have the sophisticated orality of pre-literate cultures and in that sense, is post-verbal as well as post-literate."

            Compost.

            This entire thread is predicated on the unsupported premise that "post-literate" is an accurate descriptor of our society. It's no such thing. We are a highly literate society and becoming mores all the time. People don't read and write like we did 3 generations ago, but we are doing more of both than we ever did before. Changes in media are not killing literacy or 'transcending' it either. That's just a bunch of po-mo argy-bargy.

          • "It doesn't even the have the sophisticated orality of pre-literate cultures and in that sense, is post-verbal as well as post-literate."

            Compost.

            This entire thread is predicated on the unsupported premise that "post-literate" is an accurate descriptor of our society. It's no such thing. We are a highly literate society and becoming more so all of the time. People don't read and write like we did 3 generations ago, but we are doing more of both than we ever did before. Changes in media are not killing literacy or 'transcending' it either. That's just a bunch of po-mo argy-bargy.

          • Well said! Except for the last sentence.

  33. I'm a little suspicious of a writer who uses the buzz-word "post-literate" in place of the proper adjective which is unread.

    Which is not to support his premise in either case. I suspect that, like most people who are intelligent and somewhat shy, Harper probably read extensively as a kid. I have no proof of that, of course, but then I'm not writing 52 unsolicited letters on the basis of my supposition either.

  34. Our whole society is post-literate. How does this reflect on Harper, other than making clear that he's a product of our utilitarian culture?

    • Perhaps if we had better quality contemporary literary works to inspire our imagination, we could forestall the post-literate age. The notion that Harper needs an Animal Farm knock-off retelling of the Holocaust to ground his sensibilities, or that the cream of Canadian literary crop is publishing a book that is nothing more than a collection of spam, does not encourage me in the hope that the Canadian literati is going to make a significant contribution toward its return to relevance.

      • I don't think we need more contemporary works to be truly literate – there are plenty of excellent classics that yield tremendous insight into timeless truths. Our society would be far better off if we remembered that "literacy" means not the ability to read, but exercise of said capability for the betterment of one's mind and character.

        The older works are a better time investment anyway, for two reasons:
        (1) They have already been vetted. For anything more than a century old we know which works were influential and in which order they belong as part of the human conversation. One doesn't have to sift through the chaff as one does for contemporary literature.
        (2) Their perspective, being from a different era, does not have our blind-spots. They do have their own blind-spots but these being different from ours they're easy to spot while at the same time showing pieces of the picture we would never even think to examine.

        So in the end I agree with you: the Canadian literati have largely received a poor education themselves, and thus don't even know what they need to do to fix the problem (if indeed they even recognize that there is a problem).

      • I don't think we need more contemporary works to be truly literate – there are plenty of excellent classics that yield tremendous insight into timeless truths if read and studied on their own merits, as opposed to studied through the lens of a contemporary textbook or a professor's synopsis. Our society would be far better off if we remembered that "literacy" means not the ability to read, but exercise of said capability for the betterment of one's mind and character.

        The older works are a better time investment anyway, for two reasons:
        (1) They have already been vetted. For anything more than a century old we know which works were influential and in which order they belong as part of the human conversation. One doesn't have to sift through the chaff as one does for contemporary literature.
        (2) Their perspective, being from a different era, does not have our blind-spots. They do have their own blind-spots but these being different from ours they're easy to spot while at the same time showing pieces of the picture we would never even think to examine.

        So in the end I agree with you: the Canadian literati have largely received a poor education themselves, and thus don't even know what they need to do to fix the problem (if indeed they even recognize that there is a problem).

      • I don't think we need more contemporary works to be truly literate – there are plenty of excellent classics that yield tremendous insight into timeless truths if read and studied on their own merits, as opposed to studied through the lens of a contemporary textbook or a professor's synopsis. Our society would be far better off if we remembered that "literacy" means not just the ability to read, but also the exercise of said capability for the betterment of one's mind and character.

        The older works are a better time investment anyway, for two reasons:
        (1) They have already been vetted. For anything more than a century old we know which works were influential and in which order they belong as part of the human conversation. One doesn't have to sift through the chaff as one does for contemporary literature.
        (2) Their perspective, being from a different era, does not have our blind-spots. They do have their own blind-spots but these being different from ours they're easy to spot while at the same time showing pieces of the picture we would never even think to examine.

        So in the end I agree with you: the Canadian literati have largely received a poor education themselves, and thus don't even know what they need to do to fix the problem (if indeed they even recognize that there is a problem).

      • I don't think we need more contemporary works to be truly literate – there are plenty of excellent classics that yield tremendous insight into timeless truths if read and studied on their own merits, as opposed to studied through the lens of a contemporary textbook or a professor's synopsis. Our society would be far better off if we remembered that "literacy" means not just the ability to read, but also the exercise of said capability for the betterment of one's mind and character.

        The older works are a better time investment anyway, for two reasons:

        (1) They have already been vetted. For anything more than a century old we know which works were influential and in which order they belong as part of the human conversation. One doesn't have to sift through the chaff as one does for contemporary literature.

        (2) Their perspective, being from a different era, does not have our blind-spots. They do have their own blind-spots but these being different from ours they're easy to spot while at the same time showing pieces of the picture we would never even think to examine.

        So in the end I agree with you: the Canadian literati have largely received a poor education themselves, and thus don't even know what they need to do to fix the problem (if indeed they even recognize that there is a problem).

        • I couldn't agree with you more. The last three novels I have read are Oliver Twist, the Great Gadsby and Roughing It. All excellent and full of those qualities you identify.

          • I believe the charge was that Harper is post -literate, not post-Canadian iliterate. Interesting how Canadian conservatives always resort to a form of natonal self-loathing whenever the subject of Canadian literature is raised. In this instance you raised it not Martel. For what it's worth i tend to think martal should mind his own business. I'd much prefer our politicians to be well read men and women of the world but we can't have it all ways. We all want politicians to reflect the full range of our diversity. Clearly most of us are semi-literate at best. Although… it isn't unreasonable to expect our PM to be well read.

          • conservatives always resort to a form of natonal self-loathing whenever the subject of Canadian literature is raised

            I've never seen anything remotely like that, and suggestions that Liberals are better Canadians or that Conservatives are better Canadians are really pathetic. I have seen many people of all political persuasions lament the anemic qualities of Canadian literature though. I fully agree that it is desirable that our PM be well read. Using innuendo to make a personal attack, the way Martel does, is simply weak minded.

          • Who's saying anything about being better Canadians? My reference was purely to Canadian literature. As to the low regard for Can lit being held by many people who don't happen to like the perceived leftward tilt of the country, it's a subjective opinion one perhaps, but nonetheless an observable one. No better example of self-loathing springs to mnd than SH's northern socialist state rants south of the border – admittedly not critiques of Canlit.

          • You want to pretend that the suggestion of national self-loathing is not really an assertion of 'leftward' superiority, a suggestion that 'leftwards' are better Canadians for not being self-loathing?

            You suggest that having a critical view of a component of our culture equates to national self-loathing. I think that requires a lot more explanation. You disagree with the current government's position on very many things, does that make you a national self-loather? If I call you as full of national self-loathing for your political opinions, am I not exhibiting an arrogant superiority?

          • You want to pretend that the suggestion of national self-loathing is not really an assertion of 'leftward' superiority, a suggestion that 'leftwards' are better Canadians for not being self-loathing?

            You suggest that having a critical view of a component of our culture equates to national self-loathing. I think that requires a lot more explanation. You disagree with the current government's position on very many things, does that make you a national self-loather? If I call you out as full of national self-loathing for your political opinions, am I not exhibiting an arrogant superiority?

  35. This contrasted with parallel titles of the same names which contained conventional hardboiled crime fiction. ,

  36. The fact that he is shocked that these students have a different culture and upbringing from his has never struck his mind. ,

  37. Very interesting interview. ,

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