Thursday, February 21, 2013

It now talks mostly to itself, using an obscure dialect

From End of Story by Charles Foran.

In its particulars, Foran is talking about the rise and fall of CanLit, the effort to establish a robust local literature and literary identity within Canada. But this story is pertinent to all groups seeking to push some Identity literature. The habit and art of reading in general and the commercial viability of publishing in particular have been in such flux for so long that the prospects of any targeted and refined literary craft within the stormy ocean of publishing seem grim and limited. Something new will emerge. The hope has always been that there will be a smooth transition from what was to what will be. It often feels like instead that what was has to die first before we will catch a glimpse of what will be. A couple of passages:
The academy in particular, once a powerful force in CanLit, plunged down the theory rabbit hole, rooting too much scholarship in those few texts that confirm pre-existing critical discourses. It now talks mostly to itself, using an obscure dialect.
But the current upheaval disguises something essential, and more hopeful. The problem is not that there are no good stories to tell about CanLit. Rather, there are too many. There is too much literary diversity, too much good writing and publishing being done in too many places by groups with, yes, different and competing tales of their long odds and uphill climbs. In the title of his stellar 2006 walkabout of the literary land, Noah Richler asked, This Is My Country, What’s Yours? He found (no surprise) that geography is destiny in our continent-wide nation, and no singular narrative can, or should, exist in such a setting. Canada may now be poised somewhere between a nation-state and a post-nation configuration with no easy name for it. Publishers, writers, booksellers, and readers should all proceed accordingly.

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