Thanks for clearing this up…

Gabriel Winant at Salon on why Gordon Brown calling that woman a bigot was a big deal:

To judge Brown, it’s helpful to ask how this would play out in the U.S. Imagine if, say, Al Gore in 2000 — a figure in some ways similar to Brown — had been caught calling a retiree in Youngstown, Ohio a bigot, after she complained to him about the Mexicans filling up the neighborhood. Would this imaginary Gore have been right?

There’s not really any use saying no. It takes a certain amount of delusion to miss the racial animus in anti-immigration politics. Just have a look at this sneering and nonsensical ad from Alabama Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James, in which he complains about multilingual driver’s license exams. Or give a moment’s thought to the fact that a real candidate for office actually proposed “micro-chipping” undocumented workers. Besides, despite our disturbingly common willingness to write off Latinos and black people as not “real” members of the working class, their problems also count as the problems of working families.

At the same time though, blaming Duffy, or her hypothetical American equivalent, does sort of amount to blaming the victim. Because while the racism is real, so is the grievance. Not necessarily the particular racial hostility against Mexican immigrants — let’s not try to apologize for that. But it shouldn’t be so hard to understand why working people would resent a political order that seems thoroughly uninterested in doing anything about ever-growing levels of economic inequality.

I don’t know where I stand on this one. “While the racism is real, so is the grievance.” Meh, I don’t know. I guess the grievance is legitimate, but at the same time when this old doll is in an old folks home those Eastern Europeans and brown people she’s so worried about will be feeding her and changing her diaper.

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Book reviewsy…

I read Zoe Whittall’s Holding Still For as Long as Possible over the weekend. It was pretty good. It’s set in Toronto and is about twenty-somethings. Dear god, you’re saying, why would you ever want to read about that?

The good: The writing, the actual stringing the words together part – nice words, prettily strung. One o the characters describes herself:  “I might have made a great Victorian lady, dying in a tower somewhere, pinching my wrists until the wilting finally kills me”.

The mediocre: the whole thing is a big mess. The story is about  a love triangle of anxiety-riddled, self -obsessed hipster types. The trouble is, the three characters are all too similar. This is what the book jacket says (and I know I can’t blame Whittall for some ridiculous book jacket but still):

What is it like to grow into adulthood with the “war on terror”, SARS, and Hurricane Katrina as your backdrop? In her robust, elegant new novel, Zoe Whittall presents a dazzling and mature portrait of a generation we’ve rarely seen in literature – the twentysomethings who grew up on anti-anxiety meds, text messaging each other truncated emotions, blurring their public and private lives…

And so on and so forth. While I’ll agree that this group isn’t written about often, or if they are written about, it isn’t honest and it all devolves into stereotypes, but still, I don’t feel that Whittall gets it right. This book feels kind of nineties to me, and I’m not trying to be nit-picky. She is at least more honest and sincere than most people are about this generation, but still, some of it feels like posturing. Like, oh the girl who has panic attacks, and the girl with rich parents who wants to be a filmmaker but doesn’t really get it because of her privileged upbringing, etc., etc. Panic attacks do not and cannot make a novel. While these characters aren’t quite stereotypes, they still feel cheapened somehow. I’m finding it hard to describe beyond that, it was more of a visceral reaction I had when I was reading the book. It just felt wrong. I am just now starting to realize how much this last decade and it’s laundry list of tsunamis, torture, “terrorism”, war and corruption has affected me. This is part of what I’m trying to deal with in my own writing. So I admire Whittall for trying to deal with it, and trying to do it honestly. And I admire her for writing a pretty good book that is worth reading, and doing it in and about Canada. I think once we get more people doing this, Whittall will be less of a novelty and become one more member of a group of good young Canadian writers. I look forward to it.

This is intriguing…

I just heard this on CBC today even though it’s been out for a month. 4 things are interesting to me here:

  1. Usually when celebrities come together to raise money through music the song blows. Like, it is just awful, e.g. We are the World. This K’Naan song is actually amazing.
  2. I love the mix of douchebags with real artists here. Usually it’s 90% douchebag on these charity singles, with Bono right up front. Like, fine, you’ve got your Avril and your Hedley, Sum 41, Simple Plan etc., but then you’ve got Emily Haines, Corb effing Lund,  Sam Roberts, Hawksley, Serena Ryder, Tom Cochrane, Jim Cuddy and tons of other great artists.
  3. I forgive Nikki Yanovsky for that awful Olympic song for the sweet licks she does on this track. I knew there was a good singer buried under all that schmaltz.
  4. Um, Hawksley kills it.  1:41 in. I love you, Hawksley.