Thursday, September 26, 2013

David Gilmour

I see David Gilmour all the time.

He used to host a program on CBC Newsworld called On The Arts.  I used to watch it a lot, in part because it was almost the only thing on TV that had much to do with the arts, even though "arts" usually meant film and literature reviews, and not much music, which was what I was actually interested in.

But I do remember a few things about the show and his attitude, things that stuck with me for some reason. Firstly, he had a really combative interview with Brad Pitt over Fight Club.  It was interesting because everyone was looking at the movie as "culture jamming" and Gilmour was taking him to task because he felt that a big Hollywood production was incapable of culture jamming in the way the marketing of the movie implied.

I liked it because after years of watching these publicity "interviews" I thought it was unusual for the interviewer to actually call a celebrity out on what they thought was bullshit.  It also made me question what Fight Club was about, and made me realise that I had completely bought into the marketing of the film as being equivalent to the effect of the film.

I also remember him often saying that he didn't like Shakespeare because "he's boring".


When I first moved to Toronto, I lived at Bloor and Brunswick, pretty much the heart of the Annex neighborhood here in Toronto.  I saw David Gilmour a lot there.  Then I moved away and didn't see him around much.

When I started doing grad school at the University of Toronto, I started seeing him again.  He's one of those funny people in one's city life where, even though you don't really know him, he always seems to be around the same places as you.  I go to a cheese shop in Kensington, and he's there.  I grab lunch at Victoria College, and he's there.  I can't avoid him.

I don't really know him.  But until yesterday at least, I really quite admired him, mainly because of this article he wrote about Tolstoy.  This is one of my all-time favourite articles about a writer.  I don't know why I liked it so much back in the day, but I did, and it made me go out and buy War and Peace.  And oddly enough, the last time I saw him, which is usually at least once a week, he was going up Yonge street, and I mentioned to my girlfriend that I might go and tell him how much I loved that Tolstoy article in the Walrus.

But now I feel ashamed to admit that.


Why, you are asking, because you do not have an rss feed reader?  Because of this.  He has since kind of apologized, but the thing that really comes out of that interview is the fact that he seems to utterly lack charity.

This is ironic because the Tolstoy article is all about coming around to Tolstoy, about imagining that he would hate it, and then reading it, and realising how wonderful it was.  It was that joy of discovery that really affected me in a positive way, and I can imagine that if he can come across that way in a classroom, it would be very inspiring.

But I cannot help but think now that his Tolstoy article was a work of fiction more than a work of memoir, as he seems completely incapable of understanding how his remarks might be interpreted as deeply, deeply uncharitable to women, or to nearly anyone.  This interview makes his experience of Tolstoy sound impossible.


I want to contrast Gilmour's controversy with the one I wrote last week about Jonathan Franzen.  Both are causing a lot of controversy, but I was surprised by how much of the Franzen controversy surrounded what he wrote about women, and also by how differently I read those passages.

They are both middle-aged white men (I am also perilously close to that demographic) but where I see Gilmour blind to his own uh, blind spots, I read in Franzen a self-deprecating moment that, perhaps having been a young man myself, I could identify with that ingrained youthful sexism where, even if you are a "nice guy", you still somehow believe that your grand gestures should be acknowledged as signs of greatness (and virility), and when they aren't, it really offends your ego.  Never mind that she may have her own feelings and thoughts on this, and have different wants and needs.

And I look back on some of those moments, and I feel badly about them, and I hope to talk to my son about those things in a way where he doesn't find himself in those kinds of situations of being angry with yourself, and with the world, because you cannot control whether or not people are attracted to you or not.  A lot of other critics read him as just being straight up sexist, and I don't agree with that at all.  But then perhaps people will imagine that my saying what I just did is sexist.  And then I suppose it's true that there is no space for conversation on the Internet, and Franzen is right again!

Anyway, I suppose my point is that where I thought many critics were uncharitable to Franzen, it seems pretty clear to me that Gilmour lacks that charity towards others. They are being compared to each other (right now on the Internet!) as symbols for creepy/irrelevant old dude power, when it seems pretty clear to me that, at least from the standpoint of women, they are coming at things from wildly different perspectives. It is also true that they are older white dudes.

But as it stands, I think it will be kind of awkward seeing David Gilmour around (I know I will!) and I don't know if that bizarre familiarity will lead me to feel sorry for him, or kind of pissed off that he managed to poison my nuanced and thoughtful admiration (as you can see from above) of him.

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