Friday, October 25, 2013

Margaret Wente: Ace Concern Troll

Why did I read Margaret Wente's recent column on David Gilmour?

I don't even know why I'm writing about this, except that I a) wrote about both of them recently, and b) I am, in my own pathetic way, as bad as everyone else on the Internet (forgive me, Jonathan Franzen!).  I also promise not to write about her again at least until next year.

To be charitable to her, her column points something out that nearly everyone else has ignored.  She is nearly the only person who has pointed out that Gilmour is not a tenured professor.  Rather, he is (like me, actually, as well as many of my friends) a part-time sessional instructor at U of T, specifically, with Victoria College.

I suspect one of the reasons this was lost in the shuffle was because the impression one gets from the initial Hazlitt interview was that the U of T begged to give him a 100k+ per year tenured position because he's a "natural teacher". The reality is that he's making about $7,000 per course, at least until his contract runs out...

Besides that, her column is phoned-in trash about how men are a disadvantaged minority on campuses.  The following is a character study in complete bullshit being passed off as conventional wisdom:
Frankly, I was surprised and glad to learn that there remains one small testosterone-safe zone at U of T (although I guess it’s not safe any more). As anyone who’s set foot on campus in the past 30 years ought to know, courses in guy-guy writers are vastly outnumbered by courses in women writers, queer writers, black writers, colonial writers, postcolonial writers, Canadian writers, indigenous writers, Caribbean, African, Asian and South Asian writers, and various sub- and sub-subsets of the above. But if you’re interested in Hemingway, good luck. No wonder male students are all but extinct in the humanities.
I know that the Globe and Mail, like many other news organizations, has had to tighten its belt, but couldn't anyone have googled the U of T's English Department's course listings?  A cursory glance at the course outlines shows that there are plenty of the supposed "guy-guy" writers, like Philip Roth, getting taught at U of T.

The problem, and this is maybe what Wente missed when her overworked, unpaid intern, who had spent 30 seconds "researching" her column after picking up Wente's Pumpkin Spice Latte, is that a lot of the "guy-guy" writers that Gilmour mentioned just fall under the category of "American Fiction of the 20th Century".  In other words, their maleness is not pointed out because it remains the category against which everything else is judged. 

Indeed, Hemingway might be the only major white male author for whom I could not find a course listing.  However, there's a fourth year seminar for that darling of the feminist left, Ezra Pound.

This brings up an important point.  Maybe we do need to spell this kind of stuff out - English 324 should be called "Modern, mainly white, male poets up to 1960" so that men too can also wear the burden of their identity the way Margaret Wente so casually diminishes the identities of everyone in her laundry list of courses.

But the line that really sticks in my craw is the last one "No wonder male students are all but extinct in the humanities." Seriously?  Men aren't drawn to the humanities because they don't get to read books by male authors?  So then what are all these women doing reading Milton? Penis Envy?  And what the hell do I have in common with Milton anyway, beyond my gender and my skin colour?  None of what she writes makes any sense!

In conclusion, I will never write about anything she writes ever again.  Sorry to have troubled you.

New York City Opera

Here is a very nice obituary for it by Tim Page.

Having never lived in New York, I cannot really imagine what it would be like to lose something like this.  We remain, in Canada, relatively lucky that, despite an (allegedly) crack-smoking mayor here in Toronto,and a Prime Minister bent on returning Canada to its fur trade roots by narrowing our economy to resource extraction, we have managed, somehow, to retain most of our arts organizations.

Even if the Canadian Opera Company pisses me off, and it has lately, I don't know what the cultural life of the city would be like without it.

A very sad state of affairs.