Governor General’s Literary Awards shortlists

So, I am currently out of town for the first time in three years, typing to you from a hotel room. It’s been a little surreal, but such is life in these times (elevators are worse than airplanes, is my main takeaway). Had to pop in though to signal boost the announcement of the GG shortlists. I was a juror for English language poetry again, the first time in 12 years, and what a year it was. I’m really proud of the list (my choices are well-represented) and I would defend to the death any of these books, but what I really want the Canada Council to do is allow for a long list. You should have seen the quality of the books that DIDN’T make it to this list. What harm would there be in announcing 10 or 12 books six weeks ago then five today? The thing about judging contests like this is that it’s really easy to get down to a list of about 15 books that are contenders, but then it becomes (to crib a metaphor from the Olympics) a race of 10ths, even 100ths of a second. That said, I think we did a good job and I’m excited for you to hear the winner in a month or so.

Bad Art Friend roundup

So today at breakfast, I asked Ms. Ninja to give me the executive summary on the whole “Bad Art Friend” nonsense. Woof. Garbage fire.

There are articles in every major paper book section, think-pieces in magazines, satire, parasitic journalism, and other analysis sprinkled around, and even some bleed over into other genres like psych (actually, that this doesn’t happen more with stories about writers is remarkable).

It’s officially attained Shitshow Status. Is it another case of people conflating collegiality with actual friendship (something I have been guilty of in the past)? Who knows. All I know is that unless something other than writing connects you, you’re probably not as a good a friend as your might hope with that other author in your life.

(Aside: at least one of the people in question seems to be teaching Creative Writing without having really… um… published much? How is that possible? A product of the American MFA Amway — a pyramid scheme in which you pay someone to teach you writing so you can go teach writing to others and everybody gets a paycheque? Does it seem sketch to anyone?)

Is Amazon changing the very nature of fiction?

What happens when the be-all and end-all of publishing (sales) is largely controlled by an algorithm? An interesting article looks at what happens to literature when we play to sales in the era of Amazon.

Like it or not, we live in the Amazon Era of literature, according to McGurl, just as writers of the late eighteenth century worked in the Age of Johnson; those of the early twentieth century found themselves in the Pound Era; and postwar writers entered the Program Era, which McGurl defined in his previous book as the age of MFA-honed fiction. As well as an economic force, Amazon is an aesthetic one. Literature that is not adapted to its structures, which control the principal ways that books reach readers, will have a difficult time surviving. McGurl dissects this state of affairs in a relatively nonjudgmental way: Rather than arguing that Amazon is destroying literature, or devaluing the artistic act, he attempts to figure out what the house style of the Amazon Era actually is—a style that the author almost perversely enjoys over the course of the book, as part anthropologist and part fan. Unfortunately, that style reads a lot like Fifty Shades of Grey.

Tuesday newsday