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David Gilmour's Comments On Women Writers Defended By Women

09/27/2013 09:51 EDT | Updated 09/27/2013 10:15 EDT
CP

Two women columnists have come to the defence of embattled author and teacher David Gilmour.

In the National Post and Toronto Star respectively, Barbara Kay and Rondi Adamson find fault with Canada and Canadian writers for the firestorm over Gilmour's comments about not teaching the works of women or gay men to his students at the University of Toronto.

While Kay writes that she has personally been the victim of Gilmour's penchant for being patronizing and pretentious, but that he has a point when it comes to women writers and, particularly, Canadian women writers.

The Canadian literary scene, in particular, is dominated by women. Women readers buy and read more novels than men.

And what most women readers want is women’s-issues and women’s sensibilities-dominated books. I can easily see how a serious lover of literature, even a pretentious one, would find most Canadian literature by women that is gushed and Giller-ed over, however finely workshopped the prose, pretty slow-paced, broody and dull against the best male writers. As I myself once wrote about Canadian novels: “They’re all jumbled together in memory as feminized paeans to a sepulchral past, mired in poetically lyrical, but navel-gazing narrative stasis.

Kay takes pains to stress that there have been many very talented women writers, many of whom she reads for pleasure, but that Canadian women authors just don't seem to be particularly good at getting inside the skin of both men and women.

Adamson takes aim at Canadians for being "parochial" in their take on Gilmour, comparing us unfavourably to Europeans who tend to shrug over such controversies.

The proponents of CanCon or Women’s Studies courses will say we need to see ourselves reflected in art to get something from it, but if that is the case, it does not say much for us or our collective intelligence. Do I need to be an ambitious Scotsman to understand the lessons of Macbeth, or a Moor to understand Othello? Who has not felt ambition and frustration and jealousy? Who has not felt desperate about love?

Gilmour has faced a firestorm of criticism since the publication of an interview with Random House's Hazlitt blog.

"I’m not interested in teaching books by women ... What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth."

Gilmour has since "apologized," but not without saying that his comments were taken out of context and that he wouldn't express regret were it not for the threat of losing women readers. Oh, and he's only apologizing to people who were offended, because he knows how that feels himself. Check out some of the highlights of his non-apology in the slideshow below.

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Highlights Of David Gilmour's Non-Apology Apology

Gilmour's defenders are not likely to find many supporters at a protest planned to take place at U of T Friday. Organizers told CBC that they hope to encourage Victoria College to fire Gilmour.

At least one U of T professor, Holger Syme, has come out swinging at Gilmour already. In a blog post published on HuffPost, Syme wrote that Gilmour "is not a colleague of mine" and that "he's not much of a literature professor either."

The controversy over Gilmour has made headlines around the world, including in The Guardian, Gawker, The Atlantic and New York Magazine.

Gilmour is currently in the running for the 2013 Giller Prize, Canada's top literary honour. The Giller is named after prominent Canadian journalist Doris Giller. You guessed it, a woman.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Rondi Adamson blogs for The Huffington Post Canada.