Only three months after a Canadian writer received the Nobel Prize for literature for the first time ever, one U.S. writer dismissed our literary traditions as boring.
Russian-American author Gary Shteyngart, who served as a juror for the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada's premier book award, told New York magazine's Vulture blog this week:
"Let me say this. I was the judge of a Canadian prize, and it’s subsidized, they all get grants. Out of a million entries, we found four or five really good ones, but people just don’t take the same damn risks! Maybe they want to please the Ontario Arts Council, or whatever it is."
His remarks elicited an immediate reaction from book lovers across the country. In response to a tweet from the Globe and Mail's Books section, Shteyngart wrote "I was in a drunken stupor when I said that," showcasing his familiarity with Canadian stories (if not, perhaps, the kind we're most proud of).
Since that interview was published Thursday, Shteyngart's entire Twitter feed has been filled with apologies for his comments, including gems like this:
Canadians, I was kidding about your literary non-edginess. As a nation that's home to both A. Munro and Rob Ford, you contain multitudes.— Gary Shteyngart (@Shteyngart) January 9, 2014
Canadian day of contrition. Listening to Glenn Gould while eating poutine.— Gary Shteyngart (@Shteyngart) January 10, 2014
It's no surprise the Canadian book community was quick to defend its narratives. It's been a year of high profile controversies for this normally above-the-fray group, from David Gilmour's comments about not being interested in teaching female authors to author Bret Easton Ellis' dismissal of Alice Munro as "overrated."
But in this instance, Shteyngart seemed to know when he was wrong — or at least, recognized that he didn't want to be politely ignored at his upcoming appearance in Toronto at the end of January.
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