First Victoria Glendinning, one of this year’s Giller judges, weighed in on what she saw as some of the limitations of Canadian literature (too many grants, too many cottage settings, too many “flashbacks to Granny’s youth,” etc.). Then Noah Richler responded to Glendinning in the pages of The Globe and Mail, arguing that the juror was showing bad manners, and that, furthermore, English novels lacked “fervour and a generosity of spirit” in comparison to ours. Then Elana Rabinovitch, the Giller Prize’s administrator, responded to Richler in a letter to the Globe, saying that “if Canadian literature wants to be recognized on the world stage, we should be able to take criticism.”
Well, we couldn’t leave it at that, so we asked Stephen Henighan, who has in the past been very vocal about both the state of Canadian literature in general and the Gillers in particular, what he thought of Rabinovitch’s call for thicker skin, especially given that Rabinovitch has called Henighan’s past criticisms “ravings” and accused him of “almost legendary … bitterness.”
Here is Henighan, in an e-mail to Quillblog, on the whole hullaballoo:
My first reaction is that it would be nice if Elana practised what she preaches by developing a sufficiently thick skin not to respond to criticism as “ravings.” Having said that, I actually liked Glendinning’s comments, although the final lines make clear that she doesn’t understand the history of arts funding in Canada.
Henighan also shared his thoughts on the fairly recent creation of a Giller longlist:
My cynical view is that the long list has become a way of patting small presses on the head. In spite of all the patronizing nonsense we’ve heard recently, I’m predicting a short list of Atwood, Michaels, Lyon, McAdam (or maybe McIntyre) + One Woman, in which Penguin will have one entry and Bertelsmann three, or maybe four. Plus Ã§a change….