“Peace is Tough,” Jamie Reid
And the University of Toronto R.J. Gumby Chair in Literature goes to…..
Canadian novelist David Gilmour (author of Sparrow Nights, The Perfect Order of Things) teaches a literature class at Victoria College at the University of Toronto. Note that he is not Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, although you have to wonder if he has ever used a fake British accent and pretended to be the other David Gilmour (like this guy) just to get laid, taking into consideration his rather low opinion of women (see below).
Gilmour teaches a class about only authors he personally enjoys and knows well. Fair enough. That’s what happens in academia. I should know, since I have to regularly endure unavoidable social events where I hear about this or that academic’s pet mania ad nauseum to the point where I consider committing homicide with flatware.
So I’m used to hearing about entire centuries of writers or historical events written off as meaningless if they do not fall into a professor or adjunct’s personal expertise. But I hadn’t heard about an entire gender (well, except for radical feminist philosopher Mary Daly’s classes at Boston College that men weren’t allowed to take) and an array of sexual orientations written off completely in one class until yesterday.
Dammit, David Gilmour doesn’t like female writers… with the kind of condescending exception of Virginia Woolf.
He told Random House Canada’s Hazlitt magazine:
I’m not interested in teaching books by women. Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Except for Virginia Woolf. And when I tried to teach Virginia Woolf, she’s too sophisticated, even for a third-year class. Usually at the beginning of the semester a hand shoots up and someone asks why there aren’t any women writers in the course. I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall. What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth.
“What Would John Wayne Read?”
Okay, so no women of any sexual orientation whatsoever. And specifically no bisexual or gay men (but maybe, just maybe, ones who look, sound, and act like “guy-guys”).
But what about manly gay writers? Where do they fit into the curriculum? Walt Whitman, Gore Vidal, Robert Bly, Thom Gunn, or Augusten Burroughs? Does Jack Kerouac get excluded because, although he played football, he had a fling with Gore Vidal? Do butch lesbians (like Gertrude Stein) count? What about transgender writers like Leslie Feinberg?
What if a woman is straight but presents as masculine and likes guns, booze, and fishing like Hemingway did? Or does bro-ishness not save us? What if, say, a gay writer is not yet officially “out” but is posting personals ads looking for DL anonymous sex with other married men in the Lowe’s Home Improvement men’s bathroom? Does he qualify as an acceptable writer, if everyone who knows him thinks he is heterosexual??? Which basically means, you can be a passably straight gay but not a “fag”? (Sorry, Quentin.)
Novelist David Gilmour busily crushing the literary career dreams of several vagina owners—who appear to be the majority of students—in his class in 2011
In all seriousness, Gilmour can still be a good novelist while having obnoxious opinions and saying things in interviews that make him come off as ridiculous and petty. He doesn’t have to be a likeable guy to have talent. I still wouldn’t want to have a beer with him.
Maureen Johnson wrote in response to Gilmour’s doozy of an interview:
Literature is kind of full of assholes.
And that is okay. Some great books have been written by assholes. I am looking at my shelf and it is full of beloved books by known assholes, and that’s fine. Assholism is one of the most common afflictions of literature. Certainly literature and writing programs are full of them. They are like wildlife refuges for assholes.
I will continue to read the works of assholes. I do not discriminate. We all have our faults, and there is good in everyone. And you can be an asshole in life and somehow distill something good and pure by pushing it through the grit in your system.
Below, “man” of the hour, David Gilmour, not exactly oozing machismo, with his son, discussing The Film Club: