Friday, November 18, 2016

Due Process

I haven't said a lot about the ongoing FUBAR of Steven Galloway's firing from UBC. I haven't said much because I'm not that invested in what is euphemistically known as the "literary community" and, frankly, because I don't know much about the case. Nobody except those involved does--for mostly very good reasons. Like the law. Near-perfect ignorance, of course, hasn't stopped a lot of other people from having strong opinions about how things have gone down. And then, a horribly misconceived letter started circulating, signed by all manner of CanLit luminaries, who, despite knowing next-to-nothing, thought that it was incumbent on them to grease the wheels of justice. Unacknowledged legislators, antennae of the race, etc. When it was pointed out by other writers that this anonymously authored letter was markedly biassed towards Galloway and threw his accusers under the bus, a number of writers, horrified that they had been blindly duped into condoning rape culture (because they are apparently not so good at reading, even though they do it for a living), scrambled to remove their names from the letter. Others, including Margaret Atwood, who is looking more and more like Signal and less and less like Noise, have dug in their heels.

One thing I do know about this matter is that Mr. Galloway's dismissal is the subject of a grievance being pursued by his union. This is what due process looks like in a unionized workplace. I know, because I'm a shop steward in my union local (Unifor 4005) and I write a LOT of grievances, for matters both minor and grave. (These days, I write more grievances than anything else, unfortunately. I could tell you some stories. Except I can't. Because it's private information and all.) It's not a perfect process and it can take a godawfully long time for the grievance procedure to resolve anything, but if/when employer and union fail to work things out on their own, the matter will go before an independent arbitrator, who will render an impartial, and binding, judgment. In my experience, arbitrators get it right far more than they get it wrong. This is because they weigh all available facts and arguments in a detached and rational manner. And they get it right far more often, I guarantee you, than dozens of self-righteous writers flailing about rhetorically.

Yesterday, I came across a rare beam of light, in the form of a Facebook post by a writer named Dorothy Palmer. She says pretty much all that needs to be said about this shitshow.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Blurble blurble

Jason Guriel on the lowly blurb. Like him, I've had reviews I've written misappropriated and manipulated by publishers to appear more praiseful than they were. Dirty pool, but you have to tip your cap, I suppose. 
On the few occasions I've been asked to furnish a pre-publication blurb, I've declined, for many of the reasons Jason touches on: a)I'm not famous enough--not nearly!--to boost your sales. b)The blurb is a seriously degraded currency and I don't wish to contribute to its further decline. c)I probably won't have sufficiently unmixed feelings about the quality of your book to blurb it with wholehearted enthusiasm. 
My own books of poetry have gone without blurbs, by my own wishes. The last two, we've gone with the full text of a poem, since what can tell a reader more about the contents of a book than a representative sample? I very nearly got one from Barry Lopez for my first book, but it arrived after the book had already been published. Best kind of blurb: from one of my literary heroes, but not out there for the public to see. For my book of essays, I pulled a Zizek and selected something never intended to be used for that purpose: a dismissive couple of sentences from an interview with George Bowering, who was apparently unimpressed with my reviewing work, but took too many pains to demonstrate how little he cared for it.