Archive for August 2, 2010

Straight from the horse’s mouth

Zach Wells’ dismantling of Andre Alexis’ critical essay “The Long Decline” (published a recent issue of The Walrus) on the Canadian Notes and Queries blog has been the talk of Canadian literary community of late. While the debate has been thoroughly discussed here and here, I’d like to focus on AA’s response to Wells (and others) in the CNQ comments stream. 

The original Wells’ piece, written as a faux rejection letter from CNQ, is insightful and revealing while also being mean-spirited and overly concerned with being right. It’s a fun read however, and I’m never against critical analysis – however Mr. Alexis seems to be. Here’s one of his responses, a full out personal attack:

“wonderful, all of metcalf’s least talented sycophants at once. nathan “i am so clever i ape the book writer’s style in my reviews” whitlock. no, nathan, dearie, the short alexis response would be:

– a polemic is not a scholarly article, fool.
– your inability to follow my arguments is your problem.
– kissing john metcalf’s arse is YOUR job, not mine.

oh, and there’s alex good, witless blogger.

– hey, good, i’ll hide my literary shortcomings if you’ll agree to show anything approaching the ability to understand a text, any text. (i would accept commentary on colouring books, maybe you can get whitlock to help you with the crayons.) that your local bookstore has my book as a remainder (ouch! how terribly painful!) while displaying CN&Q would of course be a major victory in your cloudy mind. keep farming, son, maybe some day you’ll actually publish a book.

as to bad reviews: to publish a book in canada is to play “bozo roulette”. every once in an unpredictable while, you get reviewed by a clown. that would be you, good, when it isn’t you and the red noses you gather to blog so eloquently about how little you know.

as to the “substantiating material” in my book. no, mr good. there are no “substantiating” quotes or notes in my book. i took them out so that pretentious bullies like you would drop dead at the insult done your guru.”

Earlier in the year I wrote a short summary of Linda Rogers’ attempt to throw her status around in response to a bad review. Publishing a few books doesn’t make an author immune to critical analysis – if anything, establishing a reputation takes critical attention and debate, so why shy away from it? 

Andre Alexis is guilty of trying to use his reputation to intimidate  younger writers in response to a well written and clearly thought out piece of criticism. Most of the counter-arguments in AA’s original response to Wells come off as “I didn’t really mean the stupid parts” as Alex Good accurately describes them. Andre is entitled to his rebuttal of course, however the personal vitrol he shows in repose to Good and Nathan Whitlock (peripherals in this debate no less) have no place in a literary discussion.

Mr. Alexis, you’re a bully. Zach Wells 1 – Andre Alexis 0. 

August 2, 2010 at 12:23 am Leave a comment


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