Our new literary overlords

From Who Owns the Future? (2013) by Jaron Lanier:

What will books be like once Silicon Valley has had its way with them?

A lot of people will pretend to be commercially successful authors, and will put money into enhancing the illusion. Most of these will rely on family support or inheritance. Gradually an intellectual plutocracy will emerge.

From World Without Mind (2017) by Franklin Foer:

Our great writers cared about money because they needed it. They needed it to feed their families, and so that they could devote themselves to fulfilling their creative selves. Without pay, they would have been consigned to day jobs, unable to fully apply themselves to their prose. Apologists for Amazon like to sneer at the writerly caste, a hermetic club that dismisses outsiders who aren’t part of the gang. Yet history shows the alternative to professionalized writing. A few geniuses from the lower rungs of the class structure would manage to produce lasting art, despite the distant odds. But writing would largely survive as a luxury for those who could afford it, a hobby for the wealthy – for the trust fund babies, the men of leisure, those with resources to follow their economically irrational passions.


In quotation

My review of Elise Levine’s This Wicked Tongue is up at the Literary Review of Canada site. I spend a lot of time talking about her choice not to use quotation marks. That’s something you see writers doing more these days. Sometimes it works. I think Levine’s approach is effective in that it fits with what she’s doing more generally.

Why can’t we have both?

From The End of the Twentieth Century and the End of the Modern Age (1993) by John Lukacs:

Near the end of the twentieth century — indeed, near the end of the so-called Modern Age — two dangerous circumstances threaten the world. One is the institutionalized pressure for material and economic “growth” — contrary to stability and threatening nature itself. The other is the existence of the populist inclinations of nationalism — contrary to a greater and better understanding among peoples, often debouching into barbarism. One is the thrust for increasing wealth, the other, for tribal power. One issues from the presumption that the principal human motive is greed; the other, that it is power. To think that the former is morally superior to the latter is at least questionable; but to think that the progress of history amounts to the triumph of money over force is stupid beyond belief.


Haters gonna hate

From The Tangled Garden: A Canadian Cultural Manifesto for the Digital Age (2019) by Richard Stursberg with Stephen Armstrong:

One day during all this unpleasantness, I sat down to have lunch with Flora MacDonald and seek her counsel.

“Why do your people hate the CBC so much?” I asked.

“My people?” she replied.

“Yes. Your people, your party, the Conservative Party.”

“They are not my people. They are a different party from the one I was in.”

“But you must have some insight into why they hate the CBC so much.”

“Oh, Richard,” she laughed. “Don’t think that you’re special. They hate everything.”


“Yes, everything. That’s what they do. They are haters.”


Call it the Trump Effect. Or another Trump Effect. Over at Goodreports I’ve added a review of Gavin Esler’s The United States of Anger, which came out in 1997. In fact, I remember Esler’s book as being one of the very first to cross my desk when I started reviewing on a regular basis. I didn’t review it at the time, but some of its arguments stuck in my head. When I came across it again recently, cleaning up some books in the basement, I started flipping through it and, given all that’s happened in the two decades since, I thought it was worth re-examining.

As I point out in my review, this is not the way it usually works with timely political books. They’re almost always forgotten a few months after publication. But with the Trump phenomenon I think it’s interesting to go back and looks at these studies of the world BT (Before Trump) and see what, in retrospect, they might tell us about what was coming. Much the same thinking was behind my revisiting of my review of John Filion’s book on Doug Ford, The Only Average Guy. At least in terms of politics and the media, Trump really changed the game. But should we have seen him coming? Did we?