A Gadfly Revitalized
By Charles Enman
The Ottawa Citizen
September 24, 2007
John Metcalf -- fine short story writer, mentor to a generation of upcoming Canadian writers, and gadfly to the Canadian literary establishment -- is back with a new book and a set of opinions as pointed, uncompromising and heartfelt as ever.
Metcalf will be reading from his latest book, Shut Up He Explained, at the Manx Pub on Saturday. That will be the book's launch, part of the Plan 99 Reading Series that has been running for seven years.
For years, Metcalf was senior editor at the Porcupine's Quill, perhaps the country's premier small press. Now 69, and newly installed as fiction editor at Biblioasis, a small press based in Windsor, he says he's caught new breath at an age at which he was starting to feel he should fade into the background.
he new book, he says, is "something strange, something that goes in three or four directions -- part memoir, part history, part criticism, and part an attempt to engage people with good prose and show them how to read it."
Canadians, he's been saying for decades, have never really learned to read well. They've been seduced by the belief that Canadian writing takes its virtue from being Canadian, and not from any intrinsic merit in the quality of the prose.
"We've had almost a total confusion between literature and nationalism. Large claims have been made for books simply because they are written by Canadians -- and I have irritated many people by insisting that this is an appalling basis for judgment."
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