Sunday, November 20, 2016

Steven Galloway: outside of Canada, nobody cares

BLOGGER'S LAMENT.  I am absolutely exhausted. Just wiped out. I've been - somehow - don't know how - didn't want to do it, didn't want to do it - caught up in the Steven Galloway "affaire".

What's that, you ask? Who he? Outside of Canada, nobody cares. Steven Galloway is a former professor of Creative Writing at UBC (University of British Columbia, for my hordes of overseas fans). Professor Galloway had a habit of sexually assaulting female students, quite a number of them in fact, and some of them were beginning to actually complain about it. After an internal investigation, UBC dismissed him. 

But that is not the end, readers! The muck really begins here. In the past few days, 80 of Canada's creme de la creme/elite/"just plain old BEST" authors all lined up to sign an "open letter" to UBC protesting his dismissal. These Big 80, described in the press as "a Who's Who" of Canadian Literature, didn't think it was too gol-dern fair for The Professor to be held accountable for his actions - not to the point of actually losing his job! They insisted that a proper investigation be held to drag the situation out endlessly and allow Galloway to hire some crack lawyer who would blow down the (likely poor and marginalized) injured parties with one breath.

But the more people looked at this petition and the signatures under it, the more they smelled days'-old fish.

UBC is known as a sort of literary mill, a vast machine churning out new writers, who then, eventually, become Establishment: the new elite of CanLit. This is how the system renews itself: think of an immense, seething termite queen whose sole purpose is spewing out more termites.

If one unit of this family (and I use the term in a Sicilian sense) suffers in any way, the others must, according to their contract, rush to his/her aid. It is the termite way, and it is immutable.

The whole thing made me ill. To my mind, it was an extreme example of the wagons going in a circle, not to mention what Orwell might have called "wethink" (or, perhaps, "we-think"). A number of these CanLit muckety-mucks actually took their names OFF the "open" letter (which, to my mind, was about as closed a thing as I have ever seen), once they realized what it was they had actually signed.

Not to jest, because this has left me feeling like road kill. For the glittering Literatti will surely mass together when one of their own is under attack - while casually throwing a number of vulnerable, relatively powerless sexual assault survivors under the bus.

Or so it seems to me. 

Margaret Atwood, the Queen Bee or perhaps the Termite Queen of CanLit, wrote a letter of her own, which I won't reproduce here, but it's haughty. She tries to backtrack on her original statement, which compared Steven Galloway's dismissal to being burned at the stake in Salem. (Her references to a "witch hunt" strongly implied the students' claims were driven by hysterical delusion).

She has since made an effort to cover her literary ass, but it's a little late for that. Charmingly, she does remind us all that Galloway was "thrown in a mental hospital", which is apparently the worst fate which can befall a human being. The indignity of it - the horror, the shame - a Gulag Archipelago, UBC-style! It was all designed to cue the "He's Really The Victim" music.

If I jest about all this, it's so I won't cry. The whole thing exhausts me. Like Dorothy Parker, I only jest to keep from howling. (And please don't think I am comparing myself to her - I stopped drinking 26 years ago).