The new Canadian Notes and Queries is out and anyone interested keeping abreast of contemporary literarture should read it. As I’ve said more than once, it is my favourite literary magazine, and one I’m honoured to write for. The latest issue has a long essay I wrote about Russell Smith’s new novel Girl Crazy. The essay also serves as an overview of Smith’s controversial career. The essay can be found here.
Over at the National Post, Alex Good and Steven Beattie give their list of overrated and underrated Canadian writers. Among those who are have been too widely praised: Anne Michaels, Douglas Coupland, Michael Ondaatje, and Yann Martel. Those deserving of more attention include Clark Blaise, Caroline Adderson, Russell Smith, Douglas Glover and Lynn Coady.
These are very strong lists. I happen to agree with almost all the judgments, at least with the writers I’m familiar with. I’m especially happy to see the shout-out to Clark Blaise, who is one of my favorite living writers. In an ideal world, Blaise would be as feted and popular as Alice Munro.
Many columnists are blind, but only metaphorically so. Charles Krauthammer and George Will are as eyeless as Samson, with a similar appetite for inflicting retributive mass slaughter on the residents of Gaza. But Russell Smith, the novelist whose cultural ruminations appear in the Globe and Mail, is actually blind, although thankfully only temporarily so. Smith has written a wry, jaunty column about his current sightless state. I’ve posted excerpts from the column at the end of this posting (The column can be found here; fair warning: the Globe usually yanks its online content after 2 weeks; Smith’s piece deserves e a longer afterlife.)
In his little essay, Smith discusses other writers who were blind or wrote about blindness: Joyce, Henry Green, Borges, and Milton. I was a bit surprised that Smith didn’t mention Wyndham Lewis, the great modernist novelist and painter who also lost his vision in old age; the omission was unexpected because the columnist’s father, the late literary critic Rowland Smith, wrote so well on Lewis.