Last February, Pasha Malla travelled to Montreal to attend the Canada Council for the Arts' National Forum on the Literary Arts. He expected that "having so many people in one room who share a passion for literature would make for some good conversations." In a cutting essay, he counts the ways he was disappointed.
What happened was closer to a 250-person choir in simultaneous competition to be the lone soloist. The roughly 400 takeaway points included: the calamitous loss of our independent bookstores; “the digital revolution;” the potential for libraries to operate as community hubs; the dearth of outlets for literary criticism; the lack of respect for the timeless art of spoken word poetry; the lousy food; and then there was some guy from Ottawa who told heartwarming, possibly rehearsed stories in both official languages about his unique relationship with books, and in private confided to me he’d not been able to tolerate living in Toronto’s east end “what with all the Indians.” In a similar vein, when I commented in my working group at the overwhelming whiteness of the delegation, and wondered if it was a fair representation of the country at large, I was told that I “need to get out of Toronto more.” So. Some diversity of thinking. As you might imagine, the result at times was nothing short of a total goddamn clusterfuck(illustration by Gary Taxali)