Monday, 29 September 2008

Margaret Atwood on Culture and the Canadian Economy

The trouble with being away is that you miss things. Not only did the whole world’s financial system nearly go up in smoke last week when I was gallivanting around, Margaret Atwood had some terrific things to say about the value of culture and the way Canadians have been led astray by the conservatives.

Her first foray was an op-ed piece in The Globe and Mail, entitled "Mr. Harper is wrong: There's more to the arts than a bunch of rich people at galas whining about their grants”. You’re not likely to find it through the usual sources because, it seems, Ms. Atwood is a rare person who can write for the Globe and not be required to sign over electronic rights. Nevertheless the piece was pirated, and is of such value that I’m going include a link to it even though I hate electronic rights grabs.

She also spoke at length with Sinclair Stewart in Saturday’s Globe. Part of this is promotion for the Massey lectures she will give in November and part is a general reflection on where we are economically, given these difficult times. Stewart asked her: "Are we better off in Canada, or should we be worrying as well?"

She replied: "We shouldn't have spent our surplus...We should have put a lot more into new technology. The typical Canadian story is some genius invents a new thing, can't get any money for it, and takes it to the States.”

Then on Sunday she was in The New York Times, this time touting the book that is being published from the Massey Lectures, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth. Because the Sunday Magazine audience is different from the business page on, the interview took a different tack:
So what led you to take up the subject of debt? Long ago, I was a graduate student in Victorian literature. When you think of the 19th-century novel, you think romance — you think Heathcliff, Cathy, Madame Bovary, etc. But the underpinning structure of those novels is money, and Madame Bovary could have cheerfully gone on committing adultery for a long time if she hadn’t overspent.

Are you saying we should view her as a pioneer of deficit spending? You can examine the whole 19th century from the point of view of who would have maxed out their credit cards. Emma Bovary would have maxed hers out. No question. Mr. Scrooge would not have. He would have snipped his up.

And Stephen Harper? What do you bet he doesn't even have a credit card?

No comments: