Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Honourable Men: When Yann Martel "Praises" Stephen Harper in Shakespearian Style

Yann Martel has another take on the value of the “liberal arts” in the cover letter he included this week in his latest gift to Stephen Harper. Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is the choice this time, and the occasion for Martel to protest several funding cuts Harper’s government has made to “culture” spending.

First Martel argues that Harper's plan to jack up the funding available for graduate study in business is a big mistake. “The world would be a better place if rather than having business-types infiltrating universities, we had Shakespeare-types infiltrating businesses,” he writes. “I imagine this line of argument is falling on your deaf ear. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood. To paraphrase Antony speaking of Brutus, you are an honourable man and you must know what you’re doing.

Then Martel points out the effects of limiting funding available through the new Canadian Periodical Fund to magazines with a circulation greater than five thousand. “That will pretty well kill off every single arts and literary magazine in Canada,” Martel correctly points out. Some might think that’s a good thing since “. “Elitist little rags, who needs them?” but “good things start small.” If the little magazines go, “so does the next generation of writers and poets. But perhaps I’ve misunderstood. You are an honourable man and you must know what you’re doing.”

Ah yes, honourable men.

This two person (Harper and Martel) book club has been going on for nearly two years, when Martel decided that Harper needed some good bedtime reading to provide “stillness” in his life after seeing how harried he was at ceremony. Two weeks ago Martel sent his 50th book: Jane Austen, A Life, by Carol Shields. It’s [ a much less troubling read than Julius Caesar with Martel’s glosses, but one should note that Shields’ career was started in little magazines and encouraged by the Canada Council too. Were she alive, I imagine she'd be protesting too.


Martin Langeland said...

If Mr. Harper might see even a thin reflection of Brutus in his mirror, then might Canada have a different party attempting to lead it.
Alas, I think he cannot and the death of the liberal arts is just one more item on his list for drowning.

Mournful Serpents everywhere wiggle their tongues more in sadness than malice.

Mary Soderstrom said...

The serpent image is something to keep you awake at night!

Another reason to rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Martin Langeland said...

Yes, but ...
It was St. Patrick's day.