P. Christensen writes, "I used to think that a cultural mandarins’ job was to review and interpret cultural phenomena that was generated in the public domain.” It might be more accurate to say that at the outset of the funding model Canada adopted, grants were made to artists whose work had merit and appealed to some public. Funding of performance was to top-up that of the private sector. Support was to be free of political influence.

Clearly, that’s not how things are now. Brazenly political objectives were disclosed by Canada Council leadership in March, and met with total silence. If artists are not funded by Council they don’t care, and if they are, they just hope to find a way to say the right things on the grant applications. But where were the comments in the public forum, on the grounds that Canada Council is the most valuable program of arts support in the country and contributes to national cultural health? The Globe declined to make any - I asked them - they said the readership has not disclosed an interest in the matter.

If Canadian history and biography are in the doldrums maybe it's because most people just aren't interested in them. Dan Wells speaks of the lack of a forum for discussion about books. That's been plain for a long time. There is no forum for discussion about concert music, nor about the overarching themes of culture in Canada as it is now. I go back to the point that if something does not exist, which once did, then it isn't needed. It would be interesting to find out why that is, but conversations like this get stuck at minding that it is.

I’d say, by the way, that Canadians' attachment to American culture is deep and old, and are not, as P Christensen writes, a rejection of "Official Canadian Culture." And, who is "the Canadian public?" That's a real question isn't it?

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The Canadian public’s disenchantment with reading Canadian books and overwhelming interest in American Culture is a reaction against the domineering presence of “Official Canadian Culture” in the book publishing and other cultural industry. Government sponsored “intellectuals” and academic elites on the payroll see their job as backing up the latest social engineering program that the Federal Government is endorsing by ensuring that Canada Council grants, GG awards, support to publishers and the CBC’s interest follows suit. Is it any wonder that non-fiction writers dare not upset the apple cart, that is if they can find a publisher in Canada that is not subservient to Government sponsorship? I used to think that a cultural mandarins’ job was to review and interpret cultural phenomena that was generated in the public domain, I no longer believe this, in Canada elitists drive top down agendas by supporting the political and social engineering goals of other elitists, all very nice and cozy.

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Where are the “scholars eager to write for a general audience” to replace Michael Bliss, Robert Bothwell (78) and Margaret McMillan (78)? In the context of the discussion as it developed the questions are rather, what would the eager scholars write about, and for whom? Margaret McMillan, the most widely read of the two living members of the group, made her public name writing about the aftermath of the First World War.

Canada’s history contains few great events, even fewer with international implications. Our domestic history does not present vivid protagonists and antagonists. There has been no great bloodletting on Canadian soil, no violent collision of ideologies. Canada has been ruled by democrats, not despots, and run by bureaucrats, not commissars. We have no periods of artistic foment, or, except in Quebec, fractious surges of cultural determination. (Instead, a subsidy-chained shuffle toward a fuzzy Canadianism.) During the last century of convulsive international strife, Canada, but for serious economic setbacks, has run smoothly upwards to a niche in the G7. We are the unique post-national nation, made of anarchic categories of distinction.

"The larger picture of Canada’s evolution as a country, or our collective strengths in sciences, or its environmental challenges, or the political crises that shape today’s society,” provides stories, Charlotte Gray suggests, for non-fiction. These are quite well rehearsed already, and hardly spell-binding to the non-fiction reader apparently still interested in the grandiose awfulness of the American Civil War.

Even if writers can make Canada’s stories interesting, which is their job, the country’s history and builders are said to be profoundly contaminated by colonialism and racism. Canada’s intellectual elite, the CBC, schools and universities and funding agencies across Canada are setting aside bodily the history, characters and culture of the West, especially as filtered through the British influence in Canada.

While non-fiction is increasingly polemical, fiction for most Canadians is almost entirely de-linked from Canadian history and personalities. Fiction is a buttress of non-fiction, imagining the past into a palpable reality. Canadians have, since the rise of mass culture in the late nineteenth century, been fused to American popular culture, and even to the highbrow stuff. Canada, except in Quebec, has not developed a native film industry. Such a placid ceding of the national imaginative narrative would seem impossible to states with a fifth of Canada’s population. This absence of the principal cultural form of the last hundred years resonates far further than its category.

Under these conditions we cannot expect to find the journals and newspaper sections that elsewhere represent a collective, connected environment of widely-cherished interests and enthusiasms. Though these things once existed, but now do not, they cannot be needed to sustain Canadians as they are.

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It needed saying. As a student of medieval history, I applaud the direct approach, a taste honed by a study of political messaging through the choice of execution methods for treason in the 14th century.

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I'm thankful to live in Canada, but as a reader, I'm a happy resident of the anglo-sphere. I did a count of the 130 books I read last year (from my Bibliocommons "completed" list). About 10 percent were Canadian, almost 50 percent US, and the rest mostly British, with a few from India, Israel and Africa.

Dan says, "the multinationals are allowed to import and sell tens of thousands of books into Canada." I hope he's not suggesting our government do anything to restrict them. I don't like being told what to read.

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"Unaccustomed as I am to being out-complained, I enjoyed it." Priceless. Reminds me of Bruce Cockburn in a concert I went to saying: "Ever in search of the perfect image, as you know I am..."

As noted, with newspapers bought out by the 1% and gutted, there are no more real journalists on salary, who have the time for what you call research, who can take a 5 year investigation and re-purpose it as a book.

The Canadian publishing industry needs to shift focus, and re-think "research". For example, I am a forester with 40 years industry experience. I went down to Fairy Creek and got my ass kicked by the RCMP / CIRG / ERT paramilitary tactical squad, or in colourful terms, "Horgan's Brownshirts".

That's research, friends. Original research, by an expert in the field. I'm not interviewing the RCMP's PR officer, or even someone who witnessed the RCMP committing a targeted, racist sexual assault on an Indigenous person, I actually witnessed it myself, as an imbedded journalist.

I witnessed RCMP holding people down and pouring pepper "spray" directly into people's eyes. I observed that the pepper spray incident was pre-meditated to provide a defence in a court battle the RCMP was losing.

I wrote my story in my head while I was in jail. I had to write it in my head because I didn't want the RCMP to break into my laptop.

Along the way, I uncovered that clearcutting causes 300 million tonnes of C02 emissions in BC alone. More than vehicles. Also the Drax pellet scandal you are reading the tip of the iceberg about.

But I don't pass the first hurdle in pitching the story to the few journalistic newspapers like the Tyee that still exist, because I don't have a name. They can't afford to hire writers that aren't on government make-work grants.

Don't get me started on my conversation with the Toronto Star reporter who came down to Fairy Creek to look for some confirmation bias for her derogatory and ignorant article supporting corporate interests.

In the absence of a journalism industry worth the name, I suggest the book publishing industry "lower", or perhaps "adjust" their standards about who is an expert, and who "has a name", and what research is.

It might make you uncomfortable. You might have to be patient. But you will get a real story, instead of some recycled fluff.

Here is your niche advantage over the "colony" approach to publishing you decry. You live here. You care. You can judge what is of value to Canadians, and go the extra mile to get the story told.

peace and love

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