November 2013

Everyone involved in publishing these days – from the ink-stained wretches of daily newspapers to the lofty editors of artistic and academic presses – is going slowly mad trying to discern the future of the printed word and all its attendant creative manifestations. Two books by Canadians offer new frameworks to view this conundrum: The Edge of the Precipice: Why Read Literature in the Digital Age?, which includes essays by critics such as Alberto Manguel, Sven Birkerts and Mark Kingwell (reviewed for us by award-winning author Charles Foran) and From Literature to Biterature: Lem, Turing, Darwin and Explorations in Computer Literature, Philosophy of Mind, and Cultural Evolution by Peter Swirski, dissected for LRC readers by McGill academic Andrew Piper. Interesting literary times, indeed.
Alanna Mitchell, probably Canada’s top-ranking environmental journalist, has been watching with increasing concern the Conservative government’s treatment of science and scientists. She describes Stephen Harper’s cuts to programmes and silencing of government-employed scientists as “profoundly, almost unimaginably, un-Darwinian, undermining the very idea of progress and prosperity that he professes to embrace.” Strong words, backed up by Mitchell’s consideration of Chris Turner‘s disturbing new book, The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada.
And then there’s Andrew Potter, managing editor of the Ottawa Citizen and prominent philosophical gadfly (that’s how Socrates described himself in 400 BC Athens) who, with his usual panache and bravado, takes on a collection of essays titled The Public Intellectual in Canada, including contributions from, among others, Stephen Clarkson, Mark Kingwell (again), Tom Flanagan, Janice Stein and Nelson Wiseman. You’ll want to see for yourself how this match-up turns out.
Essential and compelling reading in November’s LRC.
Bronwyn Drainie