David Gilmour teaches fiction at the University of Toronto's Victoria College. Just don't ask him to teach about fiction written by women.
The award-winning author inadvertently let slip in this interview with Random House of Canada's online lit mag that he not only doesn't include works by female authors in his teaching curriculum (outside of a single short story by Virginia Woolf), he doesn't really even care for literature written by anyone other than middle-aged men--white men at that, by the looks of the names he references.
And when people started reading the interview, and subsequently sounded their disapproval online, poor ol' Dave was caught off guard by the uproar. And in his defense, a grey-haired male writer teaching about other grey-haired male writers isn't exactly unheard of on college campuses, so it's not like this is some new and outrageous phenomenon. Just a worn out one.
But, rather than outright apologize for focusing so intently on the works of old white men--since he's an old white man himself and they are just so under-appreciated in literary circles--David Gilmour offered a half-hearted apology and, in my opinion, further stuck his foot in his mouth during this interview with The National Post by doubling down on his willful ignorance and even offering a less-than-subtle wag of his finger to the woman who originally interviewed him, as if she had written a hatchet piece on his teaching practices. Poor, poor Dave.
Okay, so before the pillorying of the man continues for his "over-the-shoulder"remarks (his words, as if that dispels the criticism right there), let's consider his reasoning. He doesn't bother with stories by female authors because he doesn't "love women writers enough to teach them." Better to focus on the stuff he does love to read. He's doing his students a favor, don't you see?
Of course, the way I see it, he'd do his students an even bigger favor by stepping aside so an instructor with a more robust approach to the written word might impart some much-needed wisdom to the young minds at David Gilmour's mercy.
It's not that he thinks women are inferior writers, it's just it seems there are only two he really gives a shit about in the first place. When pressed to name his favorite female authors, all he could come up with were the names Virginia Woolf and Alice Munro--"and that's about it, in terms of who I really love." Wonderful.
You know what, fine. David Gilmour's reading habits are in a rut. Big deal. So are the reading habits of a lot of people, myself included at times. We all have our go-to interests, and in David Gilmour's case it is the navel-gazing exploits of his aging brethren. Knock yourself out, Davey. The authors you name, such as Truman Capote and Anton Chekhov, are great choices no matter who you are. But we're not just talking about personal preference here, but teaching people about the written word--most of whom are women too, apparently--and excluding all but one female writer from mention. That strikes me as silly. And I would have hoped that a literature instructor would have a slightly more diverse list of books to have his students study. I was wrong, and for that I apologize for my ignorance.
On a parting note, I can't help but find it a tad funny this guy could very well walk away with the Scotia Bank Giller Prize this year, for his novel, Extraordinary, considering the award is named in honor of Doris Giller--gasp--a female writer. Good luck to you, Dave.