Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird is dreamy — literally. After reading a chapter, you feel as if in a fog; you can’t decide what’s real or fiction. Murakami forces the reader to reconsider identity and linear time. Many of the characters seem to question who they really are, feeling as if they are stuck in another person’s body, or not fully connected to their own. Time lapses and overlaps and creates potholes in memory. Stories are told with a disregard to fact or with painful attention to detail.
Passing the border into the bizarre, this book can be disorienting, but ultimately it’s a striking piece of written work. One cannot deny how masterful the author is in creating a presence with his words, an atmosphere that envelopes the reader from beyond the pages.
Every character has an inexplicable aura. Supremely ordinary and yet casting an element of intrigue. The author seems to enjoy teasing his characters, but also cares deeply for them.
This novel may not be for everyone, there are graphic scenes and uncomfortable tensions, but I highly recommend this book for those who want to be cast into another world.
Joseph Boyden, with the support of many major authors, wrote an open letter criticizing UBC’s allegations against author and professor Steven Galloway. http://www.ubcaccountable.com/open.letter/steven-galloway-ubc/
It resulted in huge backlash and the tag #canlitaccountable
— AtiraWRS (@FreeOfViolence) 17 November 2016
— Nikki Reimer 💀 (@NikkiReimer) 16 November 2016
For any person who has been a victim of abuse, this letter must have been devastating. It’s clear that the authors have made up their minds: Galloway is innocent. A letter of this nature sympathises with the accused, and in doing so encourages victims to be silent to the benefit of their harasser’s “reputation” and “health.”
What’s worse, is there is barely any mention of the potential victims. Allegations were made — a rare act due to the fear of being silenced, shamed, and/or ignored afterwards. The least they could have done was acknowledged those who may have been harmed. By focusing only on Galloway’s need for redemption and justice the authors for this letter either forget or, worse, ignore the dire problem of unreported sexual harassment.
“No wonder that women are hesitant to step forward to call out sexual harassment and violence. No wonder that few women report rape to the police. In our judicial and parajudicial systems, every accused person has a right to a vigorous defence.” Lawrence Hill wrote in response.
As such, this letter has been heartbreaking for fans of some of Canada’s greatest authors: Madeleine Thien, Yann Martel, Margaret Atwood, Lisa Moore, Michael Ondaatje, Vincent Lam, Jane Urquhart, and many more who signed the letter. (Note, some have since withdrawn their name from the letter.) Why would they show support for the accused and work to silence those who made the allegations?
I understand this. However, I sincerely hope the real problem here is not the intent of the letter, but how it was written — ironic considering it was penned by some of Canada’s best authors.
The insensitivities of the letter distract from some genuine problems — the problems, I’d like to believe, these authors intended to highlight:
The university’s procedures are murky at best
- The Memo
A memo was released saying allegations were made against Galloway and students should come forward should they have safety concerns. Of course, the memo was followed by major media scrutiny against the professor.
This is difficult. We have to admit that this hinders a crucial universal right: innocent until proven guilty. If we agree this is an important human right, how can this process be improved to protect the identity of both parties and others until guilt is proven?
- The independent investigation
According to this article, independent investigations are often to the benefit of the victim. It should allow a more comfortable platform for victims to come forward, and provide an easier process than criminal court which would require more evidence, fees, lawyers, and stress in general. Of course, independent investigations aren’t perfect and work to benefit the university as well. “In informal processes, offenders will almost never face harsh punishments such as suspension, expulsion, or in the case of a professor or staff member, firing. Instead, there may be mediation – with the victim – or education.” Was this the best way to find the truth behind the allegations and bring full justice?
- The “verdict”
In this case, the accusations against Galloway were found to be unsubstantiated and yet he was terminated from his position. This must be frustrating from both points of view. If he wasn’t guilty, why was he fired? If he was guilty, why were the claims said to be unsubstantiated? This is opaque and should be addressed by the university. If he is guilty, the victim(s) should feel that the complaints were acknowledged. And if not, a career should not be affected.
Asking these questions is important; blindly defending Galloway is the wrong way to go about it. While the authors were trying to break open a vague university process, they forgot to consider the implications if their wording. They weren’t asking for the benefit of everyone, but to the benefit of their friend and colleague.
No matter what, this letter should make everyone seriously consider how we ought to bring justice and fairness to cases of sexual harassment. What does it mean for the claims to be unsubstantiated? How can this be proven? What are the best ways to bring relief to a victim immediately while also taking the accused’s assumed innocence into account? How can we maintain privacy while also bringing light to unsafe situations?
Let me know your thoughts in comments below. This is important and delicate. I’d like to know what others think.
Oh no! The Giller Prize is tonight and I haven’t read all (*cough* any) of the nominees!
Not to fear! I’ve compiled a quick Goodreads list for you to catch up — then you can fake it ‘till you make it through the Giller Prize Bash
The Wonder, Emma Donoghue
The Best Kind of People, Zoe Whittall
13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, Mona Awad
The Party Wall, Catherine Leroux, Lazer Lederhendler
Yiddish for Pirates, Gary Barwin
Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien
What’s new with the Toronto book scene? Here are some October highlights:
- Coach House book launch
- Word on the Street
- Toronto Book Awards
- HIJ Reading Series
The Presidential Debate(ha, no.)
- Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature
1. Coach House Books had a cozy setup at Studio Bar. I was awestruck by the words of Jordan Scott and by the warm tone of André Alexis. Laura Broadbent read one of her poems about Lao Tzu’s teacher application, which was charming and hilarious.
2. Books, books everywhere! I’ll admit, Word on the Street is basically a giant book sale. But, it can also be a great opportunity to check out the local book publishers, see what’s hot on the market, and find authors to sign your book.
3. Cordelia Strube won the Toronto Book Awards and the lit scene glimmered with excitement.
— Florence McCambridge (@FlorenceMcC) 12 October 2016
— Marisa Gelfusa (@GelfusaMarisa) 12 October 2016
4. The Toronto-based publishing house BookThug hosts a regular reading series called HIJ. This month, guests heard snippets from the The Naturalist by Alissa York, a hilarious parrot scene from Gary Barwin’s book Yiddish for Parrots, and André Alexis tried reading some new work. Also, they serve pie… so much pie.
5. The reading community was startled by Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize win — Check out my post about that here: https://pricklypaper.wordpress.com/2016/10/18/are-lyrics-literature-is-bob-dylan-literary/