A phenomenon that suffers from a set of attributes and conditions largely the opposite to those of CanFilm: timid convolutions along a narrow conduit of preciousness studded with too self-conscious symbols and themes the products of which are then, alas, over-distributed. CanLit began as part of an enlightened program begun in the late 1950s by federalists who realized that Canada’s best method of defending its boundaries would be to secure its cultural identity. One of the logical ways of doing this was to begin to nurture its artistic community within the nation’s borders rather than exporting talent to the U.S. and Britain or exterminating it. As federal programs go, this one was wildly successful and cost-effective even if it has probably less often nurtured artists than it has encouraged a lot of idiots to be idiotic on acid-free paper. Somewhere in the 1970s, a critical mass emerged within the Canadian writing community, and Canada began to produce a small number of brilliant writers, a moderate number of good writers, and a huge horde of college professors who wrote poems and short stories about one another which they then began to teach to incoming generations of students who grow up to believe that literature is silly and irrelevant. This timid enterprise, not to be confused with “writing going on in Canada” alas, is what CanLit has devolved to. Oh well. Still cheaper than the F-18, which enlightens no one and defends nothing except the apparent right of macho war-dorks to burn up a lot of aviation fuel.

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