Woman Down the Hall Responds to David Gilmour


I’m not interested in teaching books by David Gilmour. CC http://goo.gl/ZFykA5

I’m not interested in teaching books by David Gilmour. CC http://goo.gl/ZFykA5

Yes, I’m down the hall from David Gilmour. Each week students stop by my office with names like questions escaping their mouths. Oates? Atwood? Munro? We’ve heard you teach these things, they say. I nod. Gesture toward a seat. Sit down, I say.

It works both ways. When I start class each semester, I tell my students, I only teach women. If you want some dead, white guys, go see Gilmour. Trot yourself down the hall. I’m sure he’s a wonderful writer, but no, I’ve not read his books. You see, I love women. I love reading women. I don’t love men enough and I can only teach what I love. Seriously gay, ethnic women. Cather, Woolf, Dickinson, and of course, Richard Ford.

I teach only the best. I don’t have low shelf-esteem, so I won’t tell you how many times I’ve read To the Lighthouse (100 times). What happens with great literature is that the shadows on the pages move around. The same thing happens with mediocre literature on a slow afternoon, but I digress. I teach only the best. I haven’t encountered any Russian writers yet that I love enough to teach. Once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Next semester I plan to offer a seminar on me.

[UPDATE:] Those remarks were totally off the cuff. At the time of the interview, I was Skyping with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to negotiate peace. Moreover, I was gestating a human child inside of my own body.

46 thoughts on “Woman Down the Hall Responds to David Gilmour

  1. What is the point of this? There are, in fact, many college courses that cover only women authors, and many that cover only gay authors.

  2. So there is irony and sarcasm in your reponse? I don’t see it. Like I said, the course you describe does in fact exist on many campuses.

  3. I’m reading RU by Kim Thuy. She’s Asian. Female. Canadian. And damn good (Giller certified). So I hooted to read David Gilmour’s sad and parochial and narcissistic interview. He actually reminds me of my 12 year old daughter who only listens to Taylor Swift and Katy Perry and Miley what’s her name. Good news is–she will grow out of her narrow and awful taste and get out and listen to better, more sophisticated music. Can’t say the same about Gilmour. His adolescence is continuing into his senior years.

    • He does have the right to his preferences. (And we have the right to make fun of his arrogance.) And he also has the duty to base what he teaches on more than his preferences. If he can justify his reading list on intellectual grounds, fine with me. Not every class has to cover every thing and I can totally think of good reasons for what he chooses to teach. But just “preference” isn’t enough.

  4. Sure, Gilmour has a right to his own preferences. His personal preferences. Limiting his students to only his preferences, and labelling only them worthwhile, is unprofessional and vastly narrow. Lit teachers are supposed to open their students minds, not close them.

  5. It’s not about trying to be politically correct-it’s abut trying to expand the mind by expanding choices. It doesn’t mean we never teach the old white guys, it just means we add other people to the mix too. Of course, as more and more literature gets written, there is more and more good stuff out there-it’s hard to know what to choose. Literature classes probably will have to start being more specialized which is sad for the people who only take one literature class-they miss out on the amazing variety.


    Not only the post but some of the comments . . . !

    Thanks, Folks: that’s the best belly-laugh I’ve had all day!!


    (“Spaghetti-Os Day” >snicker!<)

  7. How do people not see the (if it smacked you in the face it wouldn’t be any more obvious) humour in this? Are they writing from one of those windowless inner-hallway university rooms with the mini fridge and the half-eaten can of cocktail wieners with the fork still in it? That has to be the only explanation.

    • On the surface it seems funny, but explore the joke just a bit and she doesn’t answer the obvious questions, namely, is Gilmour’s class the only class these students will have on modern short fiction, and are there classes that teach gay authors only, or women authors only?

      Are the students forced to take his class?
      Do the students who take this class generally value the class?
      Do the students who take this class go on to take other courses in modern short fiction.

      What is the gender make up of the department?
      What is the gender make up of the students that take the class?

      What is the gender make up of the authors taught in total by the department?

      Is it possible, likely, that the females that take the course benefit by a diversity offered by this course not in general offered by the department at large.

      Yeah, this essay is snarkily funny. Heh, heh, heh.

      It’s just not actually funny, nor does it answer any of the interesting questions.

      How do you not see that? Is it because you value snark and snap over content?

  8. A) Is this the only class on modern short fiction these students will get?

    B) Are there courses featuring gay authors only? Women authors only?

  9. Oh this is great! It is both a compelling case for women writers, and a witty unmasking of Gilmour’s bizarrely un-self-critical narcissism, masking an even deeper crisis of his own masculinity– that he needs to be reminded of what (by his lights) masculinity IS, by reading obsessively writers of a particularly spavined, crippled definition of male humanity. And of course we all know Richard Ford is the pseudonym for a woman writer because he’s… complex, nuanced, sensitive, capable of proposing and sustaining the points of view of multiple voices, including women and children, old people and young, and because he’s just so damned good. Yeah. She’s the new George Eliot, all right. Or Mary Anne Evans, if you prefer.

  10. I can never understand why some folks are so terrified of the dead old white guy down the hall. If he is redundant why worry …. or is the worry because we all know a majority of people agree with him ???? White heterosexual guys should be allowed to say whatever they want and we should not bash them or their followers …. and by the sounds of it he has lots of followers. Maybe even a majority. Best wishes to all groups.
    Arnie M

    • It’s an issue because the white guy gets the job, the primo classes, the promotion, and tenure. So yeah it’s funny but there is much more at issue here.

      • Yes, there is so much more at issue here. If the white guy gets the job these days he’s lucky – on my application for Teacher’s College there was a large box in the middle of the page which stated: “please make sure to mention if you are a member of a visible minority, or a woman or a man who wishes to teach grade school”. I somehow doubt this was meant to weed OUT the visible minorities! But there certainly ain’t equal opportunity for white guys there!

        Many years ago in France I was told when I stated I wanted to get into Public Relations that it would be very hard to do so unless I were female: companies prefer women for that.
        As for who gets the promotion and tenure, well, hey… which sex needs the extra money to pay for his family when the wife stops work to have kids; and after the divorce who barely has anything left to pay for a new apartment since he lost the house to the wife, not to mention paying for the child support and perhaps even alimony? Thank goodness he got the promotion and tenure!

        And who dies earlier, has more ulcers from stress, commits suicide far more often… and very rarely gets the kind of sympathy the woman does? It aint ALL weighted in the man’s favour… wake up and look around you.

  11. This tempest in a teapot is SO Toronto… or perhaps SO Canadian!
    Glad I got out while I could. The PC Nazis in Toronto are really so overbearing and make everything so BLAND.
    Gilmore also said he only teaches heterosexual males. As a gay man, am i supposed to throw a hissyfit because Edmund White isn’t on his list? Puh-lease.
    And now that I’ve dared to say something NOT on the PC authorized list… buckle your seatbelts! It’s going to be a bumpy ride!

    • speaking of BORING…my god ken. at least a hissy fit would offer the rest of us something other than mindless drivvle.

      • “Mindless”? As soon as someone has an opinion other than the PC version, it becomes “mindless”? I’d say that someone who doesn’t know how to use capitals for names or spell correctly (look up “drivvle” in the dictionary) should be careful of using THAT adjective!
        As for “boring”, since when have the feminist PC Nazis had an original idea? Not for at least 25 years. Here’s one for ya:
        Watch young kids playing… I’m talking about six or seven year-olds. Boys will concentrate on ONE thing for days, weeks, months until they perfect it. I’m talking about shooting hoops or learning how to do skateboard tricks or inventing an entirely new dance-step (hip-hop). This capacity for long-term concentrated and repetitive play (one could correctly use the word ‘obsessive” seems to be the domain of boys. And what’s the result? CREATIVITY.!
        Girls take piano lessons, or ballet or some other GUIDED form of play. But they don’t seem to – all on their own – spend weeks or months perfecting and creating something NEW on their own. They don’t seem to CREATE in the same way. Of course I’m talking generally… but if you look around you, the question is: how come skateboarding is basically a guy thing? How come hip-hop dance is almost completely male? What was stopping the girls from inventing such things? Extreme sports? Surfing? ANYTHING innovative and completely new? Then move up a couple years (historically speaking)… Computers were available to everyone. Girls as much as boys. Yet all the new innovations, be it Microsoft or Apple or anything in IT… Google, Facebook..; were ALL invented through creative processes that girls COULD have been doing just as well as men – supposedly – but WEREN’T.
        WHY NOT? A lot of that was being invented in backyards, on the street, in garages by individuals who simply put in the time and concentration necessary. There wasn’t any GLASS CEILING stopping girls from creating a Facebook. But even today, go to a computer-programming school – where the future innovators will be coming from – and there is nary a girl in sight. (I know, I worked in such a school).
        The question is: if it iISN’T a GLASS CEILING, why aren’t girls inventing on the same level as guys? Even in cooking, it appears that all the major chefs inventing NEW cuisine…are MEN! WHY??? Girls are getting the education and the degrees, at a higher rate than the guys! But while the guys were putting in the obsessive time and concentration necessary for such invention, what were the girls their age doing, besides reading women’s magazines and wondering what colour eye-shadow was going to be “in” that year? Put that question to the feminists and all they can do is complain, whine, and insist that it’s all MEN’s fault.
        Maybe it isn’t. We now know that the Male and Female brains are different. Perhaps it really IS something to do with the wiring and genetics. But – omigod! – I’ve just gone outside the PC box. Quick! Throw a hissy-fit! Please note that I’m simply noticing differences in the way children play, (or at least did when i was still a kid!) and then extrapolated from there and started to ask questions. I haven’t definitively reached a conclusion…I’m still asking questions… but hey, ladies…it’s been 40 – 50 years since Female Lib – how come girls aren’t innovating at the same rate as boys now that they’ve got the opportunities that their grandmothers didn’t? The question is a fair one – unless you are a PC Feminist Nazi insisting that no-one even ahs teh right to say such things without a tsunami of automatic knee-jerk disdain.
        Maybe it is time to stop chanting the feminist PC MANTRA and start asking some really hard questions?
        Well, Sue Nelson … still “bored”?

          • Blah blah… glad you liked the hissy-fit. You asked for it, so I obliged.
            My ideas aren’t new? Well they were when I first thought of them many years ago! And it didn’t come from parroting others, just from simple observation over time; I notice you didn’t contest what I said. Just as well, really…
            As for Gilmore, he is neither obligated to be PC OR inclusive… he is a teacher; as long as he does a good job teaching the books he has chosen to teach, he can not be faulted.

            .”Inclusiveness”? Who ever promised inclusiveness? Personally I have NO issues with it.. MY female friends over the years have not spent time arguing about such things; they were too busy doing. And thank goodness I lived in Europe rather than N America for most of my life after University…I didn’t have to deal with the N American shrillness, and as a gay man I didn’t need to deal with it on an intimate level in my home, either.
            I was a supporter of Female Liberation in the 60′s…loved reading Rita May Brown AND Atwood among others… but am really disappointed in how the Feminist movement has become a bitter non-stop broken record of victimization and manipulative PR, not to mention PC. It is really too bad that women gained by taking away from men as much as they could. Wente said it quite well, as did Janice Fiamengo:. “Academic feminism is overwhelmingly empty, intellectually incoherent and dishonest,”.
            Are you going to tell HER that she has “issues” with half of the population too?

            As one Commenter pointed out: “Would there have been an outcry if Gilmore had said he preferred female writers? We know the answer to that.”
            Such is the crux of the issue. Women don’t want equality, they want SPECIAL treatment… and are getting it but STILL complaining.
            Another online Commenter mentioned that conversation with women nowadays is rife with misandry… and a third said the people in his daughter’s Women’s Studies at a major Canadian University were so intent on man-bashing that finally “she stood up when asked for her opinion and said ‘My Dad’s not a bad guy’. From that point on, neither the instructor nor the other students ever spoke to her again.”

            If you don’t toe the Feminist PC party line in Canada….

            This isn’t ME having “issues”… it is a major devolution of everything the Feminist movement could have been!

            That’s why I am disappointed with the direction Feminism has taken over the years. Add to that a male friend who was raped, who went to a rape crisis centre but was refused help because he was a man… how’s THAT for not “including half of the population”?

            Or a legal system which is weighted SO much in women’s favour (despite their incessant hypocritical ranting about inequality) that one woman managed to get child support paid from BOTH ex-husbands and her ex-boyfriend… and women are still complaining?

            Open your eyes, lady. And stop pretending that an opposing voice has “issues”… perhaps people SHOULD be having “issues” with a lot of this, dontcha think?

    • Ken brayed ” As a gay man, am i supposed to throw a hissyfit because Edmund White isn’t on his list?”

      No, jack-ass: you’re supposed to look at what the course is supposed to teach (maybe by, oh, I don’t know, reading the course’s title), then see if that title matches what’s really going on, then ask why.

      Gilmour was pretty up-front with the why: he doesn’t feel “passionate” about authors who’ve likely written about love, sex, and death in short stories from perspectives other than that of certain white, middle-aged men, so he tosses that sort of stuff off to Others (no doubt so he can continue to think his Deep, White, Middle-Aged Thoughts about Deep, White, Middle-Aged Men; it’s a kind of division of labour that reminds me all-too-much of 50s hubby coming home after Work and expecting wifey to Have the Damn Dinner Ready).

      This prima-donna apparently extracted his wish to teach only those authors he feels passionate about from his employer, I’m guessing, because of his star-status as a writer and celebrity; it’s hardly something Joe/Jane Lecturer would be able to get away with. They’d just be told to get their nose to the grindstone and get researching to make the course more inclusive or laughed out of the interview. If poor Mr. Gilmour doesn’t have the academic chops to find even just a few representatives of other voices talking about love, sex, and death in short stories so that he can make a better course to better serve his students, he can always go and ask for help from Others who know more than he does about the topic.

      • “Ken brayed “…”prima-donna”… My my, I must have struck a nerve, eh?
        Your pseudonym is incorrect, “fascist” would come closer to the truth of YOUR attitude.

        Just two things. The university knew exactly what it was getting. Gilmore said straight out that he would only accept the job if he could teach what he wanted. The university accepted. That is the contract between him and his employer. End of story. If you or anyone else doesn’t like the terms of THEIR contract, who the hell do you think you are to impose yourself on their agreement? The man’s course is an elective… the students know exactly what they are getting. They either choose to take his course or they don’t. No-one is forcing them, or Gilmore. It’s a win-win situation…until some strange deluded power-tripping PC-spewing fascist comes along and thinks – like so MANY of the Entitlement Queens of the present generation – that THEY can dictate to everyone exactly what they want, when and how.
        Wake up, cupcake. That ain’t the way the cookie crumbles, to use an old-fashioned expression.

        Secondly, how presumptuous of you to think that you know better what is in Gilmore’s head than he does!
        Have you taken his course? Heard what he has to say, in depth? No? Then you have very little “chops” to be making the kind of statements you have been!

        Everyone has preferences. And there are certainly more than enough all-around, inclusive PC courses at the U of T… the PC junkies have a wealth of possible courses to choose from. Why is it so important to make Gilmore conform? As someone pointed out, if a female teacher had decided to teach only female authors (and many of them do!) no-one would have said a word. Fair’s fair, no?

        Way back when I was at University – before PC ultra-conformism took over – there were all kinds of courses being offered…no one had to FORCE anyone to do the kinds of things YOU would like to. But we got a pretty good – well-rounded education anyway. I was at York U. – when it was still possible to say whatever you want and then DISCUSS. The best course I ever had was called “What is history?”, by an amazing teacher, one of the best ever. Several years later I met him in Florence when he was on sabbatical and admitted to him that although I had adored his course, I didn’t remember a single specific fact or detail from it. His answer: “You weren’t supposed to! The whole point was to teach you how to THINK, and that you have learned quite well.”
        Mr Gilmore’s course is PROBABLY just as valid as anyone else’s. The specific details are less important than learning how to approach understanding why an author is good, how he/she manages to get the thing to work. If the teacher is a good one, he or she shows the students how and why it works, and then they can apply the criteria to ANY author, be it Hemingway or Atwood…or Edmund White.That is what is important. And if Gilmore can do that with Hemingway, then good for him; he’s done his job. Personally i detest Hemingway, but I might just possibly learn something by listening to Gilmore’s explanation of why Hemingway is supposedly good. I suspect you would come away from his course having learned something of value too – if you could just open your ears and listen instead of always reacting!

        Instead of disdaining others so easily, maybe it is time you stood back and tried to see what it is they might have to give you of value. INCLUDING Gilmore. Including middle-aged white authors. A touch of HUMILITY is what you and so many of the PC crowd need, my friend. You are so busy trying to impose thought-control on your environment… i suggest you read or re-read Animal Farm.
        Good luck to you… you still have a lot to learn.

        • Wow. A log-cabin Repuglican-wannabe. Yeah, you’d know best what a fascist is, eh?

          Paragraph Two: The Myth of The Omniscient Consumer.

          The rest: The Cult of Individuality (including the usual genuflection to MEMEMEMEMEMEEEEE!).

          Your history prof was mistaken.

          • A log-cabin Repuglican-wannabe

            You are so far off the mark it would be laughable, except that it isn’t. … but I expected that. You are presumptuous enough to think you have all the answers. Not worth continuing this conversation with you for at least ten or fifteen years…by then you might just have learned enough to admit to your mistakes, but somehow I doubt it.

  12. and by the way, including over half of the population on a reading list isn’t called being politically correct. it’s just a big old reality check. we all share the same sky after all.

    Ken, I’m sorry you have so many issues with women and inclusiveness of all in this world. I hope you can manage to really read and understand what people are expressing at some point without your obvious bias at the interpretive helm.

    inclusiveness isn’t about competing. it’s about everyone’s voice and story being told/heard.

  13. @Mary

    that’s funny, because in the rest of the world, most of the humour doesn’t seem to be seen as humour when it comes to feminists.

    • Isn’t he clever, Folks? Tomorrow, we’ll get the bolt in Greggore’s neck tightened . . . .

      • Lol well at least you attempted humour. Maybe you should ask for your balls back ;) or did she flush them down the toilet.

  14. When I read bizarre and sad comments like Gilmour’s, I worry about his students, who should be exposed to the widest range of authors, not a narrow one. The best advice I ever got from a college prof who knew I wanted to be an author was “Read everything! Read Everybody!”

  15. I don’t necessarily agree with Gilmour’s choices, but I don’t find his comments sad or bizarre.
    Yes, an aspiring writer should read everything and everybody — but on his or her own time. I a class, however, I would look for the opportunity to learn from an individual writer — to hear about his or her passions, experiences, preferences. I don’t want a teacher to be “fair and balanced” but
    individual, imperfect, stimulating, honest, surprising, even stubborn. I’m reminded of an interview with the poet August Kleinzahler about taking classes from the poet Basil Bunting in the 60s (I believe):


    What was Bunting like as a teacher?


    He was controversial. I took two classes with him . . . He began with some poems by Hardy and Hopkins . . . and went up to Yeats and Pound, then David Jones, Williams, the poets that were important to Bunting, Hugh McDiarmid, Lorine Niedecker and H.D. All he did was smoke unfiltered Player’s and read to us — the entirety of the Cantos, Jones’s Anathemata, including the introduction — and when he got tired, or out of breath, he’d say, Do you have anything to say? Someone would start talking gibberish, and he’d start reading again. There was a revolt: he’s not interested in what we have to say! I remember telling one of the girls, Why should he be interested in what we have to say? He’s the world’s greatest living poet. Well, she wanted to know why aren’t we reading E.E. Cummings or Richard Brautigan? Why doesn’t he care what we want? You could see the seeds of what poetry in creative writing classes was to become thirty years down the road. A lot of people were very unhappy and the class got rather small, and he just read to us, beautifully.

    • Bravo! Someone with brains instead of a PC knee-jerk reaction to everything… today’s students think that THEY should decide what the teacher says, what he does and how he does it. What arrogance. There’s no other word for it. But that is exactly what Political Correctness is all about… CONTROL. And arrogance.
      Recently some Feminist was complaining that there aren’t enough women in the Board Rooms of IT Corporations.” Only 3%!” she wailed. But then she mentions how there are almost no women IN Computer Programming or IT… (which would explain very well why only 3% make it to the board rooms, but hey, why try to be LOGICAL?)
      But then she wailed that there is a glass ceiling to these companies. Oh? Some of the most famous IT people invented their products in their garages, after spending years just fiddling around with the equipment (the way GUYS do…but not usually girls. If women had put in the years of fiddling before having an original idea and started their own companies, just like a lot of the IT people, where’s the glass ceiling? Answer: in their HEADS more than in reality. But don’t let THAT get in the way of PC moaning and groaning. “Victimization” and “entitlement” conflate to put pressure on everyone to hire more girls, whether they deserve it or not. Et VOILA!
      Fed up to the teeth with the PC mantra..;and not just about women’s “issues”.
      Thanks Kim for thinking outside the box. You will go far, I’m sure!

  16. I’m also reminded of a recent article about a Northwestern University music student who had a problem with an assignment. His class was to learn and perform in concert “Song of Democracy” which sets poetry by Walt Whitman to music by Howard Hanson. The student pointed to passages in Whitman’s essays such as: “As if we had not strained the voting and digestive caliber of American Democracy to the utmost for the last fifty years with the millions of ignorant foreigners, we have now infused a powerful percentage of blacks, with about as much intellect 9in the mass) as so many baboons.” In an email the student told his professor “I refuse to perform this piece under any circumstances. Walt Whitman was a self-documented racist who is known for having called Blacks ‘baboons’ and his writings that saw them as a threat to White Democracy. As such, the idea of a song of democracy with this poem as the foundation is a contradiction.” The professor (as I understand) replied that the student could either sing the song or stop coming to class and fail the course. The student didn’t return to class and got an F in the course. He’s in the process of appeal to get the F removed from his record (this is what I understand. There may be new developments in his situation.)

    Whitman’s words, if written by anyone today, would not only be highly offensive, but profoundly ignorant. Yet the student’s “stance” is at once strongly principled and profoundly ignorant of Whitman’s life, work, and literary/historical significance. It is both brave and arrogant. It is narcissistic and selfless. I daresay Whitman himself would have been impressed! Yet the student’s stance is as self-serving as it is principled. Instead of accepting the consequences of his action, he demands to have his cake and eat it too. No doubt if I were his age, I’d have more sympathy. On the other hand I was in love with Whitman’s poetry when I was his age — in fact,
    much younger — and sought to understand the complexity and depth of his poetry both as universal and in context. The student is black which is crucial to both the intensity and narrowness of his perspective. His response is, to a great and significant degree, highly understandable. On the other hand, his desire (or perhaps what he feels is his “right”) to refuse to participate in the class and yet receive a passing grade is a something I fail to understand. As I recall, the student protesters of my generation wanted change (and in almost every case, rightly) but they didn’t expect to be “rewarded” by the universities for their rebellion.

    I find the calls to fire Gilmour disturbing.

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