This is a book of interviews that most serious North American writers would benefit from reading parts of, though not necessarily each part. A couple of the interviewees don’t entirely understand or share the assumptions of the book they are helping to create – a problem that may have stemmed from the requirements the editors were obliged to meet in their project design. Some of these requirements are, rather ironically, among the matters that the editors have set out to investigate: the silent co-authorship of many contemporary books by the practices of chain bookstores, the financial needs of publishers, the temptation of awards, and the hope of pleasing granting agencies. As co-editor Kamboureli tells Erin Moure, “one of the things we are trying to determine is whether there is a certain kind of cultural grammar, as it were, a grammar of economics, that determines the work that gets done” (97). Various of this book’s institutional co-authors are listed on its acknowledgements page and in Kit Dobson’s introduction – among them the Canada Council, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Canada Research Chairs Program, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, whose “ethics” policies required preapproval and standardization of the questionnaire the editors used to structure each of the interviews.
There was a time in Canadian Literature when a book of interviews like this would have featured on its cover, or within, fetching photos of the authors interviewed – a quizzical Margaret Atwood, a sultry Michael Ondaatje. There are no photos offered here of its interviewees, although Christian Bok, Larissa Lai and others do often appear on Twitter or Facebook as similarly photogenic. The visual fetishization of authors is one of the practices of the literary marketplace that the editors have reservations about and have hoped to investigate. Instead on the cover are images of the cutting parts of a late nineteenth-century meatgrinder – presumably offered as a metaphor for the standard