An offhand comment by American comic author Gary Shteyngart raises the question of censorship in Canadian literature. Shteyngart, when discussing whether or not fiction writing should be subsidized, claimed “Let me say this. I was the judge of a Canadian prize, and it’s subsidized, they all get grants. Out of a million entries, we found four or five really good ones, but people just don’t take the same damn risks!”
Despite his rescinding his comment on the grounds of being drunk, the idea is one worth considering. If we rely on government grants to produce art, does this mean that the integrity of that art is compromised in order to accommodate, or not risk offending, the patron? Personally, I don’t really think so. There are numerous examples of edgy and interesting Canadian writers and publishers who continue to push boundaries. ChiZine Publications is an excellent example because they refuse to ‘play it safe’. Their philosophy IS to take risks, to publish the unusual and interesting AND they are also supported by Ontario Arts Council grants. So there you have it!
The issue is not one of government granting bodies controlling what or who a publisher chooses to publish; it seems to me more an issue of what is sellable, while fitting the publisher’s own tastes and vision. Should a book be preferred for publication if it lacks originality but caries a big name? Or do we take chances with something smaller that might pack that punch that Shteyngart is looking for?
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