Andre Alexis in the Walrus

Novelist, critic, and former Vox Pop teacher Andre Alexis has a big, angry piece in the summer issue of The Walrus on the decline and fall of literary criticism in Canada. I wouldn’t say I agree with all of it, but I admire the outrage. I expect The Walrus will eventually put some or all of this up on their site, but, until then, some selections below:


“In other words, a book section isn’t only about letting people know that such-and-such a work has been published. It’s a place where consideration happens—and the nature of a consideration is important, whatever book or idea sets it in motion. Consideration, for me, isn’t so much a matter of determining the value of a work, but rather of allowing a community to participate in the evaluation of the work.

So, in answer to my own question, for me, the loss or decline of book sections has been part of the loss or decline of my community”-A. Alexis, The Walrus, July/August 2010.


“The failure of our country to produce a single literary critic of any worth, at least sine Northrop Frye, is striking…But neither the British nor the Americans have produced any particularly compelling critics lately, either. James Wood, the one name anyone mentions—and there’s a kind of desperation in the mentioning—is, by his own choice, a limited critic.” -A. Alexis, The Walrus, July/August 2010.


“Our reviews have become, at their worst, about the revelation of the reviewer’s opinion, not about a consideration of the book…Reviews have turned into a species of autobiography, with the book under review being a pretext for personal evaluation.”-A. Alexis, The Walrus, July/August 2010.


The article then moves on to 1,500 words chronicling the various movements and countermovements (such as they are) in Canadian literary criticism. Alexis has some damning things to say about John Metcalf and, by extension, David Solway. The last 1,500 or so is given over to international context.


Anyway, I have things to say about all this. Maybe I’ll say them sometime. In the interim, has anyone else read the article? It’s in a very good issue of The Walrus, with lots of great fiction (it’s the “Summer Reading” issue). I’d like to know what people might be thinking….

Explore posts in the same categories: Canadian Literature, Journals, Reviewing

4 Comments on “Andre Alexis in the Walrus”

  1. voxpopulism Says:

    Update: The essay’s only truly vicious moment comes hidden about 1/4 the way through, when Andre says that “neither The Sun nor The National Post have book sections worth mentioning”.

    The former assertion might be true, but the second one is only valid if you limit the scope of your investigation to the pound of newsprint your paperboy delivers every weekend. As any decent blogger knows, The Post is home to this country’s best book coverage, it’s just found entirely online at The Afterword (

  2. Shane Neilson Says:

    And Alexis writes for the Globe and Mail.


  3. voxpopulism Says:

    Hi Shane.

    True, though Alexis doesn’t shy away from talking of the G&M either. In fact, it’s something of the recurring object-lesson of the piece.

    Whereas the Post is quite good at online content, and the Globe spotty at best, I imagine if he considered both the print and electronic elements, he’d have arrived at somewhat different conclusions.

  4. […] triggered by Andre Alexis’s response to Zach Wells’s critique of his Walrus piece I mentioned here a couple months ago. I’m not sold on the original essay, but I remember being quite happy to […]

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