David Gilmour: "What I Teach is Guys"
University professors don’t normally cause a lot of offense, it’s true, so it came as a bit of a surprise to David Gilmour — no, not the Pink Floyd guitarist, but writer, film critic and Professor of Literature at the University of Toronto — when remarks he made in an interview with Random House’s online magazine, Hazlitt, sparked a bit of controversy.
I’m not interested in teaching books by women. Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Except for Virginia Woolf. And when I tried to teach Virginia Woolf, she’s too sophisticated, even for a third-year class. Usually at the beginning of the semester a hand shoots up and someone asks why there aren’t any women writers in the course. I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall.
What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth.
Where’s Hemingway on that list, then? The outrage at his comments has spread like the proverbial wildfire; there’s nothing these interwebs like more than a bit of controversy. And the comments are very pointed. Interestingly, a lot of commentators are wondering about his choice of “serious heterosexual guys”, but then, I suppose that’s a matter of opinion.
Within a matter of hours, he issued an apology for the comments and seemed shocked at the reaction.
"I’m absolutely surprised, but I’m also extremely sorry to hear that there are people who are really offended by it," he told the Post… Gilmour said his talk with Keeler wasn't a formal sit-down interview, more of a chat with "tossed-off remarks." Comments about women, Chinese and other writers were meant as jokes. He said he's emailed his critics and apologized. "I'm not a politician, I'm a writer," he said. "We throw out tens of thousands of words every day. We usually rewrite them. In this particular chance, I didn’t get a chance to re-speak the sentence before it was printed.”
But will it boost his book sales? From the comments I’m reading, probably not. Was it a stunt? I think that less likely as he seems genuinely surprised that his comments have offended people. Does that excuse him? Well, I suppose we’re all human, the trick is to not get caught saying things like this.
Photo: Toronto Sun
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