For Emily M. Keeler, Who Interviewed the Prince of Pricks
2013 was the year of Edie Windsor, Wendy Davis, J Law, Beyonce, Malala and Alice Munro. Homeland CIA agent Carrie Mathison became a mom, Scandal fixer Olivia Pope regained one, and Ariel Levy wrote, in the year’s most intense literary hara kiri, about almost turning into one before losing both her baby and her relationship with her spouse.
The woman I continue to think of as 2013 draws to a close, though, is Toronto-based writer Emily M. Keeler, who did more than anyone this year to remind us—in an unobtrusive way—that misandry remains a valid lifestyle choice, at least when it comes to the old white men of the literary and academic world. Thanks to Keeler, author and professor-without-a-PhD David Gilmour is now famous for telling us, in his own words, that he is only into dudes:
I’m a natural teacher, I was trained in television for many years. I know how to talk to a camera, therefore I know how to talk to a room of students. It’s the same thing. […] I teach modern short fiction to third and first-year students. So I teach mostly Russian and American authors. Not much on the Canadian front. But I can only teach stuff I love. I can’t teach stuff that I don’t, and I haven’t encountered any Canadian writers yet that I love enough to teach.
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.
Keeler not only got these juicy quotes from the horse’s ass’s mouth, she presented them without comment. When the Internet blew up, as it is wont to do when a prestigious man who is in charge of the education of the next generation of impressionable young people says something like “if you want women writers go down the hall,” Keeler reacted calmly. The magazine’s editor-in-chief handled the official reaction, which was to support her 105% and release the official transcript of the interview, which, if anything, makes Gilmour appear worse.
Let’s take another look at that transcript, shall we?
I teach Tropic of Cancer to the first-year class. They’re shocked out of their pants. No one teaches it except for me. Sometimes their parents actually question me about it, they say, Listen, this is really outrageous. I say, well, it’s a piece of literature that’s been around for 60 years. It’s got something going for it.
There’s an even dirtier one that I teach, by Philip Roth, called The Dying Animal. I save it ’til the very end of the year because by that point they’ve got fairly strong stomachs, and they’re far more sophisticated than they are in the beginning. So they can understand the differences between pornography and great literature. There are men eating menstrual pads, and by the time my students get to that they’re ready. Roth has the best understanding of middle-aged sexuality I’ve ever come across.
• David Gilmour can only teach work that he really, really loves.
• He only really, really loves fiction by and about people like him: straight old raunchy white dudes.
• He is a natural teacher because he was trained in television.
• A piece of literature that has been around for 60 years has got to have something going for it.
• Unless it was written by a Canadian, a woman, or Alice Munro.
• The Nobel Prize committee, thankfully, thinks otherwise.
• He also has something against the Chinese.
• Tropic of Cancer is appropriate reading for a first-year English class to help impressionable 18 year olds learn the difference between literature and pornography, because God knows that is why we all go into debt to attend college.
• Have you read Tropic of Cancer, or, as Mailer wanted to title it, Crazy Cock?
• Here is an actual line from Tropic of Cancer: “I shoot hot bolts into you, Tanya, I make your ovaries incandescent.”
• Here is another: “If there’s anything worse than being a fairy, it’s being a miser.”
• Speaking of fairies, F. Scott Fitzgerald is a real, heterosexual guy, a guy’s guy.
• Hemingway would be surprised to hear that. Probably so would Zelda.
• In his so-not-an-apology apology, Gilmour says he is joking about that. And other things. He also blames/dismisses Keller, who he never mentions by name, as “a young woman who kind of wanted to make a little name for herself, or something.”
• And says that he is the only person in North America who teaches Truman Capote, which means he is broad-minded.
• That wasn’t even true back in 1968.
• Men eating menstrual pads is a thing.
• Men eating menstrual pads is a thing??!?
• Men eating menstrual pads is a thing that has something crucial to say about middle-aged [male] sexuality, which itself is a more valid and appropriate subject for young students of any gender than the most profound thought George Eliot, Edith Wharton, or Toni Morrison ever expressed.
David Gilmour made me very, very tired this year, and outraged, and inspired. Partly because of him, I finally picked up and read all of War and Peace, because fuck you, David Gilmour. Partly because of him, I finished my own novel and submitted it to my agent, because fuck you again, David Gilmour. So thank you, Emily M. Keeler, for interviewing this prince of pricks, for giving him enough rope to hang himself and then getting out of the way.
Ester Bloom lives in Brooklyn.