Friday, 28 February 2014

Doodnaught not first Canadian doctor to rape his anesthetized patients


Tuesday’s sentencing of anaesthesiologist George Doodnaught--to a decade in jail for sexually assaulting 21 women under his care during surgery--should have been good news. But then I read this comment from the presiding judge, Ontario Superior Court Justice David McCombs: “There are no reported Canadian cases in which an anaesthesiologist sexually assaulted sedated patients in an operating room during surgery.”

Wait a minute, I thought. As Columbo might have said, one thing bothers me. With Google doing the legwork I discovered, though the judge was technically correct--there are no reported stories of an anaesthesiologist sexually assaulting his sedated patients—this has happened before, not long ago, and in my home town. It’s the story of the Montreal plastic surgeon who sexually assaulted his anesthetized patients, and was let off the hook because society doesn't believe the victims.

In April 1995, Quebec’s College of Physicians found Dr. Marc Bissonnette guilty of sexual assaulting a female patient who was under anesthetic on the operating table in his clinic. The assault had been witnessed by her mother and aunt who testified in the criminal trial they had gone to the plastic surgery clinic on July 6, 1993 to take the woman home following a breast implant replacement operation. Finding the door locked, they gazed through the partly shaded window which gave onto the ground-floor operating room. They testified they saw the doctor exposing his penis, then having sex with their unconscious daughter/niece.

Unfortunately, the Quebec Court Judge hearing the criminal case, Pierre Brassard, rejected the mother’s and aunt’s testimony, citing inconsistencies. He opted instead for Dr. Bissonnette's version: that the patient pursued him and managed to entice him into having sex with her right before her surgery.

Because, you know, preparing to have your breasts carved up is such a turn-on.

Apparently, Judge Brassard said the doctor could hardly be blamed for succumbing to the patient’s wiles, because she was that kind of woman: the kind of woman who testified that she had had sex with a bartender after knowing him for only a few months.

The judge’s comments astounded the women of Montreal, and the case kept on astounding.

Three months later, while making some repairs to his mother’s roof, Bissonnette fell and was partially paralyzed. He was so disgusted with the media by then that he forbade the hospital treating him to comment on his condition.

The College fined Bissonnette $6000 and suspended him from practice for two years.

By March 1996, his paralysis partially remitted, Bissonnette was again conducting surgery full-time, albeit from a wheelchair, this time at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital. “Before he was charged, he had an impeccable record,” said Dr. Pierre Masson, the hospital's director of professional services.

No use letting one small hitch spoil a perfect record.

The Crown appealed the criminal acquittal and lost. Both the College and the anaesthesiologist appealed the College disciplinary committee’s ruling. As a result, the fine was struck but the suspension extended to five years.

Fortunately (read unfortunately), Marc Bissonnette, like Doodnaught a true serial sexual predator, couldn’t help but continue preying upon those most vulnerable to him: his patients. And so, finally, following complaints in 2002 and 2003, he was banned for life from practicing medicine by Quebec’s College of Physicians in 2010.

Judge Brassard retired from the bench. In 2005, his son Alain, a well-known criminal lawyer, died in a car accident after going through a stop sign, bouncing off an oncoming car, and hitting a tree.

I have a daughter. And I like to think that, within her lifetime, sexual equality will wax as sexism wanes. But that will never happen if we don’t remember—and hold to account—the ones who cannot credit the words of those assaulted and victimized by sexual predators. And that is so whether the survivors are women or men, boys or girls. And whether the abusers are priests, colonels, university footballers, doctors, pig farmers, or judges.

Again and again, we are forced to endure those in positions of authority who hear reports of abusers's earliest misdeeds discounting the complainants--their stories have "inconsistencies," they wouldn't make good witnesses, they are young, powerless, poor, drug-addicted, or just plain flakey.  

They say justice is blind. But we don't have to be.

Unfortunately, those who forget history--including the history of rapists and their survivors--condemn us all to repeat it.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Who the hell is Katherine Monk, and what is she doing reviewing movies in my Montreal Gazette?


I know newspapers are dying but do they have to speed up the process by eliminating local writers and stuffing their pages with cheap crappy content from their wire networks??

That's what I found myself asking this morning when I read Katherine Monk's take on the new Kevin Costner flick, 3 Days to Kill. Sent the following to the Montreal Gazette. We'll see if they publish it. I'm not holding my breath, which is why I'm including it here:

“Who the hell is Katherine Monk, and what is she doing reviewing movies in my Montreal Gazette?”

It wasn’t the first time I’d had that thought on reading Monk’s movie reviews, but this morning, as I read the sidebar titled “Costner Clunkers,” cheek by jowl to her truly execrable take on Costner’s 3 Days to Kill, I finally had to write back. Seriously, a sophomoric McDonald’s metaphor throughout because the director’s name is McG? Where—and what--is Monk’s beef?

Costner may have made some bad films, but the guy has made a phenomenal 56 of them in a career that started in 1979, according to Wikipedia. His oeuvre has been recognized by a slew of awards: BAFTAs, Golden Globes, Primetime Emmys, and two Oscars--best actor and best director--for Dances with Wolves. Not too shabby, by any normal person’s reckoning. Yet all Monk could find time to mention were Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Waterworld, The Postman, and 3000 Miles to Graceland?

Let me prod Monk’s memory: Kevin Costner is a bona fide Hollywood star. His movies are iconic, among the best of his (and my) generation. These include the aforementioned Dances with Wolves (a $15 million blockbuster where most of the dialogue took place in Lakota!), The Big Chill (which Monk weirdly labels a clunker because his scenes, probably all flashbacks, ended up on the cutting room floor), and the absolutely perfect Field of Dreams (who can ever forget the chill chased up the spine by his whispered “If you build it, they will come?”)

Costner was also magnificent in No Way Out, The Untouchables, Bull Durham, JFK, The Bodyguard, and Thirteen Days. Westerns, romances, historical thrillers, docudrama, and baseball. Actor, director, producer. That is quite the range, totally ignored by Ms. Monk.

Yes, I’ll admit, the quality of Costner’s pics is also highly variable, from iconic through magnificent to, admittedly, at times, downright lamentable. But in a career cruising up on 35 years in length, how could it be otherwise? You try things and sometimes they don’t quite work out. Through it all, he has maintained a gentlemanly aura, truly amazing in a world where “there is no such thing as bad publicity” remains a mantra. Here’s hoping his next reel will push him into Clint Eastwood territory.

Coming shortly on the heels of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s sordid passing, I feel Monk’s tunnel vision on Costner’s career is doubly sad: it underlines how we only seem to appreciate our great performers when they are taken from us, and it is also echoes the many changes The Gazette has undergone in the past few years. I often disagreed with John Griffin’s reviews, but at least there was a thoughtfulness, a depth, to them. They reflected my Montreal reality in a way that Monk’s--and Jay Stone, another Postmedia wire service parachute--do not.

In our wired reality, if I wanted to read a collection of ahistorical clichés masquerading as reviews from a Vancouver Sun writer, I could read the Vancouver Sun online. When I want to know what a savvy Montreal film critic thinks of Costner’s latest work, I should be able to find that in my Montreal Gazette. Head office may believe that gutting quality locally derived content is required in today’s sad business context, but as a long-time Gazette reader, I must tell you it only hastens the circling of the drain.

(By the way, Monk slammed the film, which I haven't seen, yet still, mystifyingly, rated it 3 stars; Rotten Tomatoes gives it 28%...they also have a post on Costner's 10 best films you might enjoy. It's reviews like hers that now send me to Rotten Tomatoes, rather than The Gazette, when I want to find out about new films.)

Monday, 20 January 2014

Downton Abbey Season 4, Episode 3: Rape culture and the slimy slope of situational ethics (please see Note 1)

SPOILER ALERT: conjecture on the season 4 plot appears in the last paragraph of this post. (Not that most of us probably couldn’t see it coming…)

Anna and Mrs. Hughes in episode 3

Last night’s episode of Downton Abbey was even darker and more troubling than the previous week’s violence. And that’s because, in this latest installment, action tantamount to rape is advocated by those we have taken to be “the good guys.” That we are beguiled into viewing it as justified only makes us complicit, bringing us one step lower on the slippery descent into situational ethics.

Episode 2 featured two major skirmishes in the battle between the sexes: Green’s rape of Anna, and Edna’s “seduction” of Tom. The contrasts between these acts are multiple, from the genders of the perpetrator/victim, through location of the event, and the style of depiction: man vs. woman, downstairs vs. upstairs, explicit violence vs. implied non-violence. And the reactions Sir Julian Fellowes cultivates within us, the viewers, when faced with each of these despicable acts, are also very different: fear, horror, and tears vs. vague unease.

Tom Branson

Both victims are among the most attractive and sympathetic members of the cast, haling from among the virtuous lower classes. There is also the aspect of their relative blamelessness: though Anna had no reason to believe ill of Green (beyond the tingling of Bates’ spidey sense), it’s hard to avoid the impression Tom should have known he was playing with fire in rekindling a relationship with Edna. The two attackers also issue from among the poor, albeit the undeserving, non-virtuous kind (they’re also clearly the less attractive member of each doomed couple).

In both sexual attacks, the sympathetic natures of the victims are taken advantage of in order to gratify the perpetrators’s needs--for sex, power, and, in Edna’s case, as a gambit to improve her social situation. Can a man be raped? Episode 2 makes a clear case for the affirmative.

Edna Braithwaite

But it is episode 3 that I find more alarming, and specifically the scene where Mrs. Hughes confronts Edna on Tom’s behalf. But first, let’s backtrack a smidge: having plied Tom with whiskey and slipping into his room, Edna approaches Tom the next day, demanding he commit to marrying her if their encounter results in a pregnancy. Tom refuses to accept the premise of the question (a neat lesson also stressed in West Wing, Season 7, which I’ve been watching recently). Conception, Tom tells Edna, isn’t that simple. Edna challenges Tom: so he regrets their encounter?

Tom, in his sad sappiness nearly a fit heir for the dopey Lord himself, responds: “I am already full of regret. There is nothing but regret in me” (though I’m guessing it was something quite other than regret that issued from him on the night in question).

Later, in London, Lady Mary recognizes Tom is in difficulty. When he refuses to open up about his problem, she advises to find some way of unburdening himself. Which sends Tom to Mrs. Hughes, the one person in whom Anna has also confided.

The stalwart Mrs. Hughes, believing herself partly to blames for Tom’s situation—for having she assisted in, albeit grudgingly, Edna’s return to Downton as a ladies maid. She subsequently confronts Edna on Tom’s behalf, but not until she’s discovered the Mary Stopes book Married Love, a sensation at the time, in Edna’s room.

Dr. Mary Stopes

According to Mrs. Hughes, possession of the book means Edna had planned the whole thing, and that she must have known all about preventing pregnancy. Unfortunately, Fellowes—and, by extension, Mrs. Hughes, are mistaken on this. The version of Married Love available online only hints at methods of contraception—primarily douching, presumably, and possibly condoms:

It should be realized that all the proper, medical methods of preventing undesired pregnancy consists, not in destroying an already growing embryo, but in preventing the male semen from reaching the unfertilized egg cell. This may be done either by shutting the semen away from the opening of the womb, or by securing the death of all (instead of the natural death of all but one) of the two or three hundred million spermatozoa which enter the woman…To render inert the ejaculated spermatozoa which would otherwise die and decompose naturally, is a simple matter, now familiar to every intelligent physician and layman.2

How to do this, Stopes writes, is “knowledge…easily obtainable” elsewhere. Apparently, one of the commonly used fertility regulators of the time was “half a lemon, partially squeezed out and then inserted in the vagina to cover the cervix like a cap.”3

But I digress.

My point, finally, concerns the lengths to which Mrs. Hughes appears prepared to go in her attempts to foil Edna’s plan:

Edna: What proof have you got?

Mrs. Hughes: None, at the moment. But if you persist in your lie, I’ll summon the doctor and have him examine you.

Edna: You can’t force me.

Mrs. Hughes: Oh yes, I can. First, I’ll lock you in this room. Then, when he’s arrived, I’ll tear the clothes from your body and hold you down, if that’s what it takes.

A forcible gynaecologic examination? Does that sound far from rape to you?

In the face of Mrs. Hughes’s determination, Edna folds. And we, let’s face it, are stoked. Because a devil, for once, has got her comeuppance.

Edna: He still seduced me. You can’t change that.

Mrs. Hughes: You made a man drunk and climbed into his bed. You call that seduction? Because I don’t.

Edna rushes out. To Tom, Mrs. Hughes allows she was bluffing, that a doctor’s examination at that point would have found nothing.

But haven’t we, too, been seduced? Seduced into accepting the threat of a near-rape as a justified response to Edna’s aggression. 

Ethel Parks
And finally—SPOILER ALERT—having watched the entire fourth season, may I say that another Downton character could have used the lemon treatment, and that it is not a coincidence that Fellowes’s choice of the names Ethel, Edna, and Edith is not, thematically speaking, a coincidence.
Lady Edith


1This is not a summary of the episode. For an excellent recap of episode 3, please see Robin Kawakami’s Wall Street Journal blog piece, here

2 Stopes, Mary Carmichael. Married love or love in marriage. New York, NY: The Critic and Guide Company, 1918. Available online at

3 Short, R.V. “New ways of preventing HIV infection: thinking simply, simply thinking.”
Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2006 May 29; 361(1469): 811–820. Published online 2006 February 3. doi:  10.1098/rstb.2005.1781

Monday, 6 January 2014

Downton Abbey: from "jumping the shark" to sharknado (hook's still in deep, though)

At long last, possums, we're back in Downtontown, and I couldn't be happier! It's a show millions love, yours truly included, though this love can't blind me to the show's faults.

And so, in honour of Downton Abbey's season 4 launch last night on PBS, I'm reposting last January's  rueful commentary on Downton's lunge over the top (below). But first, a few nits picked from last night's episode, and the shape of the season to come:

--A few too many info dump scenes, or overly short scenes, for example, the one where Lady Mary finally breaks down to Carson (Carson, and not her own father! How pathetic is that?), and the other between Carson and his old friend Grigg. These scenes reminded me of that West Wing axiom: no meeting ever lasts much more than 30 seconds. Would that real life was this way! Yes, yes, I know: short scenes keep the story clipping along (as does all that rushing around), but lesser writers are forever cautioned to make each scene exist on its own merits and not simply to set up a future plot point.

--I'm sorry, but even Lord Crawley couldn't be that big a ninny (the Dowager's repeated references to fetching the Nanny to care for him were downright ridiculous). 

--Speaking of Nanny, there's another laughable pseudoconflict generated at breakneck speed. It gives me no pleasure to say it (by which I mean it gives me HEAPS of pleasure), but Downton Abbey's becoming a caricature of itself. From "jumping the shark" to sharknado.

--Despite Cora Levinson Crawley's supposed shiksadom (see below), last night's episode leaves little doubt Lady Edith being set up for a "peril in Germany" story line, lifted right from Herman Wouk's The Winds of War (a much worthier miniseries, IMHO).

"Sorry fans, no Yiddishkeit at 'Downton Abbey'"

The reason neither Martha Levinson nor Lady Cora (played by Elizabeth McGovern) are Jewish, it turns out, is very simple: They’re Episcopalian.  
We know this because the definitive guide to Season 3, Jessica Fellowes and Matthew Sturgis’ “The Chronicles of Downton Abbey,” tells us so. (They should know: She’s the niece of Julian Fellowes, the show’s creator.)...

--Finally, still in the Jewish content vein, could somebody PLEASE tell us why Fellowes' is allergic to actually casting Jews as Jews? Shirley MacLaine and Paul Giamatti?? SERIOUSLY? (Okay, I know Martha Levinson isn't supposed to be Jewish but simply a brassy nouveau riche New Yorker...but isn't that kinda the same thing?) I suppose he'd feel comfortable casting Whites in Blackface to play Blacks, too? (PS This last is a joke...sort of)


Downton Abbey jumps the shark (January 9, 2013)

Downton Abbey's season 3 premiere: Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville, foreground) continues to do dopey things, his mother-in-law, Martha Levinson (Shirley MacLaine) is fizzle and a gasbag, and viewers are reminded of familiar Downton truisms: “Downton’s in peril. Wills are complicated. Servants are sickly. Canadians are trouble.”

Photograph by: Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for Masterpiece-PBS

Spoiler alert! Contains Downton plot twists: If you haven’t yet seen the opening episode of Season 3 (or, for that matter, Seasons 1 or 2) and plan to, you might want to hold off on reading this article. It contains some of the notable developments in the plots of the series.

I’d been psyched for months by the promise of the newest season of Downton Abbey, which the New York Times’s Alessandra Stanley recently called the Fifty Shades of Grey of its ilk: “soft-core pornography, but fixated on breeding and heritage rather than kinky sex.”

But I was hugely disappointed by the two-hour series opener the other night, which drew the Crawley family — and voyeurs like us along for the ride — to new depths of fatuousness.

In the interregnum prior to the start of Season 3, hubby and I took the opportunity to rescreen Seasons 1 and 2. I’d been struck by writer Julian Fellowes’s apparent initial intention to make Lord Grantham, Robert Crawley (played by Hugh Bonneville), the heart of the series. The opening credits have him striding majestically through the grounds, golden lab at his side. But it wasn’t long before daughter Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), whose young Turkish lover shockingly expires in her bedchamber (in most morality plays, death is what happens to the girl seduced, not the rake) and the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith, who makes the most of the immortal line “No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else’s house — especially somebody they didn’t even know”) began to steal the show from him, and run with it. Lord Grantham becomes sadly befuddled — for example, imagining that he will see active duty in France during the First World War.

But this year’s offering is a contraption so creaky with ersatz conflict that it reminds me of Oz the Great and Terrible at the moment Dorothy discovers that behind the curtain is an ordinary little man.

Opening with the revelation of Lord Grantham’s utter and advised-against squandering of the family’s fortune in Canada — as June Thomas says on Slate, “they sure do return to the same themes over and over: Downton’s in peril. Wills are complicated. Servants are sickly. Canadians are trouble” — the episode continues at breakneck pace to the wedding of Mary and Matthew — though skipping completely what true Fifty Shades fans would prefer to have seen: the honeymoon. But first — oh, irony — it picks up their latest complication: the father of the late Lavinia, Matthew’s one-time fiancée, has died and Matthew is third in line to inherit his huge fortune.

While the issue of whether the two men before him as inheritors are alive or dead is needlessly spun out, Matthew — looking a tad overfed and unctuous, proving himself a fitting heir to the doltish current lord — announces his resolution to give away the money should it come his way, because taking it would constitute a form of theft. He arrives at this weird notion through tortured guilty logic: Lord Reginald Swire could only have intended the money to come to Matthew because he was the great love of Lavinia’s life, but Matthew betrayed that love, sending Lavinia to an early, broken-hearted death by way of the Spanish flu.

It makes Harlequin romances appear deep.

Lady Mary castigates Matthew with the deadliest of accusations. In refusing Swire’s bequest, in his willingness to allow, dare one say it, Downton to be lost, Matthew is, she charges, betraying that he is “not on our side.”

Seriously? This is the complication on which Fellowes seeks to hang the season?

It was the moment that Downton Abbey, despite its high production values and effervescent cast, finally jumped the shark.

And it was only downhill from there.

Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson in Downton Abbey.
Photograph by: Image courtesy , Nick Briggs

Shirley MacLaine, looking like she might have had a tad too much plastic surgery, was a total fizzle, her Martha Levinson (mother of the U.S.-born Cora, Lady Grantham) little more than a gasbag of accented clichés.

I'd heard rumours Dan Stevens (Matthew) would be gone from Downton, and this flop of a premiere was just the impetus I needed to root around the Internet to discover what happens to his character, while imagining all the time I might regain Sunday evenings by not having to watch the rest of the series.

As if.

Like Fifty Shades of Grey, Downton Abbey has become, most assuredly, one more in a long line of life’s guilty pleasures.


Saturday, 2 November 2013

THE MEANING OF CHILDREN: Amazon review roundup...

A few of the superlative reviews from THE MEANING OF CHILDREN'S review page
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I can't stop thinking about this book May 2, 2012

It's been over a week since I read this collection of short stories and the characters are still with me.
These are stories about real people, real children, teenagers, adults, in real times. I went through a whole range of emotions when I read them, some good, some not so good. When the child was sitting on the stairs listening to her parents, I was right there with her. When the adult was sitting by the lake contemplating what happened years before and looking at her present day life, I was sitting across from her, doing the same thing. I can't remember a book, let alone a collection of short stories, where I could identify so heavily with the emotions and feelings of the characters.

As far as I'm concerned, this is what good writing, and a good book, should do for you. Yes, it entertained for sure, but it made me think and remember.

If you enjoy quality writing and a book that will make you think about where you've been and where you're going read The Meaning Of Children.
Highly recommended.
 8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A life-altering read is so rare for a writer ... May 25, 2012
I reviewed this title on my Blog a while back and as you will read it has altered my own thoughts on childhood recollections. Thrilled to not only own a personally signed copy but to now have an iPad version to re-read these haunting stories. Not only for people with children, but for anyone who was ever a child.

Some excerpts from my blog review pasted here (to read more visit my web site and blog):

"... A life-altering read is so rare for me, and I imagine for many writers, with a critical eye often hard to keep closed while hoping to get caught up and swept away while reading fiction for pleasure ... This collection of short stories is her debut into the fiction book world after a solid career in molecular genetics research. Her stories are as diverse as her changing career path and yet string together a theme as connected as a genetic chain.

Very few times in my life resonate so strongly to a past and a childhood that has me always facing forward and rarely wanting to look back. As I read Akerman's book instantly I am that child on the first page, in the first sentence, whose parents "When the arguing started would get louder and louder, till they broke into my dreams." As the stories moved along I, like her character, realized how much I learned from eavesdropping during the arguments, and sadly like the child I too knew "... where the patched holes were in the walls" and that "... it would be smarter to keep my opinions to myself." In the next few tales the loneliness hit home of a child walking along to school wishing for her own puppy and that she could write a book and feeling very misunderstood by grown-ups.
Read more ›

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Akerman takes you back April 18, 2012
By twalker

Akerman takes you back to the time you were a child. No matter you did not grow up in Montreal or Jewish, the situations, conflicts, joys and fears are universal. Akerman grounds emotions with rich descriptions and a strong sense of place.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Meaning of Children January 16, 2013

My first impression of the book was, "Wow, this woman can write." The author's descriptions of settings are so vivid that I felt as if I was standing in the scenes of her stories.

In The Meaning of Children Ms. Akerman uses a series of short vignettes to explore innocence, violence and the human condition. For most of us certain scenes from childhood stand out as vivid memories. This book is a series of such memories--each of pivotal points in the life of a child.

This is not light reading as the stories deal with issues of self-image and sexuality by dramatizing how one seemingly small incident can shape a woman's image of herself and her interpretation of reality. However, I recommend The Meaning of Children to anyone who is a student of human nature.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profound Vignettes of, about, or because of Children July 29, 2012
At times chance enters our lives and we encounter moments created by a wordsmith that, like it or not, raise memories and experiences that we have either experienced, watched, heard about, or dreamed and the stories in Beverly Akerman's book of short stories THE MEANING OF CHILDREN do just that. They slowly creep into our psyches, clutch a holding place, and stay with us permanently. This collection of the whispers and screams, longings and needs of being a child and the responses of those closest to that child are the works of a magician, a writer of such substance that she is obviously headed to the top echelon of writers of our time.

Some critics are saying that this book is about the underappreciated world of women and perhaps that stance is valid: there certainly are enough tales of anorgasmia, to abortion, to preparing to say the final goodbye to a dying child to the vagaries of holding a household together despite the external (an internal) flaws that creep into crack marriages. But I don't see men being put into negative places just to serve the purpose of making a collection of stories hang together with a theme. No, these stories are all about the influence of bringing a child into the world and the benefits and consequences of the way life changes because of that. And overriding everything else is the panoply of forms of love that transcend all else.

I like the way the author (or agent or some caring one who seeks to gain our attention to this book) states it: `...a girl discovers a fear of heights as her parents' marriage unravels; a thirty-something venture fund manager frets over his daughter's paternity; an orphan whose hands kill whatever they touch is accused of homophobia; a mother of two can only bear to consider abortion in the second person; the wife of a retirement-aged professor finds him unconscious near his computer...The Meaning Of Children speaks to all who--though aware the world can be a very dark place--can't help but long for redemption.' I like this because in the end words fail in attempting to share the variety of emotions this book induces. Beverly Akerman simply knows how to write. She understands contemporary vernacular and uses it to embroider her stories, not to be `with it' like so many authors who seem to need to fill the quota of expletives. She also knows when to leave a story alone, to just let it lift itself and slip out the window, carrying the impact of our emotional changes with it.

Enough said. This is a book of rare sensitivity and masterful creative writing and must surely be shared with as many friends and fellow readers as possible. Grady Harp, July 12

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Bev Interviewed about David Gilmour brouhaha by The Sisterhood blog of The Jewish Daily Forward

Had a nice chat with Renée Ghert-Zand the other day, about the whole David Gilmour brouhaha.

Her summary of the issue:

[Gilmour’s remarks came in a short, informal interview with a writer named Emily M. Keeler for Random House’s Hazlitt literary blog. According to the transcript of the conversation, Gilmour, an award-winning author who has been teaching (as a non-tenured lecturer) undergraduate courses in modern short fiction at the University of Toronto, is willing only to teach “stuff I love.” This apparently means Russian and American literature (“I just haven’t encountered any Canadian writers yet that I love enough to teach”) by middle-aged white men like him.

When the interviewer pressed him to explain why he doesn’t teach works by women writers, he answered, “When I was given this job I said I would teach only the people that I truly, truly love. And, unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Um. Except for Virginia Woolf.” Then he went on to complain about Woolf being too sophisticated for his students.

It seems common for Gilmour to be questioned about his reading lists. “Usually at the beginning of the semester 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’m good at is guys.”

Then he clarified that what he meant by “guys” was “very serious heterosexual guys. Elmore Leonard. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy guys…Henry Miller. Uh. Philip Roth.”]

She interviewed several Canadian Jewish writers and academics, including yours truly, who was caught saying:

[Montreal writer Beverly Akerman finds Gilmour’s lack of openness to literary exploration “shocking in this day and age.” Furthermore, “there’s a real vein of misogyny there,” she says. She also finds Gilmour’s remarks bizarre in light of the fact that “Canada is famous for its women short fictions writers, like Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood and Mavis Gallant.” ]
And even gave me the last word:
[Akerman least finds a silver lining in the whole situation. “Gilmour has done us all a service,” she suggests. “We’ll all try harder now to look for and read the good female writers out there.”]

Read the whole thing here.
And please let me know what you think. Are you concerned? Do you think the University of Toronto has some 'splainin' to do? Are you fed up hearing about David Gilmour? Or simply fed up with David Gilmour? 
Meantime, I'm starting a collection of women writers worth reading (they can even be Canadian and/or Chinese!)

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Please Don't Poach Quebec's Doctors in Our Time of Need


Dear Lakeridge Health,

This week, you started a direct mail campaign targeting Quebec doctors, medical residents, and medical students. I agree with your nearly 500 "likers" on Facebook: it's one great ad. But I'm writing to ask you if things aren't tough enough here in Quebec right now without you Ontarians trying to lure away our professionals? Thirty-thousand of us don't have a GP at the moment. We need more doctors in Quebec, not fewer. And who suffers most directly if our doctors and medical students leave? (Hint: it's not the PQ!)

For your information, the vast majority of Montrealers are against this proposed Values Charter thing. Mayors of virtually every town on Montreal island are against it (and nearly 90 per cent of Quebec immigrants live in Montreal). All Montreal's mayoral candidates -- Richard Bergeron, Denis Coderre, Marcel Côté, and Melanie Joly -- are against it (we have civic elections November 3), as is the current municipal council. And a 3,000 word "Manifesto for an inclusive Quebec" was published at (in French) on Sept. 10, and is being translated into English as I write. Quebecers can read and sign here.

It says, in part: "Nous dénonçons vivement qu'une poignée d'événements anecdotiques ayant marqué l'imaginaire serve de justification à notre gouvernement pour retirer des droits fondamentaux à certains de nos concitoyens les plus vulnérables. La publication de ce manifeste vise à expliquer à nos concitoyens et à nos décideurs les fondements de notre opposition."

My translation: "We strongly condemn the handful of anecdotal events, sparking the imagination, that serve as justification for our government's removal of fundamental rights from some of our most vulnerable citizens. This manifesto is to explain to our fellow citizens and our decision-makers the foundation of our opposition."

It talks about the slippery slope, fear of "the other," the exclusion effect. I'm sure you'll find it fascinating. Two hundred sixty-eight Quebec professors, lawyers, students, political activists, other thought leaders, and people of conscience have signed already. They have a website, with info on their Facebook and Twitter feed. They're collecting more signatures, too.

(Anyone reading this who might have something to say to Lakeridge Health can find them on Facebook, Twitter, or via email at

In any event, Lakeridge Health, please let us know who your ad company is: we're going to need them here in Quebec, once this damn thing finally blows over. I'm sure you didn't really mean to kick us when we were already down.

All best,


P.S. An unofficial English translation is now available from

P.P.S. Here are the authors and other signatories as of Sept. 10th, as published at (probably thousands more by now). Just so you know (and I thank them for standing up when others might be tempted to find some advantage in our hard times).

RÉMI BOURGET - Avocat et blogueur sur; il a été porte-parole des juristes opposés à la loi 12, au printemps 2012;
FRÉDÉRIC BÉRARD - Avocat-constitutionnaliste et politologue;
RYOA CHUNG - Professeure agrégée, département de philosophie, Université de Montréal;
JUDITH LUSSIER - Chroniqueuse
Ont également cosigné ce manifeste :
Martin Bisaillon, journaliste et chroniqueur;
Arjun Basu, écrivain et rédacteur;
Pascale Fournier, Professeure de droit, Université d'Ottawa;
Jean-François Gaudreault-DesBiens, Professeur de droit, Université de Montréal;
Dimitrios Karmis, Professeur de science politique, Université d'Ottawa;
Martin Papillon, Professeur de science politique, Université d'Ottawa;
Cédric Lizotte, journaliste et blogueur;
Daniel M. Weinstock, professeur, Faculté de droit, McGill;
Jocelyn Maclure, professeur, Faculté de philosophie, Université Laval;
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, ancien porte-parole lors du printemps 2012;
Maxime St-Hilaire, professeur, Faculté de droit, Université de Sherbrooke;
Mathieu Marion, professeur, Département de philosophie, UQAM;
Michel Seymour, professeur, Département de philosophie, Université de Montréal;
Valérie Amiraux, professeure, Département de sociologie, Université de Montréal;
Sirma Bilge, professeure, Département de sociologie, Université de Montréal;
Christine Tappolet, professeure, Département de philosophie, Université de Montréal;
David Koussens, professeur, département d'études religieuses, Université de Sherbrooke ;
Éric Pineault, professeur, département de sociologie, UQAM ;
Widia Larivière, militante des causes autochtones et co-initiatrice du mouvement Idle No More au Québec ;
Laure Waridel, éco-sociologue, auteure et chroniqueuse ;
Julien Villeneuve, professeur, département de philosophie, Collège de Maisonneuve ;
Philippe Boucher, chroniqueur ;
Rabii Rammal, humoriste ;
André Péloquin, journaliste;
Véronique Robert, avocate et chargée de cours, Université Laval;
Aurélie Lanctot, Étudiante en droit à l'Université McGill ;
Léa Clermont-Dion;
Ianik Marcil, économiste indépendant;
Jérôme Lussier, chroniqueur et juriste;
Stéphane Beaulac, professeur titulaire, Faculté de droit, Université de Montréal, Directeur du programme de J.D. en common law nord-américaine;
Alan Wong, Ph.D., Professeur, College Vanier;
Myriam Denis, Candidate au Juris Doctor, University of California at Berkeley;
Ayat Salman; Gérante du Programme de recherche clinique en transplantation du CUSM et candidate en PhD en pathologie de l'université McGill;
Sibel Ataogul, avocate et chargée de cours, Université de Montréal;
Léa Couture-Thériault, Assistante de recherche, Centre de recherche en droit public;
Noureddine Mouelhi, professeur;
Jean Dorion, président du groupe Indépendantistes pour une laïcité inclusive;
Pier-André Bouchard St-Amant, chercheur Post-Doctoral, INET;
Ludvic Moquin-Beaudry, enseignant en philosophie, cégep de St-Jérôme;
Jocelyn Brousseau, coordonnateur urgence en travail humanitaire;
Annie-Claude Trudeau, avocate et cofondatrice Faits et Causes;
Julien David-Pelletier;
Miguael Bergeron, étudiant et Éditeur-en-chef au Prince Arthur Herald;
Kevin Copps, candidat à la mairie CDN-NDG;
Ishan Singh, avocat, Président de La Voix Québécoise des Sikhs;
Daniel Thibault;
Pierre-Guy Sylvestre, économiste;
Jocelyn Desjardins, syndicaliste, ex-président du NMQ;
Sophie Bienvenu, auteure;
Mathieu St-Onge, conseiller en communication et journaliste pigiste;
Fannie Boisvert St-Louis, féministe;
Murphy Cooper, chroniqueur d'opinion;
Dalila Awada, étudiante en sociologie;
Nour Farhat, étudiante en droit;
Martin Chartrand, étudiant en communication;
Xenia Chernyshova, comédienne, chroniqueuse et leader de Femen Québec-Canada;
Xavier Peich, politologue;
Elizabeth Robertson, journaliste pigiste;
Julien Lefort-Favreau, doctorant en études littéraires, UQAM ;
Will Prosper, militant de Montréal-Nord Républik et documentariste;
Alexandre Alaoui, candidat à la maîtrise en science politique, UQAM;
Julie Paquette, politologue ;
Aurélien Chastan;
Alexandre Leduc ;
Olivier Roy ;
Naomi Cauchy-Cartier, Titulaire d'une maîtrise en Histoire de l'Antiquité;
Sophie Tremblay, avocate;
Zalman Haouzi, Avocat;
Marie-Claude Dufour, technicienne juridique;
Charles Bottex;
Marie-Pierre Rouette, politologue;
Sébastien Laflamme, informaticien;
Steven MacKinnon;
Emmanuelle Rouleau, avocate;
Colin Beaudry, D.I.T.;
Gabrielle Brais Harvey, étudiante, relationniste et organisatrice syndicale;
Christelle Arnaud, avocate;
Benoît Riopel;
Simon Labrecque, politologue;
Maxime Laflamme, programmeur-analyste;
Julie Chabot, avocate;
Patricia Fourcand;
Matthew Angelus, stagiaire en droit;
André Coté-Homier, musicien;
Raphaëlle Sandt-Duguay, gestionnaire documentaire;
Magdaline Saulnier-Bourget, étudiante;
René Lemieux, sémiologue;
Louis-François Brodeur, candidat au doctorat (HEC Montréal);
Julien Day, blogueur;
Catherine Girard Lantagne, directrice de programmation;
Rosa Pires, candidate à la maitrise en science politique, UQAM et vice-présidente des Indépendantistes pour une laïcité inclusive;
Annick Desjardins, avocate;
Julie Robert, avocate;
Louis Fiset, agent de communication et éthicien;
Frédérique Chiasson, juriste et traductrice;
Louis Bedard Giulione, étudiant à la maîtrise en musicologie université de Montréal;
Charles Tremblay, biologiste;
Annie Lecours, entrepreneure;
Francis Gosselin, économiste et chercheur;
Dalena Tran, étudiante en enseignement à l'Université Concordia;
Marie-Joie Brady, politologue;
Michel Desy, conseiller en éthique;
Joey Larouche, ingénieur;
Laura Dehaibi, étudiante au doctorat en droit à l'Université McGill;
Keithia Ladouceur, étudiante en enseignement à l'Université McGill;
Olivier Carpentier, illustrateur et bédéiste;
Marco Nocella, avocat;
Marie-Josée Dufour, rédactrice;
Marie-France Lemaine, recherchiste et traductrice;
Xavier Gravend-Tirole, théologien et écrivain;
Emilie Audy, stagiaire en droit;
Bochra Manaï, chercheurE;
Eugénie Depatie-Pelletier, juriste et démographe;
Cathy Wong, juriste;
François Fournier, sociologue;
Joey Hanna, juriste;
Hamza Benqassmi, étudiant à l'école du Barreau du Québec;
Léa Champagne, géographe;
Philippe Allard;
Jonathan Plamondon;
Karyne Charpentier;
Christopher Craig;
Ricardo Lamour, (Emrical), artiste et membre de Ca m'concerne;
Shahad Salman, avocate;
Janet Lumb, artiste;
Marie-Hélène Croteau, gestionnaire de projet;
David Crandall, avocat;
Golshad Darroudi, avocate;
Isabelle Boucher, étudiante;
Samira Laouni, Fondatrice-Présidente du C.O.R. Organisme de communication pour l'ouverture et le rapprochement interculturel;
Aminta Ndiaye, conseillère en projets d'affaires;
Sébastien Lord-Émard, artiste et militant acadien;
Katherine Kaufman, avocate et étudiante;
François Fournier, Étudiant en droit, Université de Montréal;
Sarah Charland-Faucher, étudiante à la maîtrise en développement régional;
Fanny Marcouillier-Mathieu, étudiante au baccalauréat en communication (relations publiques) et auxiliaire d'enseignement, Université Laval, Québec;
Emilie Tessier, enseignante en Arts au secondaire;
André Ho, étudiant à la maîtrise en travail social et intervenant psychosocial;
Jessy Thermil, traductrice;
Said Guennani, entrepreneur; notaire diplômé au Maroc;
François Schneider, directeur Technique en animation 3D;
Toufic Adlouni: étudiant;
Jean-François Thériault, ingénieur;
Jade Robert-Drouin, étudiante;
Gabriel Copps, étudiant;
Marc Duperron, étudiant;
Christian Arseneault, candidat municipal (Montréal);
Béatrice Copps, étudiante;
Antoine Desîlets, étudiant;
Laurent Fournier, étudiant;
Louis Lespérance, étudiant;
Jade Karim, étudiant;
Laurence Couture-Thériault, B.A littérature française et étudiante en droit;
Stéphane Stril, Président de PLQ McGill;
Djavan Habel-Thurton, étudiant;
Gabriel Myre, étudiant en droit de 2e cycle;
Hugo Guerche, Vice Président Organisation, PLQ McGill;
Joshua Arless, Vice-President, Organization Young Liberals of Canada (Quebec);
Simon Beauchemin, candidat à la maîtrise en RI et politique à l'université de Cambridge;
Laura Khouri, étudiante en sciences politiques;
Silvia Ortan, étudiante en droit;
Olivier Goulet, étudiant;
Éléonore Gauthier, étudiante;
Julia Kappler, étudiante;
Xavier Plamondon, B.A. Sciences économiques, étudiant en droit;
Annabelle S. Archambault, B.Comm.;
Saad Qoq, étudiant en ingénierie;
Samuel Lavoie, président des Jeunes Libéraux du Canada;
Cameron Ahmad, Président des Jeunes libéraux du Canada (Québec);
Mira Ahmad, étudiante;
Noémi Poulin, conceptrice de costumes;
Clara Pelletier, étudiante;
Élisabeth Couture, Chargée de cours, Université Concordia;
Daniela Chivu President, Multicultural Commission Liberal Party of Canada (QC);
Lambert V. Lorrain, étudiant en droit;
Chloe Luciani-Girouard, Présidente des Jeunes libéraux de l'Université de Montréal PLC(Q);
Christopher Monette, étudiant en communication et politique;
Alexander Jagric, Vice-Président (Externe) de PLQ McGill;
Maude Méthot-Faniel, fonctionnaire ;
Ali M. Al-saleh, Étudiant en science politique;
Brice Dansereau-Olivier, étudiant en économie et chroniqueur;
Frédéric Bourgeois-LeBlanc, Étudiant et Adjoint aux communications à la Commission Jeunesse du PLQ;
Sonya Mullins, president of the unity group - Quebec civil rights;
Étienne Leclerc, décrocheur engagé;
Michèle Goulet, enseignante;
Pier-Luc Brault, étudiant et citoyen engagé;
Nina Nguyen, étudiante en médecine, Université de Sherbrooke;
Félix Bowles, étudiant (Bacc. Travail Social);
Kaouther Saadi, étudiante en Communication et Politique à l'Université de Montréal;
Sukhmeet Singh, Homme d'affaires. Vice-président de La Voix Québécoise des Sikhs;
Nadia Kadri, étudiante et présidente des Jeunes libéraux fédéraux à l'Université McGill;
Judith Cardin Poissant, étudiante en droit;
Jean-Philippe Roy, étudiant en Économie et Science politique (Université Laval);
Marcelle Moffatt Thériault, professeure retraitée du Collège de Limoilou;
Ariel Gregory Shapiro, étudiant;
Simon Turmel, avocat (droit autochtone, de l'énergie et de l'environnement);
Alexandre Mailloux-Dupéré, étudiant à la maitrise en droit international et politiques internationales appliqués à l'Université de Sherbrooke;
Daphnée Anctil, étudiante en droit à l'Université de Montréal;
Diana Popescu, criminologue;
Constantin Draghici, ingénieur;
Vanessa Métivier, étudiante en communication publique, Université Laval;
Maija Kappler, étudiante;
Nicole Reckziegel, étudiante;
Chattar Singh Saini;
Ishan Singh, avocat;
Tiffany Hanskamp, étudiante;
Jan Hanskamp, étudiant;
Kayleigh Hanskamp, étudiante;
Emilie Hanskamp, étudiante;
Jennifer Crane, VP English Liberal Party of Canada (Quebec);
Simon Charbonneau, étudiant en droit;
Emmanuela Tedone, étudiante;
Jessica Lang, étudiante ;
Sarah Howard, étudiante;
David Kaufman, programmateur informatique;
Eric Hendry, étudiant en droit;
Frédérique Bourque, avocate;
Julien Brossard, avocat et MBA;
Frédérick Plamondon, enseignant;
Simon Jolicoeur, étudiant en droit;
Nellie Brière, stratège en communications interactives;
Georges Andriotis, étudiant en droit;
Aminata Mbaye, Conceptrice logiciel;
Yousr Masmoudi, partenaire d'affaire en apprentissage;
Federico Tyrawskyj, avocat;
Edouard Reinach, entrepreneur;
Dalla Malé Fofana, Chargé de cours, Auxillaire d'enseignement Université de Sherbrooke;
Alexandre Julien, technicien informatique;
Toula Foscolos, journaliste;
Ariane Bergeron-St-Onge, avocate;
Julien Vaillancourt Laliberté, Directeur Logistique, Milieu culturel;
Vanessa Udy, avocate;
Mathieu Fontaine, professeur de physique, collège Lionel-Groulx;
Delphine Abadie, chercheure indépendante;
Pierre-Yves Néron, Maître de Conférences en Éthique économique et sociale,. Université Catholique de Lille;
Leanne Bourassa, avocate;
Marc-Antoine Trudel, étudiant;
Lori Boyadjian, étudiante en droit;
Félix Roy, étudiant en Sciences politiques;
Vanessa Lapointe, étudiante en droit;
Frédérik Forget, étudiant en droit et philosophie;
Nicolas Trudel, étudiant en politique appliquée à l'Université de Sherbrooke;
Zach Paikin, commentateur politique;
Jeremy Little, étudiant - Faculté de droit;
Alexandra Mendès, Présidente du Parti libéral du Canada (Québec);
Arad Mojtahedi, étudiant en droit à l'Université McGill;
Julie Thibault, étudiante;
Sandra Levy, étudiante Faculté de droit;
Elise Abramowicz, étudiante Faculté de droit;
Erin Lesser, étudiante Faculté de droit;
Amanda Moniz, étudiante Faculté de droit;
Geneviève Claveau -Étudiante en droit, Fac. de l'UdeM;
Jeff Wise;
Benni Hodkin, ratafarian;
Catherine Ellyson, Professionnelle de recherche et consultante;
Frédéric Thériault, Photographe;
Angele Rondeau, traductrice;
Alice Tran, comédienne et animatrice;
Marie Clouâtre, avocate;
Sandrine Corbeil, étudiante en droit à l'Université de Montréal;
Marie-Danièle Germain, étudiante;
Jean-Michel Desgagnés, avocat;
Pamela Mikhael, étudiante en droit;
Alexandre Savoie-Perron;
Simon Cadorette, Chargé de cours en économie

A version of this article was originally posted at The Huffington Post Canada.