Reaction Roundup: the 15 best responses to David Gilmour’s headline-grabbing gaffe about women writers

Reaction Roundup: the 15 best responses to David Gilmour’s headline-grabbing gaffe about women writers

David Gilmour
At the 17th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) in Busan, South Korea. (Image: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images Entertainment)

The reaction to author and University of Toronto professor David Gilmour’s spectacular own goal has ranged from the amused to the enraged. Briefly: Gilmour did a interview with Random House blog Hazlitt in which he offered tone-deaf dismissals of just about all books not written by straight, middle-aged men. He then responded to the public outcry with a series of tone-deaf non-apologies in media interviews about the growing controversy. To some, the pile-on seemed unfair; to others, he got what was coming to him. Here, some of the choicest responses to l’Affaire Gilmour.

• Salon writer Prachi Gupta gave Gilmour a thorough clubbing: “There are a few things that University of Toronto professor David Gilmour does not like: all Canadian writers, Chinese writers and female writers. What does he like? Himself, it seems. Also, dudes. Dudes can write.”

• Novelist Amanda Leduc (ironically, the author of a novel titled The Miracles of Ordinary Men) took to her blog with a penetrating post in which she boils her response down to this simple, heartfelt question for Gilmour: “Are these really the only options that we have? Philip Roth or bust? Really?”

• The Toronto Sun paid David Gilmour the ultimate honour by making him yesterday’s front-page villain with the headline “Write and Wrong.”

• On her BookRiot blog, English professor Brenna Clarke Gray characterized Gilmour’s comments as “Shallow. Misguided. And wrong.” She also offered the manly prof some very useful advice: “Oh, David Gilmour. Just. Stop. Talking.”

• Literary critic and Quill & Quire review editor Steven Beattie, after declaring himself a fan of Gilmour’s fiction, made what should’ve been an obvious point: “Saying one doesn’t like books by women is somewhat akin to saying one doesn’t like music: the category is so large, so diverse, so heterogeneous, that to paint it all with the same brush is virtually impossible.”

Mallory Ortberg at The Toast jumped on one nugget from the original interview—“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 came up with the hilarious “The Life of Virginia Woolf, Beloved Chinese Novelist, As Told By David Gilmour.”

• Author and journalist Richard Poplak also suggested future David Gilmour titles: “Just bumped into David Gilmour. He tells me he’s working on a book of literary criticism called Eat, Pray, Fuck Chicks.

• Toronto writer Michael Redhill made his own Gilmouresque declaration: “I want to announce that if I ever teach literature, I’m only teaching works by short Jews. Now please talk about me for three days.”

• On Twitter, commentators had fun with the fact that Gilmour shares his name with the former singer-guitarist for Pink Floyd. Gerald Butts (we assume that’s his real name) said that “David Gilmour isn’t even the best writer named David Gilmour.”

• Very quickly, some of Gilmour’s U of T colleagues began to weigh in. English professor Holger Syme, on his blog, wrote: “If the thing you see when you look into a book looks exactly like what you think you look like, you’re doing it wrong. And David Gilmour is most certainly doing it wrong.”

Paul Stevens, the acting chair of the English department at the University of Toronto, sent around a memo that concluded: “[David Gilmour’s] ill-informed and offensive views could not be less representative of the passionately held values and actual practices of the Department.”

• U of T students also got in on the act. A group calling itself “Serious Heterosexual Guys for Serious Literary Scholarship” is planning an on-campus anti-Gilmour rally for this coming Saturday.

• Meanwhile, a handful of Gilmour’s students rose to the prof’s defence, including writer Rachel Belatovich, who derided the “lynch-mob-style reaction” in this morning’s Globe and Mail.

• Also defending the prof: writer Brian Fawcett,who argued that Gilmour was  “set up” by Hazlitt reporter Emily Keeler.

• The reaction of one particular student predates the current controversy by more than a year. On (on which students do just that), an anonymous former Gilmour pupil wrote, rather prophetically:

 “Very full of himself. Painfully obvious that he favours the guys in the class. When asked why there were no female authors on the syllabus said ‘I don’t believe in “good for you” literature.’ Some students love him, but I honestly think while he might be intelligent he hasn’t matured past adolescence.”