Sticks and stones
I’m one of those romantics who played hockey on frozen ponds, on the rare occasions that ponds froze here on the Warm Coast. Mostly, I played on roads and tennis courts; we’d watch the games on ice and relive them on the asphalt. Those are golden memories.
So when I saw the cover of your June issue, I turned to David Macfarlane and Michael Adams’ “Hockeyland” with anticipation. My days as a wrist shooter are way behind me, but good writing about the game is still something to get excited about. As it turns out, the writers had nothing new to say: America is too big around the middle (I read about this regularly, in places less interesting than The Walrus), and professional hockey is a big entertainment business (it has been since—well, since someone figured out that people would pay to watch it).
At first, I couldn’t tell why The Walrus had given Macfarlane and Adams the space. When I worked backwards to the Editor’s Note, though, it all made sense. Turns out John Macfarlane co-authored his own anti-Yankee paean to hockey in 1972 and was looking for a reprise. In that case, I hope the feature story was just a warm-up. After all, its author writes nicely about his experience with the sport, and that’s a good start: hockey is most meaningfully the game we played as kids, on homemade rinks and frozen ponds and in cul-de-sacs—not a site of struggle over national identity.
Hans Peter Meyer
“Hockeyland” failed to answer a key question: has the nhl’s expansion actually drawn paying customers to southern arenas? My guess is not really. The Phoenix Coyotes’ ongoing money woes are illustrative; only a few years ago, the Predators almost left Nashville (they may very well leave yet). And the future is uncertain for teams in Florida and Atlanta, all of whom fail to draw enough fans at the box office.
Ironically, given the red-hot loonie, Canadian cities like Winnipeg, Hamilton, and Quebec are increasingly considered the salvation of struggling American franchises; Macfarlane’s piece came out just after rumours of Winnipeg reclaiming the Coyotes/Jets had started to circulate. The “Americanization” of hockey could be a red herring, not a revolution.
I used to be a fan of Canada. I thought Canadians were generally sensitive to other cultures, and I felt as though every American Sunbelt nhl team should have a Canadian home. Macfarlane and Adams’ anti-American snobbery changed my view.
It’s too bad that nhl hockey is losing its Canadian roots. But reading the article made me happy the nhl gives young Canadians a chance to experience a different culture and some relief from cbc’s stuffy world view.
Can’t buy me love
I found Michael Harris’s profile of Jamie Lee Hamilton (“The Unrepentant Whore,” June) interesting and provocative. However, one line continues to disturb me.
I teach English to fifteen-year-olds at a high school in Delta, BC, and we constantly discuss topics of identity, belonging, and love. When Harris wrote that young Hamilton and her friends had “become, often for the first time in their lives, beloved for who they are,” as sex workers servicing men on the streets of Vancouver, I fairly shouted out, “That’s not love!” Regardless of gender, when a minor is engaged in sexual acts with an adult it’s abuse.
Furthermore, the buying and selling of sexual acts cannot be called “loving someone for who they are.” Please do not confuse love with turning tricks.
Shortly before reading Jennifer Welsh’s “Immature Design” (June), I attended a book launch at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ontario. The panel more or less confirmed Welsh’s thesis. Our country’s reputation may have been dealt a reprieve when our financial institutions performed well during the recent crisis, but our foreign policy has failed to impress the international community. Canada has become at best a cipher, and at worst a poor performer. It will be very difficult to regain our stature.
barbarism begins at home
I don’t normally think it worth the effort to prick literary critics’ inflated egos, but Jeet Heer’s “Shoah Business” (June) has irked me into action. His complaint that Yann Martel “likes to make great displays of his erudition” is ironic, given that Heer’s style cries out for a quota on similes. As a historical fiction reader myself, I regret that his dazzling display of name-dropping told me so little about Yann Martel’s book, and even less about the project of which it is a part: developing literary approaches to inconceivable horror.
Jeet Heer begins by quoting Adorno: “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” Then he seems to prove Adorno’s statement, by commenting acutely on a wide variety of Holocaust literature without mentioning a single poem. It happens that Avrom Sutzkever, one of the greatest Yiddish poets of the twentieth century (along with Itzik Manger), died in Israel this year at age ninety-six. Born in Eastern Europe, he fought in the underground during the war and then escaped to Russia.
Adorno may have been right, but with a corollary: poets still write after the Holocaust, because they can’t help it.
“The Enemy Inside” (July/August) stated that Afghanistan is Canada’s deadliest conflict since World War II. In fact, it is the deadliest since the Korean War. The Walrus regrets the error.
This appeared in the September 2010 issue.