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Author clarifies controversial comments at Ottawa writer’s festival

Photo courtesy  of Ottawa International Writer’s Festival

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article for the Fulcrum about David Gilmour, a professor at the University of Toronto and an award-winning Canadian author. The article was a passionate denunciation of Gilmour for some controversial claims he made in the online publication Hazlitt, namely his refusal to teach books written by anyone other than “serious heterosexual guys.”

After writing this article, I was invited to the Ottawa International Writers Festival where David Gilmour was interviewed by Sean Wilson. Even though this interview focused on Gilmour’s favourite books and how they have influenced him, he also addressed the aforementioned claims and changed my perspective of the infamous scandal.

Many Canadians, including myself, were wrong to judge Gilmour before we had heard his side of the story.

“I said I only teach serious heterosexual guys like Marcel Proust and Truman Capote,” said Gilmour. “My assumption was that the journalist was sophisticated enough to understand that those are two of the gayest guys who ever lived, but apparently that went over her head and she thought I was being homophobic and taking a shot at gay writers.”

This misunderstanding led thousands of Canadians, including myself, to be upset with Gilmour for supposed archaic beliefs. But this was not all Gilmour had to say about his Hazlitt interview.

“She was also wrong about the fact that, I mean I’m a teacher, and I teach best what I feel passionately about,” said Gilmour. “There’s a certain kind of writer that speaks to me right now very strongly, who tends to be middle aged because I’m a middle aged guy and I’m preoccupied with middle aged concerns. The fact is when it comes to teaching women, writers I am a second-rate teacher.”

Throughout the interview, Gilmour repeated that there were female writers he enjoyed. He just didn’t connect with them the same way he did with male writers.

“Remember we’re talking about preference here, not quality,” he said.

Gilmour wants to teach what he feels most passionately about because he feels he can do so in the best way possible. And as a teacher, that’s his right.