Register Tuesday | February 20 | 2024

Letter from the Editor

Taking on the world

There's this scenic lake. Some pink flamingos are just taking off in the middle ground, and above them in v-formation eight more seem to be migrating. You'll see this ad, from the Canadian Magazine Publishers Association, here and there in magazines. We're so used to fantasy marketing, the ad tricks us at first: this is a northern lake, those flamingos should be ducks. Pink flamingos and cold lakes? Oh, yeah, they don't go together. Right? Wrong. The world I know, especially Canada, is FAR more surreal than this ad. Flamingos? Canada today is like a Sikh on a bulldozer, handing you a martini with plastic olives a-bob. This is even truer of Montreal: "diversity" doesn't come close. In this issue, we tip our hat to the old guard who began Montreal's cultural renaissance over thirty years ago - Irving Layton, the great David Fennario, mayor Drapeau and his dream of a world-class city - and look toward the dildo conventions and nouvelle vague peaches of the coming years. Now that Canada's two great languages have more or less finished duking it out here, with French winning on points, recent History is a nuisance Montreal can finally ignore. Driving along St. Laurent Boulevard - it used to be half boarded up. Now the trendiness stretches all the way to St. Zotique Street, where the Italians look up with that withering "What took you so long?" expression. Big change from "Why would you want to live there?" Much to the mean old separatists' chagrin, Montrealers are getting along nowadays in all three official languages (French, English and hockey - or is that lacrosse?). The annual Blue Metropolis literary festival has hundreds of events in thirty tongues, including Farsi, Persian, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Spanish, Ojibway ... Literary festivals used to be the purview of grand anglo dames wielding umbrellas as they stormed through the spring rain to hear their favorite aging feminist. Pas aujourd'hui! When a poet I've never heard of drops in from the Azores, it's a madhouse down there at Blue Met - entire communities show up. This isn't literature with a polite little l, it's Dante's Lifeblood. It's a linguistic madhouse out there. People are moving to Montreal from Calgary to learn French. Need I say more? We live here because it is one of the tangiest places on the continent: you've got your architecture, your big river, your mountains, your two main cultures instead of one, jazz festivals, comedy festivals, film festivals, insert-your-interest-here festivals, plus great local cheese, cheesy all-night casse-croûtes and beautiful people from all corners of the world on every corner of the city, all living in peace and drinking ice wine and Pepsi. It's not just Montreal that's hopping. Recently I've noticed how goddamn exciting CBC programming has become: ZeD, Play (with the ever smiling Jian Ghomeshi), This Hour Has 22 Minutes. The Genies - my god, the Genies - are almost as entertaining and loopy as an Italian game show. I'm a little embarrassed saying this, but I'm almost starting to think I like CBC. Because they aren't producing clones of the Rita MacNeil Hour or pushing that Anne Murray culture like cheap crack on the national street-corner. Even The National seems tighter, its reports more rigorous, its interviewees more diverse and truthful; the documentaries on CBC Newsworld are what I would choose to watch first if I had the choice of any channel. Even if I had HBO and Curb Your Enthusiasm reruns. That's the kind of culture I want to live in - nothing second best, just excellence unlimited, without national borders. Maisonneuve's business and editorial philosophy is simple: if we want to compete at home, we have to compete abroad. By compete, I don't mean exist under the radar, wearing our defiant beaver-shaped badges; I mean compete, as in give the hundreds of thousands of Canadians and Americans who subscribe to The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper's and other titles something better on every level: better illustrations, more in-depth reportage, funnier humour, non-cheesy poetry and sharper essays. To get there, we've taken on a fine new design complete with colour pages and shifted to quarterly publication. It's been tough but worth every late, late night ... Maisonneuve is now the kind of title that sled dogs everywhere are dying to get their teeth into. Let us know what you think - write us a letter or complete the readers survey on page 78. The smile on the cover, the Magritte smile above? That's how we feel about the twin futures of Maisonneuve and Montreal. We're only three issues old, but are already planning to take on the world. In coming issues, expect a symposium on war criminals, a photo essay on taxi drivers, a quest for the source of poutine, an examination of new technologies and much more. There's a world out there seething to speak to itself, and we got its number off the bathroom wall - before realizing crazy Aunt Judy and the guy who runs the depanneur had it all along. -- Derek Webster