Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Dr Delicious: Memoirs of a Life in CanLit

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Dr Delicious: Memoirs of a Life in CanLit

Article excerpt

Robert Lecker, Dr Delicious: Memoirs of a Life in CanLit (Montreal: Véhicule Press, 2006), 300pp. Paper. $19.95. ISBN 1-5506-5210-9.

If you still feel that being a literature professor is the best job in the world, then approach these memoirs warily. At one level, the book is an intriguing account of the development of Canadian literature as a respectable teaching and research discipline from the 1970s onwards. Where these frank, funny, suspenseful and frequently traumatic recollections really hurt, however, is in their assessment of the place of critical writing in contemporary culture. Without it, no academic career is going anywhere these days, and Lecker's own commitment to this work is wholehearted. He combined his university professorship in Canadian Literature with a role as co-founder and publisher of an independent press (ECW) and academic journal (Essays in Canadian Writing). But his experiences harshly expose the gap between the amount of time, interest and effort that an academic puts into researching and writing about literature, and the minimal impact of this work on the public consciousness at pretty well any level. Unless accompanied by underwriting grants, major publishers stay well clear. Even when printed, such work accounts for few sales except to university libraries, where it often remains unread.

Bemoaning the low visibility of literary criticism is not new, but Lecker's memoirs offer fresh insights because he has a dual perspective on the problem: as a literary critic himself and as an academic publisher trying to break even in the highly competitive and ruthless commercial sector. He writes engagingly about the formation of his own university career: his first post at the University of Maine and his colleague, Stephen King, who claimed that his own stories were 'too scary to talk about' (p. …

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