Yes, blog readers, it’s yet another installment of the peculiar probings of Don Peteroy—a CR-hosted series in which the ever-provocative DP pitches profoundly preposterous questions at hand-picked prosists. This week’s featured writer is one of our own—Margaret Luongo—who has made three appearances in our pages, and who was last seen wearing a blaze-yellow babydoll tee printed with the words DEAD INSIDE.
Margaret Luongo is the author of the story collection If the Heart is Lean (LSU Press, 2008). Her stories have appeared in Tin House, Jane, Fence, Granta on-line, The Cincinnati Review, The Pushcart Prize anthology, and other venues. She teaches creative writing at Miami of Ohio. One of her best friends teaches Shakespeare and wears combat boots.
Question: If you had to eliminate one author from the canon in exchange for three months of world peace, who would it be? Explain your answer.
ML: I’m sure many contemporary authors, if they were so privileged to be in the canon, would take themselves out of it for three months of world peace. Then there’s the problem of the existence of a canon; haven’t we been trying to alter it or get rid of it? But let’s say there is one and we all know who’s in it.
My husband and I talked about this. Shakespeare’s name came up. Eliminating Shakespeare from the canon would really screw the economy. Think of all the professors and actors who would be out of work. On the other hand, ejecting Shakespeare might cause a backlash and increase the popularity of his work: protests by the 20% (People Who Make a Living Off Shakespeare) might ensue. Actually, I think it would be very good for Early Modern scholars to be cast aside this way; they would become defiant and achieve punk status. Films could be made about their dying art. When the Chinese government banned the Chinese opera, a moribund form became suddenly wildly popular. While interest in Shakespeare’s work hasn’t diminished, maybe this exile from the canon would spark interest among populations previously alienated. It’s tiresome and obvious, but maybe Shakespeare is the answer? I am already more interested. Can’t you imagine publicists for dead or aging authors fighting for the right to be cast away? “This three months’ peace sponsored by the Melville Estate.” Cormac McCarthy could consider giving back; we’ve been tormented by his apocalyptic vision in prose; now he could give us the gift of peace—and probably increase his sales.