amongst books

amongst books

Thursday, May 10, 2007

andrew cohen on ottawa, live chat at the citizen untl 1pm today

go to and scroll down to live chat with andrew cohen. he's written a book about ottawa and the excerpt in the citizen is the same old complaints. and worse, those who are asking questions are just joining in on the let's trash ottawa bandwagon. apparently i've just read we have no visual arts scene at all. eek. i know this is just hogwash. it's just that the citizen and other media don't cover it enough and care mostly about the nat'l gallery. send an e-mail to with your thoughts.

here's what i wrote...don't know if i'll get on, but this is my two cents...

hello mr. cohen,

it's interesting to me that you make such a strong point about urban decay on bank and rideau streets. i can't argue with you that such streets could use improvement, but isn't that just typical of any city?

toronto, for instance, the city you tout so much in your column "the capital of condescension" feb 16, 2007, is full of urban decay and what's worse it is very inaccessible for anyone with mobility problems. the streetcars have no accessibility and subway stations with accessibility for those with mobility problems are few and far between.

the general tone of your book, assuming your excerpt is representative, seems to be that ottawa is mostly a dull capital with little culture and focuses heavily on the bureaucracy of the government.

have you ever gone out to any of the approximately 100 literary readings each month? the small press fair which takes place twice a year at the jack purcell community centre? do you participate in AIDSWALK, or any of the charity walks that we have so many of? have you attended the Glebe Garage Sale, or one of the Art in the Park events in the Glebe or in Sandy Hill?

Have you done anything that isn't just what tourists or people with lots of cash do? seems to me you are merely touting the party line about Ottawa, representing us just as most media from both outside and inside ottawa do. i'm not denying that our city needs improvements; all cities do, but why not examine the communities and the various exciting and neighborhood building activities that go on here? does your book do that or do you mostly stay on Sussex?

as to dining, it's very weird that you would talk only about fancy restaurants. we have so many amazing restaurants in this town from Ethiopian to Italian to Vietnamese, yet you talk only about the places where the monied people go. I can get a drink and a good meal for lunch for under ten dollars.

What about the vintage clothing stores, the record shops selling vinyl, the great music venues like Zaphod Beeblebrox, the bookstores like Mother Tongue and the used bookstores like the Bytown Bookshop, the repetertory theatres like the Mayfair and the Bytowne? it just seems to me that you are representing Ottawa in the same old way and you haven't really taken an up to date look. is that what citizens care about architecture? i don't personally, i care about warm bodies and friendliness, cheap and good places to eat and hang out, low crime, good housing prices. green space, good pedestrian access, care for the homeless etc. we could improve, but we aren't doing as bad as your excerpt made us out to sound. i just think you aren't having any fun and you're not hanging around in interesting places enough.

i don't want to live in a "grand capital" i want to live in a thriving and interesting city full of life. your way sounds more like living in a mausoleum or a tomb, at least from the excerpt...maybe you get into the nitty gritty bit in another part. i can only hope. otherwise the book is just the same old cliches we've been hearing here for years.

amanda earl


Amanda Earl said...

they posted the bottom half of my bit, but mostly cohen just refuted it by saying that he doesn't know anyone who thinks ottawa is full of life or that thinks we have restaurants with variety. when someone has an agenda to trash a city, that's just what they do. ho hum another irrelevank book written by an elitist wanker. yawn.

Anonymous said...

One sees what one wants to see unfortunately. I guess he sought out people who agreed with his vision of Chicken Little in Kingdom of Bore.

Good to point out other views anyway.