The work of a writer whose vision is simultaneously local and global, A Report on the Afterlife of Culture is entertaining and essential reading.
Fortunately, Canadian criticism can boast Stephen Henighan, a persistent thorn in the side of the Canadian literary establishment, but also a fearless and perceptive observer of our culture. Henighan’s criticism is not of the Dale Peck school of unthinking snark. He prefers a careful reading of texts and authors, and a deliberate analysis of how cultural forces in our society shape the kind of literature we produce.
When Words Deny the World, Henighan’s 2002 essay collection, argued that a “free trade” mentality among publishers, writers, and agents has resulted in a flattening of our literary landscape and an ahistorical approach to the themes and subjects of our fiction. His new collection extends this thesis.
A Report on the Afterlife of Culture is larger than its predecessor in every way: it is longer, and its range of focus has broadened to include a section of essays devoted to the work of international writers….for his willingness to say the unsayable, and his enthusiastic piercing of the balloons of Canadian literary pretension, Henighan’s new volume is a welcome addition to the annals of CanLit criticism.