Reading Michael

The Atheneum has been reading Ignatieff’s True Patriot Love. (The Atheneum is a book club for university retirees; admission by invitation only, thanks). Most of the gently-aging members are from the science side of the campus. They’re a tolerant group; years of meetings, seminars, and fractious conferences have broken them in. They know how to disagree without quarreling. But then they have a lot in common. They read the Globe, not the Post, the Walrus, not Maclean’s.

And they read Ignatieff. They’ve been reading him for years! They came to the recent meeting prepared to discuss not only Patriot Love, but, should the opportunity arise, The Russian Album, Isaiah Berlin: A Life (a previous Atheneum assignment), Blood and Belonging, The Warrior’s Honour, and The Lesser Evil. They brought their copies. There was hardly room on the table for the wine and crackers.

The opinion makers at Maclean’s would have it that Ignatieff’s lost the common touch. He patronizes his constituency. He talks down. He simplifys. The problem isn’t that he left Canada 34 years ago, says Scott Feschuk. “The problem is that his intellect failed to clear customs on the journey home” (Maclean’s, June 8).

Well, why should I hand out advice? (And why should Mr. Ignatieff take it?) But if the Atheneum’s right, he’d do better in Parliament and in interviews with the media to stop thinking of himself as someone who’s preparing to lead the Canadian Nation, and be what he’s always been, someone who can speak to the Canadian National Book Club.

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