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Posted By Patrick

Time for another shameless plug! Last night I attended the Quebec Writers’ Federation awards gala at the Lion d’Or not to lean on the bar and knock back drinks with friends I don’t get to see very often (although I certainly did that), but as a finalist in the nonfiction category. My book Idiocy: A Cultural History had made the shortlist for the Mavis Gallant Prize in Nonfiction, along with Eric Siblin’s The Cello Suites and Yves Engler’s The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy. I’ll kill the suspense: Idiocy didn’t win. The Cello Suites did (and much deserved, from all the comments I’ve heard about it). So I played the bridesmaid (as did Yves) to Eric’s blushing bride. But I did spend a month (the finalists were announced on October 15th) as a potential winner, all the while being inordinately pleased that the book had managed to escape the dustbin of niche history to gain recognition in mainstream competitions like this one.

Here are the juror’s comments:

“A fine blend of scholarly depth [and] eminent readability.... a unique contribution to a subject that most people would be hesitant to discuss in public or private for fear of demonstrating their ignorance, discomfort or fear.
 
Patrick McDonagh’s  fine cultural study ... provides, as the book’s editors suggest, ‘a foundation for understanding our current concepts of intellectual and cognitive disability.’
 
It has much to teach us about many aspects of what it is to be human, about our recurrent fears of ourselves and others.”

Actually, Anne Legacé Dawson, who read the jury’s comments, at the gala, rephrased the ending slightly as “what it is to be human and imperfect,” which I also like. Thanks, QWF judges, for the kind words…

And I will try to update more regularly – the last month has been absurdly hectic, but fortunately part of this hectic pace involved some ideas-of-intelligence-history stuff that I’m looking forward to blogging about.