Contemporary Canadian Literature with a Distinctly Urban Twist

Anvil Press

Garage Criticism: Cultural Missives in an Age of Distraction

Garage Criticism: Cultural Missives in an Age of Distraction

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In Garage Criticism Peter Babiak gently eviscerates and deflates some of the cultural hot topics of our time. He deconstructs our fascination with Internet culture and its libertarian ideology, devolves the hallucinations of economics and marketing to rhetorical mystifications, and asserts and reasserts the supremacy of linguistic thinking in everyday cultural affairs no less than politics and philosophy. In “Hot for Teacher: What Fifty Shades of Grey Taught Me About Salacious Grammar, Sexy Women and the Scandalous Conflation of Popular and Literary Culture” he takes on the disturbing marketing of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and in “F You Professor: Tumblr, Triggers and the Allergies of Reading” he addresses the technologically driven disintegration of the slow, attentive “deep read.”

A teacher by profession, Babiak often targets the intellectual, literary, and even sexual peccadilloes of digital native and millennial cultures, and also unfolds the more person-to-person culture of pedagogy. In “Bianca and the Blackbirds: How Vladimir Nabokov Saved Me from Referential Mania” he examines student/professor relationships, inappropriate office visits, and a shared “voluptuous appetite for Nabokov.” A parent and regular guy by default, Babiak accents the writing with memoir-based essays and essayist in memoir, as he does in “Along the Brittle, Treacherous, Bright Streets of Memory” and “The Ellipsis and the World Suspended by Some Unique Tear.”

Babiak is a new and timely voice in the arena of cultural criticism and critical theory.


“The catalogue of cultural phenomena addressed in these pieces is long but – and this is crucial – it isn’t trivial. Assorted video games; adolescent fiction; Michel Houellebecq; movie heroes then and now; The Matrix, The Hunger Games, Total Recall, Pulp Fiction; social media; Harry Potter; Fifty Shades of Grey; The Walking Dead, Mad Men; Cover Girl; Miley Cyrus, Kanye, etc. And etc. Communicating the cultural significance of each of these is where Babiak shines. Likewise, his reliance on other writers, thinkers, researchers (too many to catalogue; and probably unnecessary) to further and deepen his analyses can be of great value to students and “distracted” adults both.” — THE ANTIGONISH REVIEW

Garage Criticism, a finalist for the Montaigne Medal, an Eric Hoffer award, is a cohesive collection of essays rich in literary references and redolent of the classics of the form; it is equally – and profoundly – relevant to the twenty-first century. Incisive, fresh, witty, wry, philosophical, and dramatic, Babiak’s essays demand — and reward — deep reading. … Garage Criticism: Cultural Missives in an Age of Distraction should be a welcome addition to the libraries of those educators, parents, students, or just plain engaged citizens interested in our complex and enigmatic relationship with popular culture.” —THE ORMSBY REVIEW

“In essays that are variously insightful, funny, heart-rending and sometimes sleazy, Babiak analyzes the effects of popular culture on how we perceive reality.” —WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

“In his Garage Criticism, Babiak does what smart people are supposed to do — question the real meaning and implications of elements of the larger culture that permeates our lives and to a large extent determines who we are, with or without our permission or connivance. … We need Garage Critic. He is a ruthless wrangler of sacred cows of contemporary culture, a destroyer of digital worlds, unconstrained by academic discipline or exclusive elitist jargon. Garage Critic is a man who calls an ergonomically-designed, artisan-crafted spade a frigging shovel.” — John Moore, BC BookWorld

  • Publication: October 2016
  • ISBN: 978-1-77214-050-7
  • Pages: 268 pp
  • Size: 5.25 x 8 inches

Born in an ethnic enclave of Oakville, Peter Babiak grew up in Hamilton, Kitchener, and Toronto, Ontario. He studied English language and literature at the University of Waterloo, McMaster, and York, and has taught literature, history and social sciences at a jail for young offenders, contract law and critical thinking at George Brown College, and economics at Dominion College, all in Toronto. Peter moved to Vancouver in 1994 to take an adjunct position teaching English at the University of British Columbia, where he worked for ten years. From 2000 to 2002 he coordinated a barrier-free lecture series and educational facility/book room on Powell Street in Vancouver’s Eastside, and then from 2002 to 2006 he was Academic Director of Humanities 101, a pioneering outreach program—the first of its kind in Canada—that brought classes in the liberal arts, social sciences and “grammar boot camp” to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. He has been teaching English literature, linguistics and grammar/rhetoric at Langara College for well over a decade.

Books by Peter Babiak