Thursday, September 24, 2009

O.K. Into the Fray

So, is it all rubbish?

CanLit or Victoria Glendenning's remarks about our culture and literature here in Canada?

First off, I do think some of her comments were meant as affectionate teasing. Yes, they were ill-timed and in bad form, and a tad condescending(Brits from the former empire can be that way, after all, they are British),BUT, we might demonstrate a bit of a sense of humour about such remarks, demonstrate that we have a sense of humour up here in the North Way, about ourselves.

Is there a grain of truth in what she says? Yes. Does the truth hurt? More than anything.

Indeed, some of CanLit suffers from the QUIET genre of meditating upon the past, complete with granny's letters, if not from the Ukraine, perhaps from some cold corner of Canada, where nothing happens and there is nary any sex, drugs, or rock 'n roll, but everything is cozily P.C. Yawn. I've had to read and review some of these books.

But, there are many outstanding Canadian novelists who do not fit into this soporific genre. Take almost anything by Newfie Kenneth Harvey, the wonderful novel by Gil Adamson, The Outlander, a new daring collection from my adopted hometown of Montreal, Animal, from Alexandra Leggat, The Night is a Mouth, Lisa Foad,the first novel by Camilla Gibb, Mouthing the Words, and the work of Kanuk Nancy Huston, yes, she lives in Paris and writes in French, but she is nonetheless Canadian.

I'm sure there are more. Many.

In the meantime, please let's learn not to take ourselves so horribly seriously. Life is too short, forgive the cliche from this author.


Leo said...

An excellent point. The canon has more depth, more breadth than makes the bestseller lists overseas. And frankly, what is Canadian Lit anyways?

I think it has grown a lot since I first began looking at it 30 years ago. It is much more bleeding edge stuff now. It deals with mature themes. It is more grown up. It has evolved out of looking at the land (as the Group of Seven did so well in the early years of Canadian painting) as the centre of attention, to looking at people experiencing more univesal themes, wrapped in the unique, modern, dynamic Canadian situation. Miriam Teows, for example. Or Neil Smith. Or Rawi Hage.

And even the writing is getting downright interesting. Writers are experimenting with form and style.

I think our former masters are just getting jealous. We're too darn good and getting nominated for prizes when we weren't before.

Bully for us.

Chez Ami said...


CanLit is becoming varied, and gutsy and original, and some of our authors are strong presences on the international literary scene.

Yasher Koah!

That is, let's go with strength, from strength to strength.

Chez Ami said...

Indeed. One must rememeber though that art, like falling in love, is subjective.

Though I have been a prize winner, I am ambivalent about "best" and rankings when it comes to art, to literature. It diminishes each individual work of art...but I know that the buzz surrounding prizes, the recognition, and in some cases the purse, really help writers! Those lucky enough to win, that is.

carlita said...

As an American who grew up on the border of Ontario and reads a lot of "CanLit" I'm not sure what Glendenning is talking about. Writers in Minnesota (where I live) also get the business sometimes about being too provincial, obsessed with place. etc. But hey--both places (Minnesota and a lot of Canada) are informed by impossible-to-ignore nature and by local or regional tradition. It IS the New World, after all.