Welcome to my new book review blog on Canadian Literature. As the Canadian radio legend Jian Ghomeshi put it a few years ago, as Canadians we “love our beer, we love our hockey, and we love our arts.” It can be argued that literature is at the forefront of Canada’s artistic scene. Over the last 50 years there has been a great proliferation of Canadian literature (aka CanLit); I attribute this to two things. First, the emergence of the great triumvirate of contemporary CanLit: Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, and Michael Ondaatje; and secondly, and more recently, CBC Radio’s annual Canada Reads debates on the book that every Canadian should read.
Canadian writing can be traced back to the mid-late 1700s and narrative tales from the likes of Saukamapee, David Thompson, and Samuel Hearne and story writers like John Richardson and Frances Brooke. These visionaries planted the seeds for people like Catherine Parr Trail and Susanna Moodie who in turn planted the seeds for everyone from Sir Charles G.D. Roberts through Marina Endicott. Literature, like any other art, evolves, sometimes violently, but deep in its core CanLit has remained the same; themes of survival and isolation prevail. The detractors of Atwood and Frye will be up in arms with this assertion but I challenge you to name one piece of Canadian writing that these themes do not apply.
One of the biggest things I love about great writing is how small it makes you feel. When you read someone like Mordecai Richler or Leonard Cohen there is one thing, among many, you should feel, that’s jealousy. When I put down a great piece I feel jealous of the talent these men and women have that I will never posses. This is one of the most humbling yet inspiring feelings I have felt, and its what keeps me reaching for that next title on my bookshelf.
As some of you may know my previous blog, at http://www.thebookblog.net, focused on Canadian literature with the periodic interruption by an international piece, this review will be no different. I encourage you to read the books I review and comment on here or write to me; tell me what you think, I encourage you to disagree with me. So sit back and enjoy the ride.