Beyond Alice Munro (I’m a fan), Lucy Maud Montgomery (I’m a fan) and Margaret Atwood (I’m not a fan), I have not read much Canadian literary or commercial fiction. The reality of it is that in the last decade and longer I haven’t read much other than non-fiction (self-help, woo, writing about writing and cookbooks). The good news is that within non-fiction I have read Canadians Malcolm Gladwell and Steven Pinker (yes, I’m a fan of both).
I am a regular participant in writing courses and workshops. All of them have a few things in common: a group of people eager to improve their writing skills, all are generous with their knowledge and opinions, and they all read copious amounts of primarily Canadian literature. I have discovered that though I want to be a published author who happens to be Canadian, the reality is I am a Canadian literature illiterate.
It is embarrassing.
It feels like the whole room is speaking in a different language; making references I don’t understand. It is a familiar and uncomfortable feeling. I need to be in on the conversations and to do that I have to fix myself. The answer is to read more. A new language I will master with plenty of time and flipping of pages – real and electronic.
I recently admitted my ignorance on my Facebook page and requested that my friends suggest their favourite Canadian authors and books. I got some great feedback from them as well as my son, Cole, the English major:
Diane Schoemperlen: Our Lady of the Lost and Found
David Bergen: The Time in Between
Gil Adamson: The Outlander
Yann Martel: Life of Pi
Chester Brown: Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography
Louise Penny: Still Life
*Jilly Cooper: Riders (Rutshire Chronicles #1)
*Penny Vincenzi: No Angel (The Spoils of Time #1)
Brent Preston: The New Farm
Douglas Coupland: Life After God
Ruth Ozeki: My Year of Meats
Leonard Cohen: Book of Longing (doesn’t that sound sad and wonderful?)
Terry Fallis: The Best Laid Plans (sentimental vote – his dad saved my sister)
Emily St. John Mandel: Station Eleven
Clearly “stone” is a Canadian theme!
I have now added 30+ titles to my overflowing Goodreads Want To Read collection. When there were no specific books suggested by author on the Facebook thread, I just added the highest rated book. I have to start somewhere and that was the most logical.
I have not ordered any books from the list above as I know I have at least a third of them here in the house. The kids studied a few of these books in school and I know I purchased a few in an earlier thwarted effort to read more Canadian content. Now to find them! We have bookshelves in each bedroom, the basement rec room, family room and in my office – as well as various “to be read” piles.
In the same Facebook thread, a friend mentioned the “By The Lake Book Club”. I had never heard of it so she forwarded me the information. It sounds fabulous, so to be prepared, I have ordered the books that will be reviewed by the authors through the year:
September – Michael Redhill: Bellevue Square
October – Kim Fu: The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore
November – Kerri Sakamoto: Floating City
January – Carol Off: All We Leave Behind
March – Miriam Toews: Women Talking
April – Tanya Talaga: Seven Fallen Feathers
The “By The Lake Book Club” coupled with the “In Conversation With …” series at The Oakville Centre and all of the reading suggestions, I think I have a project that will take me through to next summer.
I am a ridiculously slow reader. The idea of reading all of these books is hugely intimidating and exciting. I’ll be ready to start on August 1. I just have to find the volumes I already own and put them in one place and then put the rest on my Kindle (the keeper of all fiction). It is my hope that by next July 31 I will be a more literate reader of Canadian content – and a faster reader of everything.
Who knows, by then maybe, just maybe, The Book of the Month Club (all of my online friends rave about) will be available and ship to Canada!
The timing is perfect.
* Not Canadian, but recommended nonetheless