Where I spray-paint my thoughts…

Canada Reads, and So Do I


So it’s time again for that annual fest of fun and fiction, Canada Reads.  Five celebrity panelists pick five favourite books and encourage the rest of the country to read them, preparatory to an all-out on-air battle where each defends his/her choice to the death. OK, not to the death.  But it’s interesting and I always enjoy catching bits of the debate on CBC Radio.

This year I’ve decided to do more than just listen: I’m joining in.  Well, not as a panelist (I can dream, though!).  As a reader.  Every year’s list contains one or two books I’ve read and usually a few I plan to get around to. This year’s list contained only one book I’d already read, so I decided to check the other four out of the library and read them before the panelists start debating.  That way, I’ll have an intelligent and informed opinion.

And, of course, even though Jian hasn’t invited me to come on the radio with him (YET) as a panelist, I don’t intend to simply read the books and keep my mouth shut.  No, I’ll be blogging every book and my opinions, good bad and ugly, over at Compulsive Overreader (which I’ve just gotten updated after a very slack month of reading without reviewing!).  So far, I’ve blogged about the book I’d pick if I were a Canada Reads panelist, and about the one book I already read from the list and why I don’t want to re-read it. 

So even if you’re not in Canada, hop over there, check out what I have to say, and stay tuned as I work my way through the selections: Fall on Your Knees by Anne Marie Macdonald, Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott, Generation X by Douglas Coupland, The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy, and Nikolski by Nicolas Dicker. Maybe even pick up one and read it yourself!!


9 thoughts on “Canada Reads, and So Do I

  1. This post looked lonely, so I thought I’d better leave a comment.

  2. I can always count on you, Jamie!

  3. Funny, but I don’t think of Douglas Coupland as a Canadian writer. And yes, I know he lives in Vancouver — but he writes about the whole I-5 Corridor.

  4. True, and I’m sure he has some universal appeal beyond Canada, but he is very much a Canadian writer.

  5. Hmmm . . . I’m puzzled by this whole concept of regionalism and identity in literature. Is Douglas Coupland a Canadian author — or an author who is Canadian?

    How about William Gibson?

  6. I guess I don’t see the distinction between a “Canadian author” and an “author who is Canadian.”

    I will admit to never having heard of William Gibson before you asked, but it’s interesting that Wikipedia describes him as an “American-Canadian writer” as he has dual citizenship (it also amuses me when American sources describe the life of a draft-dodger who moved to Canada as “exile” … like most Canadians I have known a few people who moved to Canada during those difficult years and never thought of them as being particularly “exiled” but maybe they see it differently!) Any writer who lives and works primarily in Canada is generally referred to here as a Canadian writer, although if the person was born someplace else and the culture of his/her birthplace is still very evident in his/her work, they might be “hyphenated” — like Rohinton Mistry who is sometimes referred to as an “Indian-Canadian writer” or “a Canadian writer of Indian heritage” or occasionally “an Indian writer residing in Canada.”

    Regional identity is much more important to Canadian writers (and probably musicians, filmmakers and other artists) than to Americans, I think, because we have this job of distinguishing ourselves from American culture, which is important for a variety of reasons, though obviously more important to some than to others.

    • I guess that one reason I’m asking is that I spent most of my time in graduate school trying to figure out what gives a region its identity.

      Ezra Pound was born in Idaho, for instance, yet I don’t know anyone who describes him as a “Western author.”

      And in Wolf Willow, Wallace Stegner wrote about his childhood in Saskatchewan — yet he’s not usually described as a “Canadian author.”

      Then you add T. S. Elliot (who was born and raised in Missouri), and Robert Louis Stevenson (who met his wife in San Francisco but wrote most of his best stuff in France), and Rudyard Kipling (who wrote Kim while living in Vermont) . . . and the whole question of “who claims whom?” starts looking kind of arbitrary.

      Which brings me back to Douglas Copeland. He is Canadian, sure enough. But it seems to me his novels have more of a “West Coast” vibe than anything else. (Think “Microserfs.”) And yes, this may be why Generation X was turned down by a Canadian publisher before it was picked up here!

      • I agree, it can be tricky. But CanLit was quick enough to claim Douglas Coupland as a Canadian author once Generation X was a success! Sometimes I think such definitions are political as much as anything, at least in Canada (I mean to do with the politics of publishing and marketing).

  7. And yes, I know how to spell “Eliot” and “Coupland” — but it’s early yet!

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