Hey Canucks! I have a CanLit question...

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In a way, I feel like an exile from (or at least a stranger to) my own country, in a literary sense. I can probably count how many Canadian books I've read. That's pretty sad when I consider how many American novels I've read (not to mention British). I'm talking classics here not mass genre fiction (though I'm positive I could say the same for that too, but that doesn't really bother me). I'm patriotic, in a nice, polite, Canadian way. I have an interest in my national culture. I'm at a point where I'm trying to address some of the shortfalls in my reading list (I'm trying to read some of those kiddielit classics that I missed out on, for example). So the question I have is, where should I start? What classic CanLit book would you recommend I read?

p.s. My French is embarrassingly inadequate, so any Francophone books would have to be translated or fairly simple.

 

wingCJL-230711wing 13 yrs ago
RE: CanLit
I should actually still be asleep - woke up too early this morning so this is just what has come to my sleepy mind:

Hugh McLennan: Two Solitudes - probably a Canadian must-read
Barometer Rising - about the Halifax explosion in 1917. This one is on my re-read list.

Mordecai Richler: The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang (children's)

Lucy Maud Montgomery: Anne of Green Gables and all its sequels.

W. O. Mitchell: Who Has Seen the Wind - definitely a Canadian classic.

Margaret Laurence: A Jest of God, The Stone Angel

Gabrielle Roy: La Petite Poule d'Eau (Where Nests the Water Hen).
Rue D'Eschambault
Bonheur d'occasion (The Tin Flute)
Her books are probably not too difficult to read in French but they have probably all been translated in any case.

Mazo de la Roche: there's a whole series of Jalna books - they were quite well-known at one time. I believe the first one was called Jalna. I read them many years ago and enjoyed them.

The next two are probably not considered classics of Canadian literature but the themes and topics of both are important ones for Canadians.

John Marlyn: Under the Ribs of Death. I read this for a history class many years ago and loved it. Deals with questions of assimilation, etc, set in Winnipeg's north end.

Beatrice Culleton: In Search of April Raintree - an excellent book about two metis sisters.

Carol Shields: Unless.
I didn't personally care for The Stone Diaries but know a number of people who loved it.

Of course there's Robertson Davies - I have read some of his and enjoyed them but unfortunately don't remember which ones- it was years ago. He's also on my re-read list.

The obvious person missing from this list is Margaret Atwood and I have to confess to not liking her books very much. The Handmaid's Tale and The Edible Woman are probably the two that I have liked best so far.

 

;-)

Of course, I forgot to mention Robertson Davies (he has several trilogies and I, too, enjoyed them many years ago. The Deptford Trilogy, especially.)

http://www.allreaders.com/---/Topic_379.asp

I also forgot to mention W.O. Mitchell!! I bet this thread will flesh out as more Canadians wake up

 

- LM Montegomery's *Anne* series (Anne of Green Gables and all the others set in PEI)

- I am not sure how you would classify the rest of these (mass popular or *classic*, but to my mind, these authors are the heart and soul of Canada):

- anything by Farley Mowat, Pierre Burton, Margaret Laurence, Margaret Atwood (though I am not a fan of hers), Roch Carrier (even the English translations of his works are excellent), Mordecai Richler


- Susanna Moodie, although, technically, she was British before she came here and wrote her famous *Roughing it in the Bush*


I know I am leaving out many others but those are the ones who spring to mind at this moment.

 

Oh, I second Gabrielle Roy's "Bonheur d'occasion" a wonderful book! And I also recommend "Le Matou" (The Alley-cat) by Yves Beauchemin, though it may be a little bit on the popular side. And then there is Nancy Huston (no idea if she is considered Canadian or French, anyway she writes in English and French), "Plainsong" would be the obvious choice when it comes to Canada.

Oops, I'm not Canadian, I was not supposed to answer ;-)

 

Surfacing was the first book that *spoke* to me as a young Canadian woman, and still holds the spot for my all time favourite Canadian Novel, but I love all of her novels and her poetry is sublime.

My next favourite Canadian author is Alice Munro, I'll not part with her Dance of the Happy Shades or Lives of Girls and Women, but again, I love all of her work.

Other favourites are:

Sinclair Ross: As For Me and My House;

Ernest Buckler: The Mountain and the Valley

Brian Moore (although some have argued he is not a Canadian writer): The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne and The Great Victorian Collection;

Robert Kroetsch: The Studhorse Man and his poetry too

and I second (or third) Margaret Laurence, Gabrielle Roy, Carol Shields and Robertson Davies.

 

Oh dear, I could go on for pages.

The Anne of Green Gables series (I could send you the first few, PM me if interested).
Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood (I see you've already read The Handmaid's Tale).
Fifth Business by Robertson Davies (I think I have an extra copy of this book).

Also, Alice Munro, W.O. Mitchell, Hugh MacLennan, Max Braithwaite, Stephen Leacock, Timothy Findlay, Pierre Burton, Margaret Laurence, Gabriel Roy, Rudy Wiebe, Aritha Van Herk, W.P. Kinsella, Morley Callaghan, Mordecai Richler, and lots more.

I have lots of CanLit; PM me and let me know what type of book you like, and I would be very pleased to send you a few.


This will be the third time I've tried to post this, once last night and twice this morning and I keep getting the Oh Bother page. :(



 

1965?

I can think of many current or recently current CanLit authors (i.e. Atwood, Findley, Berton, Shields, Munro, Davies etc.), that I should be reading [thanks for the suggestions, guys; I'm adding a bunch of them to my TBR pile]--they seem sort of "last half of the twentieth century". Do we have anyone who was writing at the time of Conrad, Joyce, Woolf, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Hemingway? Or did Canadian literature begin with The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz in 1959? Oh. I just noticed G. Roy's Tin Flute was published in 1947--so is that where I should start?

Anne of Green Gables I've read, Roughing it in the Bush is on my Wishlist (I might have picked this to read next, but the library's copy is currently checked out).

 

Morley Callaghan was first published in 1928.
He also wrote a book (That Summer in Paris) about Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, and other writers (including himself) in Paris during the summer of 1929 (I think it was published in the 60's).

Fruits of the Earth by Frederick P. Grove (1933)

Grey Owl/Archie Belaney (came from England at age 17) and wrote in the 20's and 30's


 

and her sister, Catherine Parr Trail, recently written called Sisters of the Wilderness. I believe that it was dramatized on CBC tv, as well. I loved it.

I also remember reading in high school a story called Earth and High Heaven, by Montrealer Gwethalyn Graham. I am quite sure it is out of print but could probably be found in used bookstores. I recently bought another copy that way. It was a wonderful story.

Also, if you are into poetry, there is always good old Leonard Cohen, who was writing long before he was singing but that's a whole other thread, ;-)


And I agree with the suggestions of Alice Munro!

 

I've read "The Telling of Lies", "The Wars" and "Pilgrim", and all of them were good, but I found "The Wars" to be extraordinary.

 

There's always Glengarry School Days by Ralph Connor (pseudonym of Charles William Gordon) which was first published in 1902.

Jalna was first published in 1927 although it is not the first in the series chronologically - the books were apparently not written in order.

 

I came across The New Canadian Library put out my McClelland and Stewart. The motherlode! Most of the classic titles you've all suggested have been published in one smart looking collection. I'm enthralled and want to start collecting them. Problem: I can't find an ordered list of them ANYWHERE. The publisher was no help. The website has the list of titles by author or title. Even the catalogue only lists in alphabetical order. I know that the numerical order of publication isn't chronological, but at least I would have a list to check off as I collect & read them. Grr. The National Library at least lists the numbers in the Series title area, but I can't limit my search or order the results so I can see what title no. 1 is.

Anyway, if anyone else is interested, here's a link to the site:
http://www.mcclelland.com/---/index.html

(If anyone happens to have an edition of one of these books, does it have a list of titles by number included?)

 

I have The Master of the Mill by Frederick Philip Grove. I'm at work and rather than actually doing any, I was labelling some books I've been hoarding for next year's Canada Day Challenge (that gypsysmom told me last night she was going to do again).
Anyway, there is a numbered list in the back of the book that goes from n-1 to n-85 and o-1 to o-8 and w-1 to w-12. I don't know exactly what the "o" means. It looks like there may be some collections of poetry in there and the "w" may be referring to writers' biographies.

I'd be quite happy to send you the book ( or a photocopy of the list). If you'd like either pm me with your address.

 

I was embarassed by how few I had read and I carried the list around with me for a long time trying to make up the holes in my reading. I don't remember all of them but I know Barometer Rising by Hugh MacLennan and The Mountain and the Valley by Ernest Buckler were on it as were works by Robertson Davies, Morley Callaghan and Mordecai Richler. And has anyone mentioned Stephen Leacock? His short story "My financial career" still cracks me up. I can remember a high school teacher reading it to our class during a spare and he couldn't finish it he was laughing so hard.

 

 

At the risk of near-treason, lol, I actually don't get much out of Atwood. I can't deny her talent, but I don't enjoy her books.

Here are some books by Canadian authors that I have enjoyed:

Crow Lake, by Mary Lawson (or is it Larson?)
Our Lady of the Lost and Found, by Diane Schomperlen
Deafening, by Frances Itani
Fall on Your Knees, by Ann Marie McDonald
The Stone Carvers, Jane Urquhart
The Life of Pi,
The Piano Man's Daughter, by Timothy Findlay
A Complicated Kindness, by Miriam Toews
Clara Callen, by Richard Wright
Such a Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry
The English Patient by Michael Ondontjee



 

Okay I forgive you for the rogue bit of bad judgment regarding Atwood, seeing as you have displayed such excellent judgment on your other choices. I've read all of those too and liked them very much (although I was not as fond of Shields' _Dressing Up for the Carnival_ as her other work). I loved Toews' A Complicated Kindness.

Others I have really enjoyed and recommend are:
Anything by Sandra Birdsell - I'm looking forward to her new one on Mt. TBR but The Chrome Suite was excellent;
The Wife Tree by Dorothy Speak;
A Good House by Bonnie Burnard;
Jane Urquhart's work is lovely too.

 

in case BCers want to look him up.
(from a non-Canuck but lover of Ondaatje)

 

Pelagie: The Return to Acadie by Antonine Maillet. It is an English translation, the original novel written in French (Pelagie-la-Charette) won the Prix Goncourt in 1979; Maillet was the first non-citizen to win France's highest literary award.

Thanks for starting this thread, Ibis3! I have felt the same way, and am taking notes from this thread's suggestions.

 

in case BCers want to look him up.
(from a non-Canuck but lover of Ondaatje)

 

 

... that says you cannot dislike Margaret Atwood. In theory, you should be behind bars. ;-)

I do not believe anybody mentioned Stephen Leacock (Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town is perhaps his best). Leonard Cohen wrote fiction as well as poetry. Beautiful Losers can easily be considered a classic. I have Nancy Huston's Dolce Agonia on my bookshelf. If you want it, it's yours.

Oh yes : Adele Wiseman (The Sacrifice and Crackpot). Vastly underrated.

 

 

 

I went to the library with a list of New Canadian Library books (many of them were suggested here in this thread) to search for and picked two up: Barometer Rising by Hugh MacLennan and Such is My Beloved by Morley Callaghan.

I've started Barometer Rising (thanks mrsgaskell & gypsymom for the suggestion). Why isn't Canadian literature more well known/promoted/talked about? Why haven't I even heard of this book before?!? It's like being an American and never hearing about The Grapes of Wrath. I mean, I don't expect every literate person in the world to have heard of Canadian lit classics, but surely every literate Canadian ought to at least know what the canon includes (even if they haven't read the books themselves). Is it just me (am I just woefully, negligently, ignorant), or am I right that there's a very sad situation?

At least, I feel that modern CanLit is getting some attention and is more well known/promoted/talked about. But it's like, before I started this thread, I had the vague impression that no one in Canada was writing before Atwood, Davies and Richler.

Anyway, if anyone else is interested in reading some Canadian classics, I'd appreciate the company. My plan is to read through the entire New Canadian Library collection (though that might take a while!). You're welcome to join me for one or for all. I'll announce 'em as I pick 'em.

 

You're welcome to join me for one
> or for all. I'll announce 'em as I pick
> 'em.

> Yes, please do! I am definitely interested but with all the projects already underway I will be able to join you only for individual books...

 

Good picks! I think you'll really enjoy Such is My Beloved along side the Bleak House readalong.

 

> Good picks! I think you'll really enjoy
> Such is My Beloved along side the Bleak
> House readalong.

And I suppose Barometer Rising will be an interesting counterpoint to Mrs Dalloway which I recently finished.

 

> I've started Barometer Rising (thanks
> mrsgaskell & gypsymom for the
> suggestion).
You're welcome.
>Why isn't Canadian >literature more well >known/promoted/talked about? >Why
> haven't I even heard of this book
> before?!? It's like being an American and
> never hearing about The Grapes of Wrath.
Barometer Rising was done as a TV special just a few years ago and it was quite good. I guess it just didn't grab your attention. But I have to say I agree with you that Canadian literature older than 25 years doesn't get a lot of attention. The Canada Reads winner this year, Rockbound, was one I had never heard of before and I read a lot of Canadian fiction. Maybe it's time M & S re-issued their New Canadian Library. Should we start a campaign?

 

> Barometer Rising was
> done as a TV special just a few years ago
> and it was quite good. I guess it just
> didn't grab your attention.

I might have been out of the country then.

> But I have to
> say I agree with you that Canadian
> literature older than 25 years doesn't get
> a lot of attention. The Canada Reads
> winner this year, Rockbound, was one I had
> never heard of before and I read a lot of
> Canadian fiction.

Isn't that a newer book?

> Maybe it's time M &
> S re-issued their New Canadian Library.
> Should we start a campaign?

They are doing a current edition of the set:

http://www.mcclelland.com/---/index.html (there's also a link to the catalogue if you go to booksellers' resources, if I recall correctly).

ETA: The two latest books (January, 2005) are:

Execution by Colin Mcdougall
"The great Canadian novel of the Second World War in Italy, winner of the 1958 Governor General’s Award

Lieutenant John Adam, recovering from wounds sustained in the Italian campaign of 1943, faces a terrible dilemma when he finds that one his men, a volunteer, is to be executed, shot by his comrades."

and

Man Descending by Guy Vanderhaeghe
"These superbly crafted stories reveal an astonishing range, with settings that vary from a farm on the Canadian prairies to Bloomsbury in London, from a high-rise apartment to a mine-shaft. Vanderhaeghe has the uncanny ability to show us the world through the eyes of an eleven-year-old boy as convincingly as he reveals it through the eyes of an old man approaching senility. Moving from the hilarious farce of teenage romance all the way to the numbing tragedy of life in a ward for incurables, these twelve stories inspire belief, admiration, and enjoyment, and come together to form a vibrant chronicle of human experience from a gifted observer of life’s joys and tribulations. This is Guy Vanderhaeghe’s brilliant first book of fiction."

I just think the Powers That Be have an obligation to promote Canadian culture until it's a given that we as ordinary people will be aware of it. They already do a great job with Canadian music. How about literature & film?

 

> The Canada Reads > winner
> this year, Rockbound, was one I had >
> never heard of before and I read a lot of
> > Canadian fiction.

> Isn't that a newer book?
According to my library website the author, Frank Parker Day, died in 1950 and certainly the style was oldfashioned. I think there's been a new edition published because I just saw it in a bookstore.
> I just think the Powers That Be have an
> obligation to promote Canadian culture
> until it's a given that we as ordinary
> people will be aware of it. They already
> do a great job with Canadian music. How
> about literature & film?
You're right but we're all part of the solution. As a small contribution from Winnipeg, we're going to have a release challenge in the week before Canada Day next year to try to release 139 Canadian books in the city. Wouldn't it be great if BookCrossers in all the regions of Canada did that?

 

OK. :) (We have some time to organize...)

 

If you're serious about releasing individual books as you are done with them, I would love to be included! As I am registering my books, I have noticed that many of them are by Canadian authors - I think that's unintentional on my buying part, but maybe not - and would love to read some Canuck classics. (Roughing it in the Bush excepted...we read that in high school and...blah). If you plan to do a ring or ray, please post a big Hey Canucks again! It caught my attention!

 

I'm going to recommend Stephen Leacock, because he's funny, and deserves to be remembered. I also concur with those who mentioned margaret Atwood--I've read almost all of her novels and am never disappointed. But don't overlook Alice Munro and Margaret Laurence.

 

I always found him quite clever and funny.

And how about Alice Munro? Leonard Cohen?

 

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