Invitation to Canadian Lit 101

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I have a plan, inspired by suggestions given to me in my previous CanLit thread, to read through the entire New Canadian Library collection (though that might take a while!), along with any other Canadian books that come my way. If anyone else is interested in reading some Canadian classics, I'd appreciate the company. You're welcome to join me for one or
for all. I'll announce 'em as I pick 'em.

The first book is Barometer Rising by Hugh MacLennan:

"It is 1917, and the nightmare of World War One is dragging on through yet another winter. As far as Penelope Wain knows, her lover, Neil Macrae, has been killed while serving overseas under her father. That he died apparently in disgrace does not alter her love for him, even though her father is insistent on his guilt. What neither Penelope or her father knows is that Neil is not dead, but has returned to Halifax to clear his name.

Hugh MacLennan’s first novel is a compelling romance set against the horrors of wartime and the catastrophic Halifax Explosion of December 6, 1917."

ETA: I won't be reading very quickly, at least until Bleak House is done.



 

I'll look forward to your announcements and reading some of those Canadian classics. I have read a lot of them simply because I studied Canadian Literature in University which turned me on to Canadian authors. Before that (I am ashamed to say)I worked in a bookstore where we were expected to read the books we were selling yet I don't think I picked up a Canadian book. Lots of Ayn Rand and Steinbeck and Hesse though.

I suspect the reason was that at that time we, as Canadians, did not promote or value our art and culture as we ought to have - an inferiority complex, I think.

 

Please do continue to post as you go through them. I'm sure there are lots I haven't read or I read so long ago that I might want to refresh my memory. Also, let's keep bumping this thread up to the first page so it gets more attention.

 

Thanks, gypsymom!

 

about northerners never reading Southern hemisphere writers to florafloraflora. I've read Attwood, Munro, Mowat and Ondaatje and I was glad to hear Stephen Leacock was Canadian (my alter ego in the area of banking). However I have never heard of MacLennan or Robertson Davies. I've already written down some titles from the CanLit thread to see if the Sabah Library has any.
Edit : are MacLennan and Davies relatively old? The library here is in a bit of a time warp. (I've re-read a lot of Grahame Greene and Somerset Maughm!)

 

"Robertson Davies was born and raised in Ontario and was educated at a variety of schools, Upper Canada College, Queen’s University, and Balliol College, Oxford. He had three successive careers: first as an actor with the Old Vic Company in England; then as publisher of the Peterborough Examiner; and most recently as a university professor and first Master of Massey College at the University of Toronto, from which he retired in 1981.

He was without doubt one of Canada’s most distinguished men of letters, with over thirty books to his credit, among them several volumes of plays, as well as collections of essays, speeches, and belles lettres. As a novelist he gained fame far beyond Canada’s borders, especially for his Deptford trilogy, Fifth Business, The Manticore, and World of Wonders, and for his last five novels, The Rebel Angels, What’s Bred in the Bone, The Lyre of Orpheus, Murther & Walking Spirit, and The Cunning Man.

His career was marked by many honours: he was, for example, the first Canadian to become an honorary Member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He was a Companion of the Order of Canada, and Honorary Fellow of Balliol, and received an honorary D.Litt. from Oxford.

Robertson Davies passed away in 1995. " (McClelland & Stewart)

"Professor John Hugh MacLennan, CC , CQ , Ph.D (March 20, 1907 - November 7, 1990) was a Canadian author and professor of English at McGill University. He won five Governor General's Awards,Royal Bank Award and the Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction.

MacLennan was born in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, and moved with his family to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1914. He was educated at Dalhousie University, Oxford University and Princeton University before accepting a teaching position at Lower Canada College in Montreal, Quebec. He married Dorothy Duncan in 1936.

He wrote two unpublished novels before Barometer Rising, his novel about the social class structure of Nova Scotia and the Halifax Explosion of 1917, was published in 1941. His most famous novel, Two Solitudes, a literary allegory for the tensions between English and French Canada, followed in 1945. That year, he left Lower Canada College to pursue writing full-time. Two Solitudes won McLennan his first Governor General's Award for Fiction.

In 1948, MacLennan published The Precipice, which again won the Governor General's Award. The following year, he published an essay collection, Cross Country, which won the Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction.

In 1951, MacLennan returned to teaching, accepting a position at McGill University. In 1954, he published another essay collection, Thirty and Three, which again won the Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction. One of MacLennan's students at McGill was Marian Engel, who became a noted Canadian novelist in the 1970s.

Duncan died in 1957. MacLennan married his second wife, Aline Walker, in 1959.

That same year, he published The Watch That Ends the Night, which won his final Governor General's Award.

In 1967, he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada. In 1985 he was made a Knight of the National Order of Quebec.

MacLennan continued to write and publish work, with his final novel Voices in Time appearing in 1980. He passed away in 1990.

The Canadian band The Tragically Hip, on their album Fully Completely, have a song called "'Courage (for Hugh MacLennan)." (Wikipedia)

 

Obviously didn't read the blurb properly. If the library has Engel, surely they'll have MacLennan. Those dates look right!
Thanks,Ibis3.

 

> I was glad to hear Stephen
> Leacock was Canadian (my alter ego in the
> area of banking).
As he is for so many of us!
However I have never
> heard of MacLennan or Robertson Davies.
> I've already written down some titles from
> the CanLit thread to see if the Sabah
> Library has any. Edit: are MacLennan and
> Davies relatively old? The library here is
> in a bit of a time warp.
Let us know if you can't find any MacLennan or Davies and I'm sure some of us Canucks could find some to send to you. I currently have a hard cover edition of Davies' "Murther & Walking Spirits" but that might be a bit pricy to send to you.

(I've re-read a
> lot of Grahame Greene and Somerset
> Maughm!)
Maugham would probably be perfect reading for your location. I remember doing a blitz of his writing years ago and it seems to me a lot of them were set in far eastern locales.

 

Sujie 13 yrs ago
mispost

 

Thanks, gypsymom, for your thoughtfulness. At present we are packing up to go home in less than 8 weeks (hurray!!!)so your kind offer will have to be put on hold. I'll let you know how I go with Davies and MacLennan at the library.
Yes, lots of Maugham was set in the tropics. He was a Raffles Hotel regular. Something about his tropical stuff is for the young, though. Re-reading him is like visiting some heady far-off place I once knew. He does go over the top a bit. And of course Asia is so different now, from his time and from the time I first read him in Singapore thirty years ago!

 

> Yes, lots of
> Maugham was set in the tropics. He was a
> Raffles Hotel regular. Something about his
> tropical stuff is for the young, though.
> Re-reading him is like visiting some heady
> far-off place I once knew. He does go over
> the top a bit. And of course Asia is so
> different now, from his time and from the
> time I first read him in Singapore thirty
> years ago!

I wish I had known about that while I was living there (was I living there or visiting there if I was there for 9mos?). I haven't read any Maugham and reading it in S'pore sounds better than reading it in Canada. Maybe I should just wait until a heat wave next summer. I can imagine I'm in the tropics. :)

 

Great. i would love to join!

 

Re-read it, actually, as I know I read it for grade nine English in Nova Scotia many years ago. I'll watch this thread with interest, and try to keep up with the workload. Fun idea!

 

I don't like all her stuff but this one sounds intriguing. I'm afraid to put the title down because I can't remember how to spell it! Can anyone help me out?

 

Oryx and Crake?

 

> I'm afraid to put the title down because I
> can't remember how to spell it! Can anyone
> help me out?

A retired university English professor gave it a positive review in today's paper.

 

Yep. I forgot about that one even though I made a post about it.

 

Thanks for the other title. I read an interesting article about The Penelopiad a week or so ago. What a fascinating idea -- a series that will last until 2038. It's not all Canadian, I don't think, but that doesn't matter.

 

Sure always up for a Canadian book. But why just classics. I read a lot of Canadian books, Baromter Rising, was a great story I read it in college. Have read all Atwood,(exept that new one) Alias Grace and the Blind Assasin where the best. I have read several Timothy Findley, a very obscure one "the telling of lies" was my favorite. I find Robertson Davies to pompus. (just me im sure). Lots of others to many to name, not to mention I forget. Id be willing to read along on Canadian books, or if you made a list, to try and make it thru it. Depends I guess on what you consider classics. I just find that alot of Canadian fiction is very arty. ie not for the normal person.

 

> Sure always up for a Canadian book. But
> why just classics.

2 main reasons: I'm kind of a classics fan myself. I'm on a mission to read as many classics as I can without my brain exploding. At one time, I almost completely neglected anything written in the 20th century, except what was necessary to get by in school etc. Then, in recent years, I thought I should add some classic modern fiction & classic children's lit to the menu. So here I was, reading Virgina Woolf and James Joyce, and I thought, "ya know, ibis, ya really ought to be readin' somethin' written by your own countrymen & women too" -- but what? Oh, I knew all about Davies & Atwood & Shields & Urquart. But they're oh, so contemporary. urk. Thus my previous thread asking for suggestions and subsequent discovery of the New Canadian Library. It seemed like such a great list--I mean someone else has done all the work for me!

The second reason is that, I figure, like me, most Canadian readers are well aware of current good CanLit--the profile of the Giller & GG prizes, the fact that Canadian writers are being recognized abroad (think Rohinton Mistry & Yann Martel for example) help. I've seen threads before about good contemporary Canadian books, but hadn't seen anything about those who might be Canadian equivalents or contemporaries to Woolf, Joyce, Steinbeck (or how about even Melville, James, Dickens).

> I read a lot of
> Canadian books, Baromter Rising, was a
> great story I read it in college. Have
> read all Atwood,(exept that new one) Alias
> Grace and the Blind Assasin where the
> best. I have read several Timothy Findley,
> a very obscure one "the telling of lies"
> was my favorite. I find Robertson Davies
> to pompus. (just me im sure). Lots of
> others to many to name, not to mention I
> forget. Id be willing to read along on
> Canadian books, or if you made a list, to
> try and make it thru it. Depends I guess
> on what you consider classics. I just find
> that alot of Canadian fiction is very
> arty. ie not for the normal person.

Well, I guess if that's the case, we'll be able to discuss that aspect of it as we go. :) You've certainly read much more Canadian lit than I have, that's for sure. I made a list of Canadian books I've read for sqdancer and this is what I came up with:

The Stone Angel, The Rebel Angels, What's Bred in the Bone, Anne of Green Gables, Never Cry Wolf, Jacob Two-Two, Mount Appetite, The Handmaid's Tale, I Married the Klondike, The Exile, A Bird in the House, Life of Pi.

C'est tout.

 

 

Here's my blog for the project: http://ibis3.blogspot.com/ It will contain links to all forum posts related to my CanLit 101 picks, plus related items. Feel free to visit, comment, give me any tips etc. Participants welcome to join in on any thread at any time.

Thanks, lesezeichen for giving me the idea with your Bleak House blog.

 

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