Oooh, controversy. It seems that Douglas Coupland has written a rant on the “grimness” of CanLit for the New York Times. I would like to be able to read it, probably because I will agree 100% that most Canadian novels are about as exciting as gum disease. Unfortunately, Coupland’s article is in a walled-off area of the nytimes.com site that requires a subscription. According to a Toronto Star piece on Coupland’s so-called rant, the piece railed against the focus on authors who suck up grant money and attention and who tend to write books about the immigrant experience and life in small towns. He also directed ire at the grant-supported system of writing and publishing that tends to support such stories.
I’ve been railing about the generally stinky storytelling in CanLit for years. There are many Canadian books I like – Margaret Atwood comes to mind – but on the whole, I am not interested in “dense multilayed narratives”; I like stories. I don’t want to read about the reminisciences of some broad looking back on her life whilst in a cabin on the Prairies; I want a plot, characters, and dialogue that moves the story along.
Story. Tell one. I don’t care how well you write, oh Writer.
Since I can’t read the Coupland rant, the next bestest thing is the chapter sending up CanLit in Will and Ian Ferguson’s book How to Be Canadian. Here’s their take on a page from the average Canadian novel:

She looked back at the house. It was a good house. Not a great house. But still, not bad. As far as houses went.
The seagulls were staying close to shore. Seven generations of McGoogles had lived here. Seven generations. Their dreams were etched onto the rocks as surely as the lines of time were etched onto her face. She touched the bruise on her cheek.
‘That bastard!’ said Shane. He lifted the bottle to his lips. He drank. Then he stopped.
‘They will be here soon,’ she said. ‘They will be coming down Cape Breton Road. Unless we’re in Newfoundland.’

The Ferguson’s aren’t far off the mark. I’m a modern, urban girl who is not yet staring down middle age, and all I ask is for Canada to get busy publishing some books that entertain me.

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