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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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From “That’s Canada…with a ‘u’!” by Robyn Matthew in West Coast Editor, February 2005:

Whether they like it or not, Canadian publishers are being forced to tailor the spelling of their books to an American audience, which is 10 times the size of Canada’s, simply to remain financially viable. “We are doing more American spelling because we are selling into the states,” admits Nancy Flight, editor at local Canadian publisher Greystone Books. And she adds, “some authors are really upset about it.”
The sacrificing of Canadian spelling has also saddened many Canadian editors, even though they understand the economic reasons behind the decision. “Americans,” states Liv Fredricksen, “typically like things to be placed within their own frame of reference, and they have the buying power to demand that the rest of the world comply.”

The newsletter containing the entire article should be posted soon on the EAC website, editors.ca.

Tra la la. Another day I am confusing Word with my habit of spelling the Canadian way. I stick u’s between my o’s and r’s, but use z’s rather than s’s in all my -ize’s. That’s about it, really.
I am also mad for properly hyphenated adjectival phrases. In the long term, I’d like to achieve my short-term goals.
Men who read are mad sexy. A man propping up with book with one hand and looking all rapt is just so inviting.
According to a study, which I don’t happen to have handy, but will post later, Canadian spelling is falling out of favour with Canadian book publishers. Because of concerns about sales of co-editions to American publishers and booksellers, we don’t want to distinguish and oft-put with a display of vibrant Canadian colour. I can attest that I wrote press releases and sales copy for our American distributor with proper attention to words like “center” and “neighbor”. It did feel a bit strange; it’s not as though the Americans insisted, its that we wanted to please.
By the way, poutine is vile. Pass the sushi.

Snow is uncharacteristic of Vancouver, becoming yet jarring. It snows and then it rains. It doesn’t usually freeze for a week and then snow again and again. Standing in a high place, the white roofs and lacy branches cradling white stuff make a marvellous view. I find myself running out of sweaters.

And bundled up proudly in my bright scarf that I knit myself (the only thing that I’ve made for myself so far) and gloves that are still with me four years out of Japan’s central-heating free winter, I say “Man I’m bloody well freezing my ass off.” And to which the Easterner replies, “Oh this isn’t cold. Back in (name your Buttfucknowhere here) its -50 this time of year, plus windchill…”

Its fitting that the heat (and the hot water, for a spell) has chosen to make itself rare this week. Last week I cozied up in blankets, hibernated with coffee and Saved By the Bell reruns and email, this week I feel ready for the outside world again. But I am starting to wonder if it wouldn’t be a good idea to have some more seclusion time. Even the people I know I avoid seeing, in particular wanting to avoid the How Have You Been and Here’s What I’ve Been Doing Conversation. This morning, former coworkers on their way to my former workplace… at first I genuinely didn’t see them when I got on the bus, and then I deliberately chose to avoid seeing them. Such a silly bitch thing to do.

For some reason Happy New Year refuses to trip off my tongue.

I hope for something unexpected to happen when I go outside, someone to arrive or the start of an adventure, and it never seems to come true. It seems always the same movement among strangers and store clerks and spare change junkies.

Perhaps it is my hardened, impatient, urban demeanour frightening the dickens out of would-be bringers of fun and happiness and free meals who would otherwise appear in buses and at parties to offer their goodies. Perhaps my wedding ring is taken for a sign of possession and otherwise, well, deadness to the role of chance.

I am mostly shell and scar tissue.

I just stumbled across this site put up for Americans thinking about moving here to our glorious land. Don’t all rush the border at once now.

There’s been a lot of red state-blue state analysis, and when I think about it, Canadians have the same sort of urban-liberal-democratic/rural-conservative (we don’t have republicans here) split in our government, except with that always-ornery Quebec thing thrown into the mix.

In many ways, Canada is not all that different from America, but sometimes it doesn’t seem like we’re much alike either. And, for gosh sakes, its not that cold everywhere all the time here. Sheesh.

Well, let me just second the emotion of Shelley Fralic’s column in the Vancouver Sun today. The CBC does this whole hullabaloo of publicity about nominating “the Greatest Canadian”, and not a single chick makes it into the top ten.

I hear Avril Lavigne was thisclose to making it, due to the utterly democratic method of voting lifted straight from “American Idol”, as did the late great Mr. Dressup. I guess some of the final choices make sense. You just want to hug David Suzuki, don’t you? And Wayne Gretzky is so darned likable even if he is now a big cuddly corporate whore. It would be pure sacrilege to disparage Terry Fox.

But c’mon, Lucy Maud Montgomery singlehandedly created a reason for tourism to PEI with Anne of Green Gables. Margaret Atwood is CanLit personified and a bestselling author abroad too. Emily Murphy made it so women were defined as persons before the law in Canada. And how about that Laura Secord (and the yummy chocolates named in her honour)? And whatever the name of that woman who created Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High is, she ought to be in there too.

But lets just leave some of the other top-100 finalists out of it, shall we? Just because Celine Dion and Pamela Anderson are all famous is no reason to go nuts. There’s an old joke that all Canadian celebrities need to wear nametags, and being famous enough to have your name actually known does not make you great.

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