Sunday, June 11, 2006

Reader's Diary #105- Douglas Coupland: Souvenir of Canada (FINISHED)


A couple of words about "Them". In Coupland's essay, he refers to "Them" as the Americans. That's fine. That's what we do as Canadians. We define ourselves partially by who we are not. I'm a little perplexed as to why others think this is a bad thing, or even an abnormal thing. We all need to compare, it's human nature. Canadians are just more likely to be upfront about to whom we are comparing ourselves; i.e., the Americans and to a lesser extent, the British. In Why I Hate Canadians Will Ferguson is very critical of Canadians for this. Coupland is not (or at least he doesn't come across that way in this book). And really why should he be? The Americans are the world's largest superpower, have the most pervasive culture ever, and they're right next door! How could we not compare ourselves? I'm not saying we need to get all smug about it, nor am I saying we're saints and they're sinners, but comparisons are fine. Likewise with the British. They owned us for a long time, their Queen is still on our money, of course we're going to compare ourselves. Our differences DO define us: we talk like Americans and write like the British. So what if we're a hybrid? (Some of us anyway.) Again Coupland does a fine job with his discussion on "Them."

However, Coupland also seemed to have another "them" in mind when he wrote the book, a lowercase "them", a more subtle "them". I know statistically most Canadian live in cities, near the American border, but still I wasn't fussy on his discussion of Newfoundlanders for instance, as if somehow outsiders. He did the same to the Inuit. For instance, when he writes phrases like "...even the Inuit must look at..." it somewhat excludes them, almost leaving the impression that it's not the Inuit reading this book, it's the Canadians. And when he talks about the Cree, he asks "...why should they?" [italics mine]. And if I'm really being nit-picky, I was bothered when he was ignorant or just plain wrong about certain places. Again the Scottish ancestry thing for Newfoundland, but also the comment about hamlets in Germany. He says that it was "the first time [he's] been able to use this word in a sentence." You know what small towns are called in Canada's north? Hamlets. A little research goes a long way.

But now I've sickened myself with the whole politically-correct police officer persona (that's really not me). I'd rather end on a happier note. Did you know that Roberta Bondar is one heck of a photographer? Coupland uses a lot of her work throughout his book, and her landscape photos are just amazing. Who knew?

7 comments:

Robert said...

I knew! I knew! I'm originally from a national park town and it was big news when she showed up to do some photography.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Photographer, neuroscientist, astronaut - methinks the woman is a bit of an over-achiever. Good for her!

John Mutford said...

Yeah, when it comes to talent I guess God is not a socialist.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Good one John!

fahrenheit451moderator said...

Funny you should mention a hamlet. We had a quiz night for teens at the library and one of the questions was about the difference between a village and a hamlet. Evidently a hamlet is a village without a church.

John Mutford said...

Hi F451Moderator,
I had to check that up. Of all the hamlet's in Canada's North, I don't know of any that don't have a church. The "without a church" definition doesn't come up when you Google it. The most common definition seems to be a community or settlement smaller than a village. Where did you get your definition?

John Mutford said...

Souvenir of Canada is now a movie!