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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Reader's Diary #120- John Stevens (Editor): Best Canadian Short Stories (up to "The Grecian Urn" by W.P. Kinsella)


Though perhaps a little dated, Stevens has picked a near perfect sample of short stories that capture Canadian experience. Notice I didn't say, "the" Canadian experience- like the collection's title which is missing that definitive, I too feel that "the" in this case is too exclusionary. Here are stories that reflect on Canadians from coast to coast to coast, from various time periods, and even immigrants and emigrants. A case could even made for Phyllis Gotlieb's "Gingerbread Boy", a sci-fi story. Afterall, good sci-fi should say as much about the time and concerns of the present as they do of the future- and thus, "Gingerbread Boy" could represent the Canadian experience of 1961 when Gotlieb first wrote it. In fact, if you change "android" to "clone", it could speak of present day Canadian apprehensions and concerns.

I do think that first nations people, the Metis and the Inuit are a little underrepresented though. Sure there are mention of Cree, Inuit and so on in some of these stories but they are all from a white perspective (ex. Farley Mowat's "The Iron Me"). It's too bad that there wasn't a little more cultural diversity within the authors themselves. To be fair though, maybe when Stevens first published this collection in 1981 there weren't as many from the aforementioned groups that had been publishing short stories. In all honesty, I'm not sure if I can name that many today. Thomas King. Robert Alexie. Joseph Boyden. If there's any truth to the old stereotypes about such cultures having such a strong oral tradition, there should be a lot of great stories to come out in print any day now. In the meantime, if anyone out there can direct me to another good author from Canada's aboriginal populations, I'd love to hear them.

3 comments:

chuck said...

John

POEMS OF THE INUIT by Neil Philip and WHALE BROTHER by Barbara Steiner are books you are no doubt acquainted with...but I mention them anyway. Perhaps these writers could help you, from a networking angle, in your ongoing investigation.

chuck said...

Some Inuit authors...

MARKOOSIE
ALOOTOOK IPELLIE
ALICE FRENCH
EMILY BROWN
MICHAEL KUSUGAK

I am sure this is an incomplete list, but possibly of some usefulness...

John Mutford said...

Thanks Chuck, I'm actually more familiar with the second group that you mentioned rather than Neil Philip and Barbara Steiner. I've mentioned Michael Kusugak before- I met him in Rankin when I lived there. I didn't mention him in this post because I was looking for more adult authors. Though the last time I spoke with him I believe he mentioned working on a novel (or series) about Marble Island. As for Markoosie, I have his "Harpoon of the Hunter" but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. Thanks for the other names! I look forward to reading them.

How in the heck do you know so many?