Wednesday, August 17, 2011
My Canadian Confession
Four years ago I compiled a list of classics that I should, as a self-respecting reader, be ashamed to say I haven't read. I've made a half-hearted attempt to work my way through them and have since managed to whittle that list of 20 down to 13. Curiously I didn't have any Canadian titles on that list. I'd like to pride myself on my knowledge of Canadian lit, but I've got some pretty gaping holes there as well. While most holes are more recently published works than the aforementioned classics list (I read very few books on current bestseller lists), there are still plenty I'm shamefaced to say I haven't read. Bad Canadian, Bad!
Here's my top 20 glaring omissions:
1. Rohinton Mistry- A Fine Balance
Like a few others on this list, I'm not sure if I've chosen the right novel, but I need to read at least something by Mistry. Should it be Family Matters? Such a Long Journey? What would you say is his most recognizable work?
2. Jane Urquhart- Stone Carvers
We Canadians apparently love books with Stone in the title. Maybe it's the granite cliffs, Precambrian Shield, and inuksuit.
3. Margaret Laurence- Stone Angel
I loved, loved, loved the Diviners and Bird in the House, yet have not managed to read what is perhaps her most well known. If it's any consolation, I've read lots of reviews from people who HATED this book in high school.
4. Donna Morrissey- Kit's Law
I don't think it's got the same public status as most others on this list but I have my reason for including it. Once upon a time I prided myself on keeping up with Newfoundland's literary scene. But slowly I've been getting more and more out of touch. I've not, for instance, read any novel of the Winter siblings. However, it's Morrissey of whom I've been saying the longest, "I really need to read something by her."
5. Richard B. Wright- Clara Callan
This one has the dubious distinction of sitting on my bookshelves the longest without being read. It's been with me in from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut; Summerford, Newfoundland; Iqaluit, Nunavut; and now here in Yellowknife. Why don't I just break down and read it already?
6. Hugh McClennan- The Watch That Ends The Night
It's referenced in "Courage" by the Tragically Hip. That's reason enough.
7. William Gibson- Neuromancer
Like Mistry above, I'm not sure-- perhaps it should be Pattern Recognition?
8. W. P. Kinsella- Shoeless Joe
Can't say I'm a baseball fan, but this one is a classic, or so I'm told. I am mildly intrigued that a famous sports novel from Canada isn't hockey related.
9. Ethel Wilson- Swamp Angel
Really I could just pick 20 books from McClelland and Stewart's New Canadian Library imprint.
10. Wayson Choy- Jade Peony
I've wanted to read it for a while and then when it was a Canada Reads contender my interest was piqued even more.
11. Brian Moore- The Luck of Ginger Coffey
Confession within a confession: When I first started hosting the Canadian Book Challenge one participant decided to make all 13 of her books Brian Moore novels. My first reaction was, "who?" Then, "he wrote how many novels?" How does someone this prolific fly so far under my radar?
12. Marie-Claire Blais- A Season in the Life of Emmanuel
I don't read enough Quebec authors and again, this one seems to have hit canonical status.
13. Michel Tremblay- The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant
Partly for the same reason as the one above but if I'm being perfectly honest, I've been attracted to it simply for the title ever since I'd heard of it. I could almost interchange this Gaétan Soucy's The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches for the exact same reasons.
14. Sheila Watson- Double Hook
Someone I don't respect once told me he read this in university and it's why he now doesn't like Canadian lit. He then recommended a Tom Clancy novel. I think I might love Double Hook.
15. Stephen Leacock- Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town
I almost didn't include this one because I thought maybe I've read it before. But now I think I've only read some of the stories in anthologies.
16. David Adams Richards- For Those Who Hunt the Wounded Down
I've only read Richards' Hockey Dreams. I have to read his fiction.
17. Joseph Boyden- Through Black Spruce
Through Black Spruce is to Three Day Road as The Other Side of the Bridge is to Crow Lake. In other words, I loved the first book in both of these series and had every intention to read the follow-up, then... didn't. Boyden gets the higher priority because a) I met him and like him and b) His is supposed to be part of a trilogy.
18. Kenneth Oppel- Silverwing
Speaking of series writers, I'd also like to give Oppel's Silverwing saga a shot. Just the original premise alone appeals to me immensely.
19. Tomson Highway- The Rez Sisters
The only play on my list. At first I was interested in reading it simply because I liked the playwright's name. But I've heard such accolades since, that I now need to read it.
20. Susannah Moodie- Roughing it in the Bush
We don't have a lot of Canadian literature pre-1900-- at least stuff that's remembered. Plus, I have Margaret Atwood's The Journals of Susanna Moodie on my shelf and I want to read Moodie herself before reading Atwood's poetry about her.
Phew! It was a hard list to compile, especially trying not to add too many recent books (Gargoyle, Room, the Outlander, Bone Cage, The Best Laid Plans...) and authors (Zoe Whittall, Linwood Barclay, Andrew Pyper, Annabel Lyon, Kathleen Winter, Michael Winter, Kelley Armstrong, Robert J. Sawyer, Alan Bradley...) that I still want to read, but there's only so much time in the day.
How about you? Which of the above have you read? Are there any Canadian books that you'd like to confess you haven't read?