Friday, December 23, 2016
Reader's Diary #1428- Lawrence Osgood: Midnight Sun
In 1993 Annie Proulx wrote about Newfoundland in the critically acclaimed and award-winning novel The Shipping News. Hailing from Newfoundland, of course I had to read it. It left an odd feeling. On the one hand, the story and writing were good, on the other, Newfoundland felt... off. The setting, and more importantly, the people, didn't ring true. I maintain that Annie Proulx had a right to write about us, but should she have? (Later she would write about gay, male cowboys.) I want to stress that by asking the question, I am not suggesting that she shouldn't have, but truly pondering out loud.
All of which takes me to Lawrence Osgood's Midnight Sun, a novel that largely employs the supposed perspective of various Inuit characters and incorporates Inuit legends into the plot. Osgood, for the record, is not Inuit but had lived and worked in the Canadian Arctic for a number of years. To say that the question of whether or not Osgood should even be writing this book was a distraction would be an understatement. But that's fair; it should be something to consider. The way a mysterious white lady is fawned over and fetishized as a supernatural being reminded me of the way the tribes people of The Gods Must Be Crazy reacted to the mysterious Coca-Cola bottle. Such a comparison can't be good.
But then, there's a complimentary blurb from respected Inuvialuit politician and Inuit rights activist Rosemarie Kuptana on the cover, and surely she has more claim to be offended by Osgood's appropriation than I. If she's fine with it, why shouldn't I be?
Well, just as, I suppose, you'll find a range of opinions from Newfoundlanders about The Shipping News, I don't doubt that some Inuit would agree with Kuptana and some would disagree.
All the politics aside (but not out of mind), the story and writing itself is quite interesting. Blending supernatural with political drama, a unique setting, and complex characters, and solid writing, Midnight Sun is compelling the whole way through.