27 April 2009

Literary Masterpieces in Canada...aka...why I feel like the village idiot.

Selecting a book to read in Canada is like shopping for cream at the grocery store. You could go buy the mediocre american made cream. Or you can spend a fortune for the fresh cream milked straight from the cows teet, the cow having rested in a bed of clouds and fed only the finest grain of the land.

That's kind of like books. You could buy the mediocre American books full of frivolty and chick lit. Or you can truly aspire to read books of the sophisticae elite and read Canadian Literature.

Our authors win stuff. Lots of stuff. If there is a literary book prize, our authors are usually on the short list with a high chance of winning.

Canada is blessed with the likes of Mordechai Richler, Margaret Atwood, Rohinton Minstry, Micheal Ondaatje and company.

I read Chatelaine's annual summer book list "must -reads" and there are always a handful of Canadian books listed. There is the CBC's website which lists all these great books. And when viewers can comment, they always list books by Canadian authors with the smug knowledge that not only have they read them, but that all the other readers who comment on that book on are "in the know".

Then there is me. I can't pretend anymore. I have not read many Canadian books. I feel ashamed to admit this, but I shop for generic cream. I have these great intentions of reading these literary masterpieces, but 9 times out of 10, I reach for a romance or something equally low brow.

Here we are, in the land of talent. And while I can identify who is a Canadain author, I cannot admit ot having read many Canadian books. I yearn for the expensive cream so that I can be 'in the know', but I opt for the cheap stuff each time.

This summer, it will be different.....I am going to read ever "must -read" can-lit book so that I can join the ranks of smug book snobs. I am up for the challenge.
This year, excluding whatever books are in my book club, I am going to ready 50 Canadian Books. Operation Dani wants to be a Can-Lit Book Snob commences!


Anonymous said...

I know what you mean Dani, except my problem is with reading fiction in general. People say it keeps your mind sharp and improves your vocabulary (which is prolly something I need seeing as I just typed "prolly") but often the good, recommended books are... depressing!

It's hard to want to read something deep and meaningful when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing... Ooh, is that an ice cream truck...?

Dani said...

I totally agree. I have the attention span of a 3 year old when i'm trying to read something serious. If I hear icecream truck (or anything to do with food for that matter), i treat it like a shiny new toy.

This may be a harder challenge then I thought now with the nice weather. I'm lucky if I get 5 books under my belt.

The Homefront said...

I am completely oblivious to where authors are from, but I think most of what I read is American with a good measure of Brits thrown in...post your Can-Lit must-read list, Dani! I'd like to broaden my mind. ;)

Anonymous said...

Hey Dan, I have the first book you need to read!!!!

Forget the supposed-clasics (Margaret Attwood bores me!) and instead try something more recent:

"Fifteen Days" by Christie Blatchford

I cried... repeatedly. As in, almost every chapter made me an emotional mess. (It's not exactly a fluffy summer read... sorry 'bout that.)

Here's the summary:

"Long before she made her first trip to Afghanistan as an embedded reporter for The Globe and Mail, Christie Blatchford was already one of Canada’s most respected and eagerly read journalists. Her vivid prose, her unmistakable voice, her ability to connect emotionally with her subjects and readers, her hard-won and hard-nosed skills as a reporter–these had already established her as a household name. But with her many reports from Afghanistan, and in dozens of interviews with the returned members of the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and others back at home, she found the subject she was born to tackle. Her reporting of the conflict and her deeply empathetic observations of the men and women who wear the maple leaf are words for the ages, fit to stand alongside the nation’s best writing on war.

It is a testament to Christie Blatchford’s skills and integrity that along with the admiration of her readers, she won the respect and trust of the soldiers. They share breathtakingly honest accounts of their desire to serve, their willingness to confront fear and danger in the battlefield, their loyalty towards each other and the heartbreak occasioned by the loss of one of their own. Grounded in insights gained over the course of three trips to Afghanistan in 2006, and drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews not only with the servicemen and -women with whom she shared so much, but with their commanders and family members as well, Christie Blatchford creates a detailed, complex and deeply affecting picture of military life in the twenty-first century."

Sam said...

Recently, my book club read The Secret Fruit of Peter Paddington by Brian Francis. I chose it because I heard about it on CBC's Canada Reads 2009 which I listened to on satellite radio. It was the American version. The Canadian version was called Fruit. They changed province to state and Tim Horton's to Dunkin doughnuts. The publishers seemed to think a book set in Canada would seem so foreign and exotic that they had to make changes.

I'm not sure how directly this responds to your post, except that I read a book by a Canadian author. It was really clever and fun, by the way.

Dani said...

That's funny Sam. I have read a few "adaptations" in my time and it baffles me to think that publishers think that we wouldn't "get it". But I guess I can understand that if you want to make it relatable.

I get that same sort of disgust when I see great tv shows "adapted" into American versions. Few ever work.

A good example is Queer as Folk. Sure the American version was fine, but it did not hold a candle to the far superior British version.

Anyways, I digress!