Thursday, March 18, 2010

Championing Some Canadian Gems. . .

I'm still excited that the little, relatively unknown, book, Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner won Canada Reads last week, not least because it was one of my Dewey picks when it was first published. And we're always rooting for the little guy. Now, we know we'll never get asked to be on the Canada Reads panel, but that won't stop us from voicing our opinion on which book we'd love all Canadians to be reading. So I polled the Deweys and here's what we'd defend. Give these little gems a try:

Janet's Pick: Lightning by Fred Stenson
I’m a sucker for a western, and when you give me a western with a hero who loves Whitman I’m pretty much a goner. So I loved Fred Stenson’s gorgeous Lightning, and if you haven’t read it, run right out and get it. Right now. Lightning is the story of cowboys driving a herd of cattle north through Wyoming and Montana and into Alberta, settling in Calgary in the late 1880s. Lightning has a compelling story, characters that will stay with you forever, and poetic sentences that will have you calling your friends saying “listen to this.”

Lahring's Pick: The End of the Alphabet by C.S. Richardson
It engages with the first sentence, it continues to engage, then knows when to quit. It addresses big questions deftly and lightly. There is not a single wasted or jarring word; indeed, there are so many pitch-perfect turns of phrase that you want to stand up and cheer, but don’t because it would interrupt the pleasure of the reading experience. It is affectionate without being sentimental, serious without being ponderous. It is not self-consciously Canadian, which is perhaps its greatest strength. It is a man’s story written for women, which makes it accessible to a wide range of readers.

Maylin's Pick: No Fixed Address by Aritha van Herk
This continues to be one of my favourite Canadian novels of all time, and has only further endeared itself to me since I became a sales rep myself (although I've never remotely had the types of experiences that our heroine has on the road). This road novel gets full marks for originality and sheer, delicious adventurousness as we follow Arachne (what a great name) as she travels around the Prairies selling lingerie out of her back trunk. She's feisty and funny and one of the most unexpected characters in the whole of Canlit.

Saffron's pick: Louis Riel by Chester Brown
I loved this book because it was such a gripping read; the story goes to the heart of our Canadian identity and a conflict that some would say is still with us. The illustrations are phenomenal. Because of it’s graphic nature, it is accessible to a wide range of readers. I think Canada should read it because it was a compelling time in our history and it is just darn unputdownable!

Susan's Pick: The City Man by Howard Akler
This wonderfully evocative noir novel takes readers into Depression-era Toronto’s mysterious criminal underworld. Eli Morenz is a reporter who covers crime and becomes tragically involved with Mona, a beautiful pickpocket.


Anonymous said...

I can't resist, Maylin, although more than one of these is out of print -- perhaps the Divas could lobby for re-issues:

1. Two Strand River, Keith Maillard. His first novel, set in B.C. featuring androgenous characters and a shaman.
2. The Double Hook, Sheila Watson. Okay, hardly unknown, but not read as much as it should be.
3. Various Persons Named Kevin O'Brien, Alden Nowlan. A fictional autobiography from one of the country's better poets.
4. Between Men, Katherine Govier. One of the few novels ever set in Calgary (van Herk's Restless would also qualify if you don't get her other novel on the list).
5. The Englishman's Boy, Guy Vanderhaege. Again, hardly unknown, but well worth a revival of interest.


Maylin said...

Thanks for these suggestions Kevin - good to have some representations from the West. The Alden Nowlan novel sounds particularly intriguing. I do think Vanderhaege will definitely have his day on Canada Reads with one of his novels. I would like to see more "classics" like Double Hook be represented too. Some Ethel Wilson or Adele Wiseman or Gabrielle Roy would also be great.
Hee hee - maybe some day a blogger will get on the panel!