Last night was Giller night. I was startled to realize one year had already passed, and as many of you know last year’s winner (Through Black Spruce) is one of my all time favorites. Tough competition in my eyes. I have not read this year’s winner, The Bishop’s Man, I actually haven’t read any on the short list (shame on me!), but I certainly will. I admit I did not watch the awards last night, but I pvrd it.
I did catch part of a pre-Giller show on Arts & Minds (bravo tv) which had the short list authors as its panel.
A clip caught my attention: Margaret Atwood, recalling her first book launch in the men’s department of the Hudson’s Bay Co. She said, in the 60s in Canada, if my memory serves me, a grand total of 7 novels were pressed by a Canadian Publisher.
Yet, what has been on my mind today is the whole Can Lit phenomena. The Pre-Giller show was discussing this when I tuned to it, questioning one of the authors if she felt her literature was Canadian enough. Well, this startled me. Canadian enough? Had she betrayed her Canadian heritage? She patiently replied no. The hostess then asked if the authors thought about their Canadian identity when writing. Another curve ball to me. Have I ever sat down and thought, ok, I am Canadian, now I write?
I was happy when two authors announced that if a writer were to ever do so, the novel would be horrible.
One of the judges had made a statement that in the long list there were some fabulous novels, yet at the same time there was some horrible Canadian lit. You can read her thoughts here, should you desire. She mentions that most characters are tuque wearing country bumpkins, ok I added in the bumpkins part. I am certain this is true, and I am certain that a lot of Canadian literature is horrible. It makes me giggle that we had to point this out – are Canadians supposes to be above horribleness?
Anyway, all of this to say, that when I write, the fact that I am Canadian has never consciously risen. Aside from the fact that Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal are entirely different cities. Perhaps we should add in this distinction now as well. I do know that my environment plays a part in shaping me, which turns dictates my writing. For some reason the British author, Louis de Bernieres comes to mind. He can take on the voice of any ethnicity accurately, at least he convinces me. Perhaps there is such a thing as Can Lit, and I just don’t see it. Yet, I think I Colin McAdam voiced it perfectly on the panel last night when he said, Can Lit? What’s that?