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The Cod Will Never Return, And We Must Go To Alberta
August 12, 2014 12:58 PM   Subscribe

Every Canadian Novel Ever

A selection of CanLit from The Toast's Nicole Cliffe.

Previously: Every Irish Novel Ever, Every English Novel Ever, Every French Novel Ever, Every Russian Novel Ever. From here.


Bonus: How To Tell If A Canadian Is Mad At You.
posted by TheWhiteSkull (72 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
In Which Blondes From Westmount Fail to Sleep With You

Also known as Leonard Cohen albums.
posted by Kitteh at 1:01 PM on August 12 [14 favorites]


Sorry.
posted by Poldo at 1:05 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


Pretty good, but they forgot It's A Good Thing There Are Some War Scenes Because Holy Shit This Book Is Boring.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:06 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


Actually the unicorn sex scene totally freaked me out.

Missing chapters from my collection:

The whale is a lesbian and coyote has stolen your TV.

The headmistress has gone mad with her shot gun and your roommate's ants have escaped!

The minister has burned down the church in a drunken attempt to escape this frightful village. But is thwarted by a fundraising scheme.
posted by chapps at 1:06 PM on August 12 [4 favorites]


Also known as Leonard Cohen albums.

No, in the Leonard Cohen albums they sleep with you, but then you move to New York and forget them, except for that one item of clothing you left behind at their place. Or was it at that other Westmount blonde's place?
posted by yoink at 1:08 PM on August 12 [4 favorites]


Needs some Alice Munro:

She thought she would end up in Toronto after the divorce but ended up in Fanny Bay after the tourists had left.
posted by Nevin at 1:11 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


That's pretty good. I think I've read examples of several genres and will now make it my mission to read the rest. Can we get some examples to help me out? I'll start:

2. Every Mordecai Richler book, but let's start with The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.
3. Waiting for Time by Bernice Morgan (ok, I'm not sure about Womans' studies, specfically).
8. Probably Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood.
9. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. Clara Callen (some of the same sisters are not what you expect vibe)
10. Could be Galore by Michael Crummey if it were NL instead of ON
12. Pilgrim by Roberston Davies
14. The Shipping News (ok, only sort of Canadian),
19. Sounds like Will Ferguson to me.
23. Ok, not quite a bear or unicorn, but man found dead in a whale i pretty out there: Galore by Michael Crummey
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:13 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


Needs some Alice Munro

We all need Alice Munro...but does she qualify for a list of "novels"?
posted by yoink at 1:14 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


So is there any country where the notable literature is not about dying a.) poor b.) alone c.) unloved d.) all of the above? Or is it just how they choose to frame it?

Oh and is 17 Farley Mowat or is it just me?
posted by Hactar at 1:15 PM on August 12


Oh, for 23, duh, Not Wanted on the Voyage by Timothy Findley...though it was pretty horrifying for both reader and unicorn, so I'm not sure that counts,
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:15 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Oh and is 17 Farley Mowat or is it just me?

I assumed that was 19.
posted by dismas at 1:16 PM on August 12


7. Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen
posted by kitcat at 1:20 PM on August 12


Boring, Well-Intentioned Shite That They Make You Read When You're 14
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:21 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


23. Ok, not quite a bear or unicorn, but man found dead in a whale i pretty out there: Galore by Michael Crummey

The Bear is in reference to Bear by Marian Engel. Recently featured here on Metafilter.
posted by yoink at 1:23 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


Fresh, are you talking about The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence? It's only boring cause you're 14 and only an idiot would expect 14 year olds to have the kind of understanding-of-anything-at-all to be able to relate to an old woman. Margaret Laurence is pretty good if you read her as an adult.

Speaking of Margaret Laurence, I think 21 sounds an awful lot like the Diviners, but I'm not sure about the Outremont, bit, though. The tone and theme sound right, though, regardless of the details.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:26 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


chapps: "The headmistress has gone mad with her shot gun and your roommate's ants have escaped!"

Ah, Bruno and Boots. They still hold up.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:34 PM on August 12 [14 favorites]


Another addendum:

This Is Set Overseas 30 Years Ago Because This Place Has No Stories
posted by gompa at 1:42 PM on August 12 [6 favorites]


And let's not forget:

My Prairie Childhood Was Full Of Abuse and Recipes
posted by gompa at 1:42 PM on August 12 [26 favorites]


10. Magical Realism But It’s Just Gothic Southern Ontario Having, Like, Two Magical Elements

I think this is Fifth Business/The Deptford Trilogy.
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 1:45 PM on August 12 [5 favorites]


"And as it turns out, the wolves / badger / walruses didn't do such a bad job of raising me after all."
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:45 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


The headmistress has gone mad with her shot gun and your roommate's ants have escaped!

Ha! I love me some Gordon Korman. I think this is maybe the first time I've seen him referenced on metafilter? I reread one of his classics every few months. Glorious. His newer books haven't really done it for me, but I went to BookExpo America last year just to shake his hand.
posted by pseudonick at 1:47 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


Aboriginal Torture Methods and European Colonizing Methods.
posted by Kabanos at 1:49 PM on August 12


The film version is what we used to call Weird Sex and Snowshoes movies. Some odd detail for Americans from an American who lived in Canada for a while and came this close, this close, to getting citizenship. Oh Canada, oh, health care... what might have been...

So, in my time at the very, very edges of the Canadian film industry, I learned that Telefilm Canada, which funds provides funding for "Canadian Film," generally oscillates on a several-year cycle between two ideological poles, each inhabited by its own political faction with its own big idea of what "Canadian Film" should look like. Both are distinguished in terms of their answer to what should be done with regards to the huge Hollywood behemoth next door which dominates the film scene. And what gets made depends on which faction is in charge at Telefilm at the time.

Faction 1 - the art house group. They believe that Hollywood is a juggernaut of lowbrow American taste, there's no competing with it, and why should we? We're Canadian. They figure that, if the government is going to fund films, then those films should be free from the need to turn a profit, and should speak to Canadians about the Canadian experience. (Of course it's a longstanding joke that the only thing Canadians really know about who they are as Canadians is that they're not Americans.) The result of this is the aforementioned "Weird Sex and Snowshoes" movies, which are often very reminiscent of the posted article.

Faction 2 - the commercial group. They look at these movies Telefilm is funding and realize that these things tend to vanish without a trace because nobody goes to see them - because seriously, would you rather see a sensitive portrayal of a first nations woman coming to terms with her lesbianism on a farm in Saskatchewan in the 1920s, or The Avengers? They argue that there's no point in spending Canadians' tax dollars making moves that Canadians don't want to see. Maybe if you let us make something people actually want to see, you wouldn't be so embarrassed when nobody shows up. Also, they'd make back some money and we could use that to make more movies. They do indeed make some very nice movies this way, but of course they're still not The Avengers. They end up competing with Hollywood and losing. I got my heart broken by poor Fido back in 2006. It was a really great little movie and was supposed to get a nationwide US release. But being a Canadian film it performed poorly among Canadian audiences, and the US release kept getting scaled back until it basically sank.

So you have two basic strategies: avoid competing with Hollywood and land outside the circle of what audiences want to see. Or try to shoot inside that circle and play David vs. Goliath with Hollywood. And generally lose. It's a shame. I've often mused that the one thing Canadians should do if they want a really vibrant culture that isn't just America lite is surrender to the Quebecois and learn French. The Francophone film industry in Canada is thriving because it's not competing w Hollywood quite so much, and Quebecois audiences to go see French language films, almost as an article of faith.

God damn it I should have just gone back and taken the test... I knew all the answers. (The only officially bilingual province? It's not Quebec. They're strictly Francophone. It's New Brunswick.)
posted by Naberius at 1:50 PM on August 12 [6 favorites]


Also, Hollywood has remade two very popular Quebecois films, Starbuck, and La Grande Seduction with popular actors. (Though Taylor Kitsch is Canadian, so oops there.)
posted by Kitteh at 1:54 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


25. Francophones and Anglophones just don't mix (but damn that poem is beautiful)
26. And now she tries her hand at sci-fi just for fun
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:56 PM on August 12


pseudonick: "Ha! I love me some Gordon Korman. I think this is maybe the first time I've seen him referenced on metafilter? I reread one of his classics every few months. Glorious. His newer books haven't really done it for me, but I went to BookExpo America last year just to shake his hand."

Yeah, my kids love him. Go Jump In the Pool! and I Want To Go Home - that stuff is still funny.

Also, I do an excellent Mr. Sturgeon voice.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:00 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Also, Hollywood has remade two very popular Quebecois films, Starbuck, and La Grande Seduction with popular actors. (Though Taylor Kitsch is Canadian, so oops there.)

And don't forget we have Quebec to thank for reality television... the movie Louis 19 spawned the idea back in 1994... which was then stolen by Hollywood and re-done as Ed TV and The Truman Show.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:08 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


I recently bought all the Bruno & Boots ebooks, which have been very oddly updated. My favourite of his was always No Coins, Please, but I liked his standalones in general.
posted by jeather at 2:13 PM on August 12


And don't forget we have Quebec to thank for reality television... the movie Louis 19 spawned the idea back in 1994

MTV's The Real World started airing in 1992.
posted by yoink at 2:13 PM on August 12


Yeah, my kids love him. Go Jump In the Pool! and I Want To Go Home - that stuff is still funny.

Don't Care High, No Coins Please, Our Man Weston,Who is Bugs Potter. Anything he did in the 80's is wonderful. Perfect kid books that you can appreciate even when you've grown past them.

Honestly he gives PG Wodehouse some competition as my favorite comic writer. Now that I think about it there are some similarities in their general approaches. Wodehouse wrote: “I believe there are two ways of writing novels. One is making a sort of musical comedy without music and ignoring real life altogether; the other is going deep down into life and not caring a damn...” Korman is an excellent example of the first, and more to my taste, type of writing.
posted by pseudonick at 2:30 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


...because seriously, would you rather see a sensitive portrayal of a first nations woman coming to terms with her lesbianism on a farm in Saskatchewan in the 1920s, or The Avengers?

Naberius, was the former a real film? Because that is totally inside the circle of what I want to see. If it exists, what's it called?
posted by snorkmaiden at 2:33 PM on August 12


12. The Hero Has a Thousand Faces But They All Look a LOT Like Robertson Davies

I would have preferred "It has something to do with Jung. And Shakespeare, but mostly Jung."
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:50 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Re: Gordon Korman:

I was recently dismayed to discover that Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume has been updated. I assume they've done the same with the Ramona books and surely some of my other childhood favourites. I was thinking I should buy some vintage copies of these, just to have the original stories and contexts. I don't know why they do this to children's books. Is there a reason kids can't read books set in the 60s/70s/80s/90s? I mean they read stuff set in the 1800s, right?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 3:18 PM on August 12


Canada has a bush? What do they think they are, Australia?
posted by Apocryphon at 3:38 PM on August 12


If you've ever had the misfortune of reading a Canadian novel, I feel for you. Especially because you were probably told how excellent and important it was. Odds are you didn't read one of the very few Canadian novels worth reading, so I feel safe in sympathizing with your plight. A very few indeed; best to not take the chance.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 3:54 PM on August 12


Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume has been updated
wait, what?
posted by Wolfdog at 4:08 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Naberius: I've often mused that the one thing Canadians should do if they want a really vibrant culture that isn't just America lite is surrender to the Quebecois and learn French.

Me too. We listen to Quebec radio & TV quite a bit, and it's generally a lot more creative than the English version of either. On the other hand, Pierre-Karl Peladeau and Quebecor (Sun media) aren't my idea of upstanding Canadian media sources.
posted by sneebler at 4:11 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


In Which Blondes From Westmount Fail to Sleep With You

Also known as Leonard Cohen albums.


More of a Mordecai Richler thing, I think. (See also #2.)
posted by Sys Rq at 4:14 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


I am not sure if this is turning into a CanLit lovefest (Alice Munro accepted her Nobel Prize over the phone at the James Bay Inn just up the street from where I am banging on the keyboard), but WO Mitchell was the best, especially the ribald How I Spent My Summer Holidays. It's worth picking up his spoken word, too.

Another great CanLit book we had to read in Grade 11 or Grade 12 at Mount Doug High was Under the Ribs of Death.
posted by Nevin at 4:33 PM on August 12


Yeah, I doubt Leonard Cohen ever had any problem convincing anyone, blonde or otherwise, to sleep with him. Mordecai Richler, on the other hand...
posted by Nevin at 4:34 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


Whoops, wrong thread.
posted by yoink at 4:42 PM on August 12


Wow, the paintings of Emily Carr referenced at #22 knocked me on my ass. They're pretty amazing. Or in Canada, are her paintings standard dorm art decoration? Please say no.
posted by barchan at 5:15 PM on August 12


Also they forgot: I Drove 300 Miles to Buy Patrick Roy's* Biography and They Only Had It in French.

(That counts as Canadian literature, doesn't it? And no, not still bitter or anything.)

This Is Set Overseas 30 Years Ago Because This Place Has No Stories

There's Michael Ondaatje!


*a famous hockey goalie for you pagans
posted by barchan at 5:31 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't say dorm room. She and the group of seven (she's not technically a member, but closely associated) are pretty standard fare in doctors' and dentists' office waiting rooms, though. The management office for my condo building has some.

I may also hae a group of seven print hanging in my office.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:33 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


Or in Canada, are her paintings standard dorm art decoration?

Well, sort of. She's not remotely obscure or anything; probably the most pedestrian, in terms of Canadian painters Canadians can name. But she (along with the Group of Seven and Tom Thompson) are more likely to be found on an old person's coffee table than on a dorm room wall.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:33 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


i knew all of them, this is what happens when you have an english teacher as a mother.
posted by PinkMoose at 5:46 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, in Manitoba, adding to the general cheer:

“How it irks me to have to take her hand, allow her to pull my dress over my head, undo my corsets and strip them off me, and have her see my blue veined swollen flesh and the hairy triangle that still proclaims with lunatic insistence a non-existent womanhood.”

― Margaret Laurence, The Stone Angel (1964)
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:47 PM on August 12


You know its interesting that Gordon korman, writing when very young, came up with such great girl sidekicks in those books. Some of my favorite female characters growing up because they just lived to create havoc.
posted by chapps at 5:48 PM on August 12


Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume has been updated
wait, what?


I know ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT'S ME MARGARET has been changed to keep up with current menstruation technology. When I read it in the late 70s, it was sanitary pads with belts. Now it's adhesive pads with wings. /derail
posted by headspace at 5:59 PM on August 12


Yeah, to a 12-year-old boy the rig Blume describes was unimaginable. I thought that girls were suited up like stormtroopers with combat webbing or something.
posted by Nevin at 6:02 PM on August 12 [4 favorites]


I read Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret in the 80s, when belted pads were long gone. I asked my mom about them and she showed me one. See, I think it's ok that the technology is out of date. It would be a book about puberty set in the 70s. Again, if we read Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables, why not books set in the 1970s?

On Tales of a Fourth Grade nothing, I was in the bookstore the other day and noticed that the chapter were Peter makes a school project display and Fudge ruins it has been changed so Fudge no longer ruins it. I am absolutely sure this has been changed. I have no idea why, though I imagine they made some other change (Say inserting internet somewhere) that then required that change for it all to make sense?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:17 PM on August 12


I laughed at the title. I am going to Hell for it, eh?
posted by ocschwar at 6:44 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


chapps: "You know its interesting that Gordon korman, writing when very young, came up with such great girl sidekicks in those books. Some of my favorite female characters growing up because they just lived to create havoc."

Yeah, Diane is a bit of a drip, but Cathy runs rings around pretty much anyone she cares to. Mr. Sturgeon knows the score.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:54 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


ocschwar: Nah, you're going to Fort McMurray.
posted by Grimgrin at 7:20 PM on August 12 [5 favorites]


Far worse.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:26 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


Only No. 9 covers anything in the Douglas Coupland oeuvre. And even then, not really.
posted by yellowcandy at 7:43 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


they missed out on

"this place I've been to a lot in Toronto is actually a portal for fairies or to not-Middle-Earth"
posted by jb at 8:48 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


but that would be urban fantasy, not li-ter-ra-ture.

also, there is a hell mouth in Kingston, but it's been dealt with.
posted by jb at 8:49 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


"This place I've been to a lot in Toronto is actually a portal for fairies, also routing architectures for hypothetical packet switching networks need to be explained in great detail."
posted by Dreadnought at 8:54 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


Wait a minute, your not talking about a Pierre Burton children's book are you?


Which reminds me there aren't enough railway references in this list!

(You built the railway or pound in the last spike or join the nation to get/save the railway or rob the train (politely)/or ride the train to your new teaching job in the tiny town far from anyone you know).
posted by chapps at 9:03 PM on August 12


More from Canadian Film Tropes:

3 People set off on a trip to BC; 2 of them are in a relationship at the start, the other is a friend. Depending upon the director/writer, 1 of three outcomes will happen:

1) The Couple dissolves and one member becomes involved with the friend. By the end of the trip they have learned a great deal about themselves and the cuckold is okay with it because their former partner is happy.

2) The friend manages to seduce both members of the couple separately. This leads to some recrimination; but when they get to BC the friend decides to set out on their own, leaving the couple to wonder if they really are a couple or if the friend was the glue that kept them together. They get an apartment and wait.

3) The Friend is killed, or a member of the couple is killed. By the end of the trip only one member is still alive/not in jail and they look out over the ocean and remember the others wistfully.

The Canadian Road movie, only in odd numbers, eh?
posted by NiteMayr at 7:37 AM on August 13


also, there is a hell mouth in Kingston, but it's been dealt with.

Ooh, ooh, where???
posted by Kitteh at 7:45 AM on August 13


3 People set off on a trip to BC

4 people set off on a trip from BC.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:51 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


The film version is what we used to call Weird Sex and Snowshoes movies.

That sounds about right.

My experience of Canadian films has been one of incest, necrophilia and David Cronenberg.
posted by acb at 8:05 AM on August 13 [3 favorites]


14. The Shipping News (ok, only sort of Canadian)

Wait, what? Last time I checked Newfoundland has been part of Canada for 60-some-odd years, and the novel is set after 1949....
posted by Paladin1138 at 8:44 AM on August 13


Boo on updating my childhood books. I also remember Margaret and the belts, if not for that book I wouldn't have known about them at all.

How on earth would one update "The War with Mister Wizzle" without breaking the framework entirely? (edited to add: per Wikipedia, they did it, somehow)

Also: I've reread the majority of my HS english texts multiple times across my later life, but I'm pretty sure I'd still hate The Stone Angel(*). I read "A Bird in the House" a few years back and it made me want to curl up in a ball in the dark.

I didn't actually look at the list yet...I wonder where the timothy findley is?

* see also Tess of the D'Ubervilles, Lord of the Flies.
posted by hearthpig at 9:23 AM on August 13



14. The Shipping News (ok, only sort of Canadian)

Wait, what? Last time I checked Newfoundland has been part of Canada for 60-some-odd years, and the novel is set after 1949..
..

But it's not written by a Canadian. If A Fine Balance is Canadian (not Indian) and the English Patient is Canadian, not Italian, then The Shipping News is American, not Canadian.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:24 AM on August 13 [5 favorites]


FREE NFLD
posted by Chrysostom at 9:43 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


FREE NFLD

Quebec already took us up on that offer.
posted by Lemurrhea at 10:08 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Every Canadian (CBC) TV show: an elderly man, a kid and an animal; one dies and the other two learn from it. (Source long forgotten.)
posted by jeffen at 9:08 AM on August 14


I can't think of even one CBC show that fits that formula.

(Okay, maybe Mr. Dressup.)
posted by Sys Rq at 10:40 AM on August 14


Finnegan's wake?
posted by chapps at 10:35 PM on August 14 [3 favorites]


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