Ibis3's Canadian Literature Challenge

Ibis3 delves into classic Canadian literature. Yes there is such a thing! First up: the entire McClelland & Stewart's New Canadian Library.

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Location: Clarington, Ontario, Canada

Saturday, May 10, 2008

This blog has moved

I've exported the whole kit and caboodle over to my own domain at Reader of the Stack. Come on over and visit, eh?

Monday, September 03, 2007

CanLit Challenge Book 23--St. Urbain's Horseman by Mordecai Richler

Book 23, St. Urbain's Horseman (1971) - Mordecai Richler *active*
From the publisher:
St. Urbains Horseman is a complex, moving, and wonderfully comic evocation of a generation consumed with guilt – guilt at not joining every battle, at not healing every wound. Thirty-seven-year-old Jake Hersh is a film director of modest success, a faithful husband, and a man in disgrace. His alter ego is his cousin Joey, a legend in their childhood neighbourhood in Montreal. Nazi-hunter, adventurer, and hero of the Spanish Civil War, Joey is the avenging horseman of Jake’s impotent dreams. When Jake becomes embroiled in a scandalous trial in London, England, he puts his own unadventurous life on trial as well, finding it desperately wanting as he steadfastly longs for the Horseman’s glorious return. Irreverent, deeply felt, as scathing in its critique of social mores as it is uproariously funny, St. Urbains Horseman confirms Mordecai Richler’s reputation as a pre-eminent observer of the hypocrisies and absurdities of modern life."

Other useful links:
the Wikipedia article on Mordecai Richler
Joe Wiseman talks about adpting the novel to television
CBC page on tv adaptation, including video trailer
CBC Archive on Mordecai Richler
Trapped on St. Urbain Street by Barbara Kay in The National Post
Memories of Mordecai Richler by Jack Rabinovitch in The National Post
The Novel is the Thing by Noah Richler in The National Post

My thoughts:

Saturday, August 25, 2007

CanLit Challenge Book 22--The Clockmaker: The Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick of Slickville by Thomas Chandler Haliburton

Book 22, The Clockmaker: The Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick of Slickville (1835-6) - Thomas Chandler Haliburton *active*
From the publisher:
Sam Slick of Slickville, Connecticut, is a Yankee clock-peddler who accompanies a visiting English gentleman on an unforgettable tour of early nineteenth-century Nova Scotia. His shrewd observations and witty commentaries make up the thirty-three sketches of The Clockmaker.

First serialized in 1835 and 1836 and then published together in late 1836 in response to public demand, the sketches of The Clockmaker established Judge Thomas Chandler Haliburton as a satirical humorist of international stature.

The New Canadian Library edition is an unabridged reprint of the complete original text."

Other useful links:
the Wikipedia article on Thomas Chandler Haliburton
the Dictionary of Canadian Biography article on Thomas Chandler Haliburton
the website of the Haliburton House Museum

My thoughts:

Saturday, August 11, 2007

CanLit Challenge Book 21--The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Book 21, The Blind Assassin (2000) - Margaret Atwood *active*
From the back cover:
'Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.'" These words are spoken by Iris Chase Griffen, married at eighteen to a wealthy industrialist but now poor and eighty-two. Iris recalls her far from exemplary life, and the events leading up to her sister's death, gradually revealing the carefully guarded Chase secrets. Among these is 'The Blind Assassin,' a novel that earned the dead Laura Chase not only notoriety but also a devoted cult following. Sexually explicit for its time, it was a pulp fantasy improvised by two unnamed lovers who meet secretly in rented rooms and seedy cafés. As sacrifice and betrayal, so does the real narrative, as both move closer to war and catastrophe. Margaret Atwood's Booker Prize-winning sensation combines elements of gothic drama, romantic suspense, and science fiction fantasy in a spellbinding tale."

Other useful links:
the Wikipedia article on Margaret Atwood
the Wikipedia article on The Blind Assassin
the Wikipedia article on the Southern Ontario Gothic literary genre

My thoughts:

Well, I wasn't disappointed. I love books like this, with several stories going on at once and jumps back and forth in time. I figured out most of the "surprise twists" but it didn't detract at all from the novel. I really got to know and to like Iris (and to detest her sister-in-law!! not to mention her husband...). I enjoyed the pulp erotic sci-fi parts and the biographical-family history parts in which Iris chronicles the rise and decline of the Button Factory and Port Ticonderoga. Fantastic book. I probably would've had more to say if I hadn't waited 3 months to post about it. :(

Now we know by the end (though I suspected much earlier) that Richard had had his way with young Laura. I kept getting the sense throughout that there was also something incestuous going on between Richard and Winifred—she seems awfully attached to him...

I imagine some people will be annoyed by Iris's lack of independence and will to be so controlled like that and not to apprise herself of what was going on with Richard and the factory and Richard and Laura and actively change things, but I think the point is that she was "sold off" at a fairly early age and was taken advantage of by Richard and Winifred.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

CanLit Challenge Book 20--Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock

Book 20, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912) - Stephen Leacock *active*
From the back cover:
Affectionately combining both the idyllic and the ironic, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town is Stephen Leacock's most beloved book. Set in fictional Mariposa, an Ontario town on the shore of Lake Wissanotti, these sketches present a remarkable range of characters: some irritating, some exasperating, some foolhardy, but all endearing. Painted with the skilful brushstrokes of a great comic artist, the delightful inhabitants of Mariposa represent the people of small towns everywhere.

As fresh, funny, and insightful today as when it was first published in 1912, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town is Stephen Leacock at his best -- colourful, imaginative, and throroughly entertaining."

Other useful links:
the Wikipedia article on Stephen Leacock
the Wikipedia article on Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town
the Wikipedia article on the fictional town of Mariposa
the Wikipedia article on Orillia, Ontario, the model for Mariposa
a biographical sketch on Stephen Leacock at the National Library of Canada's website
recent article in The Winnipeg Free Press about the Leacock family

My thoughts:

I was prepared to like this book but not to love it -- my general feeling about the companion book, Arcadian Adventures. However, I found myself liking this one even more. The first chapter/sketch was a little slow and not so humourous but I found it improved immensely from there on in. Of course everyone talks out The Marine Excursion (i.e. the chapter about The Mariposa Belle) and yes, it was laugh out loud funny, but I think my favourite story was about The Reverend Mr. Drone and the Beacon on the Hill. Of course the ever-resourceful Mr Smith to the rescue again! I thought it bogged down a little in the election parts (to have it just a bit shorter would have been fine) but still amusing and appropo to today's politics. I also really enjoyed the final chapter, with its nostalgia and poignancy. I'll definitely read more of Leacock and at least parts of this book will be joining my list of all-time favourite humourous lit.

Monday, February 19, 2007

CanLit Project Book 19--Wacousta by John Richardson

Book 19, Wacousta (1839) - John Richardson *active*
From the back cover:
"Set in the 1760s at the time of Pontiac’s Indian alliance against the British, Wacousta combines elements of revenge tragedy and gothic romance in reconstructing a violent episode in Canadian frontier history. In Major John Richardson’s vivid depiction, Pontiac’s campaign against Fort Detroit is masterminded by the mysterious Wacousta, a Byronic anti-hero whose thirst for vengeance against the fortress commander borders on madness. Turning upon binary oppositions – garrison against wilderness, restraint against passion, mercy against justice – this suspenseful novel creates a world of deception and terror in which motive is ambiguous and the boundary between order and anarchy unclear.

First published in 1832, Wacousta anticipated many of the themes that would assume central importance in the Canadian narrative imagination."

Other useful links:
the Wikipedia article on Chief Pontiac
the Wikipedia article on Pontiac's Rebellion

My thoughts:
This was a really great Gothic adventure story. There was plenty of graphic violence, melodramatic romanticism, and quite a bit of sadomasochism just under the surface. On top of that it was a fun adventure story set in a time when Detroit and Michillimackinac were the far outposts in a string of French turned British fortifications along what later became the border between the U.S. and Canada of which Quebec City was the most established and powerful. Neither the Europeans or the Odawa come off as being either wholly good & civilised or wholly evil & savage. Both groups contain elements of moral duality and so John Richardson, writing even at this very early time in our history, provides us modern readers with a very sophisticated story (but one has to look for it beneath all the 'reeking scalps' and swooning women). There were times when I had to laugh because the writing was so melodramatic, and I felt a kind of glee when reading the almost homo-erotic description of Charles & his relationship with Valletort. Richardson is also a master at suspense. Once you get past the interesting introduction to the geography and history of the setting he draws you in and as soon as your suspense is turned up he changes gears and starts off on a digression or switches to another plotline in almost comic book fashion.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

CanLit Project Book 18--The Fire-Dwellers by Margaret Laurence

Book 18, The Fire-Dwellers (1969) - Margaret Laurence *active*
From the back cover:
"Stacey MacAindra burns – to burst through the shadows of her existence to a richer life, to recover some of the passion she can only dimly remember from her past.

The Fire-Dwellers is an extraordinary novel about a woman who has four children, a hard-working but uncommunicative husband, a spinster sister, and an abiding conviction that life has more to offer her than the tedious routine of her days.

Margaret Laurence has given us another unforgettable heroine – human, compelling, full of poetry, irony and humour. In the telling of her life, Stacey rediscovers for us all the richness of the commonplace, the pain and beauty in being alive, and the secret music that dances in everyone’s soul."

Other useful links:
the Wikipedia article on Margaret Laurence
the Wikipedia article on Neepawa, Ontario (model for Manawaka)

My thoughts:
I remember feeling rather annoyed with Stacey at the beginning—reading about someone else's depression and desperation is not exactly fun. But by the time I got to the Superware party I had changed my attitude. I got to really like the rebellious spirit that Stacey was still holding on to. I ended up reading from the Richalife party straight through to the end.

This book is as topical today as in 1969, despite the advances of feminism. This would make a good book for a book club to read.