Why Canada Also Reads has restored my faith, or, the one in which yr. humble correspondent shoots himself in the foot

March 5, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

Ever have one of those weeks that just get you down? I mean down, man, like wanting-to-crush-jagged-shards-of-glass-into-your-eyes down? That’s the week that I’ve just endured. It happens to all of us, I realize, but there are times at which I feel in my bones that the Philistines will always prevail, that quality of thought and craft count for nothing, and that there’s no point in carrying on trying to make some small difference in my little corner of the world.

Imagine my elation, then, to dial up The Afterword and read Jacob McArthur Mooney’s defence of his chosen title for Canada Also Reads, Leon Rooke’s story collection, The Last Shot. “What I’d like is for this to be a slightly more imaginative country,” Mooney writes, and if he had seen fit to leave it there, that would have been enough for me. (Honestly, Jake, you had me at “imaginative.”) But it ain’t enough for Mooney:

What I’d like is a reading (and reviewing) culture that values the wildchilds, the impossibility merchants, and the avant-garde as partners in a community of bibliophiles that sees a vibrant and replenishing fringe as necessary to a vibrant and replenishing middle. Our imaginative country is well-represented by artists we export from other literary genres (including speculative fiction, with folks like John Clute and William Gibson, who shares Rooke’s status as an American-born Canadian-by-choice) and in other art forms, from our spacey rock ’n’ roll to our visceral cinematic imaginers at the fringe (David Cronenberg) and centre (James Cameron) of international film. Maybe we already have an imaginative country, and we just need one that’s willing to own that imagination. Luckily for us, this is a cause that can actually be helped in a literary popularity contest. It gives us an opportunity to say what we already know to be true. That this is an imaginative country worth exploring. And that the people who have mapped its limits deserve to be remembered.

Amen, brother, amen. I’m even willing to forgive the reference to James Cameron. And though it may seem foolish to endorse the ideas of someone who is in putative competition with me, Canada Also Reads never seemed to be about which of the eight titles comes out on top. It’s more about remembering people who have mapped the limits of our imagination. Thanks for the reminder, and for restoring a little bit of my faith.


3 Responses to “Why Canada Also Reads has restored my faith, or, the one in which yr. humble correspondent shoots himself in the foot”
  1. Amen. Now, let us drink!

  2. Jake Mooney says:

    Thanks for the good words, Steven. And for the record, I liked your defense, too.

    Looking forward to the group chat on Monday. Enjoy your weekend.


  3. Finn Harvor says:

    Imaginative is as imaginative does; the problem in Canada has never been that we, somehow, are less creative than people in other nations (the Ions of Inspiration do not suddenly drop off at the parallel), but that our institutions — our selectors — have made, and keeping making, certain choices.

    I’m glad Jacob’s mini-manifesto has stirred up discussion; I can’t comment on his choice of Rooke’s collection. But I still have vivid memories of encountering a lot of underground culture at spoken word events, published in zines, etc., while I was in Toronto. It’s too bad so little of this received any institutional attention: in Canada it is a particular irony that though we don’t have a commercial literary culture (this, at least, is the official line), we *do* have complex that exists between the larger houses and larger agencies of media.

    Fade in on a mammoth white building on Front Street, its walls as blankly immense as those of a politically correct battleship. The camera slowly pans across its surface until we see the building’s frontispiece — a large sign that hangs over a doorway and reads, mysteriously, CBBC. Cut to, interior, a meeting room, day. Several well-dressed people sit at a table, all of them wearing plastic name tags as large as e-reader screens……………………………………….

    Ahh, but I’m getting ahead of myself, and I have a Korean translation of THE STONE DIARIES to read.