Canadian Notes (No Queries)

Canada's Finest Magazine

I’ve been on a CanLit kick lately. Here are the fruits of my recent obsession with Canada’s literary and visual culture:

1. Over at the National Post, I review Camilla Gibb’s new novel The Beauty of Humanity Movement, a novel that uses cooking as a prism for viewing the recent history of Vietnam. The book left me cold, for reasons described in the revew. An excerpt:

Just as a brimming pho bowl can easily overflow, Gibb’s passion for food spills into her prose, which is soaked with cooking similes. About one character, we’re told that the feel of her breast “was like a perfect brioche from a French bakery, the nipple like a hard raisin.” This same girl is described in these terms: “Her lips like a butterfly, her skin dewy like a newly peeled potato.” Another beauty has nipples that are “more [like] grape seeds than the raisins of the [earlier] girl.”

A moment of distress leads to a simile that requires a Heimlich manoeuvre: “He prayed for Dao’s life, but woke each morning in certain distress, dread lodged like an egg in his throat.” Perhaps this novel made me too gastronomically minded but my first thought was: What sort of egg? Hard-boiled? Scrambled? Poached?

2. I was much more impressed with Leon Rooke’s new story collection, The Last Shot, which I reviewed for Canadian Notes and Queries. The review is hard to excerpt but discusses Rooke’s use of pastiche and his stature as one of our greatest short story writers.

3. Speaking of Canadian Notes and Queries, this journal has undergone an impressive redesign under the supervision of the cartoonist Seth. I talk about the new CNQ here.
4. Speaking of Seth, and tying everything together, here is a short essay, really more of a notebook entry, about the late-born Canadian nationalism of Seth and other cartoonists.  This esssay provoked a lively comment section which I’d also recommend reading.

2 thoughts on “Canadian Notes (No Queries)

  1. Really enjoyed the essay on Brown and Seth – I’d never thought of them as “nationalists” (I’m more familiar with Brown’s work, for what it’s worth), but I do think Seth and Brown’s strain of nationalism differs from that of Atwood’s (at least in her novel Surfacing) in one key respect: Brown and Seth use a ball peen hammer while Atwood prefers to use a sledgehammer to drive the point home.

  2. @Mark. Thanks for the kind words. You’re right, of course, that whatever nationalism there is in Brown and Seth is much more muted, ironic, or lightly presented than what is to be found in writings from the 1970s. To some degree that comes from the work being done later and also to Seth and Brown’s natural inclinations as artists.

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