Underrated & Overrated in CanLit

K.D. Miller's Brown Dwarf: Read this book!

Over at the National Post, Alex Good and Steven Beattie give their list of overrated and underrated Canadian writers. Among those who are have been too widely praised: Anne Michaels, Douglas Coupland, Michael Ondaatje, and Yann Martel. Those deserving of more attention include Clark Blaise, Caroline Adderson, Russell Smith, Douglas Glover and Lynn Coady.

These are very strong lists. I happen to agree with almost all the judgments, at least with the writers I’m familiar with. I’m especially happy to see the shout-out to Clark Blaise, who is one of my favorite living writers. In an ideal world, Blaise would be as feted and popular as Alice Munro.

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Seth and Scott Symons

A Doug Wright cartoon

I’m always afraid to tell people that my favourite literary magazine is Canadian Notes and Queries. The name is so off-putting. It sounds like a mimeographed sheet devoted to esoteric bibliographic information about Duncan Scott Campbell and Stephen Leacock. And in fact that’s what the magazine was for most of its history. But for the last decade or so,  it’s been the home to the best essays on Canadian culture, and also some excellent short fiction. (John Metcalf was the editor who re-invented CNQ and he’s been helped by Daniel Wells, Alex Good and others).  Perhaps wisely, the editors have tried to rebrand their journal as CNQ, to hide their embarrassing original name.

The new issue of CNQ, number 77, is chock full of the goodies including a new story by Clark Blaise. And some of these essays are already available online. Here are two goodies:

1. Seth on Doug Wright. The best writing on comics tends to come from cartoonists themselves: Art Spiegelman, Scott McCloud, Chris Ware, Eddie Campbell.  There are few other art forms in which the critical discourse is so totally dominated by practitioners. Seth belongs to this elite company of cartoonists/critics. His essays on cartoonists like John Stanley and Chris Reynolds are filled with sharp observations grounded in a rare in-depth knowledge of comics history. The latest issue of CNQ reprints Seth’s speech on Doug Wright, delivered 5 years ago to launch the Doug Wright Awards. It can be found here.

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