The Vast Cold Emptiness

I was recently asked to put together a list of books – not so much favourites but ones that stood out for me in a particular style or genre (although, of course, favourites inevitably crept in).  I was surprised by the number of Canadian authors on the list – Alice Munroe, Joseph Boyden, Margaret Atwood (for her doomsday stuff), Rawi Hage, Mary Lawson.  One of the people reading this list reacted by saying, “I love Canadian authors.  Indian and Canadian authors are among my favourites.”  OK, I have been known to say that I like Indian writing too and if pressed I might even come up with some notion of what I mean by that – pages teaming with people (not necessarily all characters, many of them relatives), class consciousness coupled with an irreverence for class, often a surreal bordering on magical quality.  But Canadian writers?  What do they hold in common?  I pressed the lover of Canadian books and thinking of it myself, it slowly became clear – the vastness, the cold, the emptiness, the shear distance of things.  Suddenly books like Through Black Spruce and Cockroach weren’t seeming that different.  So after all this time Northrop Frye is perhaps still right – it really is about isolation.

Leave a Reply