Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Rite True CanLit

I've been acting a Rite True Canuck lately and reading nought but Rite True CanLit. Honestly, I'm just flipping through the catalogue of variously short-listed/awarded books that still fills my head from my days at the Canada Council for the Arts, and quite frankly, I've developed a new respect for the organization's ability to choose good artworks for recognition. I haven't really hit on a bad book yet, and the Governor General's Literary Awards scroll on...

Suffice to say, though, I'm not reading Robert J. Sawyer (he's a bit of a dink, after all, and I've never really liked science, have I?). I'm sticking to the Rite True Literature. Which is strange, because ever since I "got back into reading" (I had a hiatus between, roughly, 2003 and 2008, when I devoted myself to reading German philosophers and Indian mystics), I've only really been reading fantasy, science fiction read: space opera, or some weird juncture of said genres. But reading "mainstream" or "realistic" fiction is a really nice break from genre. I can't quite put my finger on why it's a nice break: even if it's more "realistic" in "physical" terms, it can be a lot less real in mythopoeic terms - and I've always been a guy who can't resist a little mythopoesis. Then I also have to wonder if reading specifically Canadian literature has any effect on me. Since fully half of all Canadian fiction takes place in Montreal, and I lived there for four years, it certainly helps the literary visualization. But are there themes/modes that can actually appeal to me on a subconscious cultural basis? Only once I've branched out and explored American, English, and Australian literatures can I truly say.

Anyway, good books. Thus far, Patrick Lane's Red Dog Red Dog has been my favourite, for its poetics and killer finish. Annabel by Kathleen Winter brought me to the cusp of drudgery: the prose style was far too basic to be interesting, and the switch from narrated child to child narrator that the book affects was impossible to sympathize with. Room by Emma Donoghue and Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden were both great; Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner (translated from the French) was good but ended like a wet bag. I'm reading Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill at the moment, which I'm really enjoying, and I'm sniffing out future catches as well.

I've got some spec fic on the horizon, too: The Silent Land (which got a good review at the OF Blog) and The Dervish House (which I guess I heard about somewhere), as well as The Great God Pan (as referred by Neil Gaiman on The Weird Fiction Review), await me. I don't know how the books have piled up, but there they are, beckoning. It would be easier to move through them if it weren't for Skyrim...

An interesting development, though: I'm in the process of completing my first "realistic" short story that doesn't suck (wherein I seem to be making all the funnies at the expense of the Canadian civil service). And, from my recent readings and writings, I will propose this general judgment: realistic fiction can make far, far better use of the first person narrative. In fact, third person narrative kind of stinks up realistic fiction... and, you know what, first person's pretty good for spec fic, too.


Whatever, let's keep it cult.


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