October 12, 2012
Canada Reads 2013: University of Alberta Press
On Tuesday I fielded the crazy idea that Canada Reads 2013 should feature one, if not more, older books. My reasoning being that we in Canada like to pooh-pooh our history without knowing it very well, and as the years crawl by deserving writers who forged the path for the newer ones are being forgotten and neglected. Canada Reads lets us remember them and, perhaps, compare them to the newer generation to see how both have fared, how both came to be, and how the old informed the new. Despite what you might surmise after browsing a bookstores shelves, quite a lot of good Canadian Literature remains in print in excellently curated serieses and editions. Over the next two weeks I will feature a number of presses who keep excellent backlists, and I will put forth some regional suggestions of classic CanLit which are at least 20 years old. Before you cast your vote in this year’s competition, I hope you will stick with me and remind yourself of some older but still worthy contenders.
Looking West? Let me point you at the University of Alberta Press, whose cuRRents series in Canadian Literature contains some excellent choices. Canada Reads has asked us to stick to full-length novels this year, but I hope you’ll have a look at U of A’s full list out of your own interest – they have a special focus on poetry and no small number of short story collections. But here are four novels from two under-read Westerners for your consideration!
Prairies and the North:
Robert Kroetsch, The Studhorse Man
“Hazard Lepage, the last of the studhorse men, sets out to breed his rare blue stallion, Poseidon. A lusty trickster and a wayward knight, Hazard’s outrageous adventures are narrated by Demeter Proudfoot, his secret rival, who writes this story while sitting naked in an empty bathtub. In his quest to save his stallion’s bloodline from extinction, Hazard leaves a trail of anarchy and confusion. Everything he touches erupts into chaos necessitating frequent convalescences in the arms of a few good women–excepting those of Martha, his long-suffering intended. Told with the ribald zeal of a Prairie beer parlor tall tale and the mythic magnitude of a Greek odyssey, The Studhorse Man is Robert Kroetsch’s celebration of unbridled character set against the backdrop of a rough-and-ready Alberta emerging after the war. ”
Sinclair Ross, Sawbones Memorial
“After practicing medicine for forty-five years, Doctor “Sawbones” Hunter is retiring. It’s April 1948, and the long-awaited hospital in Upward, Saskatchewan is about to open. Although the war is over and the town is buoyed by optimism, a change is in the air. Revealed through dialogue and memory, Sawbones Memorial is the story of one man as told by his town.”
Sinclair Ross, Whir of Gold
“Sonny, an aspiring musician, and Mad, a young woman down on her luck, struggle to survive in the mean streets of Montreal.”