By Rachel Muenz
A couple of weeks ago, British Giller judge Victoria Glendinning bashed Canadian writing in the Financial Times of London. She said our stuff is too homogenous and that it’s easy to get grants and be published if you’re Canadian, no matter how bad your writing is.
While harsh, Glendinning does have a point about Canadian novels.
Our writing is just fine but Canadian novels don’t tend to be very exciting or really stand out. There are probably only a couple Canadian authors I can name among my favourite novels.
However, Glendinning’s article probably would have been very different if she had read Canadian short stories instead.
One of Glendinning’s main problems with about 100 Canadian novels she read, was that too many of them were set in cottage country or focused on the immigrant experience.
But, very few of the Canadian short stories I’ve read over the past year had anything to do with cottages or immigration. Canadian short fiction is full of variety.
For instance, in Canadian literary magazines I’ve read many different stories, including two marijuana farmers coming across treasure hunters and a twenty-six-year-old woman who starts seeing her imaginary friend again.
At the same time, I don’t buy Glendinning’s opinion that it’s easier to get grants and be published if you’re Canadian. I think there are more “unbelievably dreadful” novels in general, not just Canadian ones.
Most novels, I find, drag on and on for no good reason. It almost seems that authors use as many words as possible just so the story will be long enough for a novel. By the end, you forget what the book is even about.
Short stories are more powerful because they use the fewest number of words possible.
Canadian short stories are especially excellent at getting right to the action and building character and feeling in just a handful of words. The writing is elegant and full of energy, each word strikes like shrapnel. You can’t find stories like these anywhere else.
There are great Canadian novels out there too, despite what Glendinning says, but if you want to read the best in recent Canadian writing, Canadian short stories are your best bet.
– with files from The Financial Times of London, the Globe and Mail and the National Post