Oh, Canada Has Great Literature

Last week, I talked about American traits we might find in fiction. This week, I’m moving to Canada (literarily, not literally).

As a U.S. citizen, I don’t possess enough firsthand knowledge to discuss the psyche of our northern neighbor. I’ve spent 30 or so days in Canada, and have the sense that the people there are friendlier, more modest, and more tolerant than many citizens of the American colossus to their south. But that’s just a snapshot. Canada is also quite a birthplace of musical acts: Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Sarah McLachlan, Oscar Peterson, Alanis Morissette, Gordon Lightfoot, Leonard Cohen, Arcade Fire, Metric, Rush, The Guess Who, etc.

But I digress.

I’ve read several of Canada’s better-known fiction writers, and they will be what this post is about. Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies, Yann Martel, L.M. Montgomery, Alice Munro, Mordecai Richler, and even that part-time “Canadian” Willa Cather, who spent many a summer on New Brunswick’s Grand Manan Island.

Atwood deserves a Nobel Prize, just like Munro merited the one she received last year. A novelist since 1969, Atwood has excelled at traditional fiction, satirical fiction, feminist fiction, historical fiction, dystopian fiction, speculative fiction, and more. She is of course best known for The Handmaid’s Tale, a superb/scary book about the future subjugation of women that shares my “Top Six Atwood Novels” list with The Robber Bride (three women with the same enemy), Alias Grace (inspired by a real-life double murder), The Blind Assassin (novel within a novel within a novel), Cat’s Eye (painter reflects on her younger years), and Oryx and Crake (post-apocalypse). Despite the intense subject matter in many of her works, Atwood’s writing can also be quite funny.

I confess to having read only one Munro short-story collection, Friend of My Youth, but the tales were moving, subtle, and emotionally complex — along with being quite readable. It has been said that Munro never needed to write a novel because her stories are like mini-novels.

As with Munro, I’ve only read one work apiece (all novels) by Martel, Richler, and Davies.

Martel, of course, wrote the renowned Life of Pi, which mixes philosophical ruminations with an adventure story about a boy and tiger (not Calvin and Hobbes!) adrift after a shipwreck. Pi avoids two BC’s: British Columbia and Being Consumed.

Richler’s Solomon Gursky Was Here — considered by some to be “The Great Canadian Novel” — is a multigenerational story of a wealthy, eccentric family. The seriocomic saga includes real-life events and…Yiddish-speaking Eskimos!

Davies’ Murther & Walking Spirits is about a murdered newspaperman who retains a consciousness that allows him to see his widow, the man who murdered him, and the history of his many ancestors — with that history unfolding via a movie-theater film only the dead man can view. Rated PG: Progenitors Galore.

Richler is perhaps best known for The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, and Davies for the three novels comprising “The Deptford Trilogy.”

Then there’s the great L.M. (Lucy Maud) Montgomery, author of the young-adult classic Anne of Green Gables about an imaginative, brilliant orphan girl. (I just reread that very engaging and heartwarming novel last week.) Montgomery also penned many Anne sequels (some better than others), the semi-autobiographical Emily trilogy, and “grown-up” books such as The Blue Castle — the most absorbing and at times funniest story you’ll ever read about a bright young woman with a (supposed) terminal illness. One of my top-ten favorite novels.

Montgomery’s fiction usually has rural settings, befitting the less densely populated nature of much of Canada.

Part-time Grand Manan Islander Willa Cather’s most Canada-centric book is Shadows on the Rock — a gem of an historical novel, starring a father and daughter, set in late-17th-century Quebec City. Canada also figures in Cather’s first novel, Alexander’s Bridge.

Is there something about Canadian literature that makes it different than, say, American literature? (Besides scenes of colder weather. πŸ™‚ ) Is the fiction in The Country of Provinces “friendlier, more modest, and more tolerant” — like Canadians might be themselves? Hard to say. I certainly haven’t noticed an inferiority complex in the works of Canadian authors. Any thoughts on what, if anything, might make a novel “Canadian”?

Two more questions: Who are your favorite Canadian authors? (Obviously, I’ve named only some of the most famous ones.) And what are your favorite novels or other literary works from Canada?

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area β€” unless you’re replying to someone else. Also, please feel free to read through comments and reply to anyone you want; I love not only being in conversations, but also reading conversations in which I’m not involved!)

For three years of my Huffington Post literature blog, click here.

I’m also in the middle of writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in New York City and Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

183 thoughts on “Oh, Canada Has Great Literature

  1. “The Blue Castle β€” the most absorbing and at times funniest story you’ll ever read about a bright young woman with a (supposed) terminal illness. One of my top-ten favorite novels.” That is high praise, indeed! I’m going to add that to my reading list!

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    • Thanks, Mary! If you do read it, I’d love to hear what you think!

      I didn’t know “The Blue Castle” existed until I received it as a gift a number of years ago, and I ended up liking it even more than the wonderful “Anne of Green Gables.” I’ve since reread “The Blue Castle” two or three times; it’s relatively short — 200 or so pages.

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      • I’ll look for it! By the way, I have meant to tell you and Valerie that I finally finished reading “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”. I enjoyed the book tremendously, after I finally got my prescription reading glasses so that I could read it easily without strain. I must admit that I didn’t like the transition to the journal. It took a while for me to get into the journal, but all in all, it was a great novel!

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        • Great that you read and liked “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”! I agree with you — the novel’s structure is a bit awkward, and the book can be uneven. But I agree that it’s excellent. I guess Anne Bronte’s novel has been more than a bit overshadowed by her sisters’ iconic “Jane Eyre” and “Wuthering Heights.”

          Fantastic that you now have good reading glasses!

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  2. Interesting, all those names. How would someone outside North America know they are Canadian? Okay, for some household names like Cohen we hear about it after some years, and a nobel prize laureate will get her country named. But other than that – they come to Europe via US mostly, and he assume automatically they are US americans. Or French, if they have French names.

    I guess it’s just a matter of the original language, even reading a translation, what makes the difference, if any, between writers.

    That does not neccessqrily apply to real life, of course. If someone is writing about a specific country or part of it, it makes a difference if s/he’s a native there or not.

    I agree Dave, I find Canadians very friendly, relaxed, and compared to Europe very polite in an oldfashioned way which I enjoyed. I had to chuckle when one referred to the US as “south of the border”. Reminds me of an old song title referring to Mexico.

    What do all these words say? I have no clue if I ever read a book by a Canadian author!

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    • I hear you, littleprincess. The further away one is geographically, the more borders can sort of blur in one’s mind. And, yes, U.S. companies control so much — including a high percentage of book distribution.

      I agree that Canadians are often great people to meet. I’ve been lucky to visit Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, and a few other places in Canada, and have in-laws and friends in that country. Have you been there, or met Canadians elsewhere, or both?

      And thanks for that wonderful Willie Nelson clip! His voice and that guitar — superb. The U.S. being referred to as “south of the border” does give one a jolt when one usually hears Mexico referred to that way!

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      • “That guitar”– the one he always plays, out of which he has strummed a largish hole, is a Martin classical guitar, the only one I know of in use by a professional musician. The model is considered a a blunder in the history of that fabled company, as few liked them, and few bought them. But one of that few was W. Nelson.

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        • I am very curious about one think..I know hmm..he smokes…but perhaps not tobacco cigarettes… My speculation for woman chain smokers at least..their voice becomes deep and harsh…for certain type of music that suits perfectly.
          But Mr. Nelson`s maintains similar rendition with age and is getting better….
          Just speculating….

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          • Interesting comment, bebe! Willie Nelson’s voice is indeed…smoky. πŸ™‚ And, as you say, it still sounds great after so many years. Maybe the fact that men usually already have lower voices means that smoking is less likely to make those voices sound bad?

            Also, I guess Nelson is lucky to still be relatively healthy.

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            • Then there’s Frank Sinatra– and Pavarotti. Both smoked cigarettes,a lot of them daily, the former a Chesterfield Kings man for years…

              Don’t know if Willie smokes tobacco….

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              • From what I’ve read, I don’t think it’s tobacco. πŸ™‚

                I believe U2’s Bono also smoked for a number of years, as did Art Garfunkel. Not smart of them (or Sinatra and Pavarotti), but an addiction is an addiction…

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                • Garfunkel’s last brush with the law in rural NY had to do with smoking, but not tobacco, but, yep, he did smoke cigarettes, as did John Lennon (Gitanes)– and MacCartney does both.

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                  • I guess non-tobacco smoking has been rampant in the rock world! As for cigarettes, I remember seeing photos of the Beatles with cigarettes, and I’m sure those cancer sticks contributed to George Harrison’s relatively early death.

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                    • Hi Dave…reading the convo up there…I think it is the tobacco smoking makes the voice harsh and rusty ..among other health hazards. The other stuff ..not much.with vocal cords. .

                      I can almost detect a woman in supermarket when they open their mouth to be a long time tobacco smoker. Then again some call it sexy voice πŸ™‚

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                    • I’m sure you’re right, bebe — though I’ve had no personal experience with either substance. πŸ™‚ (My father did smoke a huge amount before he quit; I’m sure not quitting earlier shortened his life.)

                      Yes, one can usually identify long-time smokers by their voices. I prefer those voices happen naturally!

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                    • Non-tobacco and and tobacco too have been fixtures twixt the lips of several idols in rock and music generally. Louis Armstrong, for example smoked non-tobacco daily. Yes, George died way early thanks to his attachment. Elvis, if memory serves, is an exception on both counts, although his consuming interest in high-cholesterol food ballooned on him Hindenbergishly.

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                    • jhNY, as we all know, excess of various kinds is often part of the lifestyle for famous musicians. I’m amazed some of them last into their 70s and older (though of course many — including Elvis — do not). I guess some of them clean up their act in time, or have genetic luck a la Winston Churchill — overweight smoker and drinker who lasted till age 90.

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        • My twin brother and I went to see Willie in concert a couple of years back. He was amazing. I had seen him once before maybe 25 years ago, but my brother had never seen him so we decided to go together. He never missed a lick on the guitar! When he turned his back to the audience to look at his playlist, he looked like a little old man. When he turned back toward the audience, he WAS Willie Nelson! His talent was undiminished by age! On the other hand, we saw Lightfoot in concert a couple of years back. He was still Lightfoot but he and his performance manifested the ravages of age and ill health.

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          • Nice to hear from you, Mary! Sounds like that was a wonderful Willie Nelson concert, and you described the experience so well.

            Sorry that Gordon Lightfoot isn’t faring better. I shudder to think how long it has been I saw Lightfoot in concert — perhaps 1973?

            Speaking of the 1970s, I’ll be rereading “To Kill a Mockingbird” for the first time since that decade starting tomorrow or Monday. My library finally had Harper Lee’s novel in stock!

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  3. Another interesting article Dave…Life of Pi by Canadian author Yann Martel, I saw the movie first last year, enjoyed it thoroughly particularly the journey to the sea by Pi with Richard Parker the Tiger. When I searched for the 2001 published book I was in a long waiting list and finally able to get hold of the book a very fascinating book.

    The author Yann Martel was noted to say the theme of the book..Life of Pi, can be summarized in three statements: β€³Life is a story… You can choose your story… A story with God is the better story.β€³ when the reality could be harsh and unforgiving. .

    I have not read any by the well known writer Margaret Atwood regrettably but to improve my reading lists I borrowed ” Stone Mattress” the latest work a book of nine tales. I can`t wait to read the book.

    Oh ..I love the fact when you incorporate musicians with your article…here is another Canadian…Chris Hadfield http://youtu.be/apemYk2oz7M.

    He has a book came out yesterday..”You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes.

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    • Good morning, bebe, and thanks for the kind words and great comment!

      I’ve yet to see the “Life of Pi” movie, but I’ve heard a lot of it is excellent — as you found it.

      A few weeks ago, I read the title story in Margaret Atwood’s “Stone Mattress” collection. (I think it was on The New Yorker’s Web site.) A REALLY good feminist revenge tale. Atwood’s “Wilderness Tips” short-story collection from a number of years ago is also terrific. She’s one of those authors adept at various genres; she started out as a poet.

      Last but not least, that’s a riveting video from Chris Hadfield. Thanks for the link to it! Astronaut/musical act/author — quite a combination!

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          • One guilty pleasure for you…I know you have a long list….Lee Child`s suspense. The hero is Jack Reacher a hobo, a drifter with no destination, no possessions , travels without a wallet , backpack or drivers license.
            Opps…the repubs in real life will not allow this hobo to vote πŸ™‚

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            • LOL, bebe! (Your last line.) But sad. The Republicans these days would also frown upon Jesus Christ himself because he was concerned about the poor and stuff like that.

              Jack Reacher sounds like a FANTASTIC character. I asked this elsewhere, but do you know the title of the first book he starred it? Might be the best place for me to begin if I ever get to that series. πŸ™‚

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              • You do not need to start from the beginning Dave….read ” 61 HOURS “…recently…you could read that one or anyone you could find . I have not read any of his previous ones..just stumbled into his book last year.
                Perhaps he started with ” Killing Floor “..but I have not read any of the previous ones.

                Lee Child`s books have a wide range of followers for Jack Richer the action hero.
                BTW..I wish I could say Mr. Child is Canadian but he is a Brit.

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                  • The first one is called Killing Floor. I’ve read it. It makes a good start to the series of which I’ve read 4 of 12. And in the re-released paperback, Mr. Child lets you in on how he created his character and why. Good stuff.

                    Child is a Brit, formerly a BBC producer, and after reading a pile of John D. McDonald novels, thought he might give the genre a try. And now he owns it. His American diction and syntax is nearly always perfect, too.

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                  • If you can’t find Killing Floor, I’d recommend The Affair, if only because it takes place chronologically before the rest of the series. Truth is, I doubt Child has written a bad one– he is very much in control of his craft and achieves what he intends regularly. Good prose writer.

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                    • Eric, I haven’t seen the movie with Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, but few films measure up to the novels they’re based on.

                      But, as we may have discussed before, I do have a soft spot for the “Harry Potter” movies!

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                    • Hi Dave…I am budding in here to your answer to Eric. He is right..I saw the movie it was okay only because the movie had some good character actors. I see a lot of Child`s fan at the library , so far every single one complained about choosing Tom Cruse as Reacher…but he bought the movie rights and I understand another one is in production.
                      This is from the author`s mouth on CBS morning a month ago. Reacher is 6ft 7 inches…so ….

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                    • That happens so often when books come to the big screen. For many reasons, personal, technical, etc., it is hard to get the right atmosphere of a book on screen. Even in the Bourne sagas, the character developed out of the Vietnam War, but a modern audience may not want all of the backdrop to the authentic narrative character so things have to change. Even the influence oif money just can’t bring a great book to life, most of the time. I was actually at Oxford University during the filming of Book 3 I believe,, as a guest of the British Council touring UK universities. The crew were all reading the book trying to get many things right, on top of the yellow and blue scripts each actor had..

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                    • What an experience…it takes a lot to make a movie successful? Tom Cruise likes to,be an action hero then again his off camera active role previously makes some tired of his movie role.

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                    • You are right about that., bebe. Patrick Stewart has also had a “bipolar? ” kind of life. He would love to be remembered for years performing Shakespeare, but his other activities, including recent comedic roles and for his devoted Star Trek roles, are becoming more well known.

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                    • That is highly interesting on Patrick Stewart..a brilliant Shakespearean actor. But his Star Trek roles allowed him to follow his passion.
                      Something else goes for him which is his ageless look, he inherited some prominent facial bone structure when others had taken different methods for that.

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                    • “But his Star Trek roles allowed him to follow his passion.”
                      After watching him perform in “Hamlet”, maybe it was his Shakespearean performances that allowed him to follow his passions. I wonder….

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                    • Ha..very well that could be who knows..but Star trek made him popular in the main streams…to bringing him royalties ( I see the library full of those DVD`s) so he does not need to accept any job that comes in his way.

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                    • You’re always welcome to chime in, bebe, and I’m glad you did!

                      Oh boy, quite a height differential, among other things. Even though Tom Cruise bought the movie rights, it would have been nice if he cast someone else in the role.

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                    • Eric, personal and technical reasons do indeed play a big role in making many film versions of novels disappointing. Also time factors (which may fall under the umbrella of “technical”); even a two-hour movie just can’t fit in all the important parts of most novels.

                      Loved your anecdote about the crew members reading the book on the movie set!

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                    • Yes, bebe, Tom Cruise certainly didn’t endear himself there for a while when he was off-camera!

                      As for action roles, one of these days he’ll be too old for that. But Hollywood has a way of allowing aging males to stay in younger-person roles more than it allows actresses to do so. 😦

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                    • Not your fault at all, bebe! These long threads tend to get jumbled, and I don’t know how to avoid that in my blog (if it’s even possible to avoid that). But I’m glad everyone is still posting — we do seem to find the comments. πŸ™‚

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                    • Dave..g`morning..last night I was on my iPad trying to answer through notifications. Answered to Eric and it was caught in a spinning wheel and as I see it never made it.
                      Looks to me you are about to borrow a Jack Reacher`s book. Yes he is violent when necessary but Lee Child`s well controlled smart writings the scene does not get dramatized. The author knows well when to move on to the next.

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                    • Okay my comments showed except the last nights..reading JhNY…on Cruise , yes..he had the power to make those movies possible. Actually I was not so hung up on his height and being a non-fan..He did well in the movie and the movie was hit in terms of DVD`s .

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                    • Good morning to you, too, bebe! Sorry about that comment not making it. Those spinning wheels are never good to see. 😦

                      From what you say, it does sound like Lee Child knows how to do but not overdo the violence in his writing. Given that there’s unfortunately so much violence in real life, we have to expect it in many novels.

                      You mentioned Patrick Stewart elsewhere. He is indeed a fabulous actor, in whatever role he plays (Shakespeare, “Star Trek,” etc.). I’ve also heard he’s a very nice person. And you’re absolutely right about his almost ageless look. Not many men look THAT good in their 70s. πŸ™‚

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                    • I have heard he is outspoken as well..when comes to unnecessary questions. long ago one reported commented on his shaved head look. Oh boy….Mr. Strewart pointed out some unattractive feature on this reporter.

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                    • “Answered twice…where did they go…” — bebe, this particular thread is indeed getting convoluted!

                      I just got back from being away for a few hours. I will find yours and others’ comments!

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                    • bebe, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” did indeed bring Patrick Stewart more wealth and wider renown, and led to all kinds of great parts (serious and otherwise) after that series ended. And his role in that series as Capt. Picard was a great part, too. He’s my favorite captain in all the “Trek” series, though I also loved William Shatner, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew…

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                    • bebe, Patrick Stewart being outspoken is great, because when he is outspoken it’s usually for a very good reason.

                      Funny him pointing out an unattractive feature on a reporter! Actually, the shaved head looks terrific on Stewart.

                      Loved the YouTube clip you posted of Stewart discussing his baldness!

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                    • Eric, I have not seen Patrick Stewart’s complete “Christmas Carol” performance, but I’m pretty sure I watched clips of it at some point.

                      I’ve seen Alastair Sim’s classic Scrooge rendition in the ’50s film; he was great! Have you seen that movie?

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                    • Eric, did many of your students like the film?

                      More than 30 years ago I attended some press event in which they showed an animated version of “The Christmas Carol” with…Mickey Mouse! Took me most of those three decades to recover. πŸ™‚

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                  • Thinking over your preferences in fiction, I feel I ought to warn you: Jack Reacher is a very violent man at times, and is quite destructively able. All the more reason, should you choose to read Child, to start at the start: Killing Floor, the re-issue which features an introductory essay by Child, so as to acquaint yourself with Child’s conception of the Reacher character; why he chose some attributes and eschewed others. Child is a very calculating writer, who decided to do something he thought he’d be good at. He is decidedly correct as to his abilities, but in practice sometimes that means much, much violence.

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                    • Thanks for the warning, jhNY! πŸ™‚ I do occasionally read violent fiction, and don’t mind that if the novels are really good. An example would be the work of Cormac McCarthy. Some of it is VERY bloody, but the violence fits the stories rather than being gratuitous — and the writing is sublime.

                      Anyway, I will still try a Jack Reacher book!

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                  • The thread’s maxed, so:

                    Tom Cruise as Reacher was a good idea because: he could raise the money and get the picture made because he has much star power– though not nearly so much as he once had. And he can do action roles pretty well– the last Mission Impossible I saw, featuring much scaling of a skyscraper from the outside at a zillion feet above ground, was high-speed entertainment.

                    Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher was a very bad idea for at least one reason: Reacher is 6′ 4″ or thereabouts– and that order of physical presence cannot be approximated, however skillful the actor, by a man who isn’t even 6′– unless the supporting cast is child-sized. And Reacher’s size is very much a factor in how he goes about things and how he interacts.

                    Lest anybody get the wrong impression, I have nothing against smaller men, insofar as I am very much such a one at 5’8″.

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                    • Great points, jhNY. I’m not a huge Tom Cruise fan, but he does have clout and star power, albeit somewhat diminished from a decade or three ago, as you note.

                      And he does have some physicality. I still remember him playing a crippled protagonist in “Born on the Fourth of July,” and that ironically took a lot of strength to pull off.

                      I hear you about the height problem relating to the Jack Reacher casting. Perhaps Cruise could next play a basketball center… πŸ™‚

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    • That’s funny, bebe, I like this video, the guy has a sense of humour (and trageday, let’s tragicomical). And even a voice (not quite as Bowie…) The title of his book sounds promising, too.

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      • I have not read the Novel…. ” Beautiful Losers” is a novel by Canadian writer and musician Leonard Cohen. Published in 1966, it was Cohen’s second and final novel, and precedes his brilliant career as a singer-songwriter.
        Incidentally our dear Cara Barker is an ardent fan of Cohen`s music. http://youtu.be/YrLk4vdY28Q

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        • That’s a terrific Leonard Cohen song you linked to, bebe! Thanks! Cohen’s voice, while not conventionally appealing, does have a lot of character and “works” with his music.

          I have not read “Beautiful Losers,” either. Given how great a lyricist Cohen is, I’m sure it’s a VERY well-written novel.

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  4. I usually think Saul Bellow when i think of Canada, but he had mostly written about American qualities using American plot lines.

    Robertson Davies, who wrote the Deptford Trilogy comes to mind when I think of Canadian literature. the books center around the act of a simple snowball throw and the interweaving effects of that simple snowball. I hate to spoil it for you , so I won’t tell what happens with the snowball.

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    • Thanks, Eric! I had forgotten that Saul Bellow was Canadian-born; as you say, he and his work are more American than Canadian. I haven’t read much of him — just “Seize the Day,” which I realize is not one of his better-known novels.

      I would like to read The Deptford Trilogy one day, and you certainly make it sound intriguing with the mention of that snowball motif!

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      • Yay! Another Canadian author I have read! Though like you, my experience of Bellow, as a reader, extends only to “Seize the Day”.

        BUT last year around this time of year, one one of my neighborhood’s street vendor’s tables, I happened on a copy of “Mr. Sammler’s Planet”, dust jacket intact, first edition– and signed! So I also have some experience of the author as a collector. And hopefully, one day soon, I’ll read what I bought….

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        • jhNY, you often find the greatest stuff!

          One of these days I’ll also hopefully read another Saul Bellow novel or two. I thought “Seize the Day” was good not great, but I shouldn’t judge an author by just one book not considered to be among his or hers best works.

          A similar-title aside: I’ve also read Dean Koontz’s sci-fi-ish suspense thriller “Seize the Night,” which I liked better than Bellow’s book even though Koontz’s novel is popular fiction rather than literary fiction.(Actually, I like to mix mass-audience fiction with more “serious” literature.)

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            • We all have our mass-market “fix” (or “fixes”)! Mine are all over the map: “Harry Potter,” Tolkien, Stephen King, and an occasional author like Koontz, Jodi Picoult, Fay Weldon, David Balducci, and James Clavell, among others. Detective and mystery fiction once in a while, too (such as recently reading Dorothy L. Sayers on the recommendation of Kat Lib and littleprincess).

              “bebe” has also recommended the Jack Reacher series, which I’d like to try one day if I can fit it in!

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        • jhNY,

          An in-store Barnes & Noble survey, from years back, revealed that its own customers, when they were in business, 72% of them, never read past the first chapter of their most recently purchased book. I hope you make it. haha

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          • If you are referring to my chances of making it past the first chapter of “Mr. Sammler’s Planet”, you may be right, may not be. I wouldn’t have bought it less the autograph– but I am surrounded, literally, by book purchases here in my tiny apartment in NYC. I read daily, but I remain very much outnumbered, if not overwhelmed by what i intend to read, and I tend to keep whatever books I value after reading, for sorta handy reference.

            I have been stocking up on Balzac I haven’t read over the last few months. In all likelihood, i will have read all those before Mr. Bellow gets a turn. And that’s if nothing more attractive comes along….

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          • “…the most innocuous of events can have unbelievable effects on us later in life” — that’s so true, Eric, for better or for worse.

            Some novels with time-travel elements have extrapolated on that idea by showing how, say, stepping on something minor in the past can change the future in a major way.

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  5. If it wasn’t for reading several of the “Anne of Green Gables” books while I was younger I wouldn’t make it on this list. I must look into several of these for my reading list.

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    • Thanks for commenting, GL! You’ve certainly read a ton of other authors from various other countries!

      None of the “Anne of Green Gables” sequels (I think there were at least seven) were as good as the original novel, but a couple came close. I think “AoGG” may be my favorite YA book ever. Anne Shirley is a wonderful character who unfortunately got less quirky as the series went on.

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  6. Environment! (In answer to your question, β€œWhat makes a novel β€˜Canadian’”?) My parents left Chicago for California when I was one year old. I’ve been told I have a midwestern accent. How could that be unless I was influenced by my parents’ midwestern intonation (environment)? Another superb column which gives me more to like about Canada than the fact that they speak French in Quebec!

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    • Cathy, “environment” is a terrific answer to my question. Thank you!

      My parents also left “the big city” (New York) when I was one (11 months to be exact), but had a much shorter trip west (about 15 miles). πŸ™‚

      As for Canada, I had a brother-in-law there during my first marriage and have a sister-in-law there during my second (current) marriage.

      One of the appeals of Canada is indeed the bilingual nature of part of it.

      Thanks for the very nice comment!

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    • Another possibility– that the California accent sounds more like a mid-Western accent than any other sort, because so many Californians or their parents went Wester from the mid-West after the mid-century mark of the last one..

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  7. Here’s a bit of Canadian music trivia: before Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young was in a r+b band with Rick James (yep, that Rick James– Superfreak) called The Mynah Birds, in Canada.

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  8. Have read Cather, but not the books you cite; have read Atwood, but The Blind Assassin only– and I preferred the sci-fi novel in the novel over the main story by a lot. Haven’t picked up another of her titles yet because I assumed that the sci-fi story was not characteristic of her work in general, but the main story was. Now it looks like I owe myself at least a stab at The Handmaid’s Tale– thanks for piquing my interest!

    Funny, though I hadn’t thought much about it, that there are so many justly famous Canadian musicians, but over a longer period of consideration, comparatively few monsters of literature. My guess– it’s easier to play and dance off the cold than it is to write while wearing mittens.

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    • jhNY, as much as I admire “The Blind Assassin,” I would put it in the bottom half of my six favorite Atwood novels. Often too contrived and gimmicky; the part I found most compelling was the chronicle of the life of the surviving sister (her bad/forced marriage, her big secret, etc.). My two favorite Atwood novels are “The Robber Bride” (not sci-fi) and “Alias Grace” (historical fiction). “Oryx and Crake” is great sci-fi (Atwood calls it speculative fiction). “The Handmaid’s Tale” is excellent, but somehow didn’t bowl me over as much as I expected.

      I’ve read all but one Willa Cather novel, and my favorite might be “My Antonia,” though some sections of that novel are better than others. I read it with the understanding that the male protagonist Jim Burden is a stand-in for Cather, and that Jim/Willa’s platonic love for Antonia was, to some extent, a lesbian longing. “Death Comes for the Archbishop” is exquisitely written, but I can’t totally warm up to religious characters unless they’re “liberation theology” sorts.

      Which Cather novels do you like best?

      Humorous last paragraph! There does seem to be a LOT of great Canadian singer-songwriters, musicians, and bands.

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      • My Antonia I read, and liked, but I think I liked A Lost Lady more, and My Mortal Enemy. Also read The Professor’s House.

        Truth is, I have nothing against Cather, and always intend to read more of her, and re-read what are now mostly forgotten books I have already read. She never managed to affect me very much, though I’m sure that has more to do with my susceptibility to her charms than it does with Cather. But I also suspect that she is more often praised than read, and more often read than beloved nowadays.

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        • I also liked the three Willa Cather books you mentioned — and “The Song of the Lark” and “One of Ours” were quite interesting as well.

          Have to agree with you about Cather. She’s a very good author, but not a great one. Among American-born novelists, there are many I prefer over her: Hawthorne, Melville, Twain, Henry James, Steinbeck, and Sinclair Lewis, to name a few.

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      • Having nothing to compare it to, as I’ve read only the Blind Assassin, I can only say that I liked the sc-fi story itself, as itself, not its significance in service of the main tale. So I’ll be on the lookout for Oryx and Crake…

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        • I think you might like “Oryx and Crake” — it has sci-fi, humor, interesting boyhood bonding, scary moments, and environmentalism, among other things. Not too long, either, for tentatively dipping a toe into Atwood’s work again.

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  9. Well, if not for Margaret Atwood, I would be wholly ignorant of Canadian literature, although I recently became acquainted with Yann Martel (wanted to know how “Life of Pi,” the book, compared to the film). You mentioned Alice Munro and a few years back I had assigned a short story of hers from an anthology called “An Ounce of Cure,” which I remember liking.

    The other oddity, and it’s not a conscious thing, I don’t read a lot of female novelists. The notable exception has been Atwood. The Handmaid’s Tale was probably the first and I continued on. I’ve found the recent post-apocalyptic tales like the “Maddaddam” trilogy slow and ponderous, well the first two, to the point that I begged off on the third. Maybe it was just me.

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    • Thanks for your comment, Joe! We all have areas (geographic and otherwise) of literature we haven’t read a lot of. There’s only so much time. For me it was Asian and Latin American fiction, which I’ve tried to rectify in recent years by reading novels by Murasaki Shikibu, Haruki Murakami, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Jorge Luis Borges, etc. But I still have a long way to go. And I haven’t read as much sci-fi, detective fiction, mysteries, fantasy, etc., as I would like. Again, the time factor!

      As for Atwood’s three post-apocalyptic novels of the past decade or so, I liked “Oryx and Crake” a lot (found it to be exciting and clever), but liked “The Year of the Flood” significantly less enough to not be that interested in reading the last of that trilogy.

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  10. Great topic Dave, I’ve thought for years our neighbors to the North were hugely underappreciated not only as a perfect friend and ally but for their many contributions in all the arts. To the excellent list of music you posted I’d add Robbie Robertson and the original incarnation of The Band which was based in Toronto and Diane Krall possibly the greatest jazz pianist/singer of our generation and also the wife of Elvis Costello. In fiction agree that Atwood deserves a Nobel and while I don’t know enough about Canada to judge if Richler’s masterpiece is THE great Canadian novel I would suggest we have no counterpart in American fiction that so well harness the nations myth’s, history and ethos while also telling a mesmerizing story with characters that live on there own rather than being symbols. I recently read Davis’s Deptford Trilogy with much pleasure , the first part in particular, and perhaps will return with some observations on it. Anyway happy Columbus Day to you friend even if ,as I firmly believe, old Chris was a fraudulent , ignorant , sadistic butcher who in no way should still be being honored.

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    • Donny, I appreciate you adding a couple more musical acts with Canadian roots! I guess The Band was among the groups with multi-country membership!

      Although I also haven’t read enough Canadian fiction to really judge, I can’t think of another novel from that country with quite the sweep of “Solomon Gursky Was Here.” (Which I think you may have recommended to me a couple of years ago!) Maybe Atwood’s “The Blind Assassin” comes closest, and it did deservedly win the Booker Prize.

      A happy holiday to you, too, Donny, and I agree that Christopher Columbus is hardly to be admired — for all the reasons you mention. I’m very glad he’s no longer considered as much of a “hero” as he used to be. (By the way, when I was in Seville many a year ago, I saw the cathedral-based tomb in which Columbus’ remains allegedly sit. I was profoundly…not moved.)

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      • As I recall Dave a few of us recommended Richler to you back in the Huffy-Po days. He is on the top of my list of authors I push to friends who read because A) He is not only an excellent writer but thoroughly enjoyable and B) Because of the fact that he was politically a conservative even going so far as to pen pieces for Bill Buckley’s National Review it seems to me he gets ignored by the big opinion makers in the media literature world. I absolutely despise that kind of PC thinking.

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        • Donny, you may be right that others also recommended “Solomon Gursky Was Here.” Be that as it may, it was a great recommendation! I still chuckle sometimes about those Yiddish-speaking Eskimos…

          Whatever Richler’s politics were, I don’t remember “Gursky” having a particularly conservative (or liberal) tilt. With the exception of extremists such as Ayn Rand, I’ve never minded reading novels by conservatives — whether it be Edith Wharton, Sir Walter Scott, Booth Tarkington, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Robert Heinlein, etc.

          “Huffy-Po days” — I like the way you phrased that!

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          • Exactly Dave, partisan politics played no role in his art. Excellent short list of writers some of us may find politically suspect yet well worth reading, I’d add Dostoyevsky who was a downright reactionary on many of the key issues of his day.

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            • Thanks, Donny!

              Dostoyevsky was definitely complicated. During one part of his life, he was nearly executed by firing squad for (alleged) anti-czarist views one would consider liberal. But, as you say, he was reactionary in certain other ways. Doesn’t change the fact that “Crime and Punishment” and “The Brothers Karamazov” are as good as it gets.

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                  • The account I read of Dostoevsky’s brush with firing squad had him in a line of prisoners, the first three of whom were actually tied to posts to be shot, the next three to be shot included the author. Fortunately, the death by firing squad sentence was amended to years of harsh imprisonment. Unfortunately, one of the first three, a military officer, went mad after he was cut free– free, that is, to go to prison.

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                    • That sounds like what I’ve read, jhNY, but I didn’t know all the details. Thanks!

                      Talk about a close call — for Dostoyevsky, and for literature lovers everywhere.

                      I’ve read that although Dostoyevsky of course survived, the shock of the near-execution and the harsh time in prison did a number on his mental and physical health.

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  11. Dave, my first thought was of a book I read as a pre-teen, “Mrs. Mike,” by Benedict and Nancy Freedman, about a young American woman who marries a Sgt.in the Canadian Mountain Police. As I recall, most of my friends swooned at the notion of being married to Mr. Mike and would have been ready to change our nationality in a moment. πŸ™‚

    The only other Canadian author that I can think of that has captured my attention is Louise Penny, the author of an ongoing detective series starring the Quebec head (or former) head of the Surete, while mostly being part of a very small community called “Three Pines.” The characters in these novels are first-rate, and the writing just keeps on getting better and better, at least in my opinion.

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    • Kat Lib, I loved your droll paragraph about “Mrs. Mike”! Sounds like a book “of its time” (published in 1947, according to an online search I just did). It can be fascinating thinking about books like that — which can be wonderful, yet very old-fashioned in such things as the depiction of women.

      I remember you mentioning Louise Penny, who does sound like an excellent author. I would like to give her work a try one day. As you know, I don’t read a lot of detective or mystery books, but I did greatly enjoy the Dorothy L. Sayers novel you recommended (“Strong Poison”).

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      • When my sister first introduced me to Louise Penny, she made the comment that the main character was one man she would even think about leaving her husband for! Not quite true, but among those living in Three Pines are a well-known painter, a black former psychologist who has a small bookstore, a gay couple who own the town’s B&B and cafΓ©, and a foul-mouthed poet who keeps a duck for her pet. It does make for some interesting reading. My one caveat is that if you start at the beginning of her novels, you might miss out on the complexities of her more recent books.

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        • Three Pines sounds like quite a community, Kat Lib, and that main character must be VERY appealing!

          I hear you about the question of reading a series chronologically vs. quickly getting to the more recent, more accomplished books. I guess I prefer chronological, though I sometimes read just one or two books in a series before moving on to other authors. That’s what I did earlier this year with Rita Mae Brown’s mysteries; I liked them very much, but, after reading two of them, I felt I had to get back to trying other literary works.

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    • I was also glad that you gave a shout-out to Canadian musicians. I’ve got CDs from Gordon Lightfoot, Sarah McLachlan, and the incomparable Joni Mitchell. I love Leonard Cohen’s works, but I’d much rather have someone sing his songs!

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      • Yes, Kat Lib, some GREAT musicians from that country. I also have several CDs from Sarah McLachlan, along with some CDs and LPs from the indeed incomparable Joni Mitchell. I own nothing by Gordon Lightfoot for some reason, but I do like his music and once saw him in concert way back when. And I agree that Leonard Cohen’s voice lends itself to…other people singing his songs. πŸ™‚ Judy Collins’ version of his “Suzanne” is just one example.

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            • Yes, it is, but I remembered after Donny’s comment above (or below) that the last song on her album is “Song of Bernadette,” which was recorded live. Judy makes it clear that that song was co-written by Cohen and Jennifer Warnes, and indeed is a lovely song. Warnes is of course most known for several award winning songs, most notably “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” her duet with Bill Medley for that song in the movie “Dirty Dancing.” My absolute favorite of a cover of Cohen’s was Jeff Buckley’s rendition of “Hallelujah” though I’m not sure I spelled that correctly. At any rate, I’m sorry for talking so much about music, but that has to do with my lack of knowledge of Canadian writers. I still do have on my bookshelves a book that one of friends gave me back in 1969 — “The Collected Poetry of Leonard Cohen: 1956-1968,” which may not be the Norton edition that Donny references, but still goes to the point that this man knew how to write poetry as well as song lyrics. I think I just read that he just released a new album at the age of 80. Yikes, do I now feel positively ancient!

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              • Talking about music is fun and interesting, Kat Lib!

                I also heard about that new Leonard Cohen album. So many renowned musicians are now in their 70s (Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, etc.) that 80 doesn’t seem so surprising any more. B.B. King is in his late 80s and still going, though I think I read that he has had some recent health problems.

                “Hallelujah” is indeed a great song, and I imagine it has been covered numerous times.

                I think of Bill Medley more as part of the Righteous Brothers, but “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” was certainly a major hit.

                I’m trying to think of other singer-songwriters who have also been published authors. Jewel is one who comes to mind, with her poetry collection (or two). And of course many rockers have written memoirs — Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, Neil Young, Patti Smith, etc.

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                • I guess that what we have to take from all this is that the guy on “Huffy-Po” as one of your reader hilariously called it, one doesn’t become non-functional at an age as arbitrary as 75 years old. My best friend drove a school bus until he was 83 and is still the smartest person I know.

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                  • Very true, Kat Lib. Especially nowadays, with many people eating better, exercising more, and so on. Sounds like you have a great best friend! I also know several people in their 80s and even 90s still doing pretty well.

                    “Huffy-Po” — VERY hilarious! “Huffy” is certainly one of the adjectives that can describe a site that’s as reader-friendly as…um…a broken Kindle? πŸ™‚

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                • Jim Morrison published his poetry– which is better than you might think, John Lennon published A Spaniard in the Works, Charlie Watts published a little poem with his own illustrations on Charlie Parker.

                  Hank Williams published a soft-cover booklet on how to write country songs– I had a chance to buy an autographed copy, 20 years ago for $500, rare indeed, because there are so few, as Hank drank with the same hand he wrote with.

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                  • Thanks, jhNY, for those GREAT additions to the musicians-as-authors canon.

                    Not surprised that Jim Morrison’s poems were great; I was often impressed with his lyrics in Doors songs. I love that Charlie Watts did that illustrated poem (which I’ve never seen).

                    That Hank Williams item — what a collectible!

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                    • Perhaps the most successful writer, memoirs aside, of the singer-songwriter pack, at least in the last few decades, might be Kinky Friedman. Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys recorded such deathless classics as “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven (and Your Buns in Bed)” in the 1970’s. He went on to become a quite successful author of detective fiction– can’t say if it’s good, as I have never read it…

                      I think Morrison is maybe the best of all the rock lyricists, but as regards his poetry I still stand by ‘better than you might think’ and stand a little away from ‘great’.

                      Yep that Ol’ Hank booklet would have been wonderful to have, but the price and my wife forbade acquisition.

                      The Charlie Watts book is charming– sad, but only a little, that I gave mine to a drummer who collects everything by everybody who ever beat one. It will be safer in his care and in his collection than it might have been had I kept it.

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                    • Kinky Friedman! I had forgotten about him. He truly had/has two “professions”; the books of many other published musicians were related or sort of related to their musical life. Didn’t Friedman run for guv of Texas, too?

                      Jim Morrison is definitely way up there as a rock lyricist. Other lyricists I like a lot in rock/popular music include (among others) Bono (U2), Pete Townshend (The Who), Don Henley (in and out of The Eagles), Natalie Merchant (in and out of 10,000 Maniacs), Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, and of course a man you’ve had some contact with: Paul Simon.

                      Yes, $500 is a bit steep — and that was in 1990s dollars!

                      Very nice of you to give that Charlie Watts book to a drummer. As an aside, I think my favorite drum solo ever is the one by Santana’s Michael Shrieve 45 years ago at Woodstock during “Soul Sacrifice.”

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                    • thread’s maxed, so– you are correct: Friedman did mount a quixotic campaign for governor of TX, at least once.

                      I am not, and I believe I am part of a largish crowd in this opinion, especially fond of the drum solo generally. I always felt it was foremost a moment wherein the rest of the band got a chance to enjoy a refreshment offstage.

                      However, in my old work as tape librarian/archivist, I found in my searchings one day a curious box, the spine of which was labeled “Guitar solo”. As a guitar player, my curiosity demanded I examine it closely. When I turned the box over on its back, there, possibly as you too might have been able to do, I could make out, in those lumpy, rounded, yet boxy psychedelic letters that every kid in 1968 used try to draw in their copybooks, the words “Ginger’s solo”– it had been misread and thus miscopied as ‘guitar solo’, and mislaid for decades. But in 1968 I was a very big fan of Cream, and I knew the drum solo in “Toad’ had been edited down for release, so I hustled it off to Polygram Records, who owned their material by the time I found the box, and the entire solo, the edit restored, is available on the box set they put out about 2000. And I got a credit!

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                    • Fantastic “Toad” story, jhNY! Major congratulations on your big part in restoring Ginger Baker’s whole drum solo!

                      I’m also not a big fan of the drum solo, but I like some of them — especially if they’re no longer than two minutes or so. (Baker’s amazing one in “Toad” is an exception; it’s a big chunk of the song.) In addition to Shrieve’s Santana solo, I’m also rather fond of Ron Bushy’s drum solo in Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.”

                      Yes, a drum solo does give a band a bit of a break. And it gives a drummer a rare chance to be in the spotlight for a few minutes.

                      As for Kinky Friedman, I like some of those quixotic campaigns for political office — whether they’re serious, partly serious, or comedic. Pat Paulsen and Dave Barry also come to mind.

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                    • Norman Mailer and Jimmy Breslin also ran for public office here in NYC…

                      As for that Iron Butterfly drum solo– here’s something: the original title of the song was “In a (or the) Garden of Eden”– but over-lubrication via red wine on the singer’s part made it what it is today….

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                    • jhNY, Norman Mailer and Jimmy Breslin are two great additions to this discussion! Gore Vidal ran for office, too. None had the electoral success of, say, Czech literary great Vaclav Havel.

                      Hadn’t known the puzzling origins of the name of that Iron Butterfly song. Thanks! No “wining” about the sales, though; that album was a blockbuster. I have a copy — I think it was the third or fourth LP I ever bought.

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      • While there are many wonderful covers of Leonard Cohen’s works( I highly recommend Jennifer Warnes charmingly titled Jenny Sings Lenny album) I love his somewhat flat, bass heavy voice for his poems of despair occasionally relieved by higher art and/or sex with one not your partner. Interestingly enough besides having his poems anthologized by Norton his experimental 60s novel Beautiful Losers was a huge cult hit and while difficult on quite a few levels still worth reading .

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        • I agree, Donny, that Leonard Cohen’s voice works for some songs. And, like singers such as Tom Waits, Cohen’s voice is certainly…distinctive.

          “…somewhat flat, bass heavy…” — that’s it exactly!

          When writing the column, I was only vaguely aware that Cohen was also a novelist. Thank you for mentioning that! Not all great writers can cross writing genres, but he’s one who does.

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      • I like your phrase “the incomparable Joni Mitchell”– and feel it is deserved. “Blue”, to my way of hearing, remains one of the most immediate and compelling works by a singer/songwriter ever– soul music, even, literally.

        In my job as archivist/tape librarian for a major record label in the ’90’s,, I rescued one of her early masters on Asylum from having been misplaced, and thus, for all practical purposes, lost. I was told, after reporting my find, not to expect any credit to appear on the greatest hits cd the master was needed to complete. Happily surprised to see, upon that cd’s release, she had thanked me and my assistant for our good hunting.

        I also knew one of her long-time associates in the biz– he informed me she plays in 40 count ’em 40 tunings on her guitar. I, am barely able to keep track of three on a very good day.

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            • True. And I’ve heard that about her health. Not sure if I saw it in the story I linked to or elsewhere, but I remember reading that Joni Mitchell contracted polio as a kid and that that’s one of the things affecting her health now that she’s in her 70s.

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                • A real shame. Not that she’d necessarily want to go that route, but many (relatively) healthy musicians of her era are still on the concert circuit.

                  One very touching story I heard about Joni Mitchell is that she didn’t attend a tribute concert in her honor a few years ago because her cat was ill. Of course, with her own health issues and her being reclusive, she might not have gone anyway.

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        • Dear jhNY and Dave, I believe that I was the one that first stated Joni Mitchell to be β€œthe incomparable Joni Mitchell”– Not that it really matters, but there are so few things written on these blogs that one can take credit for that I’ll take credit for that πŸ™‚ I still remember the first time my girlfriend and I listened to “Blue” just as my sorority sisters and l listened to “The White Album.”

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          • Absolutely, Kat Lib! That was indeed you who wrote that great phrase. As you know, in long threads comments referring to other comments sometimes end up several comments down from the comments they refer to… πŸ™‚

            Yes, certain albums are “events” — and “Blue” and “The White Album” are classic examples of that.

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            • jhNY, I think what might have happened is that your comment putting Kat Lib’s phrase in quotes appeared under one of my comments (because of the convoluted nature of trying to reply in the right place in long threads). So it might have inadvertently looked like I was getting the credit.

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  12. Amazing piece Dave – insanely insightful. And this is why I have avoided your literature posts like the plague! You know I’m a huge fan, as our exchanges elsewhere have shown – however your level of knowledge in this arena is genius level – I feel like the proverbial nitwit that has brought a butter knife to a machine gun fight πŸ™‚

    That said, your provocative title drew me in, damn you! Now my chest is filled with pride with the contributions that my country has provided the world, let alone our delightful neighbours to the south.

    I do apologize though for adding “u” into almost every word, eh?

    I would only add in to your list W.P. Kinsella, whose work Shoeless Joe became another classic to my mind, and eventually Field of Dreams for film. If you’re not aware, our speaker from Hartford, Mr. Zweibel is adapting that for Broadway!

    It may be awhile before I can bring myself to peek back in here Dave, but please continue to share your vast knowledge. Even a schlepp like myself can learn, if I can open myself up…

    Cheers!

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    • Thanks so much for your very kind (and engaging) comment, Dan! I greatly appreciate it! And given that you’re from Canada, and an excellent writer, I appreciate it even more. πŸ™‚

      I had no idea W.P. Kinsella was from Canada! I’m grateful for the information. I’ve read and loved several of his books — and the baseball ones made him seem so…um…American. My mistake!

      I’ve read “Shoeless Joe” and seen the “Field of Dreams” movie it inspired — and admired each. Interesting how different they were in various ways. Did not know the terrific humorist Alan Zweibel was bringing that mostly serious property to Broadway. I’m fascinated with what that might be like.

      Actually, I love the extra “u” in words!

      Thanks again, Dan!

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      • “Shoeless Joe” is an excellent novel, Donny, and one interesting thing about it (as you might know) is that J.D. Salinger was part of the plot but was taken out of the “Field of Dreams” film because the movie’s producers thought Salinger might sue.

        A tremendous nonfiction book about the Black Sox Scandal is Eliot Asinof’s “Eight Men Out,” which inspired the much later John Sayles film of the same name.

        I actually did my high school senior thesis on the Black Sox Scandal! πŸ™‚

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        • All news to me Dave and love learning you did your Thesis on the 1919 scandal. Years ago an old girlfriend gave me a small box of baseball cards from 1918 thru 1924 that included a Kid Gleason, regretfully they were subsequently stolen from my apartment.

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          • I think I might have gotten a “B” because I relied too heavily on Asinof’s book. Didn’t use a wide enough variety of sources!

            Donny, such a shame those historic, very old baseball cards were stolen. 😦 In many ways, a worse crime than the one committed by those “Black Sox” players, who were grossly underpaid by the White Sox owner — one incentive for some of them to “throw” the 1919 World Series.

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            • Donny, my second paragraph above was not expressed well. Of course throwing the World Series was a big crime (though not all eight players participated equally; I believe Shoeless Joe Jackson batted .375 in the series — hardly a poor performance). But cheapstake rich-guy owner Charles Comiskey committed a huge moral crime — wage theft — by paying his star players dirt. (And I don’t mean infield dirt. πŸ™‚ )

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        • Black Betty! hardened in fire– I believe it’s the only bat Shoeless J used in the Bigs– but it’s been a while since I’ve read stuff about the scandal, to the point that I think I read the Kinsella, but it might be the Asinof I almost remember…

          I do remember looking at photos of Kenesaw Mountain Landis with a fresh eye, on the lookout for signs of opportunistic ham-ism. Seemed to me that they were everywhere and always.

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          • I’ve heard about that bat, jhNY! What a hitter Jackson was; he had a .356 lifetime batting average, which I believe was the third highest all-time behind Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby.

            Kenesaw Mountain Landis treated the Black Sox too harshly, I assume at least partly to cultivate a “get tough” image that would opportunistically make himself look good. Some of the eight players were less guilty than others, and I believe a jury trial acquitted all of them.

            On a different subject, Landis was a total racist — he absolutely refused to advocate for African-Americans to be in Major League Baseball, and if any owner pre-Branch Rickey had had the decency and guts to want to sign a black player, Landis would have vetoed it.

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            • Landis looked like a judge out of Hollywood casting entirely too much, especially given his penchant for posing in real life.

              Like all the commissioners that have followed him, he was an employee of the owners first last and always.

              Rickey was a baseball genius, who invented the farm system when he was with the Cardinals, and would have been praised to this day for this great work, had his greater work re integration of the game not obscured it.

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              • You’re right, jhNY, Landis definitely had that stereotypical judge look — the white hair, the stern face…

                So true about who commissioners serve — the NFL’s Roger Goodell being a prime example. Or Roger Badell, as I call him.

                Great historical observation about Rickey, and well said. He was a real innovator even before he signed Jackie Robinson to break baseball’s “color line.” (Rickey even had a brief career as a Major League player.)

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