Globe and Mail columnist Russell Smith is at his bilious best with a scathing look at the abundance of horticultural name dropping in Canadian fiction these days. It seems Smith can’t open a Canadian novel without being reminded of his own dearth of botanical expertise: “You have a character who is a sea captain or a railway engineer or a prostitute … and this person’s gaze casually registers milkweed, burdock and something-wort (dusty, in poignant decline, this ragged, humble, valiant greenery). Or he/she notes the receding vistas of spruce and cedar, occasionally punctuated by elm and beech…. If everybody in Canada, even plucky runaways and uxorious mathematics teachers and everybody who could conceivably appear as a character in fiction in any setting, urban, rural or suburban, can casually register these things not as dusty green things but as discrete species with names, then why was I not taught?” Smith brings up some interesting points about narrative point of view, arguing that too many Canadian authors seem to be lacing their work with bits of horticultural arcana simply as a way of showing off.
Read Russell Smith’s Globe column