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“Brooding on Muskoka chairs”: Brit Giller judge on Canadian literature

In the Sept. 12 edition of the Financial Times, British critic and novelist Victoria Glendinning, who sits on this year’s Scotiabank Giller Prize jury (which announced its longlist yesterday), generously shared her thoughts on Canadian literature.

Following the claim that reading 100 works of Canadian literature was a “life enhancing experience,” Glendinning dives into a scathing critique of Canadian culture, publishing, and literature.

Some highlights from the article, via the Globe Books Blog:

The Canadian for gutter is “eavestrough” which is picturesque. Everyone is wearing a “tuque” or “toque” which in English-English suggests the lofty headgear worn by Queen Mary but is actually a little woolly hat. And in the holiday cottages among Ontario’s northern lakes and forests–evidently, the prime setting for emotional turmoil–they sit, brooding, on Muskoka chairs. (Look those up on the net.)

Apart from brilliant Giller contestants, there are … “unbelievably dreadful” ones. It seems in Canada that you only have to write a novel to get grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and from your provincial Arts Council, who are also thanked. Complaints were once voiced that most shortlisted Giller novels emanated from just three big-name publishers, all owned by Bertelsmann, and that virtually every winner lived in the Toronto area. Now, many of the submitted authors, and their rugged subject matter, hail from Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland. That’s maybe because small publishers too are now subsidised, and they proliferate. If you want to get your novel published, be Canadian. 

Now, tell us what you really think, Glendinning!