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Canadian surprise

October 10, 2013

Before this morning, if I were asked to name the best contemporary Canadian author in English*, I would have responded, without hesitation, Robertson Davies (yes, I know he died in 1995, but for me, he is still a vital author).  If pressed for another example, I would have mentioned Margaret Atwood.  If pressed for a third example, I would have named Michael Ondaatje.  If asked for a fourth example, I would have called  out Mordecai Richler (died 2001).  I might at some point have referred to Leonard Cohen, whom I consider to be a Canadian poet.

We would have gone fairly far down the list before I would have named Alice Munro.

(*I regret that I am woefully ignorant of contemporary Canadian authors in French or other languages.)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    October 10, 2013 11:00 pm

    Yes, Davies and Richler are very readable and wonderful, but alas dead. I am not a fan of Atwood but Alice Munro has been popular for some time but regrettably more of a woman’s author. I read lots of male authors, but some female authors are too focussed on women only. Actually Carol Shields is pretty good. I love all of her books except for the one that won the Pulitzer prize. I did not enjoy that one at all and was pleasantly surprised by her other books. Prizes sometimes baffle me.

    I just read Coetzee’s Disgrace yesterday, a Nobel prize winner. It was surprisingly readable!

  2. October 11, 2013 8:00 am

    I remember a couple of years ago, days before Tomas Tranströmer won the prize, how some around the world were asking:

    Why not Canada’s Alice Munro this year? I doubt many would quibble with her getting the gong. Or her compatriot, the poet and translator Anne Carson?

    Maybe Anne Carson soon!

  3. October 11, 2013 11:14 am

    Alice Munro is a short story writer, which might be one reason you wouldn’t think of her. People tend to mostly think of novelists and poets. But it sounds like the committee might specifically have wanted to honor a short story writer, and I’m a short story reader, so I’m happy.

    I do love Margaret Atwood, too — her novels. I’m not too crazy about her short stories. Writers in general seem to excel at one form and not the other, which in the current literary economy has been lucky for the natural novelists, not so lucky for the natural short story writers. Maybe this is changing.

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