Since their criteria defining a BC book seemed pretty open-ended, I devised my own.
My key consideration? Would the work be essentially different if the book’s BC-related elements happened someplace else?
Consider for example Douglas Coupland’s Girlfriend in a Coma.Weather (specifically, in North Vancouver and West Van) plays a huge role in the overall atmosphere of the book. It would be nowhere as haunting if it were set in a place where the sun doesn’t seem like such a rare commodity. Fog, soggy lawns, abundant winter greenery – all contribute to the novel, almost serve as one of the book’s characters in furthering the story.
I’ll admit, I’ve pushed the BC boundary with a few, but only with books too good to ignore. Besides, in these instances, the authors (LeonaGom and Howard O’Hagan) have each spent a considerable part of their life in British Columbia.
And in one case, I’ve included a book strictly on its one-of-a-kind-ness, coupled with the fact the author, Mark Harris, was a longtime BC resident who must not be forgotten. He knew more about cinema than any other British Columbian ever has, and likely ever will.
Many of the books on my list have already been granted awards and honours. But I like to think there might be a few here that have flown under the radar by mistake or oversight.
One such nominee, by local writer Margo Bates, is the funny and sad (and oh-so-real) P.S. Don’t Tell Your Mother.
And wouldn’t you know, there’s one that I can’t fix a title to. I’m remembering a small (and beautifully produced) book of essays that tracks the seasons of the year by using the device of 13 moons. Each month’s moon has a name (e.g. Hunter’s Moon, Harvest Moon) and the seasons reveal themselves through beautiful word sketches. I’ve poked around and even asked a few writers if they remember this book, but no one seems to. Who knows, maybe I dreamed it.
For what it’s worth, here, in no particular order, is my current list.
Joy Kogawa, ObasanHoward O’Hagan, Tay JohnEthel Wilson, Swamp AngelDouglas Coupland, Girlfriend in a ComaDaniel Francis, ed. Encyclopedia of British ColumbiaJohn Armstrong, WagesBill Gaston, The WorldEmily Carr, Klee WyckGeorge McWhirter, ed. A Verse Map of VancouverBrian Brett, Trauma FarmAl Purdy, Cariboo HorsesGurjinder Basran, Everything was GoodbyeBrian Fawcett, Virtual ClearcutJohn Gould, Kilter: 55 FictionsJune Hutton, UndergroundGrant Buday, Stranger on a Strange Island [or White Lung]William Gibson, Neuromancer [the complete Cyberspace trilogy; failing that, this book]Leona Gom, The Y ChromosomeCharlotte Gill, Eating DirtPaul St. Pierre, Breaking Smith’s Quarter HorseGary Geddes, ed. Skookum WawaMark Harris, Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New HollywoodSusan Juby, Alice, I thinkMaggie deVries, Missing SarahEvelyn Lau, RunawayAnne Cameron, Daughters of Copper WomanMargo Bates, P.S. Don’t Tell Your MotherAlan Twigg, First Invaders: Literary Origins of British ColumbiaSusan Musgrave, Origami DoveSteven Price, Into that DarknessGeorge Ryga, The Ecstasy of Rita JoeStephen Hume, Bush TelegraphMalcolm Lowry, October Ferry to GabriolaKate Braid, To this Cedar FountainBetty Lambert, CrossingsAudrey Thomas, Intertidal LifeHoward White, Writing in the Rain