Monday, April 29, 2013

The best 100

In 2014, Touchwood Editions plans to release a book about books – specifically, BC’s greatest 100 books.


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, Obasan
Howard O’Hagan, Tay John
Ethel Wilson, Swamp Angel
Douglas Coupland, Girlfriend in a Coma
Daniel Francis, ed. Encyclopedia of British Columbia
John Armstrong, Wages
Bill Gaston, The World
Emily Carr, Klee Wyck
George McWhirter, ed. A Verse Map of Vancouver
Brian Brett, Trauma Farm
Al Purdy, Cariboo Horses
Gurjinder Basran, Everything was Goodbye
Brian Fawcett, Virtual Clearcut
John Gould, Kilter: 55 Fictions
June Hutton, Underground
Grant Buday, Stranger on a Strange Island [or White Lung]
William Gibson, Neuromancer [the complete Cyberspace trilogy; failing that, this book]
Leona Gom, The Y Chromosome
Charlotte Gill, Eating Dirt
Paul St. Pierre, Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse
Gary Geddes, ed. Skookum Wawa
Mark Harris, Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood
Susan Juby, Alice, I think
Maggie deVries, Missing Sarah
Evelyn Lau, Runaway
Anne Cameron, Daughters of Copper Woman
Margo Bates, P.S. Don’t Tell Your Mother
Alan Twigg, First Invaders: Literary Origins of British Columbia
Susan Musgrave, Origami Dove
Steven Price, Into that Darkness
George Ryga, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe
Stephen Hume, Bush Telegraph
Malcolm Lowry, October Ferry to Gabriola
Kate Braid, To this Cedar Fountain
Betty Lambert, Crossings
Audrey Thomas, Intertidal Life
Howard White, Writing in the Rain

Not up to 100 yet. Which books would you add?

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