Friday, November 18, 2005

100 Most "Important" Canadian Books

The Literary Review of Canada, which until recently had Fred Wah as poetry editor—a fact that made me predisposed to liking it—has now published a list of the 100 Most Important Canadian Books. Why do we bother trying to fix such things? Worse, as one time sharp-toothed theatre critic turned novelist, Kate Taylor points out in today’s Globe & Mail, how can any such list exist without reference to Ondaatje? And that’s just the beginning of the problem…at the core of which one might ask why bother in the first place? Why not talk about the books in more productive ways? Why not start a dialogue? Why be so reductive? Why try to fix and identity? Why attempt to trace something so transitory? I just don’t understand this constant effort to “shut out” rather than expand and revel in the odd mix of things; what kind of productive dialogue do people think publishing this kind of list will inspire? What is the purpose of such lists? I ask you! Are there not more interesting ways to get at this question?

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