Monday, October 5, 2009

BOOK: Souvenir of Canada by Douglas Coupland

Souvenir of Canada by Douglas Coupland, 140 pages

3rd Canadian Book Challenge; Dewey Decimal Challenge: 971

I love the way Coupland writes, I love the way he words things. I love the pop references in his book. I knew I loved the way he put ideas together, and then I saw the collection of still life photographs he fashioned to represent Canadians and Canada, and it was complete. Coupland can do no wrong.

The book is written for Canadians, as we share our cultural history and nod and go hmm mmm, and then remember to say "Good book, eh?" It would provide some insight into Canadians you might know, but I'm not sure how many in-jokes are present. Maybe a lot. Maybe they aren't jokes though. We are different from Americans, even as we share so much of their culture that we feel we know them. Did you know that Canadians can buy their milk in 1L plastic bags, that we put into a milk container and then cut open and pour?

Part of the appeal for me is that Coupland is only a few years older than me, we are the beginning of Generation X, surviving in the shadow of the Baby Boomers, so we share a history of experiences just for growing up in the same time periods.

The book is written in a series of chapters or vignettes, in somewhat alphabetical order, that could be an encyclopedia of Canada. Coupland is not afraid to show his biases, and his perspective on the topics, and they range from the humorous to the serious, how we speak cereal French to the FLQ. Just watch me.

I returned this to the library a while ago, but I jotted down the titles of some chapters to remind me of the book. For you Canadians, can you guess why they were included?

Capitaine Crounche
DEW line


  1. I really must read this. The library has it, so I have no excuse!

  2. I went to college with a lot of Canadians (Clarkson University in very northern NY), but I have to admit I didn't understand most of those chapter title references! (our school has a great hockey team but no football team!)

    However, I do know about milk in plastic bags. Back in the days of home milk delivery (70's), our local dairy delivered our milk that way - in plastic bags (in our little metal milkbox by the front door) that we snipped the corner off of and put into a plastic container. I didn't know those were still around!


  3. Wait.... you mean that milk in plastic bags isn't what everyone does? Seriously? How do they get their milk packaged?

  4. I have a weird anti-Coupland thing because years ago I tried to read Generation X and didn't like it, but he did that book on Terry Fox, so I can forgive him a lot for that. And this one actually looks cool!

    Arg, I'm sure I know what 222s refers to but can't think of it. Is it something to do with beer?

    Vinegar because we put it on our chips?

    Poutine is self-explanatory, it's all the foods you love combined! My very American husband even admits it's fabulous and thanks Canada for that contribution to world cuisine.

    Zed because that's how the alphabet ends! None of this zee crap.

  5. kailana - go get it! It's one I'd like to own actually. There is a sequel as well.

    sue - we definitely still have milk in bags, but home delivery just ended in the last year or so.

    court - I know! I was shocked to find out that it is mostly in Canada, and that most places have never seen milk in bags. It's so easy on the garbage. You'd think environmentally that there were would be more of it.

  6. tiny little librarian -
    Please try Coupland again. I read Gen X after I read some of his other wonderful novels. I really didn't get Gen X and it is very different from the other novels. Hey Nostradamus, Eleanor Rigby, The Gum Thief, are well worth while.
    I have the Terry Fox book and it is wonderful. This book is much like that, with short vignettes, and lots of pictures.

    222s are the strong pain pills that can/could be easily bought over the counter in Canada. I guess they are more restricted elsewhere.
    Yes, on the other ones. I haven't had poutine in a while - I can get it in the school cafeteria any day, but I try to limit myself. It's so bad/delicious for you.


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