Thursday, February 4, 2016

TBT: Is it Canadian enough?

TBT from Sept 8, 2008
I appear to have been analysing Exit Lines by Joan Barfoot which I also reviewed on Sept 8, 2008.

John Mutford, over at the Book Mine Set, recently analysed a novel to see how it fit the Fergeson brothers description of the Typical Canadian Novel. I thought this book could benefit from the same treatment.

0 indicates a poor match, 1 is questionable, 2 is a perfect match:

1st. "Setting – Setting is important. It has to be bleak and foreboding: maybe Cape Breton or outport Newfoundland or a cabin in northern Ontario."

Score: 0 I can't identify the locale, I think any small town in North America could pass. The false cheeriness in an old age home is there, but that certainly isn't unique to Canada.

2nd. "Plot – Avoid this at all costs. Instead, the characters should just sort of mope from scene to scene, maybe staring into the distance now and then to remember events that happened long before. You don’t want a sense of forward momentum in a novel. You want “atmosphere.” '

Score: 1 It's not a huge plot but there is something going on while we get everyone's backstory. I wanted to keep reading and find out what happened next, that feels like plot to me.

3rd. "Humour – God, no. Instead of humour, you want irony. And lots of it. Your book should be drenched in irony. Soaked in it, even. When someone squeezes your book, irony should ooze out from between the pages. It should reek of postmodern alienation and ennui. The more postmodern the better."

Score: 0 I thought it was quite humorous and light. I'm not sure about post modern alienation, but the baby boomers are getting up there, so this book is certainly their demographic.

4th. "Character – In Canadian novels the men – especially the father figures – should be brooding alcoholics, or brooding violent alcoholics, or pathetic losers who aren't really alcoholic but are still quite pathetic, or recovering alcoholics, or violent losers, or brooding pathetic recovering alcoholics who are also violent.The main female character must be victimized. That goes without saying. She has to be victimized. But here’s the thing – she should also be empowered. That’s right. In Canadian novels, you get to have it both ways: “empowered victims.”"

Score: 0 Nice mix of characters, and while the token male was a bit of an ass, the women had their faults as well.

5th. "Style – Keep it simple. Stark. Unfurnished. Underwritten. Subject + verb + object again and again and again and again. SVO. SVO. Stick to the bare minimum offered by the English language. Do not use adverbs. And if you have to use adjectives, keep them short and simple and obvious to the point of redundancy (i.e., “blue sky,” “white clouds,” “wet rain,” “unfaithful husband”). "

Score: 1 Nicely written, easily readable,

With a 2 out of a possible 10 points, not your typical Canadian novel. I knew I liked it.