Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Barbara Kay, will you marry me?

Imagine if, instead of narrating the actual drama of the 1917 Halifax Explosion in his riveting 1941 novel, Barometer Rising, Hugh MacLennan had chosen to focus, as we are told February does, on the "swelling loneliness and eventual letting-go" of one woman bereft of a beloved husband in the conflagration. Zzzzzzz.

Not only are her characters plucked from her own experience, Moore boasts to Laidlaw that "she intentionally didn't interview any families affected by the disaster." Imagine: There are many people still alive -- though they won't be forever -- who actually remember the tragedy as it happened, yet in terms of "research," their doubtlessly compelling survivor experience is trumped by Moore's memories of the personal sadness evoked when her 41-year-old father "died of natural causes" (again, emphasis mine).

Me, me, me and my extraordinary capacity for sadness. Welcome to the unrelenting self-regard of CanLit, where it's all about nobly suffering women or feminized men: men immobilized in situations of physical, psychological or economic impotence (that is when they're not falling through the ice and nearly drowning), rather than demonstrating manly courage in risk-taking or heroic mode.

Barbara Kay, Unreadably Canadian