Monday, November 21, 2011

ACSUS Conference, November 2011, Ottawa: Ten Canadian Novels You Should Be Teaching (and Reading): a collaborative paper between rob mclennan and Steven Hayward

On Thursday afternoon, I presented a co-written paper between myself and writer Steven Hayward at the Association of Canadian Studies in the United States’ bi-annual conference at Ottawa’s Westin Hotel. It was a strange event, one Hayward couldn’t attend himself due to other conflicts, corralling me into participation but two weeks prior. I was to present a paper while on a panel with another presenter, and moderate the whole; maybe we should, Hayward suggested, co-write the paper as well? I said sure, fine, okay. I haven’t much experience presenting papers, but for the paper I wrote on Camille Martin’s Sonnets for Margaret Christakos’ Influency a few months back [see the note I wrote on such here; and the paper itself], and a panel I moderated at a conference at Grant MacEwen College back in spring 2008, during my Alberta period.

The presentation went well enough, despite the small crowd [see them here, clapping: including Peter Midgley from the University of Alberta, and Cynthia Sugars from the University of Ottawa], despite a paper I didn’t feel entirely finished yet, despite the other presenter cancelling her appearance earlier in the day. Toni Holland, from the University of Alberta, was to present a paper on “US and Canadian Poets Laureate: A Literary and Cultural History.” I wanted to hear this paper for a number of reasons, not only for the fact that I’ve been arguing for years that Ottawa should bring back the position (we were, possibly, the first in Canada to host the position back in 1980, and are now possibly one of the rare few without) but for the fact that I was on the League of Canadian Poets national council when we first came up with the idea for a National Laureate and started pressuring the Federal Government.

Since announcing that I was presenting such a paper, more than a few have asked for my list (our lists), so I thought I should at least present those. We’re planning on cleaning up the paper for publication, so hopefully a larger version of such, including our explanations for our respective choices, for the sake of increased clarity, but for now, you get only the barest list. I’m shocked, one woman offered, that neither of you have Margaret Atwood or Alice Munro on your lists. Another asked, does Hayward teach his list in Colorado? It’s one thing to think a book great, but another to be able to teach it. A worthy point, and one I couldn’t answer. I’m interested to see where this conversation might further.

Steven Hayward’s list:
Ondaatje, Michael. In the Skin of a Lion.
Toews, Miriam. A Complicated Kindness.
Vanderhaeghe, Guy. A Good Man.
Chariandy, David. Soucouyant.
Ricci, Nino. Origin of Species..
Bezmozgis, David. Natasha and Other Stories.
Bellow, Saul. Herzog.
Eliott Clarke, George. Execution Poems.
Quarrington, Paul. Home Game.

rob mclennan’s list:
Dany Laferrière, How to Make Love to a Negro (without getting tired).
John Lavery, Sandra Beck.
Aritha van Herk, Restlessness.
André Alexis, Despair, And Other Stories of Ottawa.
Ken Sparling, Hush up and listen stinky poo butt.
Lisa Moore, February.
Thomas Wharton, Salamander.
Matthew Remski. Dying for Veronica.
Lynn Crosbie. Paul’s Case.
Marianne Apostolides’ Swim: a novel.
Martha Baillie, The Incident Report

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