Douglas Coupland offers new ways of seeing and experiencing Canada-looking at how it feels to be a Canadian right now and speculating what it might feel like in the future. Read more...
Douglas Coupland offers new ways of seeing and experiencing Canada-looking at how it feels to be a Canadian right now and speculating what it might feel like in the future. From collective memories, he locates objects like stubbie beer bottles and ookpiks, Kraft dinner and maple walnut ice cream. And with the same unique sensibility, he considers significant events and relevant issues, like the flq crisis, Canada's relationship with the United States, medicare and the landscape itself.
In the section humbly titled "Cheese," he writes: "When you assemble them together, foods that feel intuitively Canadian look more like camping trip provisions than actual groceries...Canada is a cold and northern country...from a biological standpoint, it is imperative that Canadians stockpile concentrated forms of sugars, carbohydrates, fats and salt."
The 50 personal categories of the 30,000-word text are arranged alphabetically and matched with 100 illustrations (50 in colour)-new luscious photos taken by Coupland himself, images of Canadian ephemera and icons, historical photos and pictures from other quite startling sources. Included are photos of cultural installations created by Coupland himself.
Canadians have long been regarded as country cousins by their counterparts in the States: Molson-swilling, hockey-watching roughnecks who go inexplicably dewy-eyed at the first acoustic guitar notes of a Gordon Lightfoot ballad. As is often the case, the truth is somewhat more complex. Vancouver novelist and Renaissance man Douglas Coupland explores what makes Canada, Canada in the aptly titled Souvenir of Canada, a book of essays and photographs of our neighbo(u)r to the north. Bit by bit, Coupland reveals a Canada that, rather than being a lackluster imitation of the U.S., is instead a somewhat bizarre parallel universe where folks routinely breakfast on Capitaine Crounch, season their French fries with vinegar (white vinegar at that), and drive with their headlights on at all hours of the day.
In a comical vignette about a Canadian staple, Coupland observes: "Cheese, in fact, plays a weirdly large dietary role in the lives of Canadians, who have a more intimate and intense relationship with Kraft food products than the citizens of any other country. . . . In particular, Kraft macaroni and cheese, known simply as Kraft Dinner, is the biggie, probably because it so precisely laser-targets the favoured Canadian food groups: fat, sugar, starch and salt." (Having grown up in Canada, this reviewer can attest to these preferences. In fact, my mother's first attempt at making spaghetti utilized Kraft Dinner and ketchup; it was about as heinous as it sounds.)
Souvenir of Canada is a clever and engaging book, a treat for Canadian and outlander alike. Stay tuned for Souvenir of Canada 2, coming soon to a bookseller near you, eh?