This update’s been a long time coming. I signed up for this CanLit challenge back in August. Alice Munro’s Nobel win inspired me to get cracking with The Progress of Love. I’m down to the wire here – I have till Dec. 31st to review a book club selection for a chance to win all five books, including selections from CanLit heavyweights Davies, MacLennan, MacLeod and Gallant. I’d tell you to get on it too, but with two days to go, you’re either in or you’re out by now!
The Progress of Love: Review
I was third in line for this book at the library for a couple of weeks, which is unusual for something published 25ish years ago. Must be that Nobel buzz! But you wouldn’t know this book is 25 years old. Munro’s stories are timeless, and you feel they could have been written 100 years as easily as 10 years ago.
The Progress of Love isn’t Munro’s most famous collection. It won the Governor General’s Award but her two Giller winners, The Love of a Good Woman and Runaway, seem to be the most well known. My only experience with Munro is Too Much Happiness, and with only that for a basis of comparison, The Progress of Love didn’t quite measure up. The first five stories were so good that the rest were slightly disappointing. My favourite was “Miles City, Montana” which shows us that the Mommy Wars are nothing new:
I had a dread of turning into a certain kind of mother – the kind whose body sagged, who moved in a woolly-smelling, milky-smelling fog, solemn with trivial burdens. I believed that all the attention these mothers paid, their need to be burdened, was the cause of colic, bed-wetting, asthma. Continue reading
[UPDATE: ECW Press has extended the contest deadline till December 31st. Plenty of time to review a few of these!]
The Storytellers Book Club is fascinating to me, because while it’s a blatant marketing ploy for Douglas Gibson’s book Stories about Storytellers, it’s also a great idea and very well executed (and remember, I work in marketing, so I have nothing against marketing ploys, blatant or otherwise.)
ECW Press gave me a copy of Stories about Storytellers by Douglas Gibson and The Watch That Ends the Night by Hugh MacLennan in exchange for writing this, so this is basically a sponsored post, but I am totally on board with the concept and think some of my CanLit-loving readers will be too.
So, here’s the deal. There’s a contest that’s valid up till the end of September, so if you want to get in on that, you best get reading.
Douglas Gibson is kind of a CanLit editor to the stars. He’s worked with big-name Canadian authors that even non-readers have heard of, and public figures like Pierre Trudeau. Here’s the synopsis of his book, Stories about Storytellers:
“I’ll kill him!” said Mavis Gallant. Pierre Trudeau almost did, leading him (“Run!”) into a whizzing stream of traffic that almost crushed both of them. Alistair MacLeod accused him of a “home invasion” to grab the manuscript of No Great Mischief. And Paul Martin denounced him to a laughing Ottawa crowd, saying, “If Shakespeare had had Doug Gibson as an editor, there would be no Shakespeare!”
On the other hand, Alice Munro credits him with keeping her writing short stories when the world demanded novels. Robertson Davies, with a nod to Dickens, gratefully called him “My Partner Frequent.” W.O. Mitchell summoned up a loving joke about him, on his deathbed.
Stories About Storytellers shares these tales and many more, as readers follow Doug Gibson through 40 years of editing and publishing some of Canada’s sharpest minds and greatest storytellers.
The CanLit Classics
Gibson has selected five CanLit Classics from Stories for The Storytellers Book Club:
Robertson Davies’ What’s Bred in the Bone
Hugh MacLennan’s The Watch That Ends the Night
Mavis Gallant’s Home Truths
Alistair MacLeod’s No Great Mischief
Alice Munro’s The Progress of Love
I’ve read none of these. No Great Mischief was on my radar, as is everything by Munro, but I hadn’t even heard of MacLennan or Gallant, and I’ve been wary of Davies since I read Fifth Business in high school. This list is enticing to me because it’s challenging and not totally obvious. I appreciate representing female authors in this list (almost half! Progress!) though I must point out that the ratio of female to male authors addressed in the Stories About Storytellers book is abyssmal, a fact that Munro talks about in the introduction. Continue reading