Great Canadian authors

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Great Canadian authors



Wow, a books forum. Musta just happened.

So...great Canadian authors, which ones would you reccomend, and which not?

Also which books by which authors?


My own short list, in no particular order:

Margaret Laurence
Stephen Leacock
Margaret Atwood
Laurence Gough
Robertson Davies
Al Purdy
Morley Callaghan
Mordecai Richler

Well, that's a start, anyhow.

I would say I have been influenced in my thinking by each of those - some more than others, of course - but this is a sampling of authors I think have something to say.


I assume the category is fiction... so all the above and:

Michael Ondaatje
Guy Vanderhaeghe
Joy Kogawa - Obasan
Nino Ricci - In a Glass House
Wayne Johnston - The Colony of Unrequited Dreams
Rita Donovan - Landed


My two favourite books by Canadian authors are [i]Who Has Seen the Wind[/i] by W.O. Mitchell and [i]Beautiful Losers[/i] by Leonard Cohen.

I don't know if Al Purdy ever wrote any fiction, but when I was a grad student I was able to look through the Al Purdy archives and read original drafts (some written on the back of shopping lists) of some of his poems.

[ 25 September 2005: Message edited by: al-Qa'bong ]


Most Canadian writers leave me cold (and yawning), but Lynn Coady is fantastic, particularly her novels "Strange Heaven" and "The Saints of Big Harbour".

Rand McNally

Findley, Guy Vanderhaeghe


Why should we leave out great writers of non-fiction? Literary history has always respected the accomplished essayist, and Canada has some (and then a lot of pretenders). [img]wink.gif" border="0[/img]

My favourite right now is Ronald Wright, who also writes novels. Elegaic, I think I would call his writing.

Richard Wright is also a wonderful novelist. And I've lately been catching up with Norman Levine, one of our great stylists, who just died this year.

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

Of slightly more recent vintage:

William Gibson
Guy Gavriel Kay
Douglas Coupland

Judes Judes's picture

Hey no-one has included Alice Munroe who is widely considered one of the best Canadian writers.

I just finished her book Runaway and it was superb. I am not usually a short story fan but Munroe gets as much of a world in a short story as most writers get in a novel. Alice Munroe is on the top of my list.

BTW I hope Toronto area babblers will be at Word on the Street today at 1:30 pm to hear me discuss literature and politics with writers Susan Swan, Camilla Gibb and Varda Burstyn


Now that sounds like a great group. For once, I have read at least some of all four, and they're all great talkers as well as writers. Susan Swan breaks me up; even her titles break me up (Stupid Boys Are Good To Relax With, eg). [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]

More good story-tellers: Mavis Gallant, of course, and Alastair MacLeod.


Wayson Choy, The Jade Peony -- and just the start of a distinguished writing career.


[url=]Ann-Marie MacDonald[/url] - [i]Fall on Your Knees, The Way the Crow Flies[/i]


[url=]Mary Lawson[/url] - [i]Crow Lake[/i].

fern hill

Thomas King.


Some authors who wrote books I enjoyed:

-Roch Carrier (for "La Guerre, Yes Sir!" mostly)
-Anne-Marie MacDonald
-David Adams Richards
-Mordecai Richler
-Michel Tremblay
-Marcel Dubй
-my favourite Canadian author: Rйjean Ducharme. I really need to read more of him.

I'm presently reading Manitoban writer Gabrielle Roy's "Alexandre Chenevert" which i'm enjoying, although the style is nothing special.


Miriam Toews
Yann Martel

They wrote at least one good book each.


Glad someone mentioned Michel Tremblay, and I'd throw in Dany Laferriere, David Fennario, Stanley Pйan too.

MG Vassanji's Canadian, right? He's damn good.

Willowdale Wizard

[url=]barbara gowdy[/url] -- creator of the link bull, the one who knows all the omens and hidden meanings to coincidences.


Rohinton Mistry....I inhale what he writes.


My two fave dark fantasy writers: Tanya Huff, Kelley Armstrong


Thomson Highway
Beth Brant
Joy Kogawa
Dionne Brand
Carol Shields
and Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake -- sci-fi as it is -- was v. good IMO, though I haven't felt that way about ALL her work.
I love Camilla Gibb's stuff, of our panel. And Lynn Coady's (already mentioned.)

So, you've got lots to read!!! I'd love to hear which poets, of any nationality, people are reading, but maybe that's for another thread.

(By the way, the WOTS panel Judes mentioned was taped by rabble radio's Charlotte Scott and will appear -- likely in about three weeks -- in the new rpn's radio book lounge podcast.)

((Sorry, all that promoting yesterday has got me in perma-promo mode.))

West Coast Tiger


Originally posted by steffie:
[b][url=]Ann-Marie MacDonald[/url] - [i]Fall on Your Knees, The Way the Crow Flies[/i] [/b]


I'm with you, Steffie. Ann-Marie rocks! I really love [i]Good Night Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)[/i], too.

Also, W.P. Kinsella.[img][/img]


Marie-Claire Blais is by far my favorite.



Originally posted by West Coast Tiger:

I'm with you, Steffie. Ann-Marie rocks! I really love [i]Good Night Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)[/i], too.


Read the play in high school. I haven't read much of her - just the play, and Fall on your Knees - but it was good enough to put her on my list.


Just to clarify, it was not meant to be only fiction. I guess I read more fiction than other, so my writers tended to be fiction writers.

I'll really have to get to some of the authors mentioned. I've heard many of the names but not read any of the books.

Margaret Atwood is kinda funny for me. I really don't like listening to her on radio, she has that peculiar nasal voice. However, I really do enjoy reading her, which only goes to show something or another...

West Coast Tiger

I just have to add Maria Campbell and her book [i]Half-Breed[/i]. It really is one of most interesting and heart twisting biographies I've ever read.

[url=]A link to more information on the novel.[/url]


Two words:

Avril Lavigne. Magnifique!


WCT, I met Maria Campbell once, way back in the seventies, when she first published that memoir. I'm so glad you reminded me of her. She is a lovely woman, no nonsense, but very open and generous.


Ernest Buckler. I learned recently that he got his reputation as a writer from the the letters he wrote to Esquire magazine.

He also a bit like the [i]Catch-22[/i] guy, in that he was given a huge advance for a 2nd novel which he never wrote.

One of my favourite pieces of non-fiction is [i]The Master's Wife[/i], by Sir Andrew MacPhail. I find it especially interesting because he talks so much about the area where my mother's family comes from, and about Free Church of Scotland people.

West Coast Tiger


Originally posted by skdadl:
[b]WCT, I met Maria Campbell once, way back in the seventies, when she first published that memoir. I'm so glad you reminded me of her. She is a lovely woman, no nonsense, but very open and generous.[/b]

Wow. Knowing the life Maria Campbell led, it must have been amazing talking to her. She seems like a true survivor.

Did you know that she has written other books too? I believe she has put some of the stories and legends of the Metis/Cree people in print. She has also written a book on how the Plains Indians lived. She seems like a true crusader trying desperately to keep the traditions and stories of her people in the spotlight. I really respect that.

Sadly, I haven't found the time to read her other books. One day I will. Seems there is never enough time to read everything I want to read. [img]frown.gif" border="0[/img]

Merddyn Wyllt

Quote from Maclean's
"There is an elegiac quality to Beth Powning's writing, derived from her immersion in the rythms of the natural world....Few writers so stress the ties that bind a life to the place where it is lived; Powning's central artistic concern, both as a photographer and writer, has always been to locate herself - and her characters - along the great chain of being."

Beth Powning author of "Seeds of Another Summer", "The Hatbox Letters", ""Edge Seasons", and she wrote the essay from which David Suzuki's book got its name "When the Wild Comes Leaping Up"

[ 24 October 2005: Message edited by: Merddyn Wyllt ]



Originally posted by steffie:
[url=]Ann-Marie MacDonald[/url] - [i]Fall on Your Knees, The Way the Crow Flies[/i]

A big second, er third for MacDonald. I settled into read, [i]Fall On Your Knees[/i] expecting something light as i had only seen the author on TV doing some humorous readings. Not. Light. It is a stunning tale of the ethnic experience in eastern coastal Canada -- Lebanese, African Canadian and African American to name some underrepresented groups in Canadian literature. The themes are racism, incest, class, success, failure, lesbianism, . . . But they are all so subtlety revealed that they do not hit you on the head, as with so many other novels discussing such unsettling themes. More than once I said some version of, "well, I didn't see that coming".

CBC covered some of the controversy surrounding the use of Harper Lee's, [i]To Kill a Mockingbird[/i] in Halifax high schools. I couldn't help thinking -- why not a controversy over a [b]Canadian[/b] novel with somewhat similar issues? Like [i]Fall On Your Knees[/i] -- except that it is probably not suitable for young audiences.

Better in many ways is McDonald's [i]The Way the Crow Flies[/i]. Excellent evocation of the Canadian military family milieu in 1960's. Remarkable interweaving of Canadian military concerns with those of the Americans in the ethos of the Cold War. Among highlights, Canadian and American recruitment of Nazi war criminals through Project Paper Clip, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Diefenbaker, paedophilia and judicial/social treatment of First Nations people. I was an air force brat in the same time period and I can't believe how MacDonald got everything so very right.

She really blew me away and I highly recommend her writing.

Thanks to everyone for the additions to my reading list.


This guy might be more accurately described as a playwright than an "author", but what the heck...

Thompson Highway -- particularly, I was *hugely* impressed by his work, "Dry Lips Ought to Move to Kapuskasing". Spellbinding, fascinating, powerful. A true Canadian artist.

Papal Bull

I know it is just kind of saying what a friend would want, but I went and found a copy of a book called Liturgy of Light by Stavros Tsimicalis. I'm not generally a big fan of poetry after the Romance period...But this was nice and relaxing [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]


Findley was mentioned, but not the brilliant

[url=]David Adams Richards[/url]

Athabasca U has a great [url=]directory of Canadian writers.[/url]

I'm currently reading Morley Callahan's "They Shall Inherit the Earth." Oh, and of course I'd like to plug Stuart McLean - he's just so funny!


Anne Michaels- Fugitive Pieces. and any of her poetry really.


I really like Greg Clark.

He wrote mostly newspaper/magazine articles, but wrote some short stories and books as well.

His bio is in Wikipedia and is worth checking out.