Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Love, Redemption and Romanticism in Canadian Writing

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Love, Redemption and Romanticism in Canadian Writing

From Sinclair Ross’s The Painted Door to Alice Munro’s How I Met My Husband and Anne Michael’s The Weight of Oranges, Linda Rogers (The Empress Letters, Cormorant Books) and other members of the Canadian literary community explore love, redemption and romance in Canadian writing.

Open Book: Toronto:

What constitutes a romantic story or poem?

Linda Rogers:

A romantic story or poem always holds the possibility of redemption, some form of love, however compromised. That is a very broad definition. Canadians tend to be pragmatic, but the open possibilities of the New World, new landscapes, and the formation of a new society have given us a broad canvas to paint on. That is why our writers have been so admired throughout the world.


Would you say that Canadian writers are particularly romantic compared to those in the international literary scene?


I think writers on the international literary scene are held hostage by the past. History, literary and or political, can provide an incendiary matrix for writers or it can inhibit optimism, freedom of choice and the willingness to take risk. I think our wide open spaces have informed a greater willingness to explore. Discovery is the DNA of romance. Like romantic love, it is a fragile gift, one we are in danger of losing.


How does the romanticism of the Canadian landscape affect Canadian writing?


Human beings respond instinctively to the promise of fresh snow and the opportunity to create new paths through wilderness. Canadian writers have been very brave; and courage is a romantic requirement, whether it is the courage to fall in love or cross an unknown river. Landscapes, rural and urban, are significant characters in our literature. The challenge and beauty of our surroundings have provided a vital tension in our writing.


Would you say that, over the years, the Canadian literary scene has become more or less romantic?


We are at a dangerous crossroad, which is reflected in the indifference of our government to culture. The emerging Canadian "literary scene" is not romantic at all. That is why I prefer to avoid it. There is a new cynicism as writers talk about "careers" rather than "vocations." Ambition is toxic and anti-romantic. To be a romantic a writer should be writing toward civility, community, the things that matter. Writers have a responsibility, not to love just themselves but to love the world. If we fail to do this, then our writing will fail humanity, which will lose interest in it.


What is the most romantic story or poem to come out of Canadian publishing?

Erin Knight (The Sweet Fuels, Goose Lane Editions):

In the right mood I'm moved to tears by it: The Weight of Oranges by Anne Michaels. (Letters should be written to send news, to say / send me news to say / meet me at the train station...)

Janice Kirk and Gina Buonaguro (Ciao Bella, St. Martin's Press):

Gina recently read Sandra Sabatini's Dante's War ...
[Janice is] going to go with Paul Quarrington's Whale Music despite it's somewhat twisted Canadian version of romance. 
 Will anyone suggest Marion Engel's Bear I wonder, which might be Canadian romance in a nutshell.

Jen Tindall (Artistic Associate, Authors at Harbourfront Centre):

How I Met My Husband by Alice Munro is pretty romantic.

Linda Rogers:

I don't think anything I have read comes close to the tragic irony of Sinclair Ross's The Painted Door. Ross is one of our great writers and this is his best writing. In the story, an anxious wife betrays her husband, lost in a Prairie snowstorm, with their helpful neighbour. The tragic outcome of her action is a stain that stays in the mind forever.

Related item from our archives

JF Robitaille: Minor Dedications


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