What is CanLit: The Illustrated Version

Posted by in CanLit, other book stuff

If you’d like to read yesterday’s post on CanLit, you can find it here.

In case you saw it and thought, “Hell no, that’s WAY too long!” here is the gist of it, in photos. Some people don’t want to have to do all that reading and instead prefer illustrations. No problem.

What is CanLit?

In 2006, this guy

said that CanLit was this:

Unfortunately, people still believe him. I think that myopic view was outdated in 2006 and is indubitably irrelevant today. I say that CanLit is not only that (above, and note, that looks like a lot of books but is only 13 authors) but also this:

And that’s not all, of course. I can’t possibly own all the Canadian literature out there. (If you want to send me your CanLit for review, let me know.) But let’s take a closer look at what we have here, just to make sure we’re clear.


CanLit is not only the (old) literary canon, and not only about rural areas, small towns, and immigrants. It is not necessarily depressing and bleak and humourless and boring. It is not even stories that take place only in Canada. In my view, CanLit is anything written by a Canadian author.*

Thus, altogether now:

Like our country, comprised of a diverse mix of imaginative people from all corners of the earth, our literature should also be inclusive. As readers and writers, we have a responsibility to continuously redefine CanLit. A culture, and literature, that remains stagnant cannot survive. I suspect that the broader our view of CanLit, the prouder we’ll become of it.


Absent from photos: Miranda Hill’s and Sarah Selecky’s stellar and award-worthy collections Sleeping Funny and This Cake is for the Party, respectively. Hill’s book is behind these piles, with Michael Cho’s Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes and Sarah Elton’s City of Words: Toronto Through Her Writers’ Eyes, on the coffee table, as I just (regrettably) finished it, and Sarah’s book is with my sister in Yorkshire because Anne couldn’t bear to part with it before finishing. Julie Wilson’s Seen Reading is on display on a side table. L.M. Montgomery’s Anne series and a few others by her, as well as Moodie and Traill, are also not in these photos, because I forgot to include them from the small shelf behind these piles you see in the photos.  Also absent are Vincent Lam’s Headmaster’s Wager, Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten and Stolen, Anne Michaels’s Winter Vault, Jim Williams’s Rock Reject, Hilary MacLeod’s Mind over Mussels, Cary Fagan’s Valentine’s Fall, Andrew J. Borkowski’s Copernicus Avenue, James King’s Etienne’s Alphabet, Katrina Onstad’s Everybody Has Everything, Charlotte Gill’s Eating Dirt, Shree Ghatage’s Thirst (*this is a tricky one. Shree and her family moved to Canada in the 1980s. Possible post: What is a Canadian Author?), Catherine McKenzie’s ArrangedHelen Humphreys’s Reinvention of Love, and Tony Burgess’s Idaho Winter. One last thing: Obviously, I haven’t included any children’s and YA literature here, although I do have some that’s Canadian.