Pevere & Dymond, Mondo Canuck

I've been browsing for a few weeks through Mondo Canuck: A Canadian Pop Culture Odyssey, because it's overwhelming all at once, like a dictionary is: 53 essays on topics as diverse as Stompin' Tom Connors, Porky's, made-in-Canada game shows, and "Canadian beefcake." Since the book came out in 1996, of course, there are some badly dated references (Gino Vannelli - beefcake of the highest order), and the "but of course you already know this" tone hasn't aged well.

But the book itself reads well still, particularly some of its background assumptions about why Canada is how it is, and why Canadians are how we are. As a Vancouver Islander, I begrudge somewhat the repeated remarks about Canada always being so damned cold you won't willingly leave your rec room, but the insight applies extremely well to Canada east of the Fraser Valley:
the suburban voice is shaped by the shared experience of countless hours of unsupervised TV viewing between school's end and the summoning for supper: it's a voice that's intelligent but rarely angry or political, and invariably informed by the various fantasy writers, TV shows and records that filled the hours between casseroles and butter tarts. (p. 186, from the section on Rush)
Something to think about in relation to Richard Harris' book Creeping Conformity, on the development of Canadian suburbs to 1960.

It's not a consistently insightful book, and for me it's vastly inferior to Douglas Coupland's series of dictionary-style collections of "essays" (City of Glass, Souvenir of Canada, Souvenir of Canada 2, and most of all the powerful, buy-it-for-everyone-you-know Terry), but in a way I don't see Coupland doing his books without this one. In any case, apart from standing as the inspiration of Coupland's wonderful volumes, Mondo Canuck will remain a record of 90s Canadian self-perspective, and that's a good kind of success for a book to accomplish.


John Mutford said…
Did you know Coupland's Souvenir of Canada books were adapted into a movie? They were interesting, though in a slightly different way than the books. Still, as in most cases, I prefered the books. This one sounds interesting, too.
richard said…
I enjoyed the filmed Souvenir of Canada, and I managed to keep it distinct enough from the books not to worry about preferences. I did, however, develop an intense case of self-loathing based on my coolness deficiency that kept me from an invite to Canada House in West Van, but these things happen.
John Mutford said…
Yeah, that would have been a pretty great invite for sure!

I think a part of why I felt more drawn to the books, was the focus. I thought the house and the roadtrip monopolized the movie. I'm originally from Newfoundland and now living in the North. I thought he touched on those two areas much more in the book, whereas they were barely mentioned at all in the film. Odd choice for a movie adaptation though, eh?
richard said…
I know what you mean about the house's domination of the movie, but I really liked the movie's increasing (and perhaps accidental?) focus on Coupland's father. I'm a sucker for that sort of thing, very "Cat's in the Cradle."

Very odd choice for a film adaptation, you're right! Michael Stipe has the movie rights to all Coupland's books, but so far nothing seems to be in development. I'm looking forward to eventually tracking down Everything's Gone Green, based on an original screenplay by Coupland.
am I the only person between the ages of 20 and 50 who doesn't like Douglas Coupland? I can't deal with his self-satisfied fakey-intellectualism and smuggery.


I mean that in a nice way.

richard said…
Smuggery does fine to describe Coupland, Zoot. Nope, you're not the only person in this age group to dislike his persona and sound, but it does tend to break down along gender lines. The female fans can get obsessive, but there aren't nearly as many of them.

And for god's sake, Zoot, don't ever watch Souvenir of Canada: nothing but what you'd see as "self-satisfied fakey-intellectualism and smuggery"!

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