I was going to tell you a story about my wife’s Mexican vacation here in La Paz, Mexico, and how in the space of a couple of days she swanned around with a gladiator called Rhino, had a horse fall on her and mislaid her underwear in a stranger’s hotel room.
But then my friend Shafqat in Victoria emailed me a new list of the 100 greatest novels of all time, so I must digress and wax literary.
OK, if you insist, let’s get the gladiator, the horse and the underwear out of the way.
The gladiator’s real name is Mark Smith, but he goes by the name of Rhino in the TV series The Gladiators, where men with superhuman muscles compete for fame and prime-time fortune by doing gladiatorial tasks, but without lions.
Rhino has been staying at our resort, and making me feel like Dudley Moore in the movie 10 when Moore has to be carried over the hot sand because it’s too toasty for his sensitive tootsies. He’s a nice chap and is obviously used to women swooning all over him. My wife has never seen The Gladiators but could tell he was “something” with that body. Women can be so shallow.
Then a day later, a horse crushed her when it reared up on the sand and fell sideways on top of her. She has a big bruise on her leg but is otherwise fine. So, importantly, is the horse. I’m fine too. I went golfing and may have tweaked a small muscle in my back. After seeing Rhino up close, I realize small muscles are all I have.
The underwear? Four pairs that she had washed in the sink were drying on our balcony overnight. Early next morning I heard my wife exclaim: “Oh, no. My knickers!”
A heavy wind had blown them into the gardens. And one pair had landed on the balcony below. It was interesting watching her knock on the door and try to explain to the woman why her underwear was on their balcony.
OK, enough facts and on to fiction.
The list of the “100 best novels of all time” has been compiled by critics and experts from London’s Observer.
Many are classics (Don Quixote, Moby Dick, The Brothers Karamazov, Robinson Crusoe), some are part of the fabric of the past century (The Great Gatsby, Nineteen Eighty-four, Albert Camus’ The Plague and Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop) and some are contemporary (Ian McEwan’s Atonement and Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy).
I’ve read about half of the list and seen a bunch of movies based on the books. It’s a good list, skewing predictably to English authors (Dickens, Austen and the Bronte sisters), but Europe, South America, South Africa, Asia, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand are also represented.
But not one of the books on the list is Canadian. No Mordecai, neither of the Margarets (Laurence nor Atwood), no Robertson Davies or W.O. Mitchell’s Who Has Seen The Wind, no Carol Shields, no Alice Munro.
Kingsley Amis made the list for Lucky Jim, a nice story of 1950s angst but no literary match for St. Urbain’s Horseman, Barney’s Version or The Handmaid’s Tale. No Obasan, Kamouraska or Two Solitudes.
The nearest thing to Canadiana on the list is John Buchan’s Thirty-Nine Steps. Buchan was Canada’s governor-general when Brits occupied the position. The book is a fabulous thriller, but if Buchan is there, why not Harlan Coben or Robert Ludlum?
I thought CanLit was beginning to receive some deserved attention on the international stage. But when it comes to the arts, we continue to be too often ignored. No Stephen Leacock? No Sunshine Sketches? But Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K. Jerome makes the grade? Tosh.
All lists are subjective. But this one is in serious need of CanCon. So let’s put things right.
Send me your nomination for best Canadian book ever. And why it’s worthy of inclusion in the 100 best novels.
I’ll print the best titles. Meanwhile I’m off to write the Great Canadian Novel. The main character is called Rhino, who misplaces his underwear and gets crushed by an elephant. It’s a work in progress.
Ian Haysom, Global news director B.C., divides his week between Vancouver and Central Saanich.