Is there a Canadian work to rival Ducks, Newburyport?

Full time critic and occasional blogger Steven Beattie says you have to look to Quebec to answer that.

The plain fact is Mallick has a point – or, at least, she might have had she been writing twenty years ago. There was a time when it was possible to argue that Canadian writing was mired in a kind of hidebound, sclerotic attitude that promoted historical romances and fiction that was largely static and stylistically moribund. I wrote numerous pieces forwarding this argument myself in the early to mid aughts.

It is less easy to make this argument in 2020, unless you read very narrowly and confine your focus to the handful of novels that win awards or receive heavy buzz in the mainstream press and online. Though even here, you’d run into difficulty: Ian Williams’s Reproduction, the novel that won the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize was a stylistically innovative, vigorous, pop-culture infused, hugely funny multi-generational family novel that would seem to tick off many of the boxes Mallick is advocating for.

To argue that novels published in this country are “not ambitious or invented or original or venturesome” displays a large degree of myopia as to what is currently being published, especially by the small presses in this country. Though even the multinationals are getting into the game: Reproduction was published by Random House Canada, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada. Imprints of PRHC also published two of the most stylistically challenging, genre-bending novels of the previous year, Sara Peters’s prose-poetry hybrid I Become a Delight to My Enemies and Anakana Schofield’s Bina, the latter of which would seem like a perfect companion read to Ducks, Newburyport. (Granted, the book is set in Ireland, where Schofield was born, so perhaps it doesn’t qualify as Canadian in Mallick’s jaundiced eyes.)

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