Can CanLit Be Funny?


Did you see this article in the Globe and Mail? At first, I didn’t get it, but upon a second reading, I laughed because it’s eloquently written as a parody of a Canadian novel. Apparently author Rudy Wiebe’s response to a question put to him by fellow author Lawrence Hill was so ridiculous, columnist Russell Smith had to write this piece.


Lawrence Hill: “Why do funny novels get so little respect in Canada, and have you ever burned with desire to write something so damn funny that readers will fall right out of their chairs? Is that a laudable goal?”

Rudy Wiebe: “It seems to me that laughter is too easy a way to face the ‘wilderness of this world;’ you can too easily laugh yourself past the difficulties. Laughter is not a way to understand; it is, basically, a method of elusion.”

If you are not familiar with these authors (as I was not with Wiebe), Lawrence Hill is best known for his novel, The Book of Negroes. Rudy Wiebe has been publishing his work since the 1950s and has won numerous awards, including the Governor General’s Award. He is releasing a new book this month entitled, Come Back.

So can CanLit be funny? When I saw the title of this article, I immediately thought of Terry Fallis and how I recently read The Best Laid Plans which was very funny. I also think Margaret Atwood’s writing is full of wit and humour. However, I am not that well-versed in CanLit to cite more authors and give an educated opinion. But I do believe that laughter can be one of many methods of surviving and understanding life in Canada.

What are your thoughts? Can CanLit be funny? What are some of your favourite funny books by Canadian authors?

9 comments on “Can CanLit Be Funny?

  1. lauratfrey
    October 3, 2014

    I saw a “book person” on Twitter get upset about this and I had to sit on my hands so as not to reply “dude, it’s satire!” It’s like getting offended at The Onion.

    I read King Leary (a Write Reads pick) recently and it’s very funny. I am in the midst of reviewing Spat the Dummy which has tons of very dark humour. Heck, Anne of Green Gables had a lot of over the top, ridiculous moments that were funny in a charming way. Malarky was funny in an absurd way… And the book that made me laugh the most in the last year is probably The Dilettantes. Yes I am just scrolling through Goodreads!

    Classics often surprise me with their humour. There were funny parts in A Tale of Two Cities, and in Moby-Dick. Not Canadian but just goes to show, you can be a `serious author` and still be funny!


    • ebookclassics
      October 5, 2014

      I agree you can still be a serious author and hilarious! I was also thinking about all of the great Canadian comedians and their writing. It’s just translated into a different format. Maybe that guy on Twitter was Rudy Wiebe’s friend. 🙂


  2. Naomi
    October 3, 2014

    I agree with Laura. I’ve seen and read a lot of funny Canadian books. Funny isn’t usually the kind of book I seek out, so there must be so much more out there that I don’t even know about. I also have found that there are different kinds of funny. Margaret Atwood makes me laugh, but her funny is different from writers like Terry Fallis and Will Ferguson. I few Canadian books I’ve read lately that have made me laugh at some point in the book are Malarky, Sweetland, Stone Mattress, No Relation, Roost, and The Woefield Poultry Collective.


    • Naomi
      October 3, 2014

      P.S. I loved that article!


      • ebookclassics
        October 5, 2014

        I completely forgot about Will Ferguson. How can you have books entitled Why I Hate Canadians and Beauty Tips From Moosejaw and not be funny? I love to laugh and if a book is both dramatic AND full of wit, I’m a happy camper.


  3. lauratfrey
    October 5, 2014

    I forgot about Roost!! Yes that too. The one line about “We bought a zoo” – I almost died.


  4. writereads
    October 7, 2014

    Thank you so much for posting this! That article was a blast and while I, like the journalist, also don’t want to harp on Wiebe for a small utterance, I also can’t believe he uttered such a foolish statement.
    Canadian are famous for understanding the world through humour, it’s one of our best characteristics, and it’s too bad that we often see humourous books left out of the award circles and dismissed in CanLit. -Tania


    • ebookclassics
      October 8, 2014

      I agree with you that humour is one of our best characteristics and a book doesn’t have to be 100% serious in tone to be worthy of literary recognition.


  5. Pingback: CanLit is Serious Business? | writereads

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