Marja-Leena Rathje
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Canadian publisher McClelland & Stewart is celebrating 100 years and has put out their Essential 100 list of books: "Selected from the 700 plus M&S backlist titles currently available, our Essential 100 consists of those titles that  should be on every Canadian's bookshelves."

I found it very interesting to check out how many I've read and how very many more I still want to read. How many of these have YOU read and which one is your favourite? Let me see, my favourite...there are so many.. Jane Urquhart's Away, Rohintron Mistry's A Fine Balance, Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient... it's impossible to choose and Canada has so many fine authors. And, if you are a Canadian resident, you may enter a contest to win these Essential 100 titles. I would need more bookshelves!

I don't buy many novels, preferring to use the library, but I do have a LOT of art books, including a few M&S publications on Canadian artists:

1. Tom Thomson:The Silence and the Storm, Harold Town and David Silcox, 1977.
2. Pellan, Germain Lefebvre 1973
3. Contemporary Canadian Painting, William Withrow 1972
4. The Group of Seven, Peter Mellan, 1970
5. Sculpture of the Eskimo, George Swinton, 1972 (George Swinton was one of my instructors at the University of Manitoba School of Art, and he was well-known for his large collection and his scholarship at a time when interest in Inuit art was barely beginning.)

Marja-Leena | 01/05/2006 | 9 comments
themes: Books, Canada and BC, Other artists


I'm a Tom Thompson fan. I sort of had to be since I used to camp in Algonquin Park. Hey, thought you didn't like landscape!
He was wild! Chasing through the woods to plug himself into the energy of a sunset, a dangerous mad current to have running through one's body. He is a most amazing artist. In his paintings I can hear branches snapping as he crashed through the underbrush, returning to his canoe and camp in near darkness. Perhaps he tried to claim too much: the burning of the sun, fleeting clouds, space tumbling ever forward; the whole of the deserted world before him. How could his small craft of painting ever stand up to those forces of wilderness? I can't think of any canvas able to bear such energy, except perhaps a sail or that lain acrosss the rib of a canoe. But neither of those uses have erected the scaffold of perception that Thompson grabbed into the distance to put the hand of man on the mosaic of the sky.
Whoops! I got wordy and didn't say what I had hoped to!

Is his work ever on display in BC? I have, of course, never actually seen one of his paintings in person. Hope I'm thinking of the same person you are referring to...

Was he in the "Group of Seven"?

Hi Bill, Tom Thomson is one of Canada's favourite artists, along with the Group of Seven, almost to the point where many feel that later artists are not getting due recognition! They represent Canada and its landscape to many. When I was a child there were many reproductions in the schools and public spaces. I love them and accept them as part of Canadian art, even though traditional landscapes aren't "my thing". Also the Ontario landscape that they painted reminds me of Finland, and I also find a similarity to works by some Finnish painters of that same era.

Yes, I have seen Thomson's work in galleries, most recently at the Vancouver Art Gallery. No, he's not part of the Group of Seven. From Wikipedia:

"Although Thomson was not a member of the Group of Seven (it is a common misconception that he was), his work bears much stylistic resemblance to that of such group members as A. Y. Jackson, Frederick Varley, and Arthur Lismer. These artists shared in common an appreciation for rugged, unkempt natural scenery, and all used broad brush strokes and the liberal application of paint to capture the stark beauty and vibrant colour of the Ontario landscape."

Thanks for straightening me out Marja-Leena. Hard to imagine being crazy about an artist you are overexposed to. Come to think of it, for years my only Tom Thompson experience was the folding map for Algonquin Provincial Park, where one of his paintings was the coverpiece and others were included inside.
Dashing off to capture a momentary arrangement of clouds does not seem traditional to me. It seems rather a novel and passing madness.

I enjoyed Robertson Davies as a young person. "Driftwood Valley" was written by a U.S. person who lived several years in Canada took place just a bit north and east of where you are. It was more scientific than Tom Thompson, but again it was an exercise in wilderness rapture.

Bill, I do hope that you've been able to see some of Thomson's actual work. " an exercise in wilderness rapture" - I like that!

You are very kind and tolerant, Marja-leena. I don't know why I got so seized-up at the memory of Thompson. The whole landscape representation thing kinda flips me out. What a thing to try to do! It boggles.

Bill, I'm always happy to see someone very excited about art, having an emotional reaction to it for whatever reason, even it's negative!! We need more like you in our "audience". Thank you for sharing your feelings - I enjoy the conversation, which makes this blogging much more interesting than just talking to myself!

Interesting list. I also loved Urquhart's Away as well as Ondaatje's The English Patient (I didn't know he's Canadian now - I also enjoyed his Anil's Ghost, set in his native Sri Lanka). I'm surprised at how many of these I've read. Usually these lists are full of things I think I should have read but haven't! I've read many of Alice Munro's wonderful short stories. I read both of the Alistair McLeod books. No Great Mischief was brilliant. Reduced me to sobbing on an airplane, I recall! Embarassing. And I've read some of Atwood's, especially liked Cat's Eye, which isn't on the list.

Leslee, thanks for sharing this! I, too, have read certain books by some of these authors that weren't listed. I must read that one by Alistair McLeod. Just not enought time to read everything!