- MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
- The Riot Grrrl Collection by Lisa Darms
- The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison
- A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout
- How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny
What do these titles have in common, aside from the fact that they are all on PW’s 2013 best books list? The authors are all women, yes, but they are also all Canadian. Pretty shocking, considering the fact that the entire population of Canada is smaller than that of California. Is this a mere coincidence or is it evidence of something larger?
I may be prone to conspiracy, but I have a theory that Canadian women are the new old white men of the book world. In other words, they are taking over publishing. Come to think of it, this plan of theirs has been in the works for years—decades really. The Canadian literary scene is booming, yet completely under our radar in America. (If you don’t believe me, visit Toronto; there’s a bookstore every block and a half on Bloor Street.)
Somehow it’s only now—with the Alice Munro in the limelight—that I am beginning to pick up on it. You see, all along they have taken the “kill ’em with kindness,” approach—a classic Canadian tactic. Their books are slow burning—subtle and powerful, sneaking into our bookstores like Trojan horses. While we’re busy debating whether The Circle is worthy of the Orwell comparison, the Canadians are seeping into the cultural canon, poised for literary world domination. But with Alice Munro reigning as this year’s Nobel laureate, their cover is blown. Why else do you think she went into hiding upon hearing the news of the award?
Then, only weeks after the Nobel was announced, Eleanor Catton, a 28-year-old New Zealand–based author, nabbed the Booker with her brilliant and beastly second novel, The Illuminaries. They tried to pass her off as the Kiwi sleeper pick, but secretly, she’s a Canadian protégé—born and raised in Ontario for the first six years of her life.
Meanwhile Canadian women have been infiltrating New York—the publishing capital of the world—for years, beginning in 2004, when Sarah McNally of the Canadian McNally-Robinson bookstore dynasty first opened her shop on Prince Street in Soho. Sarah’s creation, McNally Jackson, is now one of New York’s foremost independent bookstores. Author, news editor, and star tweeter Sara Weinman is also Canadian. It doesn’t stop there. Leanne Shapton, also a writer, also Canadian, is a wildly popular graphic artist, whose lettering appears on numerous books. If you’re one to buy into subliminal messages, I’d be wary of paperbacks by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath, Joseph Heller, Henry James—to name of few off Leanne’s resume. With forthcoming novels from Lisa Moore and Emma Donoghue, the examples are numerous and all around us.
What is it about Canada that breeds such successful writers? Is it the cold? Maybe something in the water? The poutine? My thinking is that this is all part of a master plan, but who is the brains behind the operation for future takeover? The choice is obvious: Margaret Atwood, of course.