Author Attempts to Define Canadianness

Monday Magazine | July 6, 2004
Canadian identity, such as it is, seems to be defined more by what it is not than by what it is. Call us the global antithesis if you like, but you know that the one thing we’ll all agree upon (besides the fact that maple syrup is yummy and beer is crucial to the full enjoyment of hockey) is that no matter what squishy definitions we might come up with to explain Canadianness, our Canadianness is only truly crystallized by the fact that we’re Not American.

However, someone had to put their finger on it, and of course that someone was Douglas Coupland, chronicler of all things popular and cultural. He documented all that is Canadian first in his book Souvenir of Canada (2002), and now in the logically named Souvenir of Canada 2. A coffee-table type book with glossy colour photos and brief, pithy explanations of Canadian things (like Robertson screwdrivers, Eaton’s catalogues, taxidermied fish, the goods and services tax, and a great whack of Canadian product packages and garbage, not to mention the ubiquitous Canada geese.

As you might expect, the book is also a meditation on what makes Coupland himself Canadian. His formative aesthetic is largely informed by the period between the 1950s and 1970s (including the aforementioned Eaton’s catalogues and the sainted Terry Fox). Given that there are a few contemporary items in this book—like grow ops (who knew!) and Coupland’s 2003 Vancouver art installation, Canada House—it would be lovely to see Coupland’s ongoing collection of all that’s extremely contemporary and Canadian, taking this project beyond the millennium—but I suppose there’s room for that in the inevitable Souvenir of Canada 3.

Monday Magazine

Founded in 1975 to provide a critical voice in Victoria's political and cultural communities, Monday Magazine continues to shake British Columbia's conservative capital city with tell-it- like-it-is features and reviews. Targeting educated, active adults and Victoria's growing youth market, Monday...
More »
Contact for Reprint Rights
  • Market Served: Metropolitan Area
  • Address: 818 Broughton St., Victoria, BC V8W 1E4
  • Phone: (250) 382-6188