22 March 2006

Making Your Mark

Since late last year I have been ploddingly reading Will Ferguson's "Beauty Tips From Moose Jaw." It is a little late in the game for a book review, it was published two years ago, but I have never done one before so fuck you. It took me so long to read because it is the sort of book that lent itself to being read a few pages at time. I find Douglas Coupland's books lend themself to being read lazily, between stops on the bus for example, also.

I like to read books about my overfed country. This one of Ferguson's is not as good as the books Chris Walters and Paul St. Pierre have written. If he packed a long gun around with him, like St. Pierre does and kept a vein ready for a shot of cocaine, like Walters used to, this could have been twice the book it is. I like my writers to be killing other creatures or themselves. Ferguson, who injects as much of himself into this book, as he does drooling gobs of Canadian history, comes across as a confident elementary teacher with a gift for words. At least he seems to have a bit of trouble with the bottle now and then, just not enough of one to make me think one day he will bring his long gun into school with him and start shooting the loudmouth punks who think they run the world because they have a cell phone in their pocket.

As I say though, the motherfucker can write.

Like the covered wagon in the American West or the Viking longboats of Norse glory, the canoe - an exemplary form of aboriginal adaptive technology - is Canada's founding vessel. More than merely a means of transportation, the canoe has become iconic. You want symbolism? We've got symbolism. Consider this: canoes are held together by internal tension. The sides, running from bow to stern, are forced apart in the middle by wooden thwarts, giving the vessel its defining tautness. It's the deceptive symplicity of the canoe - the elegance, the symmetry, the long clean entry curves at the waterline - that makes it such a perfect blend of function and form. The canoe possesses, in the words of one fur trade officer, "a faultless grace and beauty."

Perhaps it is because so many Canadians, a nation of people long noted for their modesty about all things not related to hockey and dope growing, have paddled a canoe or at least seen a canoe faultlessly rip through a mountain lake, are the way we are. To make your mark in the world as a canoe does just may be the sort of mark worth making.

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