O CANADA: Travels in an Unknown Country by Jan Morris

O CANADA: Travels in an Unknown Country

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Sparkling description of Canadian cities and villages by world-class travel-writer Morris, author of Hong Kong, Venice, The Matter of Wales (her present home), and many others. Faced with the enormity of writing about this huge country, Morris says that ""Canada is one country whose parts are greater than the whole, and its colossal scale is becoming increasingly irrelevant."" And so she focuses this collection of essays (first commissioned by the editors of the Canadian magazine Saturday Night) on ten urban areas rather than on Canada's immense train lines, tracts of forest, and so on. These areas are: St. John's, St. Andrews, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Banff, Yellowknife, and Vancouver. Morris finds St. John's (Newfoundland) the most entertaining town in North America: ""windy, fishy, anecdotal, proud, weather-beaten, quirky, obliging, ornery, and fun,"" full of irresistible talkers about themselves and their festivals, dramatically fiord-like harbor, and chunky wooden streets whose ""kind of throwaway picturesqueness [suggests] to me sometimes a primitive San Francisco, sometimes Bergen in Norway, occasionally China, and often an Ireland of long ago."" St. Andrews's nostalgic shoals, islands, fish weirs, and church-bell conservativeness move Morris to thoughts of abandoning her traditional ""radical, if not actually anarchist views...."" Montreal she finds to be the most exciting and volatile Canadian city, with its two hostile linguistic groups. In Ottawa she detects abstraction and allegory, ""some misty iconification of Canada."" And ""Toronto seems to me, in time as in emotion, a limbo-city....The people in its streets, walking with that steady, tireless, infantry-like pace that is particular to this city, seem on the whole resigned, without either bitterness or exhilaration, to being just what they are."" Great reading that Canadians as well as folks south will welcome.

Pub Date: May 20th, 1992
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: HarperCollins