A Comprehensive Overview of BC Literature (Ronsdale 2010)
Lively, illustrated and controversial, The Essentials is the fourth and largest volume in his series on the literary history of British Columbia, including First Invaders: The Literary Origins of British Columbia (Ronsdale 2004), Aboriginality: The Literary Origins of British Columbia (Ronsdale 2005) and Thompson’s Highway: British Columbia’s Fur Trade, 1800-1850 (Ronsdale, 2006).
Other titles specifically pertaining to BC literary history are Twigg’s Directory of 1001 BC Writers (Crown Publications 1992), Vancouver and Its Writers (Harbour 1986) and Hubert Evans: The First Ninety-Three Years (Harbour 1985).
The Essentials consists of 150 literary markers [See Table of Contents below] for a journey to discover the nature of our collective story of British Columbians. It links the reader to more than 500 additional books and authors on the author’s reference site, hosted by Simon Fraser University Library, that provides information on more than 9,500 B.C. authors. The Essentials is a synthesis of a life’s work devoted to B.C. literature, outside the boundaries of academe.
“The Essentials is a must-have for anyone who cares about B.C.” –Jean Barman, historian
“When it comes to writing and publishing on the West Coast, Alan Twigg has been heroically ubiquitous.” –Douglas Gibson, editor
Foreword to The Essentials
Long before the term Generation X (Douglas Coupland) and the phrase “Build it and they will come” (W.P. Kinsella) entered the English lexicon, the most significant words of British Columbia were etched on a rock in Elcho Harbour, in Dean Channel, near the mouth of the Bella Coola River. The author was an intrepid Scottish businessman who used a mixture of grease and vermilion paint to leave his inadvertently haiku-like message:
From Canada by land
22nd July 1793
For about a century-and-a-half thereafter, most British Columbia writers who wanted their markings viewed in a book were dependent on literary gatekeepers in faraway places, mainly London, New York or Toronto.
Self-publishing evolved as a necessary B.C. tradition. During the 1960s, books from B.C. were mainly printed for independent authors by Mitchell Press in Vancouver or Morriss [sic] Printing in Victoria. There were few bookstores and no B.C.-based publishing houses with national distribution.
The dividing point between Literary Famine and Literary Feast was the formation of the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia with five member companies in 1974. It happened two hundred years after Juan Pérez became the first European to make contact with Haida in B.C. waters, off Langara Island, four years before Captain Cook reached Nootka Sound.
By the 1980s, there were approximately twenty-five publishing houses. A splendid outpouring ensued. Important books that needed to be written, for the sake of society, spilled forth. Like the Picts in Scotland behind Hadrian’s Wall, B.C.’s independent booksellers developed a series of fortresses on the west side of the Rockies, unconquered by the invading chain stores owned from afar.
By the early 1990s, federal surveys revealed British Columbia had the highest book-reading rate per capita in Canada.
British Columbia has been a literary hotspot of North America ever since.
This tsunami of literary productivity in B.C. was coincidental with my adulthood as a neophyte book reviewer in the Seventies, a token Quill & Quire stringer in the Eighties and publisher/writer of BC BookWorld since 1987. As of 2010, more than 9,400 B.C.-related authors have entries on my abcbookworld reference site, hosted by Simon Fraser University Library. Before I get run over by a bus, it behooves me to erect a few signposts.
As much as I would have liked to make a 2,000-page doorstopper, I have excluded authors who have mainly achieved prominence elsewhere, such as Milton Acorn, Margaret Atwood, Pierre Berton, James Clavell, Raymond Chandler, Margaret Laurence, Al Purdy, Sinclair Ross, Robert Service and Carol Shields. And about nine thousand others.
I am acutely aware this panoramic approach from 1774 to 2010 excludes hundreds of books and authors who even I feel should have been included. Where is my good friend and colleague Jean Barman, the historian who gave us The West Beyond the West, the prevailing history of our province? Where is Edith Iglauer, who wrote Fishing with John? Where are Robin Skelton and George Fetherling, who have written almost fifty books each? Where is the heroic Andreas Schroeder, who almost single-handedly gave us Public Lending Right legislation in Canada?
I am trying to respect all writers who have been in British Columbia since 1774—in a wide variety of genres and time periods. This means the splendid outpouring of recent decades will appear under-represented to some who wish to see their reflections in this mirror. I regret this. But my loyalties are with the general public at large. I want people to know they have a literary past.
This book is for people who care about British Columbia, whether they are self-styled literati or not. It is also for people who purport to know a lot about Canadian literature but invariably know little about literary activity west of the Rockies. Nobody should decide on the “best” books or “best” authors until they are fully-informed about what books and authors exist.
The internet exists, and apparently it’s not going away soon, so anyone with access to the internet can discover much longer write-ups for these 150 selections at www.abcbookworld.com, as well as more than 9,000 entries for authors not mentioned herein.
British Columbia has a collective story, seldom told or understood. I have therefore chosen to illuminate a spectrum of literature over a 236-year period, from 1774 to 2010, to give an over-arching impression of what it means to be a British Columbian.
Originality and historical significance are two criteria for inclusion. I have also selected authors whose overall bodies of work and personal lives are significant, rather than restrict this panorama to specific titles.
If you take this journey with 150 stops-of-interest along the way, I hope you will share your expanding knowledge with others. Anyone who objects to the omission of a book or author is welcome to make their own book, using the free reference site at abcbookworld as they please.
I wish to thank David Lester for designing another book for me, as well as publisher Ron Hatch for having the gumption to publish my ongoing series of titles about the literature of British Columbia.
As well, I wish to acknowledge the collegial friendship of Sheryl MacKay, host of CBC radio’s North by Northwest, for inviting me to be heard as a guest on her weekend program for the past three years. My unrehearsed conversations with Sheryl about classic B.C. books and authors have been an important catalyst for this Non-Oxford Guide to British Columbia literature.
I hope The Essentials, 150 Great B.C. Books & Authors, like that CBC radio segment Turning Up the Volumes, will generate more curiosity and respect for everyone who has ever published a book from or about British Columbia.
A.T. TABLE OF CONTENTS
1774 – Juan Pérez et al, Juan Pérez on the Northwest Coast: Six Documents of His Expedition, 1774 (1989); Herbert K. Beals, editor. EARLIEST WRITING ABOUT BRITISH COLUMBIA TERRITORY
1792 – José Moziño, Noticias de Nutka (1913). FIRST ANTHROPOLOGICAL LITERATURE
1807 – John Jewitt, A Journal, Kept at Nootka Sound by John Rodgers Jewitt, One of the Surviving Crew of the Ship Boston, of Boston, John Salter, Commander, Who Was Massacred on the 22d of March, 1803; Interspersed with Some Account of the Natives, Their Manners and Customs (1807) FIRST COMMERCIAL BOOK ABOUT B.C. / 1800-1850 BOOKS.
1816 – Daniel Harmon. A Journal of Voyages and Travels in the Interior of North America (1922). BEST OF THE B.C. FUR TRADERS’ JOURNALS.
1858 – Alfred Pendrill Waddington, The Fraser Mines Vindicated; or, the History of Four Months (1858). CITED AS FIRST B.C. AUTHOR
1862 – Thomas N. Hibben, Dictionary of Indian Tongues, Containing Most of the Words and Terms Used in the Tshimpsean, Hydah, & Chinook, With Their Meaning or Equivalent in the English Language (1862). FIRST B.C. BOOKSELLER / CHINOOK
1862 – Richard Henry Alexander, The Diary and Narrative of Richard Henry Alexander In a Journey Across the Rocky Mountains (1862) (1973). FIRST ACCOUNT OF OVERLAND MIGRATION BY A SETTLER.
1865 – Walter Cheadle, The Northwest Passage by Land (1865) / aka Cheadle’s Journal of Trip Across Canada, 1862-1863. BRITISH COLUMBIA’S FIRST TRANSIENT AUTHORITY / TRANSIENTS
1868 – James Anderson, Sawney’s Letters; or Cariboo Rhymes from 1864-1868. B.C.’s FIRST POET
1878 – George Mercer Dawson. MOST SIGNIFICANT SURVEYOR & GEOLOGIST
1886 – Franz Boas. MOST SIGNIFICANT ANTHROPOLOGIST
1887 – Hubert Howe Bancroft, The History of the Pacific States, Vol. XXVII British Columbia 1792-1887 (1887). FIRST FULL-FLEDGED HISTORY OF B.C. / HISTORIES OF B.C.
1887 – Morley Roberts. B.C.’s FIRST NOVELIST
1896 – Margaret McNaughton, Overland to the Cariboo (1898). FIRST FEMALE AUTHOR
1897 – Sir Clive Phillips-Wolley. One of the Broken Brigade (1897). ONLY BC AUTHOR TO BE KNIGHTED
1898 – Julia Henshaw, Hypnotized (1898), Why Not Sweetheart? (1901). FIRST FEMALE NOVELIST
1898 – James Teit. FIRST EXPONENT OF FIRST NATIONS’ POLITICAL RIGHTS
1901 – Martha Douglas Harris, History and Folklore of the Cowichan Indians (1901). FIRST ABORIGINAL AUTHOR, FIRST TRANSCRIBER OF FIRST NATIONS LITERATURE
1904 – A.G. Morice, The History of the Northern Interior of British Columbia, Formerly New Caledonia, 1660-1880 (1904). FIRST INDEPENDENT SELF-PUBLISHER / MISSIONARIES
1908 – M. A. Grainger, Woodsmen of the West (1908). FIRST LOGGING NOVEL / LOGGING FICTION
1910 – Agnes Deans Cameron, The New North: Being Some Account of a Woman’s Journey Through Canada to the Arctic (1910). FIRST CELEBRATED BORN-IN-B.C. AUTHOR & FIRST FEMINIST / WOMEN’S ISSUES
1911 – E. Pauline Johnson. FIRST WIDELY KNOWN ABORIGINAL AUTHOR IN B.C.
1913 – John Voss, The Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss (1913). MOST REMARKABLE MARITIME STORY
1915 – Edward Curtis. MOST SIGNIFICANT PHOTOGRAPHER
1914 – F.W. Howay, British Columbia from the Earliest Times to the Present (1914). MOST SIGNIFICANT REGIONAL SCHOLAR
1920 – Frederick Niven. FIRST FULL-TIME MAN OF LETTERS
1920 – Bertrand Sinclair. FIRST COMMERCIALLY SUCCESSFUL NOVELIST & FIRST FISHING NOVEL
1922 – Lily Adams Beck. FIRST COMMERCIALLY SUCCESSFUL FEMALE NOVELIST
1926 – B.A. McKelvie. FIRST JOURNALIST TO POPULARIZE B.C. HISTORY
1927 – A.M. Stephen. FIRST PROMINENT SOCIAL REFORMER
1928 – Marius Barbeau. FIRST PUBLISHED AUTHORITY ON TOTEM POLES / ANTHROPOLOGY
1929 – George Godwin’s The Eternal Forest Under Western Skies (1929). FIRST IMPORTANT FRASER VALLEY NOVEL
1931 – Andrew Roddan, God in the Jungles: The Story of a Man Without a Home (1931). FIRST DEFENDER OF THE URBAN POOR
1939 – Irene Baird’s Waste Heritage (1939). FIRST REALISTISTIC LABOUR NOVEL / CIVIL RIGHTS
1939 – Howard O’Hagan, Tay John (1939). FIRST IMPORTANT NOVEL OF THE ROCKIES & CANADA’S FIRST “METAFICTION.”
1941 – Emily Carr, Klee Wyck (1941) & Anne Marriott. FIRST BC RECIPIENTS OF GOVERNOR GENERAL’S AWARDS
1941 – Ford, Clelland Stearns & Charles James Nowell, Smoke from Their Fires: The Life of a Kwakiutl Chief (1941). FIRST BIOGRAPHY OF AN ABORIGINAL
1942 – Earle Birney. MOST INFLUENTIAL LITERARY PERSONALITY
1942 – Robert Swanson. FIRST WIDELY-READ BC POET
1943 – W.K. Lamb. GREATEST LIBRARIAN
1943 – Eric Nicol. FIRST SUCCESSFUL HUMOURIST / HUMOUR
1944 – Bruce Hutchison, The Hollow Men (1944). FIRST POLITICAL NOVEL / CARIBOO FICTION
1944 – Dorothy Livesay. FIRST TWO-TIME RECIPIENT OF GOVERNOR-GENERAL’S AWARD FROM B.C.
1945 – Elizabeth Smart, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept (1945). FIRST WIDELY-READ B.C. NOVEL CONCERNED WITH SEXUALITY
1947 – Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano (1947). MOST RENOWNED NOVEL FROM B.C.
1947 – Ethel Wilson. FIRST WIDELY RESPECTED FEMALE NOVELIST
1950 – Roderick Haig-Brown FIRST CONSERVATIONIST
1951 – Richmond P. Hobson Grass Beyond the Mountains (1951). RANCHING
1952 – Wilson Duff
1953—Gilean Douglas, A River for My Sidewalk (1953). WOMEN & WILDERNESS
1954 – Hubert Evans, Mist on the River (1954). FIRST REALISTIC CANADIAN NOVEL WITH ABORIGINALS AS MAIN CHARACTERS
1957 – Leland Stowe, Crusoe of Lonesome Lake (1957)
1958 – R.E. Watters, British Columbia: A Centennial Anthology (1958)
1959 – Eric Collier, Three Against the Wilderness (1959). HOMESTEADING CLASSIC
1959 – Louise Jilek-Aall MEDICINE
1960 – Norman Lee, Klondike Cattle Drive: The Journal of Norman Lee (1960). Edited by Gordon Elliott. MITCHELL PRESS
1961 – M. Wylie Blanchet, The Curve of Time (1961). MARITIME BESTSELLER / GRAY’S PUBLISHING
1961 – Warren Tallman
1962 – George Nicholson, Vancouver Island’s West Coast, 1762-1962 (1962)
1962 – bill bissett
1963 – Rudolph Vrba. MOST IMPORTANT MEMOIR
1964 – Jane Rule. MOST PROGRESSIVE THINKER
1966 – Christie Harris, Raven’s Cry (1966). CHILDREN’S LITERATURE
1966 – Paul St. Pierre, Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse (1966)
1967 – George Clutesi, Son of Raven, Son of Deer: Fables of the Tse-shaht People (1967)
1967 – Margaret Craven, I Heard The Owl Call My Name (1967). BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES
1967 – Sheila A. Egoff
1967 – Audrey Thomas
1968 – Pat Lowther
1968 – Alice Munro
1968 – George Woodcock. FOREMOST MAN OF LETTERS / DOUKHOBORS
1969 – G.P.V. Akrigg & Helen Akrigg, 1001 B.C. Place Names (1969). PLACE NAMES
1969 – Raymond Hull & Lawrence J. Peter, The Peter Principle (1969)
1970 – Alan Fry, How A People Die (1970). ALCOHOL
1970 – Susan Musgrave, Songs of the Sea-Witch (1970)
1970 – George Ryga, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe (1970). THEATRE
1971 – Barry Gough
1971 – James James, Divorce Guide for B.C. (1971). ADVICE
1971 – Charles Lillard
1971 – Bill Reid. ARTISTS
1972 – Rick Antonson, Brian Antonson & Mary Trainer, In Search of a Legend: The Search for the Slumach-Lost Creek Gold Mine (1972). GOLD
1972 – Barry Broadfoot
1972 – David Watmough. GAY LITERATURE
1973 – Herschel Hardin
1973 – Vic Marks, Cloudburst: A Handbook of Rural Skills and Technology (1973)
1973 – J.I. Packer, Knowing God (1973). RELIGION & SPIRITUALITY
1974 – D.M. Fraser
1974 – Rolf Knight. LABOUR
1974 – George Manuel & Michael Posluns, The Fourth Way: An Indian Reality (1974).
1974 – Gerald Rushton, Whistle Up the Inlet (1974). TRANSPORTATION
1974 – Jim Taylor. SPORTSWRITERS
1975 – Ken Adachi, The Enemy That Never Was (1975). JAPANESE CANADIANS
1976 – Lewis J. Clark, Wild Flowers of the Pacific Northwest, From Alaska to Northern California (1976). PLANTS & GARDENING
1976 – Chuck Davis, editor, The Vancouver Book (1976)
1976 – Jack Hodgins, Spit Delaney’s Island (1976)
1977 – Thomas Berger
1977 – Douglas Cole. EATON’S BOOK AWARD
1977 – Barrie Sanford, McCulloch’s Wonder: The Story of the Kettle Valley Railway (1977). TRANSPORTATION
1978 – Crawford Kilian, Go Do Some Great Thing (1978). AFRO-CANADIAN LITERATURE
1978 – Terry Reksten, Rattenbury (1978)
1979 – Hugh Johnstone, The Voyage of the Komagata Maru: The Sikh Challenge to Canada’s Colour Bar (1979). RACISM
1979 – Dale Lovick, editor, Tommy Douglas Speaks: Till Power is Brought to Pooling (1979). BOOKS BY POLITICIANS
1979 – Stan Persky, Son of Socred (1979). POLITICS
1979 – Phil Thomas, is Songs of the Pacific Northwest (1979). MUSIC
1979 – Margaret Trudeau, Beyond Reason (1979)
1981 – Hugh Brody, Maps and Dreams: Indians and the British Columbia Frontier (1981)
1981 – Anne Cameron, Daughters of Copper Woman (1981)
1982 – Lynne Bowen, editor, Boss Whistle, The Coal Miners of Vancouver Island Remember (1982). MINING
1982 – Dude Lavington, Nine Lives of a Cowboy (1982)
1982 – David Ricardo Williams’ Simon Peter Gunanoot: Trapline Outlaw (1982). OUTLAWS
1983 – Jeannette Armstrong, Slash (1983). FIRST NATIONS AUTHORS
1983 – David Mitchell, W.A.C. Bennett and the Rise of British Columbia (1983)
1984 – William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)
1984 – Thom Henley, editor, Islands at the Edge: Preserving the Queen Charlotte Islands Wilderness (1984). HAIDA GWAII
1985 – Alf Davy, The Gilly: A Flyfisher’s Guide to British Columbia (1985). FISHING
1985 – Peter Murray, The Devil and Mr. Duncan: A History of the Two Metlakatlas (1985)
1987 – Rick Hansen, Man in Motion (1987). SPORTS
1987 – Jim Spilsbury & Howard White, Spilsbury’s Coast: Pioneer Years in the Wet West (1987). PUBLISHERS & PUBLISHING
1989 – Maria Coffey & Dag Goering, Sailing Back In Time (1989). MARITIME
1990 – R. Wayne Campbell, The Birds of British Columbia (1990-2001). NATURAL HISTORY
1991 – Nick Bantock, Griffin & Sabine (1991)
1991 – Douglas Coupland, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (1991)
1991 – Ron Lightburn, Waiting for the Whales (1991), by Sheryl McFarlane, illustrated by Ron Lightburn. ILLUSTRATION
1991 – Alexandra Morton, Siwiti: A Whale’s Story (1991). FEMALE ACTIVISTS
1991 – John Oliphant, Brother Twelve: The Incredible Story of Canada’s False Prophet (1991)
1992 – Jack Whyte
1993 – Jamie Cassels, The Uncertain Promise of Law: Lessons From Bhopal (1993)
1993 – Robert Hare, Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of Psychopaths Among Us (1993)
1994 – Ronald B. Hatch, editor, Clayoquot & Dissent (1994)
1995 – Sage Birchwater, Chiwid (1995)
1995 – John Enrico. TRANSLATORS
1995 – Biruté Galdikas
1995 – John Vanderpant, Underlying Vibrations: The Photography and Life of John Vanderpant (1995). Edited by Sheryl Salloum. PHOTOGRAPHY
1995 – The Whitte Sisters, Chilcotin: Preserving Pioneer Memories (1995). CARIBOO CHILCOTIN
1996 – George Bowering, Bowering’s B.C.: A Swashbuckling History (1996). TISH
1996 – Wayson Choy, The Jade Peony (1996). CHINESE CANADIANS
1997 – Leonard Frank, Bridges of Light: Otto Landauer of Leonard Frank Photos 1945-1980 (1997). Edited by Cyril Leonoff.
1997 – Ian McAllister et al, The Great Bear Rainforest: Canada’s Forgotten Coast (1997)
1999 – Derek Hayes, Historical Atlas of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest (1999). GEOGRAPHY
2000 – Daniel Francis, editor, The Encyclopedia of British Columbia (2000)
2001 – Keith Thor Carlson et al, A Stó:lo–Coast Salish Historical Atlas (2001).
2002 – Lincoln Clarkes, Heroines (2002)
2003 – Tom Thurston, Strongman, The Doug Hepburn Story (2003)
2004 – Joel Bakan, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (2004)
2004 – Rex Weyler, Greenpeace: How a Group of Ecologists, Journalists and Visionaries Changed the World (2004)
2007 – Gary Geddes, Falsework (2007). DISASTERS
2008 – Freedman M. Tovell, At the Far Reaches of Empire: The Life of Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra (2008)
2009 – Bud Osborn. DOWNTOWN EASTSIDE
2010 – Ernest Hekkanen. The Collected Short Stories of Ernest Hekkanen: Naturalistic, Modern Gothic, Surreal & Postmodern (2010)
2010 – Mark Zuehkle
2010 – David Suzuki
2010 – Ivan E. Coyote