Vancouver and its Writers

(Harbour Publishing 1986)

Vancouver and its WritersThe arrangement of entries in Alan Twigg’s third book provides the reader with a guided tour of 100, mostly unrecognized, Vancouver literary landmarks, from Stanley Park to Dollarton, which often illuminate the background of a favourite work of literature.

Pauline Johnson and Malcolm Lowry are commemorated with monuments at Stanley Park and Cates Park respectively, but those were the only ‘literary landmarks’ in the Lower Mainland that recognized B.C. writers. Hence this literary project arose to mark the city’s centenary.

Rudyard Kipling came to Vancouver in 1907 to give a speech to the Canadian Club at Pender Hall. John Gray set his first novel in a communal house at 2932 West 6th Avenue. D.M. Fraser lived on the upper floor at Morris’ Second Hand store on Main Street. And so on.

The book is an attempt to assert the validity of made-in-B.C. art in the face of continued colonial attitudes. “The best books, according to colonial wisdom,” he writes, “are written by Europeans (preferably dead Europeans)….The next best books are those praised in the New York Times. The next best books are from Eastern Canada. Local books are fourth class.”

Twigg has uncovered many hitherto obscure pioneer authors from preceding generations, but the majority of entries highlight contemporaries such as Brian Fawcett, Jack Hodgins, Anne Cameron, Joy Kogawa and George Bowering, and such imports as Audrey Thomas, Jane Rule and Keith Maillard, who have established national and international reputations.

Other well-known writers made Vancouver their home for a few years, long enough to produce major works, before moving on to new surroundings. These include James Clavell, Margaret Laurence, Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood.

As Twigg states in his introduction: “I hope that if readers continually pass Morris’ Second Hand store on Main Street, they will be drawn to investigate the remarkable work of D.M. Fraser. If you stroll past the palatial Kensington Place apartments (before they’re demolished), you might want to read a book by Ethel Wilson.”

-Harbour Publishing