Wow – Canada!

Canada through the eyes of world literature


We Canadians judge our country by the opinions of outsiders. Every time a celebrity of any wattage touches down in Toronto or Vancouver or Montreal, some breathless local journalist can be counted on to ask them, “What do you think of Canada?” They say something politely anodyne and we all sigh with relief and go back to admiring their glorious foreignness.

I consider this impulse provincial and vaguely pathetic, but I confess that whenever I’m reading a book by a non-Canadian and stumble across a reference to Canada, I feel an undeniable frisson followed by an inner exclamation: “Wow – Proust (or whoever) has heard of Canada!”

This blog is a catalogue of those moments – glimpses of a territory as seen in the mind of the outside world – misty, rough, uncertain – distorted by ignorance or preconception – a land that doesn’t exist in the real world – a land that barely exists in the book that refers to it, but rather moves briefly into view and then disappears as suddenly, never to reappear – a convenience, a throwaway, mentioned and forgotten – home.


5 thoughts on “About

  1. Brooke,

    The focus of your blog is terrific and I truly think your commentary is well done. You have a keen eye and are picking up on quite a few things about the American perception of Canada and its culture that I also find amusing and in some cases dumbfounding.

    I’ve added Wow-Canada! to my blogroll at, which is my own effort to better understand Canadian culture (and help others do so as well).



  2. I’m enjoying your blog — well done! 🙂

  3. You make me chuckle. Thanks.

  4. Richard Sanger on said:

    from mlk:

    n the 1967 Massey Lectures, Martin Luther King, Jr. writes:

    “Canada is not merely a neighbor to Negroes. Deep in our history of struggle for freedom Canada was the north star. The Negro slave, denied education, de-humanized, imprisoned on cruel plantations, knew that far to the north a land existed where a fugitive slave if he survived the horrors of the journey could find freedom. The legendary underground railroad started in the south and ended in Canada. The freedom road links us together. Our spirituals, now so widely admired around the world, were often codes. We sang of “heaven” that awaited us and the slave masters listened in innocence, not realizing that we were not speaking of the hereafter. Heaven was the word for Canada and the Negro sang of the hope that his escape on the underground railroad would carry him there. One of our spirituals, Follow the Drinking Gourd, in it’s disguised lyrics contained directions for escape. The gourd was the big dipper, and the north star to which its handle pointed gave the celestial map that directed the flight to the Canadian border. So standing today in Canada I am linked with the history of my people and its unity with your past.”

    The original publication of Conscience for Change is out of print. The complete lectures can be found in The Lost Massey Lectures published by House of Anansi.

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