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Why Didn’t Somebody Tell Me?

July 31, 2010

It’s hot.

I know I complain about this every summer, and it’s not like it’s a big surprise that in July it gets hot, but still, I feel put upon.  Because it’s hot.   Too hot to eat, too hot to sleep, too hot to knit.

It was almost too hot to read.  Until I discovered that our thoughtful and courteous neighbors to the North invented a whole class of genre fiction designed perfectly for my situation:

The Northwestern!

It’s the snowy, Mountie-y, majestic-firry, “a man comes here to  . . . forget”-y, sweet-brave-girl-y, (and so far, anyway, not painfully and obviously racist-y) version of horse-opera–and it’s perfectly divine.

I don’t know how I missed this:  I, who pride myself on my encyclopedia knowledge of crappy popular fiction.  I think it must be the notorious diffidence of the Canadian which has prevented these fabulous novels from obtruding on my notice.

They’re so snowy.  That’s what I like best about them.  People are forever falling into snow drifts or getting frostbitten or being swept into icy rivers . . . mmmmmm.  Icy rivers.  Also, and this is unexpected, they’re a little bit obsessed with hard work.  Mostly, but not exclusively, manly hard work.  My first Northwestern, The Greater Power (1909), could reasonably be described as tree felling/stump pulling/log fluming/rock blasting porn:

Men undoubtedly work for money in Western Canada, but one has only to listen to their conversation in saloon and shanty to recognize the clean pride in their manhood, and their faith in the destiny of the land to which they belong. They have also proved their faith by pitting their unshrinking courage and splendid physical strength against savage Nature, and, among their other achievements, that track blown out of the living rock, flung over roaring rivers, and driven through eternal snow, supplies a significant hint of what they can bear and do. They buried mangled men in roaring cañon and by giddy trestle, but the rails crept always on.

All that clean manhood freezing to death . . . it’s very cooling, somehow.

Let me make haste to point out that I’ve only just finished The Greater Power, and started Ranching for Sylvia (another Bindloss) and To Him That Hath (Ralph Connor), so far.  The genre may turn out on further inspection to be significantly less delightful than it seems up to this point.  But seriously, as long as they keep delivering strong men’s sinews cracking under terrible feats of blizzard lumberjack prowess while I languish on my sofa drinking sweet tea and fanning myself, I’ll be happy.

I’m sure this doesn’t reflect well on me.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Winkin permalink
    August 2, 2010 12:36 pm

    THIS is why I love reading old books dripping with he-man patriarchy, swinging around their manhood like an axe. It is, by far THE best source of laughter I have ever found. So when depressed and feeling a tad nostolgic, I’ll reach for the closest turn of the century novel I can find and giggle my way into happy-dom.

  2. August 4, 2010 6:16 am

    It sounds cooling to me, too. But then I have the general longing for the North which you find in people who live comfortably in the southern, civilised bit of a country which is mostly full of unpeopled wilderness. I think CS Lewis wrote an essay about the romantic longing for “northernness”, although I only know it at second-hand (through an essay by Anne Fadiman called “My Odd Shelf” which is about her interest in Antarctic exploration).

    Mine expresses itself mostly as an interest in Norse myths, Vikings, Gaels and Picts, and a desire to go to various places where they have Midnight Sun at midsummer. We are plotting a trip to Shetland, although I don’t know if we will aim for midsummer or not…

  3. August 5, 2010 12:19 am

    Midnight sun. Northern Lights. And yarn–especially in Shetland. Mmmmm.

    In another life, a hundred light years ago, I was engaged to be married to an Antarctic geochemist. It was an interesting interlude, if doomed for all kinds of reasons.

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