Why Didn’t Somebody Tell Me?
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:
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.