Top Ten “Souvenirs of Canadian Affiliation”

There were many things about Canada during this week’s halfway-mark section of the reading.  Here’s a recap of my ten favourite souvenirs of Canada (in order of appearance):

1. “I even remember. The Brandon Psychiatric Center.” Marathe pretended to cough in the recognition of this. “This is a mental hospital. The far north of Manitoba. Forbidding wastelands. The center of nothing.” (471)

Marathe said “Giving away their souls and lives for p-terminal stimulation, you are saying.” “You can maybe see the analogy,” Steeply said, over the shoulders to smile in a wry way. “In Canada, my friend, this was.”.…“Your point finally is Canadians also, we would choose dying for this, the total pleasure of a passive goat.” (474)

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Yes, it’s true that many Canadians do not regard northern Manitoba as a picnic locale. We on the coastal brackets of the continent tend to jest often at the expense of the prairie provinces and their meteorological plight. I’d be jockeying the p-switch like a wild man too if I had to live in northern Manitoba.

2. A burly bearded thoroughly Canadian figure in one of those Canadianly inevitable checked-flannel shirts appears out of the dim light in the shop’s back room and wipes its mouth on first one sleeve then the other…looking edgy and emotionally pale, which might explain the X of small-arms ammo-belts across his checked chest and the rather absurdly large .44 revolver tucked and straining in the waistband of his jeans. (480)

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We all look like this, yes. Reasons to fear Canada.

3. And Lucien finally dies, rather a while after he’s quit shuddering like a clubbed muskie and seemed to them to die, as he finally sheds his body’s suit, Lucien finds his gut and throat again and newly whole, clean and unimpeded, and is free, catapulted home over fans and the Convexity’s glass palisades at desperate speeds, soaring north, sounding a bell-clear and nearly maternal alarmed call-to-arms in all the world’s well-known tongues. (488-9)

A sweet portrait of what going home feels like (despite the morose circumstances befalling Lucien here), soaring north.

4. “Fuck the Albertans,” Steeply said. “Who’s worried about the Albertans? The Albertans’ idea of a blow the U.S. plexus is they blow up rangeland in Montana. They’re wackos.” (489)

The whole country agrees: Alberta is Canada’s Texas. (No offense to Texas, but you get the idea).

5.  Marathe pretended to sniff. “The temptation of the passive Reward of terminal p, this all seems complex to me. Terror seems part of the temptation for you. Us of Quebec’s cause, we have never felt this temptation for the Entertainment, or knowing. But we respect its power. Thus, we do not fool crazily about.” (508)

Maybe it takes a Canadian to appreciate the hilarity of Marathe’s French-Canadian English syntax, but Wallace really nails it, here and throughout.

6. He’d apologize profusely when you had no idea what that sentence meant and say maybe the obfuscation had been unconsciously deliberate, out of some kind of embarrassment over his first and last limelighted architectural supervision, up in Ontario, before the rise of O.N.A.N.ite Interdependence, when he’d designed the Toronto Blue Jays’ novel and much-ballyhooed SkyDome ballpark-and-hotel complex. Because Tavis had been the one to take the lion’s share of the heat when it turned out that Blue Jay’s spectators in the stands, many of them innocent children wearing caps and pounding their little fists into the gloves they’d brought with hopes of nothing more exotic than a speared foul ball, that spectators at a distressing number of different points all along both foul-lines could see right into the windows of guests having various and sometimes exotic sex in the hotel bedrooms over the center-field wall. The bulk of the call for Tavis’s rolling head had come, he’d tell you, when the cameraman in charge of the SkyDome’s Instant-Replay-Video Scoreboard, disgruntled or professionally suicidal or both, started training his camera on the bedroom windows and routing the resultant multi-limbed coital images up onto the 75-meter scoreboard screen, etc. Sometimes in slow motion and with multiple replays, etc. (516-7)

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Believe it or not, these hotel rooms actually exist.

7. When now he dreamt of his father, it was of the two skating, young Marathe and M. Marathe, at a St. Remi-d’Amherst outdoor rink, M. Marathe’s breath visible and his pacemaker a boxy bulge in his Brunswickian cardigan.” (528)

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My father (sans pacemaker) and I: an integral part of the Canadian Bildungsroman.

8. Whether English misspelling or Quebecois solecism, sic. (Note 203, in reference to the misspelled “Antitoi Entertainent” on 480) (1034)

This is fairly common among the Quebecois. We know one who once said (what sounded like) she was going to “wash her teets,” by which she meant “brush her teeth.”

9. Being out of the sociolinguistic loop, L.A. has no way of knowing that ‘To hear the squeak’ is itself the very darkest of contemporary Canada’s euphemisms for sudden and violent de-mapping. (Note 206) (1034)

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Our cat Kristofferson will swing open our front door’s outer screen on numerous occasions throughout any given day when he wants to come in, the screen’s springs producing a groan that’s audible from well inside the house. My wife Rachel and I have started referring to this as “hearing the squeak” over the past several months, in homage to this passage. Just imagining this little guy in a wheelchair with a flannel blanket over his lap and wielding a Glock is a source of great mirth.

10. Wayne and a Manitoban in T-shirts with leaves on them, hands over their hearts, facing north. (Note 209) (1035)

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A sight that’s become pretty familiar, in recent memory.

Hope you enjoyed the cultural tour!

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8 thoughts on “Top Ten “Souvenirs of Canadian Affiliation””

  1. Thank you for the link to Reasons to fear Canada. It’s hard to believe that we are this far into the US election season and only our beloved Gov. of US Wisconsin, Scott Walker, has had the foresight to consider a northern wall!
    This week the news has been filled with questions about how Donald Trump is planning to get Mexico to pay for his southern wall. He’s not saying but if any ATHSCME fans show up around El Paso or Tucson, I’d be staying well north of there.

    PS. Thanks for the great Canadian visuals!

    1. Yeah, that McSweeney’s list is pretty funny. I love those guys. Oh boy, your guys’ current election is a real doozy. If Trump wins, I may find myself moving far far away from the North American continent. Somewhere in Scandinavia, most likely. 😉

  2. Cool picture of you and your dad way back in the Year of the Cooper Youth Ice Hockey Helmet (YCYIHH). When I read the reference in IJ to a father and son in St. Remi-d’Amherst I was sure this was some kind of nod to David and his father both attending Amherst College. But, nope – sure enough – St. Remi-d’Amherst is a real place in Canada.

  3. Thanks Dave for the post. I live in the US but love Canada!
    I believe that this sentence…
    3. And Lucien finally dies, rather a while after he’s quit shuddering like a clubbed muskie and seemed to them to die, as he finally sheds his body’s suit, Lucien finds his gut and throat again and newly whole, clean and unimpeded, and is free, catapulted home over fans and the Convexity’s glass palisades at desperate speeds, soaring north, sounding a bell-clear and nearly maternal alarmed call-to-arms in all the world’s well-known tongues. (488-9)
    …is one of the most beautiful and important in the book. To me, it may reveal a lot about what DFW felt “inside,” even though perhaps he was unable to integrate the ramifications (i.e. treating others with compassion) into his own life…

    1. Awesome! Yeah, that line is a real gasper, for sure. It tells us quite a bit about the political situation between the nations, and what motivates the A.F.R. and other groups interested in Canadian sovereignty, not to mention the general appeal to human empathy it implies (as you note). :)

      1. When you say:
        “Yeah, that line is a real gasper, for sure. It tells us quite a bit about the political situation between the nations, and what motivates the A.F.R. and other groups interested in Canadian sovereignty, ”
        Did you mean the sentence, or the section from which it came? Or do you see the part
        “Lucien finds his gut and throat again and newly whole, clean and unimpeded, and is free,”
        as a metaphor for Canadian sovereignty? Of course, the AFR, though it doesn’t want its turf to be the US/ONAN’s dumping ground, doesn’t want to be part of a unified Anglophone Canada, either? You are the “local,” so I’d be curious as to what you think about that…

        1. Oh, good insight about that being a metaphor; I guess it could be! Very nice. Yeah, there’s a section where it talks about Quebecois groups dropping their own provincial sovereignty agendas pretty fast after the creation of O.N.A.N. and the Convexity, those being a lot more pressing.

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