Steven Beattie at That Shakespeherian Rag is doing a year-end roundup of people's favourite books during 2007. My contribution is here.
In it, I bang the drum of Canadian cultural nationalism as loud as I think I politely can. But of course, being ironic about one's passions is in itself a veddy Canadian thing to do (as is throwing in a piece of outdated slang that is, in its etymology, less than fully of the Home Country (I won't even touch the more complicated question of the associations this latter phrase triggers within the Canadian mindset)).
I'm in the process of writing some more on the issue of Canada's view of its own culture. This is a topic that often arouses the following, snickering response: "What culture?" When voiced by a Canadian, the wisecrack is further proof of how deep neurosis runs in the national character, and when voiced by someone outside the country (usually an American or Brit), it shows how large the "Kick me" sign is written on our pasty, frozen butts.
But the truth is, Canada not only has a culture, it needs one ... it needs more of one. And it's been my time in South Korea that has really reinforced this conclusion, because Korea provides an example both of what a fairly small country's culture can be to its own people, and how it can retain its sense of self while also finding a place within global culture. Believe it or not, any country can achieve this, and while this might seem like a given to those from dominant cultures, it is something Canadians will have to sort out through not only a painful process of debate, but trial-and-error in the machinery of its cultural production, and an increased willingness to take risks.
[Update: to see an example of the kind of debate that can happen -- and is needed -- on this issue, see this post at Zachariah Wells' site Career Limiting Moves. Personally, I haven't been won over by Wells' central argument that literature is a kind of completely open marketplace in which the "best" titles win attention from teachers and readers. But the key thing is, Wells is willing to forcefully speak his mind. And he is right on the money when he says there is confusion in Canada (and maybe the States, too) about what constitutes fair debate. ]