In honour of the inaugral edition of Manitoba Reads, SCENE invited Ariel Gordon to come up with five excellent reasons you should read Manitoban.
Like many Manitoban writers, Ariel exceeded expectations.
1. Because a 100-mile literary diet is EMINENTLY easier to achieve than a plain ol' 100-mile diet.
2. Quality over quantity. Yes, Manitoba's literary community is small enough to be categorized as a cabal, but it's very winning: we've got Governor General's Award winners, Giller Award winners, IMPAC Dublin nominees, and ReLit Award winners wandering the streets, notebooks in hand.
The only prize that Manitobans haven't won, sadly, is a Pullitzer. And that's mostly because they're not eligible, as Canadians. (I'm what's called an unreliable narrator, see?)
3. For documentary purposes. Which is to say, Winnipeg (and its bedroom communities, which includes everything as far as Flin Flon) is small enough that you'll probably wind up at a party with a writer. Flash your teeth/wit charmingly enough and you'll probably make your way into a poem or a short story.
But if you don't read Manitoban, how will you know?
4. Because Manitoba isn't Chicago or Omaha or even (swamped) Fargo and our writers aren't afraid to say so. You can read our (swamped) riverbanks and (swamped) farmer's fields in Manitoba books. And, luckily, these (swamped) hometown references are inundated by excellent writing.
5. For the free cheese. (THIN AIR, Winnipeg International Writers Festival, which features an unholy number of Manitoba writers, always has Bothwell cheeses on offer at their nightly mainstages.)
6. Even though there is only ONE non-fiction title on the Manitoba Reads longlist and NO poetry, rest assured that Manitoba's poets and non-fiction specialists will NOT bite anyone they come across reading the winning book or indeed ANY of the longlisted titles. (I'm pretty bite-y, usually, but I'll try...)
7. People always mutter about the stack of books they plunk down on bookstore counters.
"I don't have room..." they say, "I'll have to get new shelves."
But just think. You could be spending all your money on opium and prostitutes. Books are a MUCH better alternative...
8. Seriously. Even though we're known for our literary North End, our about-to-be-shunned Mennos, our epic Icelanders and our burgeoning Aboriginal writing communities, Manitoba writing is wonderfully impossible to categorize. Writers of every stripe, of every genre and inclination, live here. And it's just neighbourly to support that. Literally.
Ariel Gordon (Mike Deal)