Actually, Vancouver has inspired great novels. Here are 7 of them
List made after podcast host says city lacks 'culture and soul'
Despite the grand views of the ocean and mountains, it could be easy to assume artists, musicians and authors are uninspired by Vancouver, a city also full of concrete condos and office buildings.
But after someone from Toronto claimed beautiful B.C. lacked "culture and soul," hundreds of Vancouverites on Twitter said otherwise — including a book critic and bookstore owner.
Earlier this week, Canadaland podcast host Jesse Brown made a comment about how Vancouver is not the kind of city that would inspire someone to write a great Canadian novel or rock song.
On the episode, "WTF, Marc Maron is moving to Canada?" the American comedian and actor Marc Maron told Brown he applied for permanent residency and is considering moving to Vancouver.
Brown then said, "if [Maron] values culture ... [Vancouver] is the worst city in the world for that.
"Nobody has ever been inspired by Vancouver to write a good novel," he said, remarks he stood by when contacted later by the Globe and Mail.
"It never struck me as a city that could or would inspire someone to write a kick-ass rock song or write a great novel about it," he said. "It's just not that kind of place."
Those comments prompted outrage from many ready to defend the city, including Vancouver-based journalist and book critic Michelle Cyca who said she felt "obligated" to write a Twitter thread listing seven great novels inspired by the city — which itself garnered hundreds of comments and retweets from people who felt the same.
"I just kept thinking ... there are so many books and authors here that we can celebrate, so I just thought I would share a couple of my favourites and I was really, really surprised so many people shared my indignation," Cyca said on the CBC's The Early Edition on Friday.
listened to <a href="https://twitter.com/CANADALAND?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Canadaland</a> this morning & <a href="https://twitter.com/JesseBrown?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@jessebrown</a> claimed that "no one has ever been inspired by Vancouver to write a great novel" so now I feel obligated to do a thread about great Vancouver novels:—@michellecyca
Patricia Massy, owner of Massy Books and founder of Massy Arts Society — a non-profit that helps fund literary events across the city — says she disagreed with Brown's comments so much, she responded by making a list of books set in Vancouver.
"There's some phenomenal writers in Vancouver that live here and create here. In my short life of being a bookseller and putting on events, I've already seen people go from submitting one poem to a magazine to writing full-fledged books," she said.
"There's definitely inspiration to be found here and a very robust literary scene."
Ok, I think we've got it! We created a "Books Set in Vancouver" booklist generated from Michelle Cyca's tweet. Check it out for easy viewing! 📚<a href="https://t.co/lxxzZerLRJ">https://t.co/lxxzZerLRJ</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/VancouverBooks?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#VancouverBooks</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GreatVancouverNovels?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GreatVancouverNovels</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BookInVancouver?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BookInVancouver</a> <a href="https://t.co/Q9bXtgzu92">https://t.co/Q9bXtgzu92</a>—@MassyBooks
Here are seven of many great books set in Vancouver, recommended by Cyca, in no particular order:
Eden Robinson's Trickster trilogy
Though Robinson calls the area around Kitimat, in northwestern B.C., home these days, her much-lauded Trickster series is indelibly connected to Vancouver, particularly the Commercial Drive neighbourhood where scenes of supernatural danger meld with grittier details of the modern city.
The first book in the series, Son of a Trickster was shortlisted for the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize and was a Canada Reads finalist in 2020.
Five Little Indians by Michelle Good
This national bestseller and winner of multiple awards, including a Governor General's Literary Award and 2022 Canada Reads Award, is about five residential school survivors who, as teenagers make their way in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, confronting both past and current traumas.
Jessica Johns' Bad Cree
Based on a 2020 Writers' Trust Journey Prize-winning short story, Jessica John's debut novel — published earlier this year — is set both in Treaty 8 First Nation territory but, Cyca notes, "indelibly captures the bleak spirit of the Kitsilano Whole Foods" grocery store in Vancouver.
The Conjoined by Jen Sookfong Lee
Jen Sookfong Lee has set many novels in Vancouver, but Cyca's favourite is The Conjoined, a story of a young social worker making a grisly discovery against the backdrop of the city's Chinatown neighbourhood.
Disappearing Moon Cafe by Sky Lee
Another novel set in Chinatown, this debut novel from Sky Lee is considered a Canadian classic, telling the story of a Chinese Canadian family over the course of four generations.
Greenwood by Michael Christie
The second novel from Michael Christie, Greenwood tackles forestry, opium addiction, hidden family secrets and forbidden love. A 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize contender, it is currently on the longlist for the 2023 edition of Canada Reads.
The Man Game by Lee Henderson
The synopsis for this 2009 novel reads, "On a recent Sunday afternoon in Vancouver, a young man stumbles upon a secret sport invented more than a century before, at the birth of his city."
It's "a very fun novel that makes me wonder why a naked Fight Club has never caught on as a form of entertainment," Cyca said.
With files from The Early Edition and CBC Books