Souvenir of Canada 2

Reviewed: August 6, 2004
By: Douglas Coupland
Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre
144 pages, $29.95

Souvenir of Canada 2 is, obviously, Douglas Coupland's follow-up to his 2002 book of almost the same name. Like its older brother, this book is part autobiography, part philosophical reflection and part musing about the state of the nation.

And then there are the pictures. Coupland has assembled another strange collection of things which seem to him particularly Canadian. It says a lot for our collective state of mind that photos of cupboards stocked with bilingual cans and boxes, pictures of Robertson screws and screwdrivers, and clippings of thermal underwear ads from the Eaton's catalogue are part of our national identity now.

The oddest section of the book is the thirty page section called Canada House, which is a record of a sort of performance sculpture or installation which Coupland assembled in a Vancouver bungalow that was about to be demolished. It's a very weird assemblage of stylized furniture, pictures and wall hangings, all set against a white background and filled with wandering goose decoys.

The nicest section is probably the spread on Terry Fox, who is, as Coupland notes, one subject we pretty much all agree on. Apparently putting that together has actually inspired him to do a book about Terry, which will appear in the near future.

In the promotion for this book the publisher takes a swipe at some of Pierre Berton's picture books from the 1970s, apparently not realizing that those were an appropriate look at Canada as we saw it then, dominated by its geographical landscape, just as Coupland's two picture books seem to be dominated by our interior landscapes.

They are just different ways of looking at the same thing. Both fit on my bookshelf.