This nice lady is Maria Semple.   She looks so sweet and kind, it’s a pity she hates Canadians.

Well, not her, exactly, but the namesake  character in her novel, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? (of which, more below) , does.  Bernadette is an architect who has gone with her software engineer husband and daughter to Seattle.  She has some mental health issues and lives as a recluse, emaiing her errands and diatribes to a personal assistant in India.  Here she unload on Canadians while writing to her Indian aide.

 “… there’s always this one guy who answers the phone, ‘Washington Athletic Club, how may I direct your call?’

And he always says it in this friendly, flat … Canadian way.  One of the main reasons I don’t like leaving the house is because I might find myself face-to-face with a Canadian.  Seattle is crawling with them.  You probably think, U.S./Canada, they’re interchangeable because they’re both filled with English-speaking, morbidly obsess white people.  Well, Manjula, you couldn’t be more mistaken.

Americans are pushy, obnoxious, neurotic, crass – anything and everything – the full catastrophe as our friend Zorba might say.  Canadians are none of that.  The way you might fear a cow sitting down in the middle of the street during rush hour, that’s how I fear Canadians.  To Canadians, everyone is equal.  Joni Mitchell is interchangeable with a secretary at open-mic night.   Frank Gehry s no greater than a hack pumping out McMansions on AutoCAD.  John Candy is no funner than Uncle Lou when he gets a couple of beers in him.  No wonder the only Canadians anyone’s ever heard of are the ones who have gotten the hell out.  Anyone with talent who stayed would be flattened under the avalanche of equality.  The thing Canadians don’t understand is that some people are extraordinary and should be treated as such.” 

Well, that was funny, and it certainly plays on a certain Canadian stereotype.

Perhaps to avoid such outbursts from other Americans, fictitious or otherwise, there is a proposal being floated by Canadian journalist Diane Francis to combine our two companies.   Because Francis is a business writer, it may make sense to her to see the union of the two nations as nothing more than a a corporate merger.   Those of us who think of countries as being something more than corporations (which may sound quaint in the era of globalization) will likely differ.  Besides, I don’t think conservative Americans would welcome twelve new states that would almost certainly vote Democratic. 

 Fortunately there are some Americans who are grateful that Canada is still the true north strong and free.   Writing early in the US government shutdown, US military blogger Tom Ricks is grateful that he still has access to military news thanks to the Canadian Department of National Defence (and as a bonus he gets to practice his French, too). 

Tom Ricks isn’t are only fan, either.  Everyonee here in the Great White North did a fist-pump over breakfast this morning when we learned that some nice people in Sweden like Canadian author Alice Munro.  So take that, Bernadette.

Finally, and here’s the book review part of this post, I really liked Maria Semple’s novel and strongly recommend it.   She has a terrific satiric voice, and with her sharp eye and steady aim she riddles upper-middle class selfishness and liberal pretensions.   It is also a wonderful remaining of what was once in the 18th century called the epistolary novel, in that it does not use dialogue, but rather a succession of emails, diary entries, police reports and other forms of communication to carry the plot and let the characters speak for themselves.  It’s a great book, and I’m reasonably sure that Ms. Semple doesn’t really hate Canadians.  Who could?



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