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Josh Lieblein

There was a time when Josh Lieblein actually thought he'd live out a quiet, normal life, helping to keep his fellow Canadians alive as long as possible by working within the confines of a not-actually-all-that-universal health care system. As is often the case, however, fate had other ideas. After being targeted by campus leftists, he was summoned to the nation's capital and trained to fight against the rent-seeking, tax-farming Liberal Party of Canada, a group of snobby elitists who think they're SO much better than everyone else.

Unfortunately, Canadians are not known for their successes in war-fighting (though they are quite brave and level-headed in the face of peril) and even though Josh distinguished himself in several successful electoral contests and developed an expert knowledge of his country's culture and politics, the Liberals ultimately returned to power. Taking pity on this poor enslaved Canadian, Liberty Island Senior Editor David Swindle suggested that politics was actually downstream from culture and that if he could actually shift Canada's culture (after first discovering it, of course), then its politics would follow. Since Canada's literary elite are a bunch of self-promoting hacks who glorify carnal relations with animals (no, I am not joking), Josh realized that he could hardly do worse.

The result is his first novel, the first draft of which is now undergoing its initial revisions and edits: an epic tale of magic, mystery, and not a little foolishness set on a distant world just slightly unlike our own, where the young hero OBSIDIAN MORNINGSTAR relies on only his fists, his wits, and his latent magical ability in his life-defining struggle against the monstrous machinations of the depraved- but impeccably polite- reality-bending aristocrats known as THE CONSENSUS.

When Josh is not trying to stage a one-man literary uprising, he can be found columnizing and podcasting at Loonie Politics, investigating the real-life Consensus with his journalist pal Graeme C. Gordon at ravingcanuck.com, while working long hours as a pharmacist besides. Occasionally he says something funny on Twitter at @JustJoshinYa

Douglas Coupland And The Hopeful (?) Future Of Canadian (?) Culture

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 14: Generation X Origins

If someone was to ask me what the future of Canadian art and culture looked like, I would point them to the work of Douglas Coupland, the influential author, playwright and visual artist. How influential is he? Chances are you know a Generation X-er, or that you are one. If so, you can thank Coupland, because he invented the term.

Unlike the other authors I’ve introduced, however, Coupland doesn’t exactly belong at the commanding heights of High Canadian Culture, because he is an obsessive chaser of the zeitgeist, and like many of the Canadian directors, actors, musicians and other personalities I will introduce going forward- he keeps one foot on either side of the 49th parallel. As such, he has been (somewhat justly) accused of lacking depth, but he more than makes up for that in accessibility.

Jazz VS. the Nazis: Esi Edugyan’s Extraordinary Half-Blood Blues

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 13: A Novel I Cannot Recommend Enough

So as our series on major Canadian writers draws to a close, it’s time to ask the big questions that hang over everything: Who or what is to blame for the current state of Canadian literature? Why the tiny clique of writers who must content themselves with being the “Canadian Twain” or the “Canadian Bronte” or the “Canadian Faulkner”? Why the over-reliance on over-hyped creations like Atwood or Boyden? Where is the counterculture pushing for change, any change?

After spending more than a decade enmeshed in Canadian politics and culture, the only conclusion I can draw is: There is no impetus for change. Canadians simply don’t care whether they have a robust culture or not. Because if they did, there would be artists and funders and a homegrown Canadian counterculture movement, just like there is in every other country.

But, as the case of Esi Edugyan proves, there is no interest in building such a counterculture movement, even when the perfect leader of that would-be movement is right there.

Whitewashing Genocide: Truth, Lies, and Joseph Boyden

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 12: The First Nations Fraud

As we saw last week, a small minority of authors dominate the Canadian literature scene, and a tightly connected network of elitist culture-crats keep them in power. But what happens when these operators can’t get out of their own way? What happens when they fail to do their due diligence? They end up getting hosed – and since they hold almost all the power, Canadians as a whole end up getting hosed when they do.

One of the things that upper-crust Canadians don’t like to talk about at dinner parties when they’re showing off for their American friends is the country’s sorry history when it comes to its First Nations. You can craft a narrative that obscures the flaws of the Canadian health care system, but you can’t whitewash what was effectively a genocide. That didn’t stop them from trying, however, and they tried by promoting Joseph Boyden as THE voice of Canada’s First Nations.

Margaret Atwood’s Reign Of Terror

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 11: Literary Tyranny and The Handmaid’s Tale

SIGH… Margaret Atwood, everybody.

If you’ve heard of her, you probably know her as the creator of The Handmaid’s Tale… aaaaand you might be feeling the urge to click on something else after reading that. Well, lucky for you, because Atwood is inescapable in Canada. She is THE living Canadian author. Pick up a Canadian high school English class reading list and she’ll be on it. Read a Canadian newspaper and she’ll be featured at least once a month- look, she patented a machine that allows her to sign books remotely! Who cares if the thing didn’t actually work- the point is that more people can have an audience with Margaret Atwood!

The Marriage of The Mundane and the Fantastic

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 10: Southern Ontario Gothic

We have gone from city to country, and from silly to serious, but there is one place we haven’t looked, and it is within, and below, into the unconscious. Today we venture into “Southern Ontario Gothic,” that sub-genre of Canadian culture that hints at the mystical and the magical.

Let us begin by introducing two of the form’s most accomplished practitioners: Robertson Davies, the Canadian Faulkner, and Timothy Findley, who is perhaps the Canadian Edgar Allan Poe. Though Findley invented the term “Southern Ontario Gothic,” it was Davies who turned the region into a self-contained world like that of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, while Findley would write from the perspectives of Noah and his sons before the Flood, or Carl Gustav Jung on the eve of World War I.

Mordecai Richler, Montreal, And Gritty Realism

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 9: Avoiding the Serious

I have hinted at it before, but I have not said it in so many words until now: Canadian culture is characterized by a deliberate attempt to avoid dark and serious topics.

You might think it is mere coincidence that Stephen Leacock’s lighter fare made him the Canadian culture maker, or that Montgomery excised the harrowing circumstances of her life from her work. But when we come to Mordecai Richler (1931-2001) – a man who pulled no punches when depicting the rougher side of Canadian life – and we see that he is less remembered for his darkly funny and poignant novels, or his incendiary journalism, but a series of children’s books that he wrote to entertain his family, it becomes harder to chalk that up to mere happenstance.

If Leacock is Canada’s Twain, Richler is Canada’s Phillip Roth. Aggressive and mercurial Jewish protagonists with mommy issues and attendant intimacy issues populate the interconnected worlds of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Joshua Then And Now, and Solomon Gursky Was Here.

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Treacherous Alpine Path

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 8: The Traumatized Artist

After the sometimes unbearable lightness of Stephen Leacock and his Sunshine Sketches, it is time once again to return to the darkness. We’ll ease into it this time, however, with a quick study of Lucy Maud Montgomery, the creator of , a trailblazing Canadian writer, and a far more interesting personality.

Montgomery’s young heroines are precocious, sharp-tongued, deeply sensitive, not conventionally attractive, prone to tragically losing relatives and friends, and carry within them dreams of literary superstardom and an unbreakable core of innocence. The red-headed, pigtailed Anne is the best-known, and someone needs to do a compare and contrast between her and Little Orphan Annie of comic strip fame. But Emily of New Moon and her quest to develop her literary skills – her climb up the “Alpine Path“- will touch a chord with anyone who’s gone through the cycle of having to put their written work back together after having it pulled apart by an editor.

The Long Shadow Of Stephen Leacock

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 8: Mark Twain of the North?

Stephen Butler Leacock usually gets the credit for being the Canadian culture-maker. Whether he deserves all the credit is a matter for the next two entries in our series, but he is definitely an excellent place to start.

First, however, a few key details about the man and his life are in order. Because Leacock is often compared to Mark Twain, some assume he was a self-made man from humble origins like Twain. He was decidedly not. For one thing, he was born into old English money and he wasn’t even born in Canada. He attended Upper Canada College, which was and still is the premier prep school for Canada’s first families. He spent time teaching and learning at the University of Toronto and McGill University, the two most prestigious universities in English Canada, and studied under socialist academic Thorstein Veblen at the University of Chicago. He was a lifelong Canadian Tory, advocating for the monarchy, for tradition, and for the presence of whatever passed for religion in public life.

How To Build A Successful Canadian Musical Act

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 7: Who I believe to be the quintessential Canadian band

Have you ever watched Drake’s “Hotline Bling” video and wondered just what the earthly hell is going on?

How did this morose, strangely-dressed, monotone-voiced, wacky-waving-inflatable-arm-flailing-tube-man-dancing weirdo who can’t seem to make up his mind about whether he wants to rap or sing come to dominate the airwaves?

The Garrison Mentality: More Than Meets The Eye

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 6: Animation

The consequence free hipster odyssey of Scott Pilgrim and the gritty, blood-soaked path trod by Wolverine do not contradict one another – they are one and the same. This contradiction plays itself out in a concept called “the garrison mentality“- broadly, the idea that Canadians invent or seek out their own personal wars despite living in relative peace. But rather than explicate this confusing concept through politics or history, I will do it using two children’s cartoons with Canadian roots.

One, “Transformers: Beast Wars,” is likely well known to you. Everybody knows the robots in disguise thanks to Michael Bay’s explosion-soaked series of films. (Hilariously, and proving my point in a way, “Beast Wars” was deemed to be too violent a title for Canadians, so the show was known in Canada as ‘Beasties.'”) The other, “ReBoot,” is acclaimed in animation circles but enjoys much less popular fandom. Both were created by Vancouver-based Mainframe Entertainment.

Visually, these two series have not aged well. Being early-to-mid 1990s CGI, the uncanny valley runs deep through them. But the writing, voice acting and character development remain top-notch and surprisingly deep. And, for the purposes of our discussion, the ancient animation actually helps convey the sense of unease and low-level threat central to the garrison mentality.

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