Richard Ford’s Amusing Description of Canada

Close to the ground: novelist Richard Ford near his home in Maine.

This past weekend I caught part of an interview by Eleanor Wachtel of the Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer Richard Ford on Wachtel’s CBC Radio One program “Writers & Company.”  Among the subjects touched upon is a novel that Ford has in progress, which has the working title of Canada.    The novel tells the story of a young boy from Montana going to live with a family friend in Saskatchewan.  In an excerpt from his manuscript that Ford read on the program (and as transcribed by me below as accurately as my ears would allow), Mildred, a friend of the boy’s mother drives him up to the fictional town of Fort Royal and shares with the boy some of her quirky and unintentionally humorous perspectives on Canada as follows:   

In the car, Mildred recited what she knew about Canada that might be useful to me.  That Canada contained provinces not states of the union, though there was really no difference.  She said they spoke English there but in a different way she couldn’t describe though I’d be aware of it.  She said they had Thanksgiving but theirs was on a Sunday and wasn’t in November.  She said Canada had fought beside America in the war my father had fought in and Canada had gotten involved in it even before we did and had an air force as good as ours. 

She said Canada wasn’t an old country like ours and still had a pioneer feel to it, and nobody there thought of it as a country anyway, and in fact in some parts people spoke French.  And the capital of which she couldn’t remember the name of, was back in the east some place and nobody respected it the way we did Washington, D.C.  She said Canada also had dollar bills for their money, but theirs were different colored and weren’t worth even half of what ours were.  [Ford interjects at this point that this was a long time ago.]  She said Canada had their own Indians but treated them much better than we treated ours, and Canada was much bigger than America, except it was mostly useless and inhospitable, since it was covered in ice all year long.

The full interview can be accessed here on the CBC Radio One site, with Ford’s reading from his book starting at around 23:36.

(Photo credit: Robert Yager)

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