A poor showing by Scott Chantler, who is by all accounts (if awards are to be thought of as accounts) something of an accomplished graphic novelist. This graphic novel, Two Generals, reminds me of stereotypes of Can lit as suffering from such an inferiority complex that it feels the need to do everything in a painfully dull and sincere way so as to assure readers that it can in fact be taken quite seriously because it follows as the Rules and Decorum of Serious Fiction. As a result there are panels like the one pictured above where we readers are informed by the (terribly subtle choice of red) colour scheme that something is amiss outside the building. The colour scheme throughout – green is “narrative,” black is “memory” and red is “blood and death” – is so simplistic as to be obnoxious. Similarly, the text of the novel reads as if it were borrowed wholesale from the recorded minutes of the local historical society when the very dullest and driest speaker was at work – e.g. “At 1:30Pm, with the men of the HLI back aboard, the first of the landing craft began to make their way out of the port of southhampton” (56 – and I swear to you, I turned to a page at random) and so lacks any (any) sense of character or a compelling plot. I mean the plot is the INVASION OF NORMANDY and I was bored. And I certainly didn’t care a whit about the death of one of the Generals. Perhaps because I had repeatedly been told that “this would be his last Christmas,” or “not all of them would be alive at the end of the day.” I’m not an uncaring person, but really, I feel an instinctive defense toward indifference and scorn when I’m prompted with such terribly written lines.
Maybe the silver lining here is that in identifying this work as terrible I’ll earn your trust as a reader of Can lit. So while you’d be pressed to find a bigger booster of Canadian history, or a more defensive champion of the triumphs of Can lit, you can know that when I’m praising national works I’m not doing so (just) because I’m a little nationalist, but because often times Canadian authors are busy writing truly remarkable, and often under-recognized, work. This is certainly not the case with Two Generals, which I would hope – despite it’s purported mission of helping us all remember – will quickly be forgotten and not integrated like so many other poorly crafted historical fiction (*cough* Paul Gross’s Psschendaele) into the school curriculum just because the Historica-Dominion Society thinks its a good idea. Oh wow, so turns out I have a lot of hostility toward this particular book. And so as a good Canadian, let me just say: Sorry?