Canadian Pie

Fun flashback

CANADIAN PIE by Will Ferguson (Penguin), 386 pages, $32 cloth. Ferguson reads with Niels Frank, Gary Geddes and Conor Grennan on October 29 at the Authors Festival. See listing. Rating: NNN

Fair warning: Will Ferguson’s Canadian Pie has nothing to do with dessert.

Sampling stories from the author’s 15-year writing career, Canadian Pie is, as he describes it, a slice of this, a slice of that. Really it’s several books compiled into one big volume: a book about famous Canadians, a book about being a writer, a book about being a dad, a book about Ferguson’s experiences working for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, and so on.

A vivid and engaging storyteller, Ferguson comes off as the ultimate dinner party guest, the man with a million quirky stories. His writing has a conversational edge to it and a whimsy that skirts sentimentality. You get the sense that he really enjoys retelling his stories, even when they’re about something he doesn’t particularly enjoy, like hanging out in green rooms while on book tours.

Some pieces have a little more substance than others. He’s at his best when he writes about history. It’s hard not to feel patriotic when he writes about his favourite Canadians, including Agnes Macphail, Stephen Leacock and Pierre Burton.

Canadian Pie includes a cross-section of landscapes and landmarks, from the Ghost Train of St. Louis, Saskatchewan, to the CN Tower.

Olympic buffs, skip ahead to the essays on Ferguson’s experiences as the head writer of the Vancouver Olympics closing ceremonies – especially if you want to know why they featured a giant slot machine.

Ferguson suggests in his introduction that his diverse pieces reflect a Canadian ethos of inclusion, a “big tent” philosophy. But the range of articles makes for a bit of a scattered read. Then again, maybe Canadian Pie is best consumed in several servings.

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