Fans of classic Canadian Literature, and likely anyone who has taken a CanLit English class, will surely recognize the name “Jack Hodgins.” His previous work includes Spit Delaney’s Island, The Resurrection of Joseph Bourne, Broken Ground, and The Master of Happy Endings. Not only have these books won the hearts of many readers, but they’ve also won many awards, such as the Governor General’s Award, the Ethel Wilson Prize, the Canada-Australia Prize, and the Victoria City Butler Prize. So beloved for his writing, Hodgins was inducted into the Order of Canada in 2010 for his literary contributions.
This year marks forty years of supporting and celebrating some of Canada’s finest literary presses for our parent organization, the Literary Press Group of Canada. To help celebrate, for the entire month of October All Lit Up will be highlighting books from our publishers that either helped launch a new voice in CanLit or made an impact at the press it was published with. Go on a CanLit Rewind with us to rediscover some backlist gems!Fans of classic Canadian Literature, and likely anyone who has taken a CanLit English class, will surely recognize the name “Jack Hodgins.” His previous work includes Spit Delaney’s Island, The Resurrection of Joseph Bourne, Broken Ground, and The Master of Happy Endings. Not only have these books won the hearts of many readers, but they’ve also won many awards, such as the Governor General’s Award, the Ethel Wilson Prize, the Canada-Australia Prize, and the Victoria City Butler Prize. So beloved for his writing, Hodgins was inducted into the Order of Canada in 2010 for his literary contributions.Those who have read his Portuguese Creek novels will be taken back to familiar territory with our CanLit Rewind selection, Cadillac Cathedral. Arvo and his group of loyal friends set out on a road trip—but not just any road trip. After learning that an old friend has died, the group heads south to the big city to pick up the body in a Cadillac Cathedral, a remarkable hearse built in the 1930s, which Arvo has refurbished. Hijinks ensue.Ronsdale Press shares with us what it was like to publish such a CanLit superstar.* * *
We take pride in all of our authors’ work, but a new novel by a writer as iconic as Jack Hodgins can’t help but stand out in our catalogue. Its bright yellow design helps, too. Hodgins’ name on the cover alone would have been enough to make Cadillac Cathedral a best-seller for us, but the quality—and freshness—that remains in his writing is really something special. Quill & Quire thinks Cadillac Cathedral shows Hodgins still has it, too: “A warm, gentle novel brimming with charcoal grey humour. . . . a sweet tale that often finds a Zen spot between funny and wistful.”The freshness that remains in Hodgins’ writing could also have to do with how he approached writing the story—it was written first as a script with a storytelling-and-song format. Passages were to be accompanied by the Vancouver Chor Leoni men’s choir, who collaborated on the project. It wasn’t until later that Hodgins decided to expand the project into a novel. The Times Colonistasked Hodgins about the process, “It wasn’t until I had completed the script and felt that it was right for what it was that I began to see all kinds of places where the reading experience could substitute for the singing parts.”Publishing Cadillac Cathedral certainly brought Ronsdale Press more attention—from readers, booksellers, and the media. Ronsdale went on to be voted B.C. Publisher of the Year that year by our fellow Association of Book Publishers of BC members. When receiving the award, the ABPBC shared this anecdote: “Ronsdale Press is also well known for publishing the work of renowned author Jack Hodgins who found Ronsdale based on word of mouth. How does one earn such a solid reputation? ‘By working gently and honestly with authors,’ said [publisher] Ron [Hatch]”.Ronsdale has also received more fiction manuscripts from aspiring authors who are fans of Hodgins, as well as from agents, since the publication of Cadillac Cathedral. And it’s not surprising: Jack Hodgins has already etched his place in the Canadian literary canon. His writing in Cadillac Cathedral continues to craft that sense of place that can transport readers to wherever “home” is for them. The characters of Portuguese Creek could easily be your own mechanic, brother, school teacher, or local politician. Readers can identify that this story is, in its roots, truly Canadian.You can check out a teaser for the performance of Cadillac Cathedral with the Chor Leoni men’s choir below: * * *We’re over half way through our CanLit Rewind. If you’ve missed any of the action, you can get caught up here.