Quick Review: CANADA by Mike Myers (Doubleday Canada)

myersm-canadaAn endearing, informational memoir

Mike Myers is a world-renowned actor, director and writer, and the man behind some of the most memorable comic characters of our time. But as he says: “no description of me is truly complete without saying I’m a Canadian.” He has often winked and nodded to Canada in his outrageously accomplished body of work, but now he turns the spotlight full-beam on his homeland.

His hilarious and heartfelt new book is part memoir, part history and pure entertainment. It is Mike Myers’ funny and thoughtful analysis of what makes Canada Canada, Canadians Canadians and what being Canadian has always meant to him. His relationship with his home and native land continues to deepen and grow, he says. In fact, American friends have actually accused him of enjoying being Canadian — and he’s happy to plead guilty as charged.

A true patriot who happens to be an expatriate, Myers is in a unique position to explore Canada from within and without. With this, his first book, Mike brings his love for Canada to the fore at a time when the country is once again looking ahead with hope and national pride. Canada is a wholly subjective account of Mike’s Canadian experience. Mike writes, “Some might say, ‘Why didn’t you include this or that?’ I say there are 35 million stories waiting to be told in this country, and my book is only one of them.”

This beautifully designed book is illustrated in colour (and not color) throughout, and its visual treasures include personal photographs and Canadiana from the author’s own collection. Published in the lead-up to the 2017 sesquicentennial, this is Mike Myers’ birthday gift to his fellow Canadians. Or as he puts it: “In 1967, Canada turned one hundred. Canadians all across the country made Centennial projects. This book is my Centennial Project. I’m handing it in a little late…. Sorry.”

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this book. I had high hopes, of course, that it would be an amusing look at Myers’s Canada, and it certainly did contain that. It is also a more-general memoir. Every chapter, though, even when covering Myers’s time in the UK or US, is filled with references to Canada (Toronto in particular) and how the country has shaped his character and comedy. It is amusing, intelligent and quite endearing.

As a newcomer to Canada, it was also interesting to read about someone who has left and what they still love about the country, and city, in which I now live. He covers some Canadian history, details his respect for Pierre Trudeau (Myers identifies him as one of his heroes), his love for OHIP and the TTC, compares the Canada to the US in a number of respects, and reminisces about his upbringing. I particularly enjoyed the passages detailing his career, and Wayne’s World (one of my all-time favourite movies). Throughout, you learn plenty about not only the actor, but also Toronto and Canadian culture and character.

“Ingredients are what help define Canada. Likewise, Canadian culture as a whole may not be famous, but the ‘ingredients’ of our culture are.”

He seems sad about the Canadian natural distrust for fame, though. When he visits Toronto now, for example, he feels “observed”, and laments that,

“Riding the subway, my beloved TTC, was called, by some cynics, an attempt to appear to be a ‘man of the people,’ or even less generously, to ‘get recognized.’ I can tell you that it was just an attempt to get to my destination, and if there was a secondary motivation in taking the ‘Red Rocket,’ it was an attempt to get a deep gut of Canada. A super-role of home. A fix of the familiar. I knew what was happening, but I couldn’t stop it.

“I was losing Canada.

“And Canada was losing Canada.”

Myers doesn’t shy away from discussing Canadian politics, but does so in a polite, but clear way. He is no fan of the now-ousted Stephen Harper government, under which “The Canada I know was disappearing”; and he is effusive in his praise and support for Justin Trudeau.

“In 2006, Canada lost sight of its progressive traditions when Stephen Harper, of the Conservative party, was elected prime minister. If Mulroney loosened the jar reversing progressive policies, Harper opened the jar wide, and then threw away the lid, and then smashed the jar into a thousand pieces… Harper’s tribalistic policies valued purity, when Canada traditionally valued parity.”

I can imagine a great many Canadians enjoying this; though I know some who I think will vehemently disagree with some of his interpretations of Canadian character (as an outside observer, I think he’s more right than wrong). I also think any fan of Myers’s work will enjoy this, so packed full of anecdotes and easter eggs from his movies (Wayne’s World is littered with Toronto references, for example).

As I said at the top, Canada was not what I was expecting, but was all the better for it. I turned the final page with even more fondness for Toronto and Canada, as well as liking Myers even more than I already did. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Very highly recommended.

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