Defining Canadian literature is a task on about the same scale as defining Canadian food. It's faintly interesting when you start, but you start to lose interest about the tenth time something is compared to an American counterpart, and you really don't care much about Margaret Atwood anyway.

Or Louis Riel.

In truth, though, not all Canadian literature is feminist anti-religionist science fiction and plays about the Riel and Northwest Rebellions - although those categories do make up the majority of works studied in many Canadian Literature classes in Canadian universities. No, the stereotypical Canadian novel is set someplace either cold and snowy or cold and stormy, unless it's set in Toronto or Montréal or god forbid Vancouver. Come to think of it, there are two distinct classes of Canadian novel, the "urban discontent" novel - a genre familiar to every urbanized nation, except maybe European ones where the writers have sufficient pot supplies as to avoid writing novels - and the "rural discontent" novel, a genre which tends to revolve around the weather, the seasons, and people leaving the small town for the city. (Note that this only applies to contemporary Canadian literature; older Canadian literature involves either biting humourous satire or Gabriel Dumont.)

The former type of contemporary Canadian novel involves some young man/woman/gender-indeterminate person, often caucasian, but sometimes not, who moves away from his/her/its small town (usually in Saskatchewan/Manitoba/Nova Scotia to the big city of Toronto/Vancouver/Montréal/Regina - a move which leaves him/her/it feeling alienated and longing for the closeness of home, a longing which is only partially soothed by the presence of the curling rink, Tim Horton's, and beer parlour, all Canadian touchstones reminding us of our common shared heritage as Canadians. You know, like those flags Sheila Copps gave us all that once. You remember.

The second type of novel, on the other hand, focuses on the bleak existence of life in small-town Saskatchewan/Manitoba/Nova Scotia/Newfoundland (but only occasionally; this isn't usually classed as 'Canadian' fiction for some reason, probably something to do with Joey Smallwood) when all the young men/women/gender-indeterminate people have up and left for the big-city lights of Toronto/Vancouver/Montréal/Regina, leaving only the middle-aged farmers/fishermen/Tim Horton's workers to gaze out at the snow-covered/white-capped landscape that surrounds their small town with bleakness. These novels never, ever take place in summer; fall and winter are the preferred seasons, though a rainy spring will do just as well.

Take note, however, that plays do not tend to follow these same rules; rather, they will invariably make reference to either the Métis, the Acadians, or the reserve, at least if they strive for any semblance of credibility within the Canadian community of literati, which is headquartered in Toronto.