Could Vancouver’s next claim to fame be our literary prowess? (Quit looking at those mountains, we’ve got books to read.) Not only is there a miraculously resilient publishing industry in town (small but wiry, it is), but Vancouver is home to plenty of authors: Douglas Coupland, Steven Galloway (an old classmate done good, as profiled by another former classmate, Kevin Chong), Grant Buday, Timothy Taylor, and Barbara Hodgson.

And now, as reported by the Vancouver Writer’s Festival newsletter, there is a movement afoot to name Vancouver a “UNESCO City of Literature.” Here’s the info:

A movement is underway to have Vancouver named a UNESCO City of Literature, joining the City of Edinburgh, which received the first-ever UN designation in 2004. Does Vancouver have what it takes? Alma Lee, the founding artistic director of the Vancouver International Writers & Readers Festival, and Margaret Reynolds, executive director of the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia, will chair a public consultation on April 23 that will explore the opportunities associated with becoming a UNESCO World City of Literature. Please join us to learn more and to give your input on the project.

Wednesday, April 23, 4:00-6:00 pm
Alma van Dusen Room
Vancouver Public Library at Library Square
350 West Georgia Street, Vancouver
For more information: almalee <at>

It’s not just that we have authors who live here whose books are published, sold and read throughout the world, but also that they’re writing about the specific place that is Vancouver for the world. I get a special twinge when I read Douglas Coupland novels with plotlines that feature specific, familiar streets and neighbourhoods on the North Shore,  my hometown, or Timothy Taylor gently skewering the Vancouver restaurant scene in Stanley Park.

It’s also thrilling to see local imaginations writing about the world, as Barbara Hodgson does in her amazing illustrated novels.

It would very cool indeed if Vancouver gained this kind of cultural distinction. Of course, if I hear Gordon Campbell proclaiming our literary culture as “world class” I’ll still grit my teeth. That empty phrase, that tourism-marketing-puffery just drives me batty.