This new series explores the best of literary journalism in Canada.

By Bill Reynolds

Welcome to the first instalment of Great Canadian Literary Journalism. This new J-Source series was incubated last winter in a graduate/undergraduate cross-listed course called Literary Journalism, which is taught at Ryerson University’s School of Journalism every other year. The concept takes its cue, of course, from Nieman Storyboard’s Why’s This So Good? series, except for one detail. Like J-Source, its focus is Canadian journalism.

Unlike American literary journalism, where writers such as Talese, Didion, Thompson, Paterniti, Orlean et al. have ascended to near-household-name status (Talese = Sinatra, Didion = Dreamers, Hunter = Fear & Loathing, Paterniti = 111-Heavy, Orlean = Orchids), no such mythologizing has ever taken place in this country.

To begin to ascertain which stories were held in high esteem, a call was sent to nearly 70 Canadian writers and editors, asking them to nominate their favourite pieces of Canadian feature writing (usually magazine writing, but not always). Forty-five people answered the call, and the nominations were compiled into a list and then distributed to class.

Twenty-two students were asked to choose two stories from the list, ones that might look compelling and that could possibly fit their interests. By the end of term there were a couple of dozen usable columns, each focusing on a different story.

This week, J-Source begins to roll out those stories. In the first instalment, Rebecca Melnyk looks at Guy Lawson’s piece “Hockey Nights,” about the Flin Flon Bombers, published in Harper’s in 1998.  Readers interested in writing a piece for Great Canadian Literary Journalism (contributors do not have to be students), should send feature story nominations to reynolds@ryerson.ca.

[[{“fid”:”3490″,”view_mode”:”default”,”fields”:{“format”:”default”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:””,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:””},”type”:”media”,”link_text”:null,”attributes”:{“height”:”500″,”width”:”667″,”style”:”width: 133px; height: 100px; float: left; margin-left: 12px; margin-right: 12px;”,”class”:”media-element file-default”}}]]Bill Reynolds is the graduate program director of the Ryerson University School of Journalism in Toronto. He is also the editor of Literary Journalism Studies and treasurer of the International Association for Literary Journalism Studies.