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Richard Dawkins + Celtic figurines = Who Do We Think We Are?




Whoosh! Away it goes to the copy editor.  Beneath that title page, the manuscript reminds us that, despite our perpetual obsession with our collective identity, we Canadians have never investigated a crucial demographic reality  -- the fact that more than nine million Canadians claim Scottish or Irish ancestry. Did the ancestors of more than one quarter of our population arrive without cultural baggage? No history, no values, no vision? Impossible.

Canadians in search of their roots soon realize that an ocean is an artificial barrier. We revel in tracing our personal stories to ancestors who lived centuries ago. Too many Canadian intellectuals turn their backs on this model. Instead of voyaging with genealogists, they huddle at home with geographers and sociologists. And so they produce paper-thin surveys of the present and recent past.

Drawing on the work Richard Dawkins, who contends that ideas and values (“memes”) can be transmitted from one generation to another, I will argue that Canadians should look to cultural genealogy. Scottish and Irish immigrants arrived in Canada with values they had learned from their forebears. And they did so early enough, and in sufficient numbers, to shape an emerging Canadian nation. . . . 
At this point, the manuscript has been back and forth several times between me and the substantive editor, Patrick Crean. He has made suggestions -- eg. maybe rewrite this section, which is not working, and move that section nearer the front.  And, because he is really, really astute, and usually right, I have acted on those ideas. So now the copy editor will do a line edit: on page xx, you say she was born in 1572, but then, on page xxx, you say 1582?
Directly ahead: the proofing, the index, the photos, the design, the typesetting, the choosing of the cover. And then comes additional feedback: early readers say this book will become part of the national conversation. Ken is clamoring to go on the road. What are the advance orders like?  Has anybody checked out this preview?
HarperCollins Canada will publish Celtic Lightning in October. These are still early days. But look: the book-specific figurines are already working magic. Great success will surely follow.
Ken McGoogan
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Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.

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