Canada Reads 2010: Day Two

We won’t know for certain until tomorrow morning, of course, but it looks like Generation X is going to be the first book on the chopping block. Roland Pemberton didn’t really do much to help himself, though. Despite coming second-last in my own lineup based on this year’s contenders, I felt sorry for both Pemberton and Coupland that it had such a poor showing today (though admittedly, I would have been even harder on the book than the other panelists were). The Jade Peony is the weakest book on the list; while nobody’s said anything negative about it, Samantha Nutt is the only one giving it any real attention at all. I think it’s so unlikely a victor that continuing to ignore it may be the best way to keep it out of the race. Were I a panelist, Fall On Your Knees would have been my first target. Oprah selection aside, it’s the book with the most advocates on the panel. I could see almost all the panelists throwing their weight behind it if their own books get voted out. Taking it down early would put all of their books on better footing.

Speaking of being hard on the books and other panelists, both the folks at the official CBC blog and Messrs. Beattie and Good made special mention of how frank and aggressive Perdita Felicien was, using words like “eviscerating” and “tore into”. If what we saw today constitutes a “tearing into”, then the men and women of Canadian letters might have the thinnest skins in all of creation. If those were strong opinions, I bet mine would have made somebody cry.

There’s only one specific observation that several of the panelists made, which I saw echoed on Twitter, that I would like to address: that Generation X and Nikolski did not have strong characters, were not “about” characters. That’s true of the first part of Generation X, but beyond that it’s utter nonsense. In the second half of the book the characters come into their own, and though I agree with Vézina that they are—as I said in my own review—”brats”, they were definitely fully-formed characters. And Nikolski has phenomenal characters. The themes of both books are pretty non-standard for CanLit, but they are both very character driven. What they are not driven by is throwing horrible shit at the characters over and over again until their lives fall apart, which seems to be what the panelists mean by being “about” characters.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

August

Writer. Editor. Critic.

2 Comments

  1. What I really liked about Day 2 of debates was how it changed my mind on Nikolski. Admittedly, prior to hearing Vezina’s opinions on this book, I too thought that it was thin. As I heard Vezina talk more about the book, I had to start reading it again. This time I’m taking something different from the book. And as for Gen X, I agree that it did have fully formed characters, but at the same time I couldn’t shake the feeling that perhaps I should be reading Gen A instead, since this is Canada Reads 2010. Gen A was also about outcasts, also about the power of storytelling, but with environmental and sociological topics more relevant to current times. What do you think?

  2. I still haven’t read Generation A; to be honest the only Coupland book I’ve ever enjoyed was Microserfs, and “hate” isn’t a strong enough word for how I felt about Generation X. This was actually my second time reading it, and I told myself that if I felt differently about it this time around that I would give the rest of his oeuvre another chance. Now I feel safe saying that money would have to change hands for that to happen.
    The only reason I place it higher than The Jade Peony on this year’s list is because hating it made me want to talk about it, explain how much I hated it. Choy’s book left me indifferent. I’m not interested in discussing its potential merits or its faults. It just doesn’t seem worthwhile.

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