Canada Reads 2010: Day Three

Generation X is off the island: quelle surprise (did I really make a Survivor reference? Ugh). Today was the day where they talked about “Canadianess”, whatever that means. Is it a point of view? A setting? A tone? I feel ridiculous even posing those questions, because aside from having been asked hundreds, if not thousands of times, they seem like stand-ins for serious questions about the themes or quality of a book. If we can place it as “Canadian” then we can behave as though it has some kind of inherent value. It’s our story, so therefore it’s worth reading regardless. Blah. The panelists didn’t go very far down that road, and though Jian Ghomeshi rightly asserted that it was Roland Pemberton who brought it up in the first place (come on, Jian, you would have brought it up if nobody else had), I’m glad that Pemberton also questioned using it as a yardstick.

Today’s debate wasn’t as robust as I would have liked, and even though it looks like Good to a Fault might be the next one thrown under the bus, Michel Vézina didn’t take the opportunity to upsell the merits of Nikolski much beyond saying that it was the only book in the competition to have any French Canadian characters. That’s true, but I’ve never believed that demographic balancing or any other kind of extra-literary issues are what makes for a good book. To me it’s akin to reading a book because the author or the main character is of a particular gender or race or sexual orientation or whatever. If it’s good, what does it matter?

Class came up as well, but no serious questions were asked. That’s hardly surprising, of course. Canada Reads is hardly the forum for serious debate. It was too late for Generation X to come up, which was the book that really mattered to me in terms of class, but Good to a Fault and Fall On Your Knees (if I remember correctly) were both praised for dealing with the lives of poor folks. Nobody bothered to talk about whether or not the depictions were accurate or problematic in any way, but the whole show could have gone into discussing Good to a Fault if they had taken that route. I suppose I should feel glad the word “class” was even mentioned.

Even though I’m not rooting for her book, I’m looking forward to seeing what Perdita Felicien has to say. She could make things jump a little tomorrow if the other panelists finally realize that she’s the one they have to beat.

August

Writer. Editor. Critic.

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