Canada Reads (or is that Read)

So the 2010 Season of the CBC’s Canada Reads is upon us.  The panelists are making a case for their favourite Canadian books over the next three months.  It is through this literary event that I have been introduced to some incredible Canadian talent, that, perhaps eclipsed by the Margarets, may have gone unnoticed by me.

Let me assure you that while my anticipation to devour these books over the next few months far outweighs the omnipresent looming of the Olympics, it is met with some trepidation.  Three out of the five books were published over ten years ago.  That in and of itself is not the issue.  The books are chosen by the panelists defending them and it just seems to me a bit of a cop out to choose a novel who coined the internationally accepted title of a generation and a book which any grade seven Vancouverite is considered remiss or deprived for not having studied, by an author that champions the Chinese-Canadian community.

It just seems a bit unfair to back these two cultural powerhouses, Coupland and Choy, who have become household names in Canadian literature, when there are so many authors out there whose writing is impressive, but have a shorter resume.

I encourage you to read the “little guys,” regardless of the ominous titles that they are up against.  Without the lesser knowns, I never would have read Song of Kahunsha or Lullibyes for Little Criminals, which incidentally won the year it was in.  Both titles I fell in love with and had my interest in Canadian literature reawakened.  Realizing that it goes beyond the Margarets and “survival” writing, that we too can have gritty urban scenes and international flavour.  I now anxiously await Heather O’Neill’s follow-up to Lullibyes and have since seen a play and read papers by Irani.

Perhaps this post is a bit of rant for the underdog, the author who does not have, or is not interested in having some sort of cultural investment, or reflection needed outside of the writing.  A reader taking a purest stance and finding the effort in the art the rewarding factor, not the hype or increasingly necessary press reviews.

I guess that this is a bit of the reason that I am here in cyberspace, in an effort to review and share opinions over literature.  My bias is seeping through a little with the emphasis on Canadiana here, but good literature should be a question of individual interpretation above all.  I realize the dangers that opens up to a “mass culture” influenced best-sellers argument, but the challenge comes in defending why a Twilight will be recognized as something that will last beyond the consumable instant.

Generation X and Jade Peony have done this, they have lasted,which is one of the greatest challenges to books, and even gone on to influence.  I look to the Canada Reads panelists to defend other books, by lesser known authors, and encourage a literary culture that can be proud of its own.  My faith in the literate will prove valid and more solid than my faith in the democratic process.  I will put it to the test and in writing state, “Watch them, watch the winners of past contests.”  They will last, they will influence, they will be remembered as great examples of Canadian talent.  I will also state that they will not need a defender in 10 years to explain why they won.

1 comment

  1. I’m looking forward to Canada Reads, and I am embarrased to admit that I have never seen an episode before. I was surprised that Generation X was chosen because it was “so old” but then again, I only read it for the first time, 3 years ago. I really did enjoy it and I was skeptical before picking it up. Curious to hear what Cadence Weapon will have to say about it…
    I have never read Jade Peony. In fact, I have never even heard of it (is this an ignorant Ontario thing?). I must admit that joining a book club is a bit intimidating in that I haven’t read much fiction for the last ten years. I am a voracious reader, but I have been overly focused on non-fiction and periodicals. Thanks to Thornquill, I am hoping that my reading tastes can become a little more balanced.
    But I do agree, there is a lot of great books out there and it seems a shame for an event like this to include the heavyweight favorites…

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