Canada Also Reads

February 12, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

So, between deadlines in my day job, the ongoing tawdry spectacle of the Toronto City Hall sex scandal, and John Mayer’s dick, my attention has been elsewhere recently, as you might have surmised from the sparse posts going up around these parts.

But, fear not: yr. humble correspondent has not been idle. Behind-the-scenes work has been ongoing on a variety of fronts, one of which you may already be aware of: I’m marching into battle as a member of the National Post‘s Canada Also Reads panel. This is a cool idea on the part of the guys who run the Post‘s Afterword blog. Like many of us, they were disappointed by the lack of surprises in this year’s official Canada Reads list, and they decided to inaugurate a shadow competition, featuring books that had flown under the radar and deserved more attention. I have the honour of defending Mark Anthony Jarman’s stellar 2008 story collection My White Planet, which somehow came and went without the flurry of accolades it so richly deserved.

It’s got some stiff competition, though. There are seven other books on the list, being defended by some pretty powerful advocates. The Afterword’s shortlist in full:

• Writer and critic Steven W. Beattie defends My White Planet by Mark Anthony Jarman (Thomas Allen Publishers)
• Author Tish Cohen (Inside Out Girl, Town House) defends The Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan (HarperCollins Canada)
• Singer/songwriter Andy Maize (Skydiggers) defends Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis (McClelland & Stewart)
• Poet Jacob McArthur Mooney (The New Layman’s Almanac) defends The Last Shot by Leon Rooke (Thomas Allen Publishers)
• Blogger John Mutford defends Yellowknife by Steve Zipp (Res Telluris)
• Author Lisa Pasold (Rats of Las Vegas) defends You and The Pirates by Jocelyne Allens (The Workhorsery)
• Author Neil Smith (Bang Crunch) defends Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant (Knopf Canada)
• Author Zoe Whittall (Holding Still for as Long as Possible) defends Fear of Fighting by Stacey May Fowles (Invisible Publishing)

While I’m admittedly biased, I think this list is far more interesting than the CBC’s official list. Today on the Canada Reads website, Flannery, the CBC’s blogger, discusses the joys of reading Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees for the first time, experiencing the twists and turns of the plot without prior knowledge of where the story would take her. For me, this is exactly the problem with the 2010 Canada Reads lineup: pace blogger Flannery, the list has very little that’s surprising at all. Fall on Your Knees is a known quantity, a book that has already been given the Oprah Book Club seal of approval. Similarly, Douglas Coupland’s Generation X has lent its name to an entire demographic, and its language is pervasive in our culture (does anyone out there not know what a “McJob” is?). Marina Endicott’s Good to a Fault was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, this country’s richest and most visible prize for fiction. The Post‘s list, by contrast, contains books I’ve never even heard of before, and I find that refreshing.

Stay tuned for further discussion of Canada Also Reads in general, and My White Planet in particular. And yes, once again yr. humble correspondent will provide a play-by-play commentary on the official Canada Reads debates, which run March 8–12. We’ll see if we can entice Alex Good back to participate as well.

More soon.


2 Responses to “Canada Also Reads”
  1. Nice post. Looking forward to the Canada Also Reads fun.

  2. Nic Boshart says:

    I heard that you and Zoe actually squared off on who got to do Fear of Fighting. Don’t worry, this is your blog, you can admit how much you love it.