Canada Reads 2010: Day 4

March 11, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

Alex Good: “Oh my! That is an upset!” – Samantha Nutt on Fall on Your Knees being voted off today

And it certainly was. Or … sort of.

Stunned panelist Perdita Felicien certainly didn’t have any illusions about what happened, calling the vote “purely strategic” since “no one wants to go against the best book.” Which was Samantha’s rationale for her vote against it yesterday. The vote breakdown was interesting though. Samantha didn’t stick to her strategy and instead went against Niklolski. I guess she figured it was more vulnerable. Michel turned against Fall on Your Knees for what I think were strategic reasons (“I like short action books” didn’t cut it for me, especially coming from a guy like Michel). Roland, justifiably shocked to be alone in his vote, held firm against Good to a Fault and looks locked in against it the rest of the way. He even had to apologize a couple of times for beating on it. Perdita’s decision to go against The Jade Peony was, in retrospect, a mistake. She should have taken out Good to a Fault while she had the chance. She claimed “payback,” for Samantha’s vote yesterday, but revenge seems to have blinded her. Simi continues to rule as the strategy queen, knocking off the strongest competition, though perhaps not with the votes she thought she’d have.

And that’s how it played. This should make for an interesting finale.

Samantha was once again called out for “sitting here quietly” “in a savvy way” while the other two books go at it. Is this going to work?

Michel continues to be the intellectual loose cannon, championing Nikolski‘s “polyphonic structure” (didn’t expect to hear that on a show like this) while talking about how it reflects modern society’s “intrinsical ways of communications” (something getting lost in translation there). He also scored a major zinger against Perdita when she expressed her reluctance to read difficult books.

Michel: It’s been 50 years since education was compulsory in this country!
Perdita: What are you saying?
Michel : You should be able to read.

Ouch! Is he going to get away with that? You have to wonder, because right after this exchange when Jian called for the vote Perdita seemed very keen (“Let’s do this”). More payback? Michel also voted against Fall on Your Knees, so that’s where she might be going.

Another good program, overall. Could have done without the intro claiming that the winner will be a “guaranteed bestseller,” and that the program sells “more books than any other literary award in Canada,” but the commercial angle seems unavoidable. Also nice to see the shout out to the blogosphere.

Steven W. Beattie: “Omigod! The quarterback is toast!” – Die Hard

Okay, I’ll admit it. I did not see that coming. Yesterday, Fall on Your Knees looked destined to go all the way in this year’s Canada Reads competition; today, it became the second casualty, following yesterday’s Generation X massacre. This was, let’s face it, “purely strategic.” Simi Sara, who cast the deciding vote against Ann-Marie MacDonald’s book, even admitted that it was “nothing personal.” “I do love Fall on Your Knees,” Sara said. “I think it’s a Canadian classic.” But, she said that it’s already had its day in the sun and she felt that it was time “to see another book shine.”

None of this sat very well with Perdita Felicien, who was audibly stunned. “I feel like I want to cry,” she said. Later, when the discussion had moved on to the remaining three titles, Felicien was heard to remark, “I’m having a hard time, but let’s be professional.” Still, as Alex points out, the Olympian may have only herself to blame for today’s surprising turn of events. By casting her vote against The Jade Peony as payback for Samantha Nutt’s vote yesterday, she ensured that both Nikolski and Good to a Fault remained in contention, and simultaneously sealed her own book’s fate. She’s been a pugilist from day one, but by trying to get back at Nutt, she got hoist on her own petard.

The rest of the discussion was the best so far. Vézina was back in form after a lacklustre couple of days, not only talking about Nikolski‘s “polyphonic structure” (which I agree was surprising to hear in the context of the CBC’s literary popularity contest), but also pointing out that Dickner’s approach in the novel mirrors the disjunction of modern city life: “Nowadays, in our urban way of living, we don’t know our neighbours.”

He was also brilliant in defending the book against readers who don’t want to rise to the challenges it poses. This included not just Felicien, who said that the book “leaves too much to the reader” (“I don’t want to do that much homework,” she said, and later said that she doesn’t want to think when she’s reading a book, prompting Vézina’s wicked response quoted by Alex above). But Vézina also had to defend the book against Nutt, who said it was “too disjointed” and who found the non-linear structure “frustrating,” and against Jian Ghomeshi, who said that the reader has to fill in some gaps in the story. “I believe readers have a responsibility in filling in the gaps,” Vézina said. When asked to give a final pitch for Nikolski, he took direct aim at his detractors, saying that “it should be read because it’s not an easy book.”

Vézina also hit the nail on the head in his critique of The Jade Peony when he said that the book made him feel like he was being lectured rather than being told a story. He was on shakier ground when he criticized Choy’s structure by talking about what he would have done differently, but he was so strong elsewhere today that this was easy to overlook.

Nutt, meanwhile, continued to allow the panelists to duke it out over the other books, extending what Ghomeshi characterized as her “rope-a-dope” strategy from earlier in the week: “As long as they’re attacking each other’s books, they’re not attacking mine.” Today, when Ghomeshi called her on it, she admitted, “I’ve been sitting here quietly, watching it all go down.” Whether that strategy will continue to work in her favour is anybody’s guess. I’m beginning to have this nagging feeling that the two books remaining in contention after tomorrow’s vote will be Nikolski and The Jade Peony, which would mean that Vézina will have to work twice as hard to convince his fellow panelists that the literary title should win out over the educational one. Stay tuned.


3 Responses to “Canada Reads 2010: Day 4”
  1. Andrew S says:

    Vezina, even-second hand, is doing a good job convincing me that this might actually be worth listening to.

  2. August says:

    I quite liked Michel Vézina’s comments about what he would have done differently had he written The Jade Peony. Better to actually say what he thinks is wrong with a book, or how it could have been corrected, than to stick with the vague adjectives coming from the rest of the panel.

    Besides, it was like he was reading my mind.

  3. pat hodgins says:

    I always listen to Canada Reads but just wish that over the years, “strategy” hadn’t become so important. Truly, the “best” book overall should be focussed on, not revenge, staying silent, voting strategically etc. It spoils it for me. This seemed to be a particularly bellicose panel, admitting from the get-go that they were going to be going on strategy. I don’t care if the debate gets rough, (bring it on!). Fight like hell for your book on its merits, and if it’s voted off then fight like hell the rest of the time for your second, third choice but spare me the political , strategic manoevering! Simi’s vote against “Fall on your Knees” was cold and done for the wrong reasons (and I don’t even like “Fall on your Knees”!).