Canada Reads 2010: Day 5

March 12, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

Steven W. Beattie: “I honestly think it’s an adavantage to have a book that doesn’t have an identity yet.” That was the lesson that Roland Pemberton took away from the Canada Reads 2010 debates, after witnessing the two Goliaths – his own book, Generation X, and Perdita Felicien’s choice, Fall on Your Knees – drop out of the running first and second. He has a point. When all was said and done, it was the two relative unknowns – The Jade Peony, which won the Trillium Award and the City of Vancouver Book Award, but could not reasonably be considered a household name, and Nikolski, this year’s only true outsider – that made it to the final round. When it became apparent after the tie-breaking re-vote that Good to a Fault was out, Jian Ghomeshi said that Nikolski was “by every measure the dark horse going into this contest.”

And yet it was the dark horse that ended up going the distance. Samantha Nutt, who said early in today’s program that she was voting “with [her] heart” when she voted against Nikolski, later admitted to a bit of strategy following the first day’s debate, when she “realized people were liking it more than [she] expected.” Nutt said she felt confident that The Jade Peony could win against Good to a Fault, but she was nervous about going up against Nikolski. By contrast, Simi Sara, the diplomat on this year’s panel, said that she had made up her mind from the start that if her book was voted off, she would throw her support behind Nikolski.

So, a surprise victory for Nicolas Dickner’s strange, iconoclastic, allusive, and (something none of the panelists made mention of this week) funny novel. And yr. humble correspondent, who was pulling for it from Day 1, couldn’t be more pleased.

Alex Good: A dramatic conclusion? Actually … no. I feel like kicking myself for leaving out my prediction from this year’s intro, because in my draft I had picked Nikolski to be the winner. Though I didn’t see things going down quite the way they did.

The final vote came as no surprise. It seemed pretty clear throughout the show that The Jade Peony didn’t have a lot of support. It was just flying under the radar. And I’m glad Nikolski won. It was my favourite. Though I think Fall on Your Knees would have also been a great popular choice.

Two final comments:

(1) Could that opening re-vote have been more absurd? They had to do a re-vote because of the tie, but the way the vote broke down, the tie-breaker was going to be Michel’s. Unless somebody else changed their vote … but at that point why would they? … the result was a foregone conclusion. I imagine everyone rolling their eyes as they went through the motions.

(2) OK, yes, Michel was a great panelist. I said after Day 1 that he was also the worst panelist because of his occasional difficulties with English, but in the end I think that helped him. As Jian commented, he managed to come across as opinionated without being arrogant. A fluent English speaker would have seemed pompous and patronizing delivering the same lines Michel did in his fractured pronunciation. But I don’t want to cover the big guy in wet, slobbery kisses. Because, and I don’t think this can be stressed enough, he was a total fucking über-ringer! Come on! This was as bad as Avi Lewis last year. Vézina is a professional author, publisher, editor, literary critic, and radio personality! Up against an athlete, a doctor, a hip-hop performer, and a television host. He should have been kicking ass all over the place.

Overall, however, I give this year’s program high marks. Of the three of these we’ve covered now it was the best. But really, if they’re going to bring in ringers like Lewis and Vézina, then why not have a full panel of well-informed, articulate, bookish commentators and leave the celebs out of it? That might be really interesting.


3 Responses to “Canada Reads 2010: Day 5”
  1. I had to google über-ringer. Sigh.

    They need the celebs to boost ratings, don’t they?

  2. Alex says:

    Interesting. I just googled uber-ringer too and this post came up as a hit. I didn’t think Google was that fast.

  3. Finn Harvor says:

    Google is eveeerrrrrryyywherrrrrrrrrre, Alex.