Canada Reads 2010: Introduction

March 7, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Once again, yr. humble correspondent has teamed with Alex Good of Good Reports to provide colour commentary for CBC’s Canada Reads debates. (Think of us as a crankier version of Siskel and Ebert, or Statler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show.) Stay tuned over the coming week for nail-biting, back-stabbing, and assorted other surprises and indignities. We’ll likely say something about the debates, too.

INTRODUCTION

Alex Good: I guess this is the third year we’ve been commenting on the “irresistable, if hugely reprehensible” (Stephen Henighan, naturally) Canada Reads program. But the fact that we’ve kept at it for three years suggests that things maybe aren’t as bad as Henighan makes them out to be. Just criticizing the program serves an important function, I think. And then there have been all of the Canada Reads spin-offs this year, which are also worthwhile. It’s all part of our great national literary conversation, right?

Right?

Still, we have been critical in the past. Probably more so than most other write-ups I’ve seen. Which makes it all the more surprising that the CBC keeps encouraging us. I attribute this mainly to the social connections and general affability of one Steven W. (that’s “W” as in “Where’s the launch party?”) Beattie.

So here we are again. Leading off with some general introductory thoughts.

I’ll start by being nice. Whatever you think of the program, you do have to appreciate the effort CBC puts into it. It’s more than just a radio show. The website is also quite impressive. They’ve got a resident blogger named “Flannery” (who seems to be one of those unfortunate media types with no last name), and a whole lot of interesting extra features, from interviews to readings to book club coverage.

Yeah, most of it is pretty fluffy. But still.

The panel this year consists of the usual C-list of Canadian celebrities. Perdita Felicien was the only name I immediately recognized. Apparently Michel Vézina is big in Quebec literary circles, which only goes to show that the two solitudes are still going strong since I’d never heard of him. I’m wary of the ringers. Last year was particularly egregious with Avi (Mr. CBC) Lewis running the table, his only competition coming from fellow broadcast personality Jen Sookfong Lee. This year we have two people coming from similar backgrounds in Simi Sara and Michel Vézina. Isn’t that kind of like having dancers appear as the celebrities on Dancing with the Stars? I mean, radio isn’t easy. I know the others have all been on television and radio, but it’s not like they’re professionals.

The books have been pretty roundly criticized. In part for being titles that are already very well known (prompting cries of “Canada Re-Reads”), and also for being, in the words of more than one joyless critic, “unbelievably boring.”

Fair? Sort of. Blame The Book of Negroes. Serious, dull stuff has a leg up on the competition when it comes to contests like this. Looking back, King Leary seems more and more like an aberration.

The Jade Peony is boring. Oh my god is it boring. I think Jessa Crispin had a line a few years ago about wanting to use the pages of a dull book to saw through her wrists with paper cuts. That kind of boring. The story of a Depression-era family in Vancouver’s Chinatown, it … zzzzzzzzzzz.

Burning question: Can Samantha Nutt, a prominent social activist (married to another prominent social activist, who also happens to be Ontario’s Minister of Immigration) say anything about this book other than that reading it will be good for us and make us all better Canadians and … zzzzzzzzzz.

Generation X. Coupland’s never made it onto a Canada Reads program before, which is odd. Odder still is that he gets his debut with … his debut. I’m not a big Coupland fan, but I can at least see some rationale for choosing this book, since it meant a lot to some people when it came out. And it’s at least something that is, if not completely, then at least a little different than the the usual run of domestic dramas.

Burning question: Can Roland Pemberton explain why a book about generational angst as expressed in the lives of a gang of SoCal slackers, written before the Internet, before 9/11 and the Bush years (and before their demonic bastard offspring in the form of the Harper regime), before the financial crisis, and before anyone cared about global warming, is still relevant today, even to older Xers?

Nikolski is a book that’s been hanging around my office for a while in various forms. And I have to say I’m really glad that this program finally forced me to read it. It’s a very clever entertainment and the writing is probably the sharpest of any of the books on this year’s list. And it’s a translation! What does that tell you?

Burning question: Can Michel Vézina make a populist case for what is the most self-consciously “literary” book on the list?

There is a lot to admire in Good to a Fault. Too much, perhaps. I thought Endicott really nailed these characters and their world, but this book seemed to me to be nearly twice as long as it should have been. Does the fact that it was a (surprise) Giller nominee disqualify it from this program? I don’t think so, especially since I don’t think it got much of a bounce out of the Giller.

Burning question: Is Simi Sara a ringer?

The poster child for the “Canada Re-Reads” critique is Fall on Your Knees. Yes, this was an Oprah pick. Which translated into sales of something like three million copies. So why bother pimping it here? It’s already won the lottery. But for that, I think it would be a terrific choice. Not my thing (domestic drama again, combined with historical romance), and re-reading it this past week I found the writing on a sentence-by-sentence level weak, but there’s no denying the power it has. And it would be a popular choice. One thing you have to say about Oprah is that she knows her audience. And is her audience all that different from the CBC’s? I imagine there’s quite a bit of overlap.

Burning question: Can Perdita Felicien clear the Oprah hurdle?

All those questions and more to be answered starting Monday.

Steven W. Beattie: “Joyless critic”? Why I oughta …

Okay, I’ll admit that when I called this year’s Canada Reads list “unbelievably boring,” I was exaggerating for comic effect (and in an attempt to contrast this list with The Afterword’s shadow list, which seems to me, if not better, at least more diverse. Then again, I’ve got a selection in The Afterword’s competition, so I’m not exactly an unbiased observer …). Still, you have to admit a certain déjà vu when it comes to this year’s official competition. We have an Oprah pick, a Giller nominee, and a book that’s lent its name to an entire freaking demographic (and even has an entry in The Canadian Oxford Dictionary). These are not exactly choices out of left field. There’s no Fruit on this year’s list; no Icefields; no Rockbound. Even Nikolski, which is the only genuine outsider in the group, was published in English under Knopf Canada’s New Face of Fiction program in 2008 – not exactly underdog material. The smallest publisher represented here is Calgary’s Freehand Press, which scored a home run with Good to a Fault when it was shortlisted for the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize. True, it probably didn’t get as big a bounce from that year’s shortlist as did the eventual winner, Joseph Boyden’s Through Black Spruce, but still …

This is not to suggest that Good to a Fault is an unworthy title. It’s a solid story, elegantly written, but, as you suggest, Alex, it’s about 150 pages too long. The theme of where goodness comes from – whether it’s prompted by altruism or by guilt – is intriguing, Endicott is a superior writer of dialogue (likely as a result of her background in the theatre), and Clara Purdy is a genuinely interesting character. But the book wears out its welcome well before the (rather muted) climax. Still, it’s a title with enough popular appeal that I could see it going the distance in this year’s competition.

Good to a Fault could easily end up in the final two alongside Fall on Your Knees, the other populist choice. I haven’t read this one since it first appeared in 1996. My reaction then was decidedly mixed: I liked some of the Gothic stuff at the beginning, and the author’s theatrical background (again) means that she’s got a good handle on things like pace and the modulation of suspense. But the book is way too long, and the final “shocking” revelation is telegraphed way too soon (and in any event won’t surprise anyone who’s ever seen a Judith Thompson play). Still, there are scenes in the book that have stuck with me through all these years (the scene in which Materia performs an ad-hoc caesarean on her daughter Kathleen using the sharpened kitchen scissors is one notable example), and there aren’t too many books I can say that about.

But Fall on Your Knees is a known quantity. It was a New Face of Fiction selection in 1996; the other New Face of Fiction book on this list is much less recognizable, although I hope this year’s competition will rectify that situation. Nikolski, one of my favourite books from 2008, is a strange, surreal novel that manages to be humorous and philosophical at the same time. The writing is seamless (all credit to translator Lazer Lederhendler), the patterns of metaphor are rich and well integrated into the flow of the story, and although the plot (such as it is) meanders, it never feels wayward. Nikolski is absolutely the most “literary” novel on this list, but I hope that this year we might see a repeat of 2003, when Hubert Aquin’s Next Episode came out of nowhere to win. It will all depend, I suspect, on Michel Vézina’s ability to defend his chosen title.

In any event, Nikolski deserves to beat the pants off the remaining two titles. About Generation X, the less said (at least by me) the better. Published in 1991, it launched a flurry of winking, too-clever-by-half, maddeningly self-conscious novels from Douglas Coupland (at the rate of almost one per year ever since), and by a legion of younger acolytes (the influence of Coupland’s first novel is as undeniable as it is lamentable). Generation X created the template for books such as Microserfs and JPod, and all of the elements that made those novels so aggravating are present and accounted for: the obsessive cataloguing of brand names and corporations; the cutesy aphorisms (“At meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, fellow drinksters will get angry with you if you won’t puke for the audience”); characters who are little more than collections of tics and idiosyncrasies and who say things like, “It’s Splittsville for this little Neapolitan waif.” With luck, it’ll be Splittsville for this book early on in the proceedings.

Finally, The Jade Peony is the most obviously ennobling title on the list; the one that, as you say, Alex, you read because it’s good for you. But by this point, the theme of old-world tradition abutting new-world realities (a theme well explored by Henry James over 100 years ago) seems a bit tired, and the novel doesn’t really take us anywhere new or unexpected. Samantha Nutt has her work cut out for her if she wants to repeat last year’s triumph of edification over entertainment.

So, there you have it. Five books, five panelists, one joyless critic. It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out over the next five days.

Canada Also Reads begins

March 1, 2010 by · 4 Comments 

Over at the National Post‘s blog, The Afterword, the Canada Also Reads shadow program, meant as a compliment to CBC’s unbelievably boring official Canada Reads 2010, is underway. This week, The Afterword will feature two essays per day, each one defending a particular title. The climax occurs next Monday, when the eight defenders will participate in a live roundtable discussion about the selected books.

To kick things off today, blogger John Mutford offers a spirited defence of his chosen title, Steve Zipp’s 2007 novel Yellowknife:

Despite the strong Canadian setting, Yellowknife owes more to Mikhail Bulgakov than Alice Munro. Once readers give up on the notion of typical CanLit (which has all the thrills of a station wagon crossing the prairies), they come to embrace Zipp’s  eclectic and energetic style. By gosh, a book can be smart and funny at the same time, it can be experimental and readable, it can be exciting.

And, not to be outdone, yr. humble correspondent chimes in with a defence of his title, Mark Anthony Jarman’s 2008 short story collection My White Planet:

Poet and literary critic Zachariah Wells once defined the short story as a poem with an unhealthy affinity for the right-hand margin. This description is especially appropriate to the work of Mark Anthony Jarman. The pieces in My White Planet more closely resemble prose poems than traditional Chekhovian stories; conventional notions of character and plot are less important than the jazzy, jangling music of Jarman’s language.

The rest of my incontrovertible defence of Jarman’s work is up at The Afterword. In the meantime, here’s my Quill & Quire review, which reiterates and expands on some of the essay’s key points:

Mark Anthony Jarman’s new collection of stories is something of a rarity in Canadian short fiction. It does not follow the tried-and-true template of the traditional Chekhovian story, which prizes naturalism and a familiar narrative arc. Rather, Jarman’s stories more closely resemble the postmodern collages of Donald Barthelme.

Jarman’s focus is not on story in the traditional sense, and although a handful of the selections in the book do end with a character reaching a kind of epiphany, the author’s core interest resides elsewhere – specifically, in the delirious and courageous use of language to create startling effects.

The 14 stories in My White Planet display an author who is positively word-drunk, delighting in twisting language into bizarre shapes, pushing and straining to test its resilience and its torque. There is a palpable giddiness to many of these stories; Jarman writes like a free jazz musician riffing on a central theme, or like a Beat poet jiving to the rhythms of his prose: “They climb up sheepish and angry because they’re not from a ghetto. By not being deprived, they’ve been deprived. O to be born in a ghetto, to get jiggy with the rats and the rasta players.”

Throughout, Jarman’s imagination is robustly catholic, incorporating references from high culture and pop culture, often in playful juxtaposition. The title of the story “Fables of the Deconstruction” is a sly, Derridaesque pun on the name of an R.E.M. album, and its epigraph is from Francis Bacon. Nods to indie rock bands Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Calexico rub shoulders with allusions to Machiavelli and Othello.

The subject matter and tone of the stories are similarly wide-ranging, from the bleak opener, “Night March in the Territory,” which follows a group of soldiers on a trek through unmapped American territory, to “Kingdoms and Knowledge,” which follows a Canadian citizen as he navigates his way through London, England, while tending to his mother who is suffering in an Alzheimer’s ward there. And “A Nation Plays Chopsticks,” about an old-timers hockey league, may be the finest explanation for Canadians’ love affair with the game that I’ve ever read.

The stories in this collection may not be to everybody’s taste. Weighing in at just over 200 pages, the book is a quick read, but not easily digested. Some of the stories are more accessible than others, but the collection as a whole exemplifies Wallace Stevens’ comment that poetry should “resist the intelligence, almost successfully.” In these stories, many of which resemble prose poems, Jarman has taken that dictum to heart, and the results are challenging and surprising.

Stay tuned for more updates about Canada Also Reads, as well as the annual play-by-play of the official Canada Reads debates, which will be hosted here by Alex Good and myself the week of March 8-12.

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.

One from the vaults: Carrie Snyder’s Hair Hat

January 25, 2010 by · 4 Comments 

Some of you may recall my feeling of déjà vu upon hearing the lineup for this year’s edition of Canada Reads. It seems I’m not the only one who found the list this year a tad uninspiring. Kerry Clare at Pickle Me This was so disappointed at the lack of unexpected choices on this year’s roster that she set up her own “shadow” program, which she’s calling Canada Reads 2010: Independently. She recruited five literary folks – including yr. humble correspondent – to offer competing suggestions for “book recommendations out of nowhere, books I’d never pick up otherwise, that challenge my sensibilities, and that I might just fall in love with.”

The first book she read was Ray Smith’s Century, which was recommended by Biblioasis publisher Dan Wells. Since Kerry has set up her program as a competition, and given that I chose another book entirely for her to read, it’s probably not wise for me to admit this (although regular readers of this site will already be well aware of it), but I greatly admire Smith’s novel.

The second book Kerry tackled, selected for her by one Patricia Storms, is a collection of linked short stories by Carrie Snyder called Hair Hat. In my checkered past, when I was reviewing for the now-defunct Books in Canada, one of the books that fell into my lap was Hair Hat. My BiC review is reprinted below. I’d be interested to return to Snyder’s text and find out whether my reaction has changed at all; Kerry’s review gives me the opportunity to dig out my copy and do just that. In the meantime, here is my response circa 2004. (Hair Hat is not currently available in stores, but if either Kerry’s or my own review piques your interest, the author has copies of the book for sale through her website.)

***

Carrie Snyder’s volume of 11 stories is linked by the presence of a mysterious figure whose hair is sculpted into the shape of a hat. This nameless figure keeps cropping up – on a beach, in a donut shop, returning a lost wallet – but remains a peripheral figure, as though inhabiting the blurred edges of a photograph. Until, that is, the penultimate story in the collection, when the Hair Hat Man is brought front and centre.

Before becoming the focus of attention, he wanders aimlessly into and out of the lives of a seemingly disparate group of characters: a young girl consumed with guilt over her complicity in the drowning death of her best friend; a mother taking her two children on a day trip to the beach; a female graduate student who flirts openly at a bar in the presence of her boyfriend.

The connections between the characters are occasionally self-evident: the young girl with the drowned friend in the opening story, “Yellow Cherries,” reappears in “Comfort,” which tells the same story from the point of view of the girl’s Aunt Lucy. When the Hair Hat Man shows up at Lucy’s farm, he recognizes the girl as his daughter’s best friend in school; the two girls appear together in the collection’s final story, “Chosen.”

But there are less readily apparent connections running throughout Hair Hat. Absence dominates these stories: the characters in Snyder’s collection are all, in one way or another, missing something. The young girl in “Yellow Cherries” is haunted by the absence of her dead friend. The mother in “Tumbleweed” suspects her husband of being unfaithful, but engages in a program of avoidance and denial, and the husband himself remains absent throughout, never actually appearing in the story. The daughter in “The Apartment” loses her wallet, and in “Third Dog,” the titular canine, symbolic of a kind of malevolent destiny, hovers over the entire story, but never appears in it. The central absence in the collection afflicts the Hair Hat Man himself – it is no accident that the story in which he finally appears in the foreground is titled “Missing.” The way these characters deal with loss – both physical and spiritual – provides the thread that weaves these stories together, lending them a subtle thematic cohesion.

Hair Hat is not, however, simply a collection of short fiction thematically unified by a concern with absence and loss or an examination of the specific responses and repercussions these states have on a particular group of characters. The book is avowedly a collection of linked stories, and it is the very linking device – the presence of the Hair Hat Man himself – that ultimately sinks the collection.

Unlike Alice Munro’s Who Do You Think You Are?, Margaret Laurence’s A Bird in the House, or Michael Winter’s One Last Good Look – linked story collections which are actually variations on the traditional Bildungsroman – Snyder’s stories are yoked together in a way that is highly artificial and intrusive. Snyder’s preferred mode of storytelling is mimetic naturalism of the “kitchen sink” variety, but the eccentrically coiffed interloper who keeps reappearing seems for most of the book’s duration like a cartoonish figure; he feels out of place and is distracting for the reader. Even when we are finally made privy to the Hair Hat Man’s story, his essential ludicrousness is inescapable. The longing and loss that his story insists on is overwhelmed by the reader’s curiosity about how he sleeps and what kind of styling mousse he uses.

It is clear that the author intends the Hair Hat Man’s unorthodox appearance to act as a catalyst of sorts for the other characters in the book, a means of dragging them out of the ordinariness of their lives and forcing their situations into sharper relief. Here is Lucy’s reaction to the Hair Hat Man in “Comfort”: “His presence, his hair hat, were uncalled for, an accident, a misfortune, a blemish on an otherwise clean, calculated day that should have held nothing but the ordinary reminders and warnings.” But even this feels forced and heavy handed, and is insufficient to make the character seem like anything other than an artificial authorial imposition binding together stories that would have been better left discrete.

Canada Reads announces its 2010 contenders

December 1, 2009 by · 11 Comments 

The contenders for the 2010 edition of CBC Radio’s Canada Reads – the annual literary elimination contest now entering its ninth year – were revealed in Toronto today. The list of panelists is fairly interesting (it includes an Olympian, a hip-hop artist, and the executive director of War Child Canada) and the books they’re defending are … well, let’s just say they’re largely known quantities, including one Giller nominee, one Oprah pick (!), and one book with a title so ubiquitous it has worked its way into the cultural lexicon (and even has an entry in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary).

The five books in contention are:

  • Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald, defended by Perdita Felicien
  • Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture by Douglas Coupland, defended by Roland Pemberton aka Cadence Weapon
  • Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott, defended by Simi Sara
  • The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy, defended by Samantha Nutt
  • Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner, trans. by Lazer Lederhendler, defended by Michel Vézina

Now, given that the annual CBC contest is meant to settle on one book that the panel would like the whole country to read, if you’re like me, the first question you’re prone to ask yourself is this: Are there any committed readers in Canada who haven’t already read Fall on Your Knees or Generation X? I’d wager even most casual readers in this country will have at least a passing familiarity with these two titles. And many readers have been exposed to Marina Endicott’s novel as a result of it being shortlisted for the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize. When The Book of Negroes won the contest last year, my feeling was they should have changed the name to Canada Rereads, given the number of people who had already consumed Lawrence Hill’s novel prior to its appearance on the CBC broadcast. This year, three fifths of the entire list could reasonably fall into that category.

It’s not that the titles are unworthy, but they are already on the nation’s radar, so to speak, which represents something of a missed opportunity for bringing attention to titles that might otherwise have gone overlooked. There is no Fruit on this year’s list, no Icefields – lesser-known books from smaller publishers that broke out of obscurity as a result of their appearance on the CBC broadcast.

Moreover – with one notable exception – they all fall within what Victoria Glendinning famously referred to as the “muddy middle range” of CanLit. The exception, of course, is Nikolski, a strange, idiosyncratic novel out of Quebec, which I thought was the best unheralded book of 2008. The fact that it’s about to gain a much larger English-language audience is heartening; the fact that it is the likeliest to be eliminated early in the competition is a foregone conclusion.

But the majority of the novels on this year’s list have an undeniable sameness about them. Indeed, three of them are family dramas: one a multigenerational saga with Gothic overtones (Fall on Your Knees), one a Carol Shields-like domestic narrative (Good to a Fault), and one a novel about the immigrant experience in Canada (The Jade Peony). That leaves only Generation X, which has now become so ingrained in the cultural zeitgeist it has lost whatever edge it might once have had, and Nikolski, the only authentic outsider on the list.

Add to this the fact that the oldest of the five titles – Generation X – was published in 1991; there is no Rockbound or Next Episode (both of which went on to win in their respective years) to be discovered by a new generation of readers. That may have something to do with this year’s panelists, who skew younger than in previous years, but it results in a certain narrowness of focus in the current roster of books.

At the announcement ceremony today, much was made of the so-called “Canada Reads effect,” the boost that being on the CBC program gives to a particular title. In the wake of last year’s victory, The Book of Negroes – which Avi Lewis, who was championing it, admitted had already been read by tens of thousands of people – went on to become an even bigger bestseller, scored a movie deal (a movie the CBC will be co-producing, not incidentally), and has just been released in a deluxe, illustrated edition. No doubt the Canada Reads effect exists. One can hope that this year, it will prompt readers to rediscover Endicott’s first novel, Open Arms, or to dip into some of Coupland’s lesser known (but better) mid-career novels such as Miss Wyoming or Hey, Nostradamus!

In the meantime, readers can get down to reading (or rereading, as the case may be) the five books that will feature in the debates on CBC Radio One during the week of March 8–12, 2010.


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