Canada Reads 2017 Notes on Day 1

“It’s the Battle of the Books. Let the games begin!”

The Canada Reads competition for the first day is finished and one book has been voted out.

The host is comedian Ali Hassan. Just to remind you, the panelists are Candy Palmater, Humble the Poet, Jody Mitic, Chantal Kreviazuk, and Measha Brueggergosman.

To start with, each panelist is introduced and each of them exchanged a bit of small talk with the host, introducing their respective books. Candy Palmater mentioned recently deceased Canadian writer, Richard Wagamese. One defender, Chantal Kreviazuk, was not in the studio due to a family emergency, she was connected remotely from Los Angeles so we could see her but she couldn’t actually see her co-defendants.

The trailers for each book were shown and each defendant has 30 seconds to put forth their initial defence. That first impression could make a big difference. The next move is for each competitor then to discuss why each of the others’ books are not the right one to win the competition with some rebuttal by the defenders.

Notes on the initial book debates:

Nostalgia:
Jody says The past always affects your future and you can’t run from your past.
Candy didn’t like the idea of older man/younger augmented woman (but it turns out that female character was not augmented) and she couldn’t relate to it. She didn’t feel the book conveyed the urgency of the one book Canadians need to read *right now*. Humble says fiction is lies that tell the truth and he could see how Nostalgia could connect with people but again, the urgency didn’t strike him. Measha connected with the resourcefulness of some of the characters.

The Right to be Cold:
Chantal says civilization is at a critical moment and the book tells us how to fix the problems of climate control.
Jody thought the climate issue was far too broad and there was too much in the book that did not relate to climate change. Chantal believes that people are connected to everything around them and they won’t need Jody in the fight because he doesn’t buy into that fight and the two of them got into a sniping session that Ali kept trying to divert.  Humble thought the book encompassed more than climate change and wasn’t specific enough to be the champion of the issue. Candy jumped in defending Jody and Ali again redirected the discussion to the next book.

Fifteen Dogs:
Humble believes it raises issues that happen because of the human condition and we need to understand the human conditions before we can address the issues. Fifteen Dogs does this.
Measha is not a dog person but “liked the exercise of exploring the human consciousness”. Chantal is a dog lover and applauds the awards this book has already won but isn’t sure understanding the human condition from this book necessarily was conveyed. Jody thought the book didn’t make clear how much or how little the dogs are evolving and thought the characters were a bit inconsistent for him. Humble agreed and took it a step further as representative of how much humanity isn’t evolving. Candy pointed out that all the dogs were male and therefore the book, for her, was about men’s consciousness, not people in general though it was thought that her opinion was ironic considering The Break is from the women’s point of view.

Company Town:
Measha says: The bitter medicine we need in order to heal, and it’s about  justice being served.
Candy liked the book but still didn’t connect with any urgency as applies to the theme. She doubted that a woman character necessarily needs to have male traits to be portrayed as “Strong”. Measha pointed out that the book protagonist Hwa’s biggest strength is her intuition and we need to be authentic to survive. Jody did connect to Hwa as a great character but didn’t think the story, as good as it was, was one Canada needs right now. Chantal stood behind the heroine but found the book ‘chaotic’ in part and the lead character a bit cliche. Measha defended her book as cinematic, and a surreality with the futuristic world and society built completely.

The Break:
This country is in need of healing. Candy asks Can this book heal a nation?
Measha pointed out that this book excludes men from the “nation”, the ones that are in the book are not redeemable and that it could encourage a “combative atmosphere between men and women.” Jody agreed. Candy wants people to feel that the book is about the experiences of the particular women in the book and their experience with the men in their community and that many Native women she has spoken with intimately knows these characters. It’s the number one selling book and it’s number one for a reason.

Each person then gave another quick defense/plea before the first vote. Which book gets dropped today? Candy commented that she voted for a different book than she thought she would as a result of the initial debates which she thought was exciting.

There wasn’t an unanimous or heavily leaning vote but there was a two way tie. The Break and The Right to be Cold got two votes each, with Company Town being the odd vote out. Chantal was selected to break the tie because she voted for Company Town, the non-tied book. But the thing is, the book she’s defending is The Right to be Cold, one of the tie voted books. Of course she’s going to vote off the other book and not her own. It’s a no brainer and she allowed that she did feel bad because she really liked The Break. These are the rules for breaking a tie, the non tied book defender is the tie breaker but in this case, the rules failed, I think. It didn’t seem fair to The Break, it didn’t have any fighting chance at all.  I’d have suggested one of the panelists whose book didn’t get a vote. It made me sad because it was my favourite book. I guess I’ll be rooting for Company Town next.

The reaction on Social Media:
There was a lot of shock at the book voted out. Some were saying that they were disappointed that the focus of the debate for The Break seemed to be man vs woman and others thought the indigenous experience isn’t relatable to non-indigenous people and it ends up being another example of the whole issue portrayed in The Break in the first place. Mind you, I agree with one tweet that pointed out Fifteen Dogs is male-centric but then the debate didn’t seem to really expand on that point aside from the initial suggestion. Other comments made accusations of agendas being pushed too aggressively. Tempers get heated and emotions run high sometimes.

We’ll see if things cool down or change direction today.

Links to the ways to watch or listen to  today’s debates online. 

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