Progressive politics, ideas & culture


Canada Reads…

This Magazine Staff

(Update: a more attentive reader pointed out that it was Rufus, not Hawksley, who backed out).
Ok, so the CBC is ready to go through this again. Someone has to get the complaining started, so it might as well be me.
Here are the panelists and the book they are promoting.
Molly Johnson: Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen
Donna Morissey: Rockbound by Frank Parker Day
Roch Carrier: Volkswagen Blues by Jacques Poulin
Sherraine MacKay: No Crystal Stair by Mairuth Sarsfield
Olivia Chow: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
As far as the panelists are concerned, it’s the usual CBC mix of regional and racial voices, the obligatory French Canadian, but — whoa! — only one male. RUFUS WAINWRIGHT backed out at the last minute and was replaced by Molly Johnson, but still. But then, only two of the authors are women. CBC — always getting that balance.
Roch Carrier is a bit obvious, but he will be great, and Sherraine MacKay was an inspired choice. She might have tanked at the Olympics, but she quoted Pascal afterward. Molly Johnson and Olivia Chow? That’s two nationally-famous-in-Toronto women on the same panel. They should have ditched one, and instead got someone more interesting. My suggestion would be Larry Campbell, mayor of Vancouver, Moses Znaimer, or Neil Bissondath.
As for the books, I haven’t read any of them. Again, Oryx and Crake is too way obvious — there should be a ban on the Atwood/Ondaatje/Munro etc. cabal in these sorts of things. Rockbound sounds pretty excellent though. Andy Lamey said on this blog a while ago that Cohen was the coolest man alive. Agreed. But are his books any good?
It is worth looking at the “other selections” they have for each writer. Many of these alternate selections are much more interesting-soundng than the books actually in the competition. For example:
The Big Why by Michael Winters
HA! A Self-Murder Mystery by Gordon Sheppard
Coke Machine Glow by Gordon Downie
Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock
Take a look at Olivia Chow’s Other Selections: In addition to Wayson Choy, Tomson Highway, and Joy Kagawa, she has Ondaatje, Ricci, Shields, and Urquart. It is like her reading list was programmed by Can-Bot.

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