Sunday, February 19, 2006

Canada Reads - Part One (Who Should Win)

I admit it. I'm a book geek. And I've chosen Canada Reads as my Superbowl. It's pretty arbitrary, I know. Why not read all the Giller nominees? The Winterset nominees? I WILL read some of those but there's something about the game of Canada Reads that appeals to me. It's as if you were allowed in the debating room of the Giller judges, instead of just hearing the winner.

So over the past years, I tune in to the CBC come November to hear the who the panelists will be and what their picks are. Then I scrabble to get all of them read by April- less of a challenge this year as I had already read two of them- and decide for myself which book I'm rooting for. And since I just finished reading the last of the books, here- without further ado- is how I would rank the books (number one being the book I want to win, number five being the book we should avoid like the war):

1. Al Purdy- Rooms for Rent in the Outer Planets: Selected Poems, 1962-1996
2. Joseph Boyden- Three-Day Road
3. Mordecai Richler- Cocksure
4. Miriam Toews- A Complicated Kindness
5. Frances Itani- Deafening

Why Rooms For Rent? Because its the better of the books, we don't read enough poetry, and it's very Canadian. It's better than the others (though I would say only marginally better than Three Day Road) because it's witty (so is Cocksure and A Complicated Kindness), it's filled with intelligent devices (so is Three Day Road) and filled with emotion we can all relate to. We don't read enough poetry. According to a Reader's Digest poll*, Canadian men and women read less poetry than any other genre. That's a shame, because learning to appreciate poetry helps one appreciate other genres more. But Rooms For Rent is an excellent place to start- even for poetry-phobes- because the poems are enjoyable even at surface level. If one wants to delve deeper, there's plenty to look for but it isn't necessary to enjoy Purdy. And it's very Canadian. I debated this with my wife and a coworker recently- my wife feels that a Canada Reads pick should have a Canadian setting or themes, my coworker feels that a Canada Reads pick should be well-written and the "Canadian" content is irrelevant. I'm somewhere in between, and fortunately I don't feel that I have to pick sides with Rooms For Rent. It has a lot of Canadian settings (though some poems take place in Cuba) and is extremely well written. Again, it's hard to use this argument against the other books here, since most are Canadian in scope, with the exception of Cocksure which was set primarily in England. But when you factor up all the above (maybe I should create a rubric), Rooms For Rent comes out on top for me. Will it come out on top in April? No. Stay tuned for my predictions of who will actually win...

(*I've searched the web high and low for something about this poll, which I'm sure I remember, but I can't find ANYTHING to link to it. If someone else has written about this article or knows the one to which I'm speaking about, please let me know!)

1 comment:

Robert Hiscock said...

It's not an easy choice for me. I'm still waffling a little but as much as I like Purdy's work, I think I'd make him my number two and send Three Day Road to the top spot... though it's not without misgivings. I'm with you on you ranking of 3,4 & 5 though.