Monday, February 26, 2007

Canada Reads 2007- Day One

Day one of Canada Reads is never the high point. But, despite the absence of a castaway, it does give us a indication of what sort of debate it's going to be- conniving? polite? vindictive?

This year's verdict? Conniving.

Steven Page and Jim Cuddy definitely set the tone. Polite Canadians- yeah right. Page started with a passive aggressive swipe at Lullabies and Song of Kahunsha. After hearing a clip of author Bezmozgis stating that a child's voice needs to believable, Page pounced. Well, sort of. Instead of risking alienation from the other panelists, we're left with a "I didn't quite believe the child's voice in the other books" sort of comment. The other books? Let's be specific. But to his credit, he did make a good point about his own book. He said that books that are too rich in imagery often reveal the authorship (arguably even more so in a book about children), and the simple, almost sparse style of Natasha was refreshing.

And while I'm not a fan of Bill Richardson's interjections, he did make the point that Kahunsha is told in the third person. Furthermore, Lullabies is told upon reflection from some unspecified point in the future. The "lack of believability in a child's voice" comment is almost irrelevant. Yet Jim Cuddy saw an opening and went for it. He dwelt upon the unspecific frame of reflection in Lullabies. Potentially, I could see this being a valid point. Yet even assuming this is a flaw, compare it with the vast number of flaws in Stanley Park and it's very forgivable. No wonder the man is trying so hard. Then he moved onto Kahunsha. About Chamdi's love for Guddi, Cuddy said, "He pursues love with dedication and understanding that was hard for me to buy in a 10 year old." I think that illustrates the fundamental problem with the day's entire debate. Adults are all assuming to be experts on children and what's going on their heads. To me, I would think dedicated love is far more common in children. But Cuddy continues, "His love for Guddi is so pure, he's so aware when he's disappointed her, and I had trouble with that." Would pure love amongst adults be more believable? Forgive my cynicism on that point. I'm not saying I'm any more of an expert on children (though I am a teacher and a parent), but Cuddy took on a child psychologist persona that was incredibly annoying.

Sampson and Morrissey did an okay job fending off their attackers, but I didn't get the impression that the attackers were listening (no "good points" or "well saids" were audible). Towards the end the conversation did turn towards Stanley Park but unfortunately they ran out of time. And I was hoping there'd be more talk about Children of My Heart. In fact, in my earlier predictions I had thought it would be the first to go. Looks like my track record this year won't be any better than the last.

I'm not even sure a book will be thrown out tomorrow. In Bill Richardson's first day write-up (on the Canada Reads site) he says that they've "arranged a little surprise for [the panelists], a wee deviation from the norm, something they won't be suspecting." Then at the end of today's program the panelists were not asked to vote out a book. Nor did they say that they would do so tomorrow. I'm a little nervous that all 5 books will make it to the end and all the voting will be done on the final day. If they do it this way, they've screwed up royally. Hearing which book gets reshelved each day is the best part of tuning in! My fingers are crossed that they haven't completely lost their minds.

(Btw, readers will note that I'm still in Iqaluit. The good people at CBC didn't take me up on my not-so-subtle request to visit the studio during these debates- I just want to watch quietly from behind the glass, is that so unreasonable? Geez. Number 1 fan has no privileges. Feel free to email them on my behalf- I can still make it for Friday's finale!)


John Mutford said...

I almost forgot to mention Denise Bombardier's comment that most English Canadians think Gabrielle Roy is an Anglophone author- really? Most English Canadians are idiots? Not so. Do a new survey Bombardier.

Bombardier. Hmmm. Wasn't he that irish guy from Calgary who invented the ski-doo?

John Mutford said...

From the Canada Reads site:

Who needs to become a more vocal advocate for their book if they want it to survive tomorrow's vote?

So I guess they will vote tomorrow. Whew.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I had COMPLETELY forgotten about Bombardier saying that about Anglophones thinking Roy was an Anglo. What an idiotic idea! I have never run into anyone who has ever thought that.

And then today she got all pissy with Donna Morrissey (who, to be fair, got even pissier back). That was quite a little dog fight happening for a while.

I'm actually enjoying Bill's little daily writeups. Can't wait for tomorrow. But we really need you there as an impartial observer.