Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Great Wednesday Compare #5- Ann-Marie MacDonald VERSUS Bernice Morgan

The final winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Dennis Lee Vs Ann-Marie MacDonald), with a final score of 3-1, was Ann-Marie MacDonald!

Saying goodbye to Dennis Lee this week, I would like to encourage those of you who haven't read his adult poetry to do so. I know you're probably all sick of eating "Alligator Pie," but you know that his alligator is also his cash cow and so it pops up in just about every Canadian anthology of children's poems. I'd withhold the pie just to see if that 2nd line is true, just about now. (By the way, I ate alligator on New Year's Eve, and it ain't that special.) Read his adult poetry, it shows that he's much, much more.

Moving on to this week's new contender, I feel a little explanation is in order. No doubt many among you (actually, with my readers, I shouldn't assume anything), are much more familiar with Ann-Marie MacDonald. Both of her novels have been shortlisted for a Giller, while the first, Fall on Your Knees, won the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Novel and was an Oprah pick. It's also a contender for Canada Reads 2010. And there's the rub. It and Generation X, in particular, seem to have alienated some faithful Canada Reads contenders for being too well known already. Whether they also felt cheated out of new and exciting books, or whether capitalizing on those that truly felt that way, the National Post enters the scene promising to come to the disenchanted rescue. But will this be a case of the Weakest Link versus Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? (And in case that's too subtle, I mean to ask that next year, will we not care about either competition?) Time will tell. In the meantime, their longlist is certainly compelling. For the most part there are some exciting choices on there (go Steve Zipp!) but did the person who nominated Alice Munro not get it? She's even had a book on Canada Reads for cripes sake! Let's see, how can we make this competition better and more exciting than the original? By championing the same authors? Fail! Anyway, that's officially my 100th Alice Munro rant so I should move on to the other contender this week: Bernice Morgan. Who? If you've read her, you've probably enjoyed her. If not, I guess she has her work cut out for her this week. She can also be found on the Canada Also Reads longlist. Canada Reads versus Canada Also Reads? Nah. That'd be getting carried away. But if Alice Munro (gripe #101) makes the shortlist, you might just see my own version: Canada Also Reads, Too.

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (Jan 12, 2009), and if you want your book to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who is better?


Barbara Bruederlin said...

I have not read Bernice Morgan. I have read Ann-Marie MacDonald, and enjoyed many aspects of her books, not so much others. Sooooo, I'll go with Alice Munro.

Okay, Ann-Marie MacDonald.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: You got off with a tongue lashing by that much.

Kate said...

Voting for Ann-Marie MacDonald again (and I would even vote for her against Alice Munro). As I mentioned last week, Fall on Your Knees is one of my long-standing favourites (despite the Oprah recommendations).

Remi said...

I love the NP list, Alice Munro included. Her book does qualify, oddly enough (published in last two years and not a winner of a major Canuck prize).

Going through that list, I find a lot of books I've been excited about - Helwig's Girls Fall Down and Grant's Come, Thou Tortoise in particular. It's a lot more fun than the Canada Reads list.

Of course, the NP list is about preaching to the choir. I wonder if that's part of the problem. Canada Reads is a program that gets listened to by people who might not be so obsessed with Canuck small presses and lesser known writers. If CR presented our collective dreamlist of somewhat obscure writers, would anybody really care? Or listen? Outside of a small circle of friends, that is? (to steal a line from Phil Ochs).

As for the challenge, I'm at a loss - seeing Dennis Lee getting deposed in such a perfunctory manner really hurts. I'll go with MacDonald because she, like Coupland, was born on a Canadian Forces base in Germany.

John Mutford said...

Kate: Hey, Oprah's picked some great books. I wouldn't say "despite." ;)

Remi: Yeah, I know it hasn't won a prize but even she removed herself from the Giller list. I'm just saying that the whole critique about Canada Reads not picking exciting contenders would be moot if they had another Munro book. I know I've singled her out but Helen Humphreys is also on there and one of her novels was also a Canada Reads contender a few years back. I see your point about preaching to the choir, and I don't think they need to go completely indie and obscure. I've enjoyed Canada Reads over the years and the argument has come up a lot when big names get petitioned. Atwood and Richler didn't stand a chance (and despite Richler being popular, I think Barney's Version deserved to win that year. Popular or not, it was the better book). But this year they've got two really popular books, and people do like reading something they may not have heard of before or were unlikely to pick up without the incentive. Plus Wayson Choy's book isn't exactly obscure, though I don't think it's a poor choice. Still I would think most people are excited about Endicott and Dickner.

Unknown said...

Well normally I don't weigh in on these debates but this week's is just too tempting.
I absolutely love everything Anne Marie MacDonald has written. I don't know the other author and have no strong feelings about Alice Munro.
I loved Good to a Fault and Come thou tortoise -- so it is exciting to see these books get some attention too.

raidergirl3 said...

Bernice Morgan.
Bernice Morgan.
Bernice Morgan.

that's one vote for each of her three marvelous books. No? not allowed?
How about one for each of my children voting? no?

Random Passage, Cloud of Bone and Waiting for Time should be considered some of our Canadian history reads, and so many more people should read them.

(can you tell I'm a fan?)

Teddy Rose said...

Bernice Morgan is on my TBR but I haven't read anything by her yet. Therefore, I'm going with John Mutford, I'm a big fan

Oh, he's not in the running? Okay, Ann-Marie MacDonald.

arcona said...

Raidergirl3 just referred me to this contest because she knows I have strong opinions about both these authors. I read Bernice Morgan's Random Passage last year and think its a wonderful novel for both its writing and strength - I recommend it to anyone who asks. I just finished Ann-Marie MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees for Canada Reads, and while the writing is extremely good, she just piles misery upon misery and leaves everyone with absolutely no hope. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone because of the unending unhappiness in her book. My first clue that it would be dreary was the "Oprah" seal on the cover and I wasn't disappointed. I strongly vote for Bernice Morgan. To those of you who voted for Ann-Marie MacDonald because you haven't read Bernice Morgan, I can guarantee that when you've read both these authors, you'll pick Bernice Morgan.

John Mutford said...

Scrat: Glad to see this one got you involved!

Raidergirl: I recall you mentioning how big a Morgan fan you are. You were the one that brought Cloud of Bone to my attention (though I've still not read it!)

Arcano: Whoever Raidergirl sends this way will be my guest. Come back at anytime.

Sandra said...

I loved both of McDonald's novels and voted for her in the last Compare. But I haven't read Morgan at all so a very one-sided vote it would be for me. I feel I have to abstain this time around, sorry John. But...after reading the comments (great discussion by the way) by those who know Morgan's work I will make it a point to read at least one of her novels this year.

Wanda said...

Love, love, love the work of Ann-Marie MacDonald! An actress, playwright, journalist, novelist, T.V host and lyrisist — is there anything this woman can't do?! AMM gets my vote but wow, after reading comments in this string, will definitely be checking out Bernice Morgan.