Monday, February 07, 2011

Canada Reads 2011- Day One, "Don't criticize what you can't understand." Oh wait, they didn't.

"I'm disappointed. I'm not surprised. Honestly-- and this is nothing against all of you-- but I do think you represent the demographic that I hope, at least, I'm not going to get to talk about the book much more, you're the demographic that isn't going to read this book and I think that it's a shame."
-- Sara Quin upon learning that Essex County was eliminated from the competition

What do you think? Sour grapes or accurate observation?

I've been pondering it, and it's hard to say. On the one hand, it could be an easy swipe. "You're too old and out of touch." It negates any issues that the panelists might have really had with the book, ignoring all their arguments with a nice dose of ageism. But then, the panelists really didn't offer any substantial critiques other than just not getting it. Debbie Travis equating graphic novels with Twitter? Lorne Cardinal calling them the "gateway to reading?" I guess they'd really thumb up their noses at the millions of Japanese-- of all ages, I might add-- that enjoy manga. Even more comical (pardon the pun) was Ali Velshi claiming that he saw one of the goals of Canada Reads as inspiring people to read more and improving literacy levels and this was why he voted against Essex County. Yes, political satire and historical novels about midwifery will turn the young folks on to reading. Egad. Thank God this man is not a teacher.

On the other hand, even if Sara Quin's demographic comment was correct, does that mean Essex County should have stayed? Clearly the other panelists actually did read it, and clearly they thought it was the weakest of the bunch. I wish they had better reasons (they didn't like the artwork, they thought the characters weren't well developed, something), but they read it at least. I'm frustrated when people ridicule graphic novels out of ignorance, but these panelists read it and still didn't like it. And let's face it, most of Canada Reads listeners aren't teenagers and a large portion of Canada's readers are over 40. If Essex County isn't going to win over the older demographic, should it win? Old people count, too.(For what it's worth, I know a few people over 40 that loved Essex County).

"I don't know that I could be swayed. I don't think any of us were going to be swayed here. I think that we all sort of came in with our, with our feeling pretty set in stone." - Sara Quin on whether or not the other panelists could win her over

Well, nice going Sara. Way to expose the illusion of Canada Reads. But she's probably right, especially on day one. After 25 minutes of summarizing their books, introducing themselves, and other formalities, Sara had just about 15 minutes to plead her case. Most panelists were planning to X Essex County before they sat down. Which is a shame since Quin arguably made the better arguments. Debbie Travis made her book sound important, but about as much fun as a historical textbook. George Laraque in his attempts to sell the Bone Cage to everybody, made it sound like it had all the substance of the Da Vinci Code. And everyone seemed to take the essential thing way too seriously. But if someone whose book was eliminated already was sitting on the fence between two of the other books, the other panelists could, in theory, win them over.

And with today's vote, my predictions are already thrown amok. While I knew Essex County didn't really have a shot (and as with poetry and short stories, that means graphic novels will never make it to the top 5 again, by the way), I had expected it to make it to the final two based solely on strategy. So now I'm at a lost. Unfortunately I think, because Velshi seems to really like it, The Birth House seems to have a better shot than I'd assumed earlier-- though I think Debbie Travis really needs to tone it down if she's to win over Sara Quin.

Not a bad show today. Despite my frustrations, it was entertaining, especially watching Jian Gomeshi really trying not to show his bias but clearly throwing Essex County as many lifelines as he could. Good try Sara and Jian. Now I'm rooting for Unless. But like Essex County, it doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell. Not to worry, I'll be just as happy if the Birth House doesn't win. I haven't even read The Bone Cage or Best Laid Plans but they have to be better than the Birth House. Don't they?


Barbara Bruederlin said...

I too was disappointed but not surprised that Essex County was eliminated first, even though I disagree with Sara's contention that us old farts don't like graphic novels. I thought that Lorne Cardinal did make an attempt at a valid point when he said the book was structured like a series of short stories, which it sort of it, but not really because there is so much overlap amongst the stories.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: You're neither old nor fartish. I think it was the old farts she was addressing. You are far hipper than Ali Velshi, Debbie Travis and Lorne Cardinal (though he was wearing a cool shirt). Do you think you're the exception to the rule? Or that there is no rule?

Anonymous said...

I actually thought Debbie Travis made some good points...

John Mutford said...

Em: I'll concede that Travis did a fine job defending The Bone Cage. Oddly she was better at that than Laraque, and better at defending it than her own book!

John Mutford said...

Want more Day One Thoughts and Summaries?

Try these wonderfully insightful and varying opinions:
Steph (While you're there check out the Civilians Read project by Steph and her friends-- anyone who thinks non-celebrities wouldn't work are quickly proved otherwise! Awesome. Put any of these people on the air.)
Lit Up By The City

(Thanks to Charlotte for first rounding up all these posts! If you know of someone else doing recaps, let me know!)

Anonymous said...

"I haven't even read The Bone Cage or Best Laid Plans but they have to be better than the Birth House. Don't they?"


Anonymous said...

Psst... the KIRBC post was made by Jen, not Steph (you're thinking "of Bella's Bookshelf" fame.) :D

Allison said...

You almost lost me at Debbie Travis equating graphic novels with Twitter.

For the record, I enjoy both.

I've never really been sold on panels like this. Most times because I cannot stand the panelists. Sad to see Essex County voted off so soon though.

John Mutford said...

box761: Oh crap.

Charlotte: Ooops. Thanks. Sorry Jen and Steph!