Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Canada Reads 2011- Day Two, We probably don't have a lot in common...

"You look up from the book and you think, 'Oh, I'm not in 1917, I'm in my kitchen.'" - Debbie Travis on The Birth House

But my beef with The Birth House was that I had the opposite reaction. I was never, even for a moment, convinced of the setting. To me it always felt like a 21st century author projecting back.

This was just one of the many, many times I felt myself shaking my head at Debbie Travis's remarks today. It felt like she read an entirely different novel than I. If I'm going to be completely honest, I started to even dislike Debbie Travis. I hate that. She has a different opinion of a book. She's been on a radio program for just two days, and except for seeing her products at Canadian Tire I've never seen nor heard the woman before. She might be just lovely.

She also might be right. Clearly the other panelists liked the book. Lorne Cardinal called it his stiffest competition. Ali Velshi has praised it. No one has said anything at all disparaging about it. Quite frankly, I can't see how it can lose at this point. And I just don't get it. While I know I'm being unfair towards Debbie Travis, I really, really don't like The Birth House. I despise it. And yet it clearly has its fans. Legions of fans. I've been wanting to sit at that table for so many years now and today I questioned my ability and right to sit there. Yes, I can debate with the best of them. I can stick to my guns and I can admit when I'm wrong. But I clearly cannot recommend a book to Canadians that they will like. If they like the Birth House, then I don't know how to proceed. I'll think of my 5 least favourite Canadian books and just pick from those, I guess. Clearly I can't judge books, or panelists.

Did you hear Jian Gomeshi at the top of the show? Last night, in the Twitter/Bloggo-spheres, apparently Lorne Cardinal was shouldering the blame for Essex County's elimination. Odd since every thing I read seemed to be pinning the blame on Ali Velshi. Odder still because I thought Debbie Travis was to blame. My perspective obviously needs an adjustment, my glasses need a scrubbing, or my ears need a good syringing. Are Travis and the Birth House at the center of some black hole that sucks in all light rendering them invisible to critics? I don't get it. No, no. I must be wrong.

When Debbie Travis says, "I'm not interested in Canadian politics" I'm wrong for finding that offensive. That a grown woman in a free country with full democratic rights is not interested in politics is not as reprehensible as I find it. She was born in the UK and immigrated to Canada in the 80s, but I'm sure the "Canadian" part of her comment was just in reference to the Best Laid Plans, right? What she meant to say was that she's not interested in politics, in general, right? And that's okay. I'm letting it go. I'm letting my disappointment in Essex County's elimination and the praise of the Birth House destroy my zen. They are books. This is a silly radio show. Nothing more. Ommmmmmmmmmmm.

Good Lord, I know I'm being unfair. What has reality radio done to me to judge a person this flippantly? Debbie Travis, I'm sorry. You're doing a bang up job. And to those who love The Birth House, good on you. I hate it and think it's... nevermind. Good on you. We'll just agree to disagree.

8 comments:

John Mutford said...

Check out these Day 2 run downs:
- Ruth who summarizes the whole show and does it so good you won't really need to listen to the debate at all just in case you missed it and plan to listen in later. (But she's only marginally easier on Sara than I am on Debbie)
- Charlotte who wanted more meat in the discussions (Ali Velshi is her Debbie Travis)

Did you write a post? Feel free to leave a link...
-

charlotteashley said...

Ha! Ali Velshi *is* my Debbie Travis. ;)

Meanwhile, I don't see how Best Laid Plans can fail to lose now. Georges says he'll support it, and Sara has been upbeat about it. No next round, Ali, Debbie & Georges vote off Unless; then Ali, Georges and Sara vote off Birth House...

I really do hope not, though. Maybe some miracle will occur and Shields will somehow prevail...

John Mutford said...

And here's Jen with her thoughts. No punching bag for her, though she's made a cuddle cushion of George Laraque.

Amy said...

They are only books! Hard to know what everyone will like, I think. I have to admit to completely loving The Birth House. I haven't read the others yet.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Although I'm leaving this comment after the unveiling of the winner, I'll stay away from marveling at the prognostication that's gone before. But I will say that three days to complete Canada Reads felt a little rushed.

Back to the points at hand, I found myself surprisingly annoyed at Debbie Travis as well, whom I normally have nothing against. It must just be her debating style I have issue with.

kiirstin said...

I haven't heard the final decision yet, but I have to say that I kind of feel like the two books that "will get more people to read" as most of the panelists were arguing for are both gone now. The other three, despite my respect for the authors, are exactly what everyone thinks of when they think "Canadian literature" and are the safe choices. Best Laid Plans perhaps slightly less so, but still safer than the two that got voted off as of yesterday.

Perhaps I should put this comment on the previous entry, but for the sake of simplicity: I thought Quinn's defence of Essex County was eloquent and bang-on, but I think she was also right when she suggested she knew she wasn't going to change anyone's mind going into it. They'd all come to the table with the plan to vote the graphic novel off, for some of the ... er, most naive reasons I've ever heard. Except for maybe Cardinal's. Ali Velshi made me yell at my radio, is all I'll say about that.

If The Birth House wins, I might be done forever with Canada Reads. They want a book that's going to encourage more people to read? That's not it.

John Mutford said...

Amy: Well, you know my thoughts on the Birth House. But I do hope you enjoy the others as well.

Barbara: Yeah, 3 is too little, especially when they felt the need to summarize the plots and/or run book promos at the beginning of every episode.

Kiirsten: Now the results are in, does this mean you're still on board?

Charleydog said...

I loved The Birth House. I could easily identify with the locale (having visited that area many times) and projecting back in time was easy. I can remember my mother giving birth to my sister at our house. Those were the days when the family doctor made housecalls and delivered babies. Where there were no doctors, midwives did the job. This book is well written and I am waiting for the author's next one.