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Resident blogger Flannery gets feisty in defence of Canada Reads

Hello again, readers.

Welcome to Week 3 of Canada Reads 2010. I'm back after a brief but luxurious reading sabbatical. I was lucky enough to spend most of last week with Marina Endicott's Good to a Fault and Wayson Choy's The Jade Peony (two truly excellent excuses for putting Christmas shopping on hold, let me tell you). I can't wait to talk about these and the other three novels in more detail over the coming weeks (no spoilers, I promise).

This week we're focusing on Marina Endicott on the site, so take the opportunity to get to know this wonderful author better. We'll be rolling out podcasts, readings and an interview with the novelist for you. Marina has even selected her own personal playlist to enhance your reading experience of Good to a Fault. We are nothing if not a full-service station here. I'm hoping to add a latte-to-order feature for our 10th anniversary edition in 2011 (fingers crossed).

Today, I'd like to address reactions to this year's list and to Canada Reads itself. I'm a little mystified by some of the responses.

Here's one that's really got me scratching my head. In the Globe and Mail, author Douglas Hunter praises Canada Reads for putting Canadian writing in the forefront (thanks, Mr. H!), but complains that we've omitted non-fiction from the list. To the columnist, this reflects a discouraging "bias" and one that indicates a belief "that serious, memorable reading only involves fiction."

Nope. No way. Not even close. Not one of these charges is fair or accurate. Here's the real reason why there's no non-fiction: because Canada Reads is a celebration of Canadian fiction. There's no bias, no implicit put-down, no belief in the secondary quality of non-fiction at work over here. It's just common sense that a fiction competition excludes non-fiction. Following Hunter's logic, I might as well complain that the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction will ignore the merits of Linden MacIntyre's novel The Bishop's Man this year. Or that Lady Gaga should be nominated for an Academy Award for her music video Paparazzi.

Hunter's quibble with Canada Reads is akin to going to a fondue party and complaining there's no pizza. And I love pizza, almost as much as I love a great work of non-fiction.

The National Post's book site, The Afterword, has established its own alternative to Canada Reads, Canada Also Reads. Readers are being asked to submit their nominations for worthy novels online and a panel is forthcoming.

I'll give them points for doing something other than just complaining about Canada Reads selections (Between you and me: I'm an inveterate complainer/ranter). I'm all for great books getting recognized by the National Post. I even have a suggestion or two. But I'm just going to say what's on my mind here: we're going to do a better job by our books. I've met our panelists and they are passionate about their choices. I looked into Dr. Samantha Nutt's eyes and I was afraid. She's going to do her damndest to win you over. She eats open online nominations with her breakfast. And Simi Sara? The woman is not going to give up without a fight.

You don't have to be a grammarian to see that Canada Reads is not an imperative, though it's clear that's how some people are taking it. It's not called Canada Must Read! Canada, Read or Else! Canada, Read or Bleed! (I am told that last one was a serious contender a few years back though.) There's no penalty for not participating, or for taking issue with the novels chosen (as long as they're novels we're talking about!)

Trust me when I tell you that there are no deportation orders in the works for dissenters — at least not yet. I can tell you what is on the agenda though: reading, debate and conversation; five great books by five great authors, and five impassioned and plucky panelists ready to go to the mat for each book. Everyone is invited to this fondue party. Double and triple dipping is encouraged.

On Friday, I'm going to answer a recent reader query about how the books are selected each year. There's no Skull and Bones-type conspiracy surrounding selection. Though there is a great deal of caffeine consumed, and I have heard whispers about a secret password.

Until Friday,

Flannery

 

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