Thursday, March 11, 2010 |
Spoilers ahead. So if you haven't heard or seen today's show, please do so.
On this, the fourth day of Canada Reads, the boardroom that acts as informal green room for the panelists was eerily calm. Pleasantries were exchanged; Simi Sara won compliments for her boldly coloured sweater, but no one discussed yesterday's debate. Almost everyone kept their eyes on their mini-muffin. In retrospect, I think it was one of those "calm seas before the storm" kind of mornings.
And then there were three
Each day of the debates brings with it another big surprise. Today's stunning news: another literary heavyweight has bitten the dust. It took only two votes, but Ann-Marie MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees was the second book to be bounced out of contention. It's official: the big books of CanLit are out of the running for Canada Reads 2010. The field is wide open. Good to a Fault, Nikolski, The Jade Peony — one of these three books will be the winner of Canada Reads 2010.
Shock and awe
That's a fairly accurate description of the response in the control room when Fall on Your Knees was officially taken out of consideration. Eyebrows were raised, mouths agape. Even the panelists seemed surprised by the unexpected turn of events. This isn't Survivor — there are no tribes — each panelist votes alone. No one was more taken aback than FOYK's enthusiastic advocate, Perdita Felicien. True to form, she went after the panelists, charging them with voting strategically rather than on the book's merits. I love Perdita's candour and her fearlessness. I think that's what makes her such an impressive athlete and a remarkable, refreshing literary defender. Not a beat later, however, she admitted she voted against The Jade Peony as "payback" for Sam Nutt's vote against FOYK in the first round of voting. Who says hypocrisy isn't funny?
A blow is struck for the little guy
Simi Sara, who cast the deciding vote, has been consistent in her belief that Canada Reads should be a competition for lesser-known novels, and she stuck to her guns when Jian asked her why she voted off FOYK. For Simi, the former Oprah pick doesn't need the boost or the publicity that the competition provides. That's very true. But if I may be so bold, I'm going to put forward a pretty simple counterargument: if FOYK weren't suited to Canada Reads, it wouldn't be a part of the contest in the first place. What I'm saying is that no one can control what a panelist chooses to put forward when they enter this competition — but they can affect the outcome with a vote. Don't you love how frustratingly democratic the whole process is?
Onward and upward
But there's no time to look back. We've only got ONE more debate to go before the fate of this year's winner is sealed. Nikolski, Good to a Fault and The Jade Peony have survived the cull. Who'll be next to go? Discussion that followed the vote saw Good to a Fault pitted against Nikolski. The panel went back and forth — Michel and Rollie are firm fans of Nicolas Dickner's novel, while Perdita and Sam took issue with its disjointed storytelling. I have to admit I sympathize with Perdita and Sam's point of view on Nikolski — I, too, had to go back and reread certain passages to get my bearings again.
But it's amazing what a little metaphor magic can do to clear up confusion. Michel Vézina's description of Dickner's storytelling as akin to looking through "a box of family pictures" really captured my imagination. How often have you done that, and in the process pieced together a family story that goes back generations? I know I've done it a million times, and will likely do so a million more. It seems Dickner has chosen a method of sharing biographical detail that is familiar to most in life, if somewhat unfamiliar in literature. It's those flashes of insight into the books that make the debates so compelling.
With the third vote cast, and the final announcement pending, things are going to get even more exciting. With this crew of panelists, anything can happen.
But we shall soon find out. Until then, share your thoughts in our live chat today at 3 p.m. ET. Or weigh in on our discussion boards. Did the vote that cast out FOYK break your heart? Or were you glad to see the blockbuster go?