Tuesday, November 26, 2013 |
Last year's champ returns! Trent McClellan will be our guide to the Canada Reads experience. Follow along as he blogs, tweets and more about the 2014 edition of CBC's battle of the books. His blog posts will appear on the Canada Reads website every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter @Trent McClellan for his complete Canada Reads 2014 coverage.
One day you're sitting on the couch in your pajama pants about to watch Coronation Street (yes I watch Coronation Street because it's the only soap opera where the viewer sees how miserable the character's lives are and feel better about their own) and the next you are being chosen to be a panelist on Canada Reads. Such is the life of a stand-up comedian.
It's hard to believe it's been almost a year since February won the Canada Reads title. It was a very emotional journey and the book's victory was the biggest sense of relief I've ever felt in my life. It was the end of a long road full of responsibility, expectation, preparation, and the unknown. The panelists this year can expect a similar experience and the folks at home should buckle up for another interesting and passionate debate.
When the panelists are chosen they don't know what book they're going to choose yet and they don't know who the other panelists are. They say yes to the invitation and then everything is up in the air! I was given a short list of books to choose from and the goal for me was to find one that deeply resonated and moved me. I told the producers that February was a book I could go to the wall for. Having watched previous seasons of Canada Reads, I knew that sometimes push comes to shove and that panelists have to be able to defend their choice under very close scrutiny in a short amount of time. I basically viewed myself as a literary lawyer with February being my client. I was going to build its case and prepare to defend it against all accusations and cross- examinations. My client had a case!
I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility as a panelist and remembered the great saying "pressure is a privilege." However, I was now choosing a book and consequently an author who had no choice in the matter. I pictured what Lisa Moore could be thinking. She had just found out that February, which was the product of four years of soul searching, researching and word searching is now being defended on the most public of stages by a stand-up comedian! Her literary baby that is a haunting tale about coping with loss and a neglectful oil industry is going to be defended by a man who makes people laugh for a living? I was very aware of this possible sentiment. For anyone who has ever created something and put it out into the world to be enjoyed and judged, you know this is the most vulnerable of positions. However, upon meeting Lisa for the first time at the launch, I was comforted so much by her easy going demeanour and by our discussion of the book. When I told her what the book did for me and listened to her reasons for writing it I felt at ease somewhat. She had given me trust and that reassured me that I should stay with my gut the entire way on the show. Her belief allowed me to believe in myself.
When I met fellow panelists Jay Baruchel, Charlotte Gray, Ron MacLean and Carol Huynh, I knew I was up against a formidable group. All were very passionate about their books, well spoken, and there to win. But just as I had to rely on the book's strengths to defend it, I had to rely on my own strengths to execute. I have a degree from Memorial University in history and English. I am used to speaking in front of people and for a set amount of time. My job requires me to be critical and to be able think quickly on the fly if the unexpected occurs. All these tools would be utilized significantly on the show and I was thankful to have them at my disposal.
So let it begin! Another battle of the books is upon us, and only one will be left standing. Good luck to all the panelists and authors and know that your very inclusion in the show is a credit to the work you have done thus far in your careers. For those of you following at home, I recommend you get into these books and join in the discussion. Read, enjoy and debate!
Join Trent for the first #CanadaReads2014 chat on Twitter, Thursday November 28 from 2-3pm ET. Share your thoughts on this year's panelists and books.