With some trepidation I chose today to watch the Hunger Games online — live video feed plus chat (moderated by Hannah Classen and Brian Francis).
I was planning on blogging about it today, right after the big event but, well… I painted my bathroom instead. Then I did some laundry, played with the dogs, trolled the internet, you know.
Yeah, it was that interesting.
I found myself distracted by the inane commentary of the live chat — I spent some fascinated moments looking to see what Brian Francis was going to paraphrase; I started sending comments, just to see if they’d post them (see above). It was kind of fun, in a slighty nauseating kind of way.
Worried that I was going to lose some of it. I started cutting and pasting, just so I could go back and enjoy it all later… insightful comments about the whole Canada Reads process like one from a listener/emailer named Aaron, who asked:
What does the winner of this get?
And really, aside from amusing myself with the online chat stuff, I did listen, really I did. I’ve made this topic a bit of a speciality of the house, these past few months, and I do a lot of thinking about it. Aside from rummaging around my own big brain, I’ve been finding some bloggers/writers who are writing some pretty interesting stuff about #canadareads lately, as well.
I mentioned the Walrus article in a previous post — essential reading, I think (more on that word, essential, later), and after much quiet out in the Districts (a Hunger Games reference, fyi) people are finally starting to talk. Charlotte Ashley over at Inklings has been writing some really great, funny and honest stuff. Her exasperation is a breath of fresh air. Bonnie Stewart, social media maven, wrote some great commentary here today in her blog. I like this, and I love the fresh, irreverent… frustration I hear in these voices. We’re all bookish sorts, we all love writing, reading, reading about writing — all of it. And what I am starting to hear is a sense of loss — where is the respect, the dignity that writing should have? What is the CBC doing to contribute to meaningful commentary about literature in this country? Is Canada Reads doing it?
Nah. I can’t even go into depth on this one right now. It makes me tired and bores me. I’ve said it over and over again. Watching that train wreck today was like, I dunno… watching a pretend show about books. It was like a sitcom book panel — you had a smart and earnest young woman, a driven “career gal”, a business man, a sports guy (“life is a battle!”), and an Aboriginal actor/director. After an agonizingly long introductory session (with cheesy voiced-over slideshows for those watching online) with awkward speechifying, they finally got to the point in the show where they were supposed to, you know, debate.
I must have nodded off for a moment because the next thing I knew, they were talking about books being “accessible” and “popular” and then some of them seemed to think that the point of the show was to discuss “getting kids reading”…. Nowhere did I hear anyone even attempt to qualify what “essential” means. I’ve been waiting for that for a while now, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it continues to go unproblematized. So what if the entire shebang is based on these books being “essential”, right?
In keeping with my interest in the peripheral commentary, I saw the following on Facebook this evening:
I think there’s a whooooooole lot of confusion in that post. (Where do they get their stats, and help me out here — is “semi-illiterate” better or worse than “semi-literate”?) I get what they are trying to say, but it’s a cobbled together mish-mash of ideas that culminates in the Grand-daddy of all concepts.
I refer, of course, to that of the “Gateway Book”.
Holy mother of all things literary, what the heck is that? I have no doubt that the person who wrote that post thought they were making some really valid points. Some of those points were voiced by our celebrity panel earlier today. For some reason, all of a sudden, books aren’t about you know, craft, or art…
Books are now about being “accessible” (which I guess in our culture now means “easy”?). At this point, I would be happy if they went back to talking about “essential” — somehow that’s less offensive to me. “Accessible” means “easily approached or entered” (according to my quick but hilariously apt google search for a definition). At least “essential” implies worth of some sort. In my world, “accessible” means that all people are able to access the material, not that the book is easy for “semi-illiterate” people to understand.
But. um. Gateway book? hee hee. What’s next, reading chapter books? Staying up all hours of the night reading? OMG, what if they start to read… poetry. It’s like Reefer Madness, but with words. You know, it seems harmless at first, you let them read a few picture books, some comics, then a graphic novel… then all hell breaks loose — they’re reading everything and don’t care who knows it!
It’s as if writers (and Canada Reads judges) are now the social workers of the reading world. They have to get those kids reading, and it has to be easy, that goes without saying.
Hm. Where was I?
Sorry, so easy to get carried away. There’s almost too much to think about here, and so little time. Tomorrow this will start all over again. We will hear Georges say that life is a battle. We will see Ali Velshi do his thing — slyly clever schtick-y sound bites that upon reflection don’t actually say much. Debbie Travis — successful mogul Debbie — will continue to slide her eyes down and sideways and tell us how nervous she is. Lorne Cardinal will be thoughtful but not forceful (I almost forgot he was on it for a moment there). Sara Quin will be articulate and free to speak her mind, and flush with the power of being a swing vote.
Who’s going to get kicked off tomorrow? I think they must be going in reverse order, from best book down, so I think Carol Shield’s finely realized and beautiful book Unless will be the next to go (in my mind they were tied for 1st place). I don’t like it, but there you go. Essex County is a great book, and it made me think about novels and the creative process in ways that many other books haven’t in a long time.
Personally, I’m pretty sure that none of those five books are the “essential” book of the decade. Maybe someday we’ll all have to have a little chat about that — which books we think are essential.
First, lets define essential though, okay?