Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Canada Reads Picks for 2008

I've been suspect of this enterprise since the start. Actually, I find it quite silly, but it's hard to outright hate anything that may bring attention to good books. And that's been one of my problems; the picks. They tend to be either humdrum or predictable, no daring-do, no adventure. What else can you expect from members of a "panel" chosen for reasons that are hard to fathom, their knowledge of books and ability to articulate intelligent opinions, with few exceptions, seeming not to be a major consideration. So ultimately the "debate" ends up being a real yawner.

But this year, I must say, there's much to like about the selections. They're surprising, even inspired. A little of the 'what's good for you' variety together with some fun stuff too.

Here's the link to the list

There's something old (Mavis Gallant) and oldish (Timothy Findley), something new (Nalo Hopkinson will probably be new to most people), something borrowed (Paul Quarrington - you'll have to borrow it from a friend since it's been out of print for a while, although I understand it's being re-printed as we speak for this occasion) and something blue (in this case, the blue icefield of Thomas Wharton.) As I say these are delightfully unexpected selections, a nice mix of stalwarts and younger writers, guys and gals, the famous and the not-so-famous.

I'm partial to Quarrington, not that I know his work well, but he's widely regarded as one of the good guys of Canadian letters and particularly generous to up-and-comers (personal experience here, he didn't know me from a hole in the ground but agreed to blurb my debut novel.) I still don't suppose I'll tune in to the week of chatter, and won't care about the "ultimate survivor." Nonetheless, the choice of the Wharton book has me interested in a writer I had previously never heard of. This Canada Reads nonsense seems to be working.

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