Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Mostly Canada Reads, but other things too

I hadn't intended to be sitting in front of my laptop for this long tonight, but it's sort of cathartic to dump all the random stray bits that have been cluttering up my brain pan for the last week or so. I've already posted two other entries, and still want to play with the sidebar for a while before I call it a night.

I suppose I could be tidying up around here. It looks like someone broke in over the weekend and started rifling through the contents of all my drawers and cupboards, then left everything where it lay, except that the someone was me and it was last week. I've decided to be okay with the mess until the weekend, at which point I'll just do all the cleaning in one fell swoop. If I let myself be bothered by it, or if I force myself to do something other than brain dumps and vegging for a few days, I'm going to be a quivering mess by next week, and in the lock-up by the end of next month (it's conference season at work, and I have three separate presentations to give.)

And now, my thoughts on this year's Canada Reads:

I told John I initially thought Scott Thompson was irritating in the days after his book got eliminated, and I confessed I thought he was a bit of an ass at first. However, by the end of Day 3, I'd changed my mind - he made some good points, and stuck to his opinion about poetry. Basically, although there are certain poems and poets he liked, overall he didn't think much of Rooms for Rent in the Outer Planets. And even though I started liking Susan Musgrave, by the end of the week she was working my only nerve. "Oh, it's okay that you don't like poetry. Lots of people don't like poetry, and I can accept that." Riiiiiight. Her tone of voice said otherwise, and the fact she kept using this against Thompson made it seem like she was very much not okay with people who don't like or read poetry.

I'm all for expanding your horizons and reading outside of your comfort zone, but you can't expect someone who doesn't like poetry to all of a sudden come around and love a literary genre they've never much cared for previously after being forced to read it. While I'm not a huge fan of poetry, there are some poets I really like - Andrew Marvel, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Shel Silverstein and Don Marquis are but a few examples. I started reading Rooms for Rent in the Outer Planets, but I didn't enjoy it and put it aside after the first few pages - if I had been a panelist (and I should be! I like books! I have opinions about books!) I don't think I would have had many favourable things to say about it, either.

(And here's the other thing that really bugged me - Musgrave made a big deal about poetry not being represented in any of the Canada Reads panels. Meanwhile, George Elliot Clarke's Whylah Falls, a contender back in the first year is jumping up and down, and waving its arms while shouting, "Hey! Over here! Where's the love, eh?" And Sarah Binks, from year two, is piping up, "I'm about a fictional poet! I'm kind of poetry, aren't I?" You know what genre really hasn't been dealt with? Non-fiction. There's an idea for next year, which apparently is going to be a super-panel of the winning panelists from previous years.)

The other topic which go under my skin was the discussion about humour. I didn't find either of the two books which were held up as examples of humour to be at all funny. Cocksure was brash and lumbering, and in-your-face; I didn't find it all that funny or humourous. And A Complicated Kindness had more of a dark humour, about struggling to find something to smile at in the face of despair. But I did think that Thompson made an excellent point about fundamentalism and humour, where religious fanatics of every stripe go to great lengths to eliminate humour and satire when they take control. (He also said something about Canadians and humour, but I forget what it was because I was annoyed with him at the time.)

Am I happy that A Complicated Kindness won? Yes and no. I liked it, and had good things to say about it, but I don't know if it's the book I wanted to win. Three Day Road was so much more vivid and real, and I had big hopes for it. Oh well.

In other bookish news, during my hit-and-run visit to Ottawa this past weekend, I picked up I Am Not Myself These Days and Skipping Towards Gomorrah; the former I'd heard good things about on Bookslut (I think - can't find the review) and the later I've wanted to read since I catalogued it at my old library.