Friday, February 25, 2005

Canada reads

Really, it does.

This year, after a week-long battle of the books Canada reads Rockbound, by Frank Parker Day, a book I know nothing about.

I was rooting for Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, mostly because I've already read it (rather than for its actual virtues, which are many), and its winning would alleviate for me the obligation of adding one more book to the to-read pile and the guilt for not getting around to it soon enough. (Not that I've read all of the winning books of years past.) Oryx and Crake was the last of the lot to be voted out, no thanks to Olivia Chow, who defended it poorly.

(I'm sure all the contenders are worth reading, but I'd only ever even heard of just one other, Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers, a copy of which I picked up at a garage sale for a quarter about a decade ago and which does in fact sit in that stack by my bed.)

Rockbound is an "early" Canadian novel and was defended by Donna Morrissey. Though she is a lively, entertaining, and articulate debater and a likeable person, I have a hard time trusting her judgement of what fine literature is, for she must've applied some of that same judgement in the writing of Kit's Law, which I hated.

Roch Carrier yesterday, in response to arguments leveled against Rockbound, grandly proclaimed:
"All the great literature is regional. What is more regional than the Bible? What is more regional than Shakespeare?"
and
"All great works are predictable."
and his bearing and voice are such that you know he has great wisdom and it must be true.
(Discuss amongst yourselves.)

(Roch Carrier, former National Librarian, is an icon and author of a cultural treasure [depicted here]. He was the keynote speaker at a conference for editor types I attended a few years ago, and while I was aware of and respected his reputation, I was charmed and impressed by his detailed knowledge of and passion for Saramago's The History of the Siege of Lisbon, which he cited as an example in speaking about the power of the proofreader and of the written, and unwritten, word. Also I was greatly saddened that so many in that audience of editor types were saying What was that title? Who? — that not only were they not aware of the existence of a recent Nobel prize winner, they did not know this poignant story relevant to their profession.)

Did you know it's Freedom to Read Week? And it's almost over. On some level I must've known, for all week long I've been saying things like "Work be damned — I am free to read." and "I will not be a slave to you, Television. I am free to read." and "Housecleaning's for dummies. Where's my book?"

2 comments:

Miriam Jones said...

Ho ho, I have actually read Rockbound. It was well worth reading, but it describes some very harsh and bleak lives. Poetic, for all that. Lots of fish guts and icy water.

As you can see, it was a few years ago that I read it.

And yes, I was so relieved that the winner was one I had read.

Islander said...

I only ever got around to reading the first part of the book, but the location I know well. I grew up on "Rockbound", so I've heard of the book all my life. Having it suddenly hit national attention is... interesting.