Monday, February 07, 2011

Well, crap.

I listened to the debates and encourage everyone to do the same.  Sadly, Jeff Lemire's Essex County was the first book to get the axe from Canada Reads.  In the end, I think it was a very uphill battle for Sara and the book and that it would have either gone first or gone all the way.

The reasons for dumping it were spurious at best and sort of petty and pedantic.  The reasoning was that it, basically, wasn't all words.  Which is fine, but it is also a very narrow view of fiction and what constitutes literature.  Then again, anyone reading a comics blog will likely already be coming from that point of view.

I was hoping to see a much more informed debate about the nature of fiction and literature.  Instead, I think it was simply too much work for the other panelists to learn how to read differently.  Not only that, I think they needed to discover a new way of explaining what they read.  They needed to develop a new vocabulary as readers and it was a task that was simply too tough for them.  Instead they hid behind arguments of form rather than content.

My question would to them would have been, "how is looking at an image any different than reading description?"  Or I could go further and ask whether their logic discounts most work by Kurt Vonnegut when he doodles within the plot, or something as foundationally important to the novel form as Tristram Shandy?

There was some illogical discussion about the most essential book has the widest appeal that went to getting young people to read, and well, go to a classroom and see which one of these books they'd choose.

What I find interesting is that the book voted by readersonline to be given the door, by a large margin, is the one that won the Pulitzer prize.  I have no problem with challenging work being held up as something to read but I got to say I was expecting more out of the debate. 

I am glad that Essex County has been brought to wider attention.  I'm glad that it's consider on equal footing along with the five other books.  I'm just really disappointed that the panelists couldn't see outside of a very narrow definition of what constitutes fiction and literature.


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