Once & Future

Charlotte Ashley – Book seller, collector, writer, editor, historian

November 29, 2012

*phew*! Canada Reads 2013 Finalists At Long Last

The Canada Reads 2013 finalists have been announced! I am super enthusiastic about this list – it is the strongest, most literary list Canada Reads has settled on since they introduced the “crowd-sourcing” rounds in 2010.

It is also a very conservative, traditional list, which perhaps explains why I am pleased with it. Every book on the list has solid literary credentials, laurels and critical recommendation. There are truly no adventurous or unknown picks here.  I don’t feel there is a dark horse in this race, but here are some considerations that may or may not shape the debate:

- From a longlist weighted 30/20 in favour of women, we have a shortlist back to the usual split of 3 men and 2 women. Panelist Carol Huyhn managed to pick the ONLY book on the BC & Yukon longlist written by a man. Will gender be in issue in the debate?

- None of the books this year are translated works; notably Jay Baruchel’s Quebec pick is Two Solitudes by Hugh MacLennan. This isn’t surprising given the dominance of English works on the longlist, nominated as they were by an English audience. This imbalance has been corrected in the past, however, by the inclusion of a Francophone panelist who could help us learn more about Quebec’s incredible literary heritage. Not so this year. In a debate billed as a “turf war”, will MacLennan’s heritage doom him?

- On the diversity front we have only Richard Wagamese’s Ojibwe self to represent all of not-white Canada. I am a little surprised at the lack of “immigrant stories” on this list, given how prevalent they can be in Canadian Literature. Is this an advantage for Wagamese?

- Speaking of whom, Indian Horse is published by the in-limbo Douglas & McIntyre. If Wagamese’s book wins, will the books be available? I have to hope that the CBC thought this one through, and perhaps some kind of escape hatch is already inked whereby another publisher is ready to take up the reigns if the worst happens and D&M isn’t able to meet the demands of a Canada Reads win. But there is always the chance of another Sentimentalists fiasco.

- We get our literary cred back! After last year’s panel of three TV celebrities, a musician and a judge, this year’s panel boasts the incredible Charlotte Gray. Will this help raise the level of debate this year? I am extremely optimistic!

I’m off now to the launch at the CBC where I hope to meet the authors and the  panelists - I’ll be back later today with my two cents on the latter! Will you be there? See you soon!

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