Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Canada Reads started this week with five books to be perused. They are: THE BOOK OF NEGROES by Lawrence Hill, FRUIT by Brian Francis, THE FAT WOMAN NEXT DOOR IS PREGNANT by Michel Tremblay, MERCY AMONG THE CHILDREN BY David Adams Richards, and THE OUTLANDER by Gil Adamson. Canada Reads is an excellent vehicle to get people reading and talking about books, but whether the selections are actually worth reading, I guess, is the point.

I've only read one of the selections this year, but it's not going to stop me from commenting on this years lineup( by the way, my wife told me NOT to do this). By using my vast reading experience, and my acute, discerning literary sense(ahem), I'm able to give my two cents worth on this matter(which is probably what it's worth).

THE BOOK OF NEGROES: OK. I didn't read this novel but I've read a few like it many years ago. It's an extremely unsettling subject matter that always makes me squirm. The guilt, shame, and tears spread evenly like a virus throughout the reading public. But that being said I can only add that this is an old format that has been used successfully many times in the past. I'm a bit surprised it has come up again.

This is probably a very well written novel, and very engaging, but in a sense, the writer knew what he was doing. There will be very few who will actually criticize it, and many who will champion it. And if he gets Oprah's eye on this, he's away to the races, so to speak. I don't know if this is an "Oprah pick" or not, but I would bet my next pension cheque it is or will be. I probably won't read this novel because as I said I find the subject matter extremely unsettling and heart wrenching.

FRUIT: This novel is about a rather fat pubescent possibly gay boy whose nipples talk to him. I had an friend one time who swore his penis hummed after he had sex. I think I will pass on this book.

MERCY AMONG THE CHILDREN: Oh, David Adams Richards. I find his work very heavy, clumsy sometimes. Sometimes he writes very poorly and other times it's excellent, he's usually never consistent. I think I'll pass, it's not my cup of tea(I hate that expression).

THE FAT WOMAN NEXT DOOR IS PREGNANT: Michel Tremblay is without doubt a remarkable playwright. I have seen stage productions of his work and have read many others. His ear for dialogue and keen eye for his character's idiosyncratic ways are amazing. I really didn't know he wrote a novel, and I think I may be interested in reading it. I'm quite sure it would be enjoyable.

THE OUTLANDER: Yes, this is the one I read---and I didn't like it! Gil Adamson is a poet with a few poetry books published and awards won. A note to poets: Don't write novels! OK? Just don't. This novel is a hybrid between poetry and prose, and it doesn't work---in my opinion anyway. There are strange, odd, often funny(not intended) descriptions and metaphors. There's too much attention payed to details that have nothing to do with plot, and less attention paid to character. There are too many adverbs(I hate adverbs!). But the worst problem with this novel is the main character. She is referred to only as "the widow" which secludes her from any reader identification. She has no personality! And with no personality, the reader finds they care very little about her. One reviewer said she wanted the widow to be devoured by wolves. Well, that's a bit harsh, how about field mice? killer bees? Soviet space junk?

Well, that's my take on the Canada Reads selection for this year, for what it's worth.

Next: Canadian writers(some)

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