Today, rather belatedly, I was going to post something about Canada Reads 2015. You know, just one of those posts that say, “Hey. This is happening.” But, during my vigorous research, when I read this article I felt a dam burst. Time for Kirt to be honest.
Are you sitting down?
I don’t like Canada Reads. I never have. I don’t think I’ve ever pretended to like it, so I haven’t been misleading you. I don’t think I’ve ever offered any opinion on it either way. But now it’s out there.
When it comes to books I am an unrepentant snob, and an elitist. I know this isn’t an entirely admirable quality, and I try very hard to keep it in check, but it is an unavoidable fact. Almost everything about Canada Reads offends the book snob in me. The defenders of Canada Reads will say, “This show gets people reading and discussing Canadian authors, and important social issues are addressed by the show. How can this be a bad thing?” I agree with this wholeheartedly. I’m not saying that Canada Reads should be canceled, or that people shouldn’t listen to it, or watch it. Chacun a son gout, and all that. I’m just saying that my gout don’t like it.
The format of the show offends me. Over the years the game show ethos has invaded many quarters: So You Think You Can Dance (one of the most confrontational and condescending show titles I’ve ever seen), Canadian Idol (and all of its ilk), Canada’s Top Chef, etc etc etc. I don’t like seeing this sort of thing around my precious books. Books are not gladiators. Some will point out that The Giller Prize, and all other book prizes, are essentially competitions for top book. But the panelists for those prizes are book experts who know what they’re talking about and use sophisticated criteria to determine the winner. This is not the case with Canada Reads.
The panelists on the show offend me. They are just a random collection of celebrities from various spheres. Why do I care what Jim Cuddy thinks about a book (I’m sorry for singling you out, Mr. Cuddy. I just chose you randomly from all of the panelists over the years)? What expertise or authority does he bring to the table? I love me some Blue Rodeo as much as the next Canadian, and if the show was trying to determine the best Canadian song, I’d grant him his place at the table, but this is books. The panelists should be book experts.
The “themes” or goals of the shows offend me. Social issues are important to address, but why in this type of format? Does determining how well a book addresses these issues determine its value as a book? If a book “wins” at the end, does this indicate that that particular social issue is more important than the others? I think that it could do more harm than good to an issue.
The inclusion of non-fiction offends me. I’m seeing a wave of disdain out there towards fiction. People think it’s more important to read true stories than to read made up stories. The inclusion of non-fiction creates the potential for this attitude to be validated. And comparing fiction to non-fiction is totally an apples and oranges kind of thing. It makes no sense.
That’s it. I’ve said my piece. I feel unburdened. How do you feel?