Canada Reads: Is anyone here actually watching?

60 posts / 0 new
Last post
Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture
Canada Reads: Is anyone here actually watching?

Has anyone been watching Canada Reads?

I watched yesterday as a form of social experiment, I guess, and found it not as awful as was thinking, but still quite ... strange.

I know it is not everyone's favourite thing to discuss, but just curious. The live chat that accompanies the feed is pretty interesting too.

I wondering what other's thoughts are that are actually following the show and potentially reading along (I'm not reading along).

Regions: 
KenS

It is coming on now in Atlantic Time Zone as we speak- and I'm not listening.

The hype has got to be way too much for me. Full disclosure: I dont know how much longer I can listen to even Gian's regular programming. I certainly make sure not to be exposed to his pathetic ubercool opening rants. His heart is in the right place, but....

My wife doesnt find it any less obnoxious, she's just too much of a book junkie to turn away.

Glad to hear you dont think its as bad as feared- but you must have got pretty inurred by your expectations.

I assume they are desperate to bring in 'new' forms to keep Canada Reads 'relevant'. There is always the possibility that it isnt desperation, that this is them being inspired.

Now THAT"S depressing.

In a word:

Yuk

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

Ya there seems to be a large disconnect from what their are wanting to do and what they are actually doing. I learned yesterday that the mail goal is to find a book that "all Canadians have to read". I can't remember if they said best or what.

I mean it's a nice goal, I guess. Get people interested in reading "their own literature" -- however that field is so broad.

I find it strange that (1) the competitive aspect is what is focused on. The idea of 'winning' and knocking down other books, and that (2) Canadian readers are seem very much invested, their votes aren't actually taken into account. It is just the panelists voting. I don't think that accurately represents what the readers seem to want. 

I think it wasn't as awful because due to the panelists and their 'homework' the conversation has been very interesting and enlightening and at times moving away from bashing writers and their books to discussing their passion for the book and their love for other books that they weren't representing.

Also the theme of "turf wars" is really lame and a bit problematic.

 

 

6079_Smith_W

I have too many books waiting on the bedside queue already.

I don't have any problem with the form though. It's not my cup of tea, but I think anything that might expose books to a new audience is just fine.And they haven't exhausted all the options yet:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBEP5c-SUEQ&playnext=1&list=PLIeRRviu1HM...

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

I think Jian does a good job moderating, the two episodes I've seen.

On a seperate note, I couldn't forget his little micro-aggression yesterday by saying "Carol you are the ultimate dream girl. You're a wrestler and now you're wearing a Yoda shirt." and then a few other things. It kind of pissed me off to spread those benign in intent but loaded in meaning comments -- 'you don't like 'girl stuff' and like 'boy stuff' instead'.

Those passive comments are super damaging and really contribute to crappy attitudes towards women.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

@6079_Smith_W I definitely like that their are attempting to put CanLit in the mainstream, or in any stream, but it sucks that it is the only form that is being seen.

I think it is not a good format of discussing as it harpoons a Canadian industry of writers and publishers that is already being attacked. I think they could change the moderation to focus on the 'solutions side' or the championing of books instead of throwing them into the pit and fighting it out.

The idea of comparing art is inherently flawed and other then a few off the cuff comments by panelists, CBC doesn't make an attempt to acknowledge that and takes everything at face value.

6079_Smith_W

This discussion came up last year too, when there were some serious political and personal barbs thrown during the program.

I get that it is populist and a bit lowbrow (and I don't mean that as a slam against the program or you - it is, IMO), but it is not the only literary programming on CBC. Far from it.

It is a bit of a lark, once a year. I can see that some might have problems with it, and I'd say I agree with many of the criticisms. But it is not the only game in town. What it is is an exposure of books in a format and a radio time that many wouldn't otherwise hear. And I don't think rerunning "Writers and Company" or "Ideas" in the same time slot would do quite the same thing.

 

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

It sure is addictive and it obviously has a great impact on these specific books that show up in Canada Reads -- lots of copies sold, library holds of the charts. And that is great, clearly.

I'm not sure how I feel about the program because there are merits behind it, but, if like KenS said this is their inspired attempt, it is unimpressive.

From what I've seen being in the fray of the message boards etc., people who participate are really into it and read all the books, and criticize the choices of the panelists, but not necessarily the format itself.

I think that for what CBC is trying to accomplish their methodology and execution is inherently flawed and doesn't promote a culture of support and cohesion that the Canadian publishing and writing world seems to have.

Picking a 'winner' can only result from a specific format, but they way they discuss and vote for books can be changed. The show says a lot about audiences as well that we are potentially more likely to pay attention if there is a survival aspect or theme show accompanying then simply someone sitting up there discussing books.

6079_Smith_W

I can certainly see your position, and like I said, to some extent I agree.

When I look at some of the measures that have been taken to bring people into libraries I wonder a bit too. What I can't argue with is that the library is a much more social and inclusive place than it was when I was hanging out there as a kid.

I guess the main question for me is not whether it is the best approach, but whether it is of net benefit or loss. Is it taking away from something that would otherwise be there?

I don't think there is a clear answer to that.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

ya I agree that is it great to have books and Canadian books being talked about in such a large capacity in comparison to what it was before Canada Reads. It definitely has revived sales and check outs for those particular books, although the does still leave the question of D&M publishers and Richard Wagamese.

I wonder if there is another outlet that would be in place if Canada Reads were not there. I think CBC, as the national broadcaster, had a responsibility to put something out there, and not knowing if it would work, wrangled the celebs and tournament style in there. 

It would be best if literary shows could co-exist with Canada Reads and represent a diversity in what books are shown and how they are represented. There has been a few articles out on the idea that literary criticism is dying in Canada, and it is arguable that CR is trying to revive that.

Good point about the benefit/loss paradigm. If benefit is based on money, then it seems like it has been a success. If benefit is based on creating conversation on canlit, it has been successful. It seems what is being critiqued is how readers are discussing those books and what is promoted.

I don't think interest in reading is at a point where it can be refined, but is just casting a net in getting people back to reading and talking about reading.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

I only heard a little bit last night -- I didn't realize it's on television too? The whole thing kind of sticks in my craw, for some of the reasons already mentioned, and some of the reasons that came up in last year's debacle. I don't know if this is representative, but the 30-second spiel to explain why a book is worth reading is totally pointless. If the idea is to engage with a literary text, why are we adopting the infomercial model? And Carol Huynh (who I admire -- a friend of mine is her best friend and actually went to her high school in Hazelton) seems to be kind of butchering Indian Horse. It's not necessarily her fault -- in part because of the format and in part because it's a bit like me coaching an Olympic wrestler in 55kg Greco-Roman -- but she keeps talking about the "heartstrings" and how "this could happen to anyone" when, in fact, it can only "happen" to Aboriginal peoples, and it's not so much "happening" as "the natural conclusion of Canada's genocidal and colonialist policies and culture," which is what the book is trying to impress.

Of course the main outrage is HOW THE EFF IS TWO SOLITUDES STILL IN THIS EFFING THING?

6079_Smith_W

Not like I'm listening, but I did happen to catch the part where it got quite political today.

Somehow I think this thing is about to jump the shark, if it hasn't already.

 

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

The voting system doesnt make sense as they don't incorporate any of the viewers polls -- it is basically panelists very biased votes being cast. The reason Indian Horse was voted off today if because the person defending Febraury had to split the tie by either voting his book off or Indian Horse.

Ya and the merits of discussing books to win loses its credibility whenever anyone has to go up against Charlotte Grey it seems. Sure her book was voted off yesterday, but she is kind of making everyone seem idiotic when they speak, with surprisingly the exception of Jay Barachul. I think that is why Two Solitudes is still in the ranking because of the historical merits of itself as a book and portraying history. Also Charlotte backed it well and there you go.

And Indian Horse was really pounded on for 'not being native enough' which supposedly is an argument a lot of people have levied against it, and that it 'wraps up too nicely in the end', and I guess the nature that hockey was discussed in isn't good enough for Ron. Charlotte Grey made an interesting point that they book wasn't dissected earlier out of the audiences and panelists fear to criticize it due to the subject matter.

I think CG made a good case for her dislike in that it doesn't measure up in story-telling and writing ability as some other books she has read on the same subject matter, and that subject matter and revealing atrocities of Canadian history is not enough to create a story. I believe she characterized the characters as 2D. And Carol's response was definitely not adequate in terms of 'literary discussion' as you were saying Catchfire. She doesn't seem to be doing the book justice in her defense.

And that is where the whole model really starts to crap out is that books are based on the popularity of their defenders and their relationships with the other panelists, not the book itself. The books should be crowned prom king or queen, I think. Or like how so you think you can dance changed the title to 'America's favourite dancer' not best.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

Oh, Oh, and I know no one is watching the program, but some interesting points are being made about Canadian literature in general and I just wanted to put them here from some discussion.

Again, Charlotte Grey made points that Away was cast out because of a generational divide in writing style, and that younger generations are into a more contemporary style.

By virtue of the genre, CanLit is basically anyone who is Canadian or identifies as Canadian, and thus encompasses a pretty large spectrum. I thought her generational comment was interesting in regards to the reemerging and changing face of Canadian literature in reference to this spectrum and increased publishing of Canadian writers, and the exploration of the genre to go beyond just pastoral or direct Canadian writing.

I think it is interesting that there have been those critics out their saying that literary criticism is dead in Canada when the genre is expanding and becoming very exploratory and contemporary, and readers are seemingly embracing it.

 

Also this generational idea brought up the notion of 'what is the ultimate Canadian book to read' is it an older book, history itself, or something from the contemporary to celebrate the new scene. 

[these are thoughts I scribbled while listening to the livestream]

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Well I hope someone named Kaitlin reading this thread thinks about putting these thoughts together in an article in the rabble book lounge about Canada Reads.

infracaninophile infracaninophile's picture

I don't have a TV, but I picked up some of the discussion, unwillingly, on Here & Now on my drive home.  Before I switched to my cassette player I heard enough to remind me why I can't stand the show. Kaitlin elaborated on my main objections, if in different words -- it trivializes good literature, and the "voting off the island" cr** is demeaning and destructive. I especially liked this part of Kaitlin's comment:

Quote:

I think it is not a good format of discussing as it harpoons a Canadian industry of writers and publishers that is already being attacked. I think they could change the moderation to focus on the 'solutions side' or the championing of books instead of throwing them into the pit and fighting it out.

and I don't think it really engages new readers or provides a forum for meaningful learning about Canadian books and authors.

I think the show could be revamped -- with a different host and format -- to actually foster Canadian books and readership.

6079_Smith_W

Considering that the greatest novel in history had to put up with another novel being published against it, I'm content that this is just a game, and that the real test will be which of these novels is still being read 50, 100 and 200 years from now.

There will always be something to criticize about a format like this. Does that invalidate it? There are a few great works of literature and film I first learned about through comics and parodies in MAD Magazine.

 

 

 

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

I love how we all say the show could be better if it was just stripped of everything!

I think 6079_Smith_W makes a good point that if the show weren't a competition/survivor thing and more a round table discussion on books, would Canada Reads be successful in getting the same volume of participants/readers -- probably not, as there have been shows like that before. With CBC under the bus from Harper with all the cuts, the model seems to work for them and a large base of readers, but at what cost?

When 6079_Smith_W's question of net benefit v net loss is dealth with the next stage and questions become is this model of conversation constructive for canlit and garnering new readers, and I think that is where most of us go, 'uh, no.'

It is not fun to rip apart a program that is trying to promote canlit and I suppose literacy because that is a good thing to promote, but the way it is being touted as the be-all-end-all really starts to piss me off. 

 

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

6079_Smith_W wrote:

Considering that the greatest novel in history had to put up with another novel being published against it, I'm content that this is just a game, and that the real test will be which of these novels is still being read 50, 100 and 200 years from now.

What books are you talking about?

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

It is just another CBC production that is less than adequate.  Par for the course at our state media in this day and age.  

Its all about winners an losers and conflict not about the literature.  Mind you it has a Canadian focus which is unusual nowadays.  Most programs centre on the Canadian angle of a US story as is proper for a state media outlet in an imperialist country.  Like most CBC programs I last a few minutes before I shut them off.  Until a decade ago I would have them on all the time but year after year I listen to it less and less.

6079_Smith_W

@ Kaitlin

Don Quixote. After it came out some unknown person published a supposed second part. So this whole public circus isn't all that new at all. The true test of any of these novels (if anyone chooses to see it in that way) is yet to come.

 

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

@6079_Smith_W Ah thank you. 

That is the point being argued on behalf of Two Solitudes it that is not only is important history for Canadians, but is already a part of Canadian history. Pretty good point to make in a competition like this I think.

Also, I believe that is what Charlotte Grey said about Urquhart's Away is that it has stood the test of time and will continue to do so -- although I'm not that sure. Far be it from me to knock Urquhart, but I definitely don't gravitate to her writing.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

@kropotkin1951 Ya, I think there is no arguing that unfortunately the CBC has dipped in standards, partly due to mainstream standards and perhaps partly due to Harper being as jerk and cutting funding. I think programs like this and last year's 'when the men watch' are ratings grabs, for better or worse. Canada Reads is definitely not on par with the awfulness that was 'when the men watch', but I think it is similarly benefitting from people watching it out of joy and out of hate (or confusion).

CBC needs to have programing on books and they have filled that void techinically, and I guess well, for the last 11 years (since 2002). I think it is time for a revamp and not just one that creates a theme called turf wars. Or, maybe they have had enough success in a program like this that they can spin off to something else.

I read a lot of griping (and deliver a lot of it too!) and am now wondering what can be done to improve the program or create a new one that would champion and show off canlit as opposed to putting it in the proverbial fight club?

Caissa

I was sick at home yesterday so I listened to it. Charlotte was just rude, rude, rude.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

Rude? How so? I found most of what she had to say very interesting.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

I'm watching right now, and the whole idea of 'holding a grudge' and 'voting with revenge' is precisely one flaw with the methodology. 

and CG just said "I think Indian Horse is a good book about important aborginal issues, but I think it is too flawed to be the book every Canadians read"

I haven't read the book, but seems like an interesting criticism -- the idea of the be all end all of indigenous literature discusing issues is a interesting one for sure.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

Really interesting first question though: Do either of these books [February, Two Solitudes] really speak to a modern Canada? 

How do these books relate to the modern diversity of Canada is being discussed.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

ok apologies for the sort of live blogging.

This last debate is super heated and really unfortable. 

Caissa

I've read Indian Horse; CG's criticisms were spurious at best.

I had hoped for a showdown between February and Indian Horse. I fear Two Solitudes just might win.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

haha, Jay is making good points on why Canadians should read it and Trent basically shot himself in the foot at one point by indirectly agreeing with him.

Her criticisms of the story being 2D and wanning in the writing are what you are referring to?

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Kaitln the CBC problems are now nearly a generation old.  The Liberals in the '90's not only reduced funding but they did worse damage by aggressively changing the focus to being competitive against the MSM stations.  To that end they have hired a whole generati0n of right wing people to indoctrinate us the same as the corporate media.  The people you hire make the difference and the really top notch people at CBC are getting to be a smaller and smaller pool all the time.  I can't help wonder about the vacuous airheads that I hear when I turn on the CBC. They seem to all be enamored of everything American and often in little asides piss on Canada and Canadians in comparison. The Liberals seem to have read Chomsky as a how too manual on manufacturing consent instead of as a cautionary tale. 

Canada Reads is very much the new CBC's style and personally I think it sucks.

 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture
Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

Regardless of getting into political agendas of the CBC right now, it was an interesting experience to watching and contribute on live streams/twitter to the Canada Reads conversation.

Seems a lot of people who are active in the CR stream are also highly critical of its approaches, but value that there is at least something in the media on canlit. Interesting discussing and also the weight and emotions that were put behind each book of the 'defenders'.

 

infracaninophile infracaninophile's picture

kropotkin1951 wrote:

Canada Reads is very much the new CBC's style and personally I think it sucks.

 

I couldn't have said it better. I don't for a moment think that a cr** show about canlit is better than nothing: I think it is worse than nothing -- especially because it need not be that way at all. There is no way to "fix" the current "Canada Reads" but it would be quite doable to have a program, entitled "Canada Reads," which promotes Canadian literature in an accessible, thoughtful and informative way. Sure, have perhaps a quarterly selection of 4 or 5 books (selected based on input from readers is workable); have panel discussion, not this ridiculous "Survivor" type gameshow idiocy; invite responses from the public -- even, as in Cross Country Checkup, live phone-ins and/or email and letter submissions reminiscent of the old "Morningside" (which, now that I recall it, did more to promote Canadian writing in a variety of genres than CR does). The whole tone of CR is negative -- who are we going to "vote off the island" today?-- and smacks of middle-school putdowns rather than real discussion of books and their merits or shortcomings.  The program needs a well-read and reflective host who can present a variety of material and viewpoints and keep discussion lively but informative.

CBC has done it before, they *could* do it again. They need a different format, a different host, and an attitude towards the audience that doesn't call for pandering to the urge to disparage and deprecate.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

Canada Reads begins again!

sidestepping all of the critique I will no doubt slam into this thread during the actualy competition, I will say this:

a pretty good roaster of selections no?

WHICH SELECTION WILL BE FIRST TO DIE?!?!?

infracaninophile infracaninophile's picture

Kaitlin McNabb wrote:

 

a pretty good roaster of selections no?

WHICH SELECTION WILL BE FIRST TO DIE?!?!?

 

Good Freudian slip, there. A "roast" of quality literature is precisely what it is.  I vote CANADA READS off the island. I loathe and despise that show. IMO it has no redeeming features, and Jian Ghomeshi drives me nuts. Get a literate host for crying out loud.

NorthReport

I like Jian Ghomeshi but the person I really miss, and have been missing for years now, Peter Gzowski. He was probably the Jack Layton of the Canadian media world.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Gzowski

Caissa

What books were chosen? I stopped listening to Canada Reads because the discussion was inane, despite the books often being worth a read.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

haha, Freudian slip or just terrible typer? We will never know.

I go back and forth on Canada Reads.

Last year, I think it was, I got really into watching it the way you get really into watching bad reality tv.

What I don't understand is CBC's obsessive need to make everything a competition, reality show, etc. Well actually I do -- it drives clicks, ratings, everything. The tv version of a "top ten" list.

What I DO like about it, it is does have an effect for Canadian publishers therefore Canadian writers. That show drives sales hard. And, in theory, it gets people talking about Canadian writers and stories and different avenues of storytelling too, which is always really nice.

Where Oprah had a book club, Jian has a book battle, and suffice it to say, Jian is no Oprah.

There books are:

Year of the Flood, The Orenda, Half Blood Blues, Cockroach, Annabel

 

Caissa

I have read Year of the Flood and Half Bllod Blues. Both excellent books.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

Yeah, I suppose the selections are never the issue, it is the need to make everything a friggin contest.

I have Annabel and may give it a spin later on.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

ARE YOU PRO OR CON CANADA READS

TELL ME RIGHT NOW!

(with content ripped right from this discussion!)

Unionist

It's better than nothing, which is more than can be said about much of what gets broadcast on the MSM.

The fact of the conversation, however, is far superior to the content of the conversation. But that's also often true of real life, isn't it?

The production and dissemination Canadian literature is important. If a few people hear about it through this route, then bravo.

Having said that, I still can't even begin to believe that the main thrust is to decide which book is "better" than others.

 

 

Caissa

I celebrate another year of successfully avoiding this shit show.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

Also, our blogs and books intern watched the show this year and then wrote this amazing piece on The Orenda and why it winning makes her feel weird.

If you will remember, Christina participated in the The Inconvenient Indian bbc discussion and was eloquent and great. She's way better with the word writing and thought making than I am. Read the piece. Right. Now.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

Unionist wrote:

It's better than nothing, which is more than can be said about much of what gets broadcast on the MSM.

The fact of the conversation, however, is far superior to the content of the conversation. But that's also often true of real life, isn't it?

The production and dissemination Canadian literature is important. If a few people hear about it through this route, then bravo.

Having said that, I still can't even begin to believe that the main thrust is to decide which book is "better" than others.

I know! And there are SO MANY competitions like this.

I'm still somewhat undecided -- good idea bad format; don't want it to go away; it needs to change; blah blah blah

I thought the line up of books was pretty good this year though.

Unionist

Kaitlin McNabb wrote:

Also, our blogs and books intern watched the show this year and then wrote this amazing piece on The Orenda and why it winning makes her feel weird.

Yeah - and then there was [url=http://www.muskratmagazine.com/home/node/192#.Uxn2w-ddWLg]this[/url] even more damning review. I admit I haven't read the book. I guess I'll have to now.

 

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

YOURE FALLING INTO THE CANADA READS TRAP U!

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

I loved the regional diversity of the panel.... 2 judges born and living in Ontario, one born in Ontario and living in Manitoba, one born in Ontario and living in the United States, and one born in Jamaica and living in Ontatrio. Are we noticing a theme here?

Unionist

bagkitty wrote:

I loved the regional diversity of the panel.... 2 judges born and living in Ontario, one born in Ontario and living in Manitoba, one born in Ontario and living in the United States, and one born in Jamaica and living in Ontatrio. Are we noticing a theme here?

Oh yeah, no one from Québec - amirite?

 

sherpa-finn

Read Christina's piece on The Orenda - good stuff. So can we add this book to the BBC calendar and use her piece as the diving off spot for the conversation to follow? 

And yes, King's piece from The Muskrat is pretty damning. Was this rather substantive line of criticism not addressed on Canada Reads? (The article itself dates from Sept 13.)

Pages