Canada Reads: Five books, two eyes, one brain

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS -

We had a ca­pac­ity au­di­ence this week at the McCon­nell Li­brary for the tap­ing of our lo­cal Canada Reads panel for CBC Ra­dio’s In­for­ma­tion Morn­ing pro­gram. Bev McGee, Paul MacDougall and my­self, mod­er­ated by Wendy Martin, dis­cussed the five books in con­tention: The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy, Gen­er­a­tion X by Dou­glas Cou­p­land, Nikol­ski by Ni­co­las Dick­ner, Good to a Fault by Ma­rina Endi­cott, and Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDon­ald.

A trimmed ver­sion of our dis­cus­sion (we are a talky bunch) airs on In­for­ma­tion Morn­ing this week. The week fol­low­ing, the celebrity panel’s dis­cus­sion lead­ing, Sur­vivor-like, to the se­lec­tion of the book all of Canada should read airs daily on the na­tional CBC Ra­dio ser­vice.

Of the 40 or more peo­ple at­tend­ing the McCon­nell tap­ing, one or two raised their hands when asked if they had read any of first four books. Al­most every­one, on the other hand, had read Fall On Your Knees (in­clud­ing every­one on the panel) and most of them read it when it came out 14 years ago.

I re­mem­ber read­ing it with ex­cite­ment. It was a na­tional phe­nom­e­non: a sus­pense­ful page turner, a mythic soap opera, about the cor­ro­sive ef­fects of fam­ily se­crets, it took place in the Le­banese and AfricanCape Bre­ton com­mu­ni­ties of Syd­ney (two groups, like oth­ers, not given their due in the cul­ture of the is­land), and Oprah chose it for her book club.

This time around, it struck me as stagy, over­writ­ten, and un­re­lent­ingly bleak.

Since then, it has been joined by a host of ex­cel­lent nov­els about Cape Bre­ton, of­ten with strong nar­ra­tive links to the past, by na­tional sell­ing au­thors like Beatrice MacNeil, D. R. MacDon­ald, Frank MacDon­ald, Shel­don Cur­rie, and, of course, Alis­tair MacLeod.

And other au­thors, like Dou­glas Arthur Brown and Su­san Far­rell, have found ways to bring new per­spec­tives, new ways of talk­ing about be­ing from here, that con­nect to the wider con­tem­po­rary world.

Fall On Your Knees re­mains a pow­er­ful novel with le­gions of fans, and in 14 years time, I might re-dis­cover it again.

Now onto the self-pro­mo­tion. The Feast of Saint Ni­cholas, writ­ten by my­self and Paul MacDougall, will be staged at the Do­min­ion Ital­ian Hall on Sun­day, March 29. Along with the play, part of the se­ries in­clud­ing O Night Di­vine and Ave Maria, a de­li­cious chicken din­ner will be served. For tick­ets, call Frank Canova at 849-2060.

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