I have been overwhelmed this week by my personal discovery of a CBC program called Canada Reads. It has been going on, each year, for 14 years, and I only just learned of it this week. Essentially, it is “Survivor meets Bachelor” of literature. Four days of debates surrounding five chosen works of literature by Canadian authors, championed by Canadian celebrities. The panellists vote off a book each day, until there is one left standing. This book is deemed to be The Book that all Canadians should read this year.
Only in Canada, eh?
We don’t give a shit about Kardashians. Give us books, dammit!
I started listening on Day 3, after reading all the comments on Twitter about how great it was. I watched the video of Day 1, watched Day 3 via livestream, and then had to go back and watch Day 2 to catch up on what happened. Day 4 was incredible. I had no idea what would happen. I am not disappointed by the winner, but I was surprised!
I must say, I found the debates interesting, riveting, hilarious, eloquent and informative. The panellists showed respect for their fellow competitors, and passion for the book they chose to defend. It truly was a joy and a privilege to witness, and there were certainly moments when Elaine (who defended “When Everything Feels Like the Movies” like a boss) actually brought me to tears. Each of the books dealt with issues we are currently facing as a nation, and I think the debates helped to bring the voices of various underprivileged groups, and the hard truth about certain deficiencies in our Canadian culture, into the spotlight. It was, without a doubt, enlightening and inspiring.
Since Day 4, I’ve gone through somewhat of a withdrawal. I have watched previous years of debates in the past few days, and added an obscene number of books to my wishlist. But aside from the effect it had on me as a reader, and the effect it will have on my bank account, it had a profound effect on me as a writer.
I share only a small fraction of my thoughts on this platform. Most of my stories are still brewing in my head, are scribbled in notebooks or remain locked up securely in my heart. What these debates taught me, is that these authors did not just write compelling novels that people could dive into. They also brought up controversial and uncomfortable topics, and some shared what could have been unpopular opinions. They shared their hard truths, things they care about, and it got them a coveted spot on Canada Reads. Even the loser wins, on Canada Reads!
I found that to be profoundly inspiring, and it got me thinking about my own stories, my own hard truths. What could I share with the world, that is not just a brief, light-hearted poem? What could I share that is truly meaningful, and that might one day add to that monstrous library of Canadian literature?
That is a big question.
So I better get writing.