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Canada Book Week, 2003: Canadians Ordered to Read Novel as Part of National Book Club


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Canada Book Week, 2003: Canadians Ordered to Read Novel as Part of National Book Club

The classic, and unreadable 1923 novel by Montreal writer Fletcher MacCameron (1870-1937), soon to be read by every Canadian, come hell or high water.

Although next to nobody, save for a couple of "book-readin'" types, knows it, it's Canada Book Week. As part of the celebrations for this momentous event, a national edict has been issued by the federal government, in conjunction with CBC Radio's 'Canada Reads, Dammit' program.

Inspired by Oprah Winfrey's wildly successful book club, inspectors from the federal book club will be soon distributing a copy of Canadian writer Fletcher MacCameron's 1923 novel Sharecroppers of Chicoutimi to every household in Canada. During the next week, every Canadian aged 16 and over will be required to read the novel before Sunday, June 1, when it will be discussed in a national book club roundtable, which will be simulcast live on CBC Radio, so circle your calendars.

Attendance is compulsory.

A riveting tale of hardship among peasant Québécois gravy farmers in parochial, turn-of -the century Quebec, Sharecroppers of Chicoutimi was chosen because of its quintessential 'Canadianness,' according to University of Smiths Falls Literature and Word Scramble/Crossword Puzzle Professor Bernie Hoofah, who was part of the selection committee for the national book reading.

"We selected Sharecroppers of Chicoutimi because of its impenetrable prose, convoluted plot and dull, one-dimensional characters," said Professor Hoofah. "It's damn near impossible to read. We figure that'll give people something to complain about when they're forced to discuss it in public.

"More interesting than everyone saying, 'I loved it.'"

To ensure full compliance, federal inspectors will be making follow-up visits at the homes of designated 'problem readers' to monitor progress. (Our microphones, (held by people) followed inspectors as they made a visit to a home. Listen to what transpired here.)

Click here to listen to a typical visit by a federal book reading inspector...

"Canadians will read what we tell them to read," said Dieter Eichmann, Director General of the federal book club program. "Progress is coming along as fully expected."

Continued Eichmann: "Our stromtroopers, I mean, inspectors, will be making unannounced visits, just to make sure that no Canadians are falling behind in their reading.

"And don't tell us you've already read the book, because we know that is a lie! No one has read this book!"

Eichmann pointed out to those who hope to slip through the cracks, that under the recently-passed Federal Book Club Act, 2002, those caught not reading the book could be subjected to fines, severe guilt-tripping for being poorly read, or in extreme cases, forced to listen to Stuart McLean blather on and on about his Aunt Matilda's blueberry muffins or something equally tedious.

Celebrated television comedian Mary Walsh, a coordinator of the Canada Reads, Dammit program, praised this new 'guerilla reading' initiative: "It's the Warrior Princess approach to book clubs."

"Just 'skimming through it' is not acceptable. You must read the entire book, including the acknowledgements."
-Canada Reads, Dammit spokesperson Margaret Atwood warns Canadians.

Walsh scoffed at critics of the mandatory book club's alleged harshness: "Even if a few people get roughed up, it's a small price to pay to get everyone reading and discussing the same novel. I dream of a world where all people are reading the same book at the same time, so that its merits may be later debated in a dry, aloof manner on a radio panel show."

To facilitate reading of the book for those who don't read much, remedial group reading sessions will be held in various communities across Canada, during which people will be invited to all get in the same big room and read from Sharecroppers of Chicoutimi out loud.

Many 'average' Canadians seemed concerned about the national book club edict.

"Jeez, some dude in jackboots just showed up at my door and told me I had to read this book," complained Dave Woolstencroft, of Smuggler's Armpit, B.C. "And he didn't even wipe his feet. How rude."

Diane Yakurtsk, a Montreal-area florist, was also troubled by the implications of it all. She probably still is, as well, although we can't be sure: "I'm not really a big reader. I don't like....books. Is there like a Coles notes version available? Does anyone have crib sheets?" asked Yakurtsk.

"Reading a book? That's for like, English students," grumbled University of Waterloo Engineering student Bobby Demerklesen, who pointed out that he does read the sports section in the paper nearly every day.

Others were less worried about the national book club's forced reading initiative: "Ah, I'm hoping to bluff my way through it, just like med school," said Dr. Tolbert Fourunderpar of Winnipeg.