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.)
"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
"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
"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
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.