A new phenomenon of combative books adorned with spikes rather than spines, armours rather than covers, vying for centre stage and the gold medal of attention at the annual CBC Canada Reads marketing blitz, has become the prominent public spectacle of our Canadian literary scene.
The essential design of this radio show—yes show, not program—borrows the militaristic “shock and awe” tactic to reveal the one and only winner by applying the psychological counterpart of the gory attrition of Roman gladiators or ice hockey goons to drum up the attention of listeners. The authors themselves are not required to step onto this cerebral bloodthirsty rink to be pitted against each other, as one would expect of a sweaty-browed hockey league soldier where the broken nose and missing teeth are worn with the pride of a warrior flaunting his survival wounds to the audience.
Instead, Canada Reads relies on a group of surrogate book lawyers, AKA book defenders, themselves national media icons, who wield the brick-shaped book of their fancy, and articulate or not with their words—in this show, verbal dexterity and intellectual acuity are not necessary skills to evaluate books—as they proceed to whack their book impressions over each other’s heads and presumed wits, use tactical voting manoeuvres against perceived strong contenders while employing strategies of elimination borrowed from another grandparent show of greater TV fame, Survivor. This literary cannibalistic feast continues until one defending book lawyer emerges from the populist literary battle field, standing alone beneath the shower of applause.
essay excerpt ©2009paulodacosta
Beyond Bullfights and Ice Hockey
208 pages, Boavista Press; (2015)
ISBN-10: 0996051139 ISBN-13: 978-0996051132