We won’t know for certain until tomorrow morning, of course, but it looks like Generation X is going to be the first book on the chopping block. Roland Pemberton didn’t really do much to help himself, though. Despite coming second-last in my own lineup based on this year’s contenders, I felt sorry for both Pemberton and Coupland that it had such a poor showing today (though admittedly, I would have been even harder on the book than the other panelists were). The Jade Peony is the weakest book on the list; while nobody’s said anything negative about it, Samantha Nutt is the only one giving it any real attention at all. I think it’s so unlikely a victor that continuing to ignore it may be the best way to keep it out of the race. Were I a panelist, Fall On Your Knees would have been my first target. Oprah selection aside, it’s the book with the most advocates on the panel. I could see almost all the panelists throwing their weight behind it if their own books get voted out. Taking it down early would put all of their books on better footing.
Speaking of being hard on the books and other panelists, both the folks at the official CBC blog and Messrs. Beattie and Good made special mention of how frank and aggressive Perdita Felicien was, using words like “eviscerating” and “tore into”. If what we saw today constitutes a “tearing into”, then the men and women of Canadian letters might have the thinnest skins in all of creation. If those were strong opinions, I bet mine would have made somebody cry.
There’s only one specific observation that several of the panelists made, which I saw echoed on Twitter, that I would like to address: that Generation X and Nikolski did not have strong characters, were not “about” characters. That’s true of the first part of Generation X, but beyond that it’s utter nonsense. In the second half of the book the characters come into their own, and though I agree with Vézina that they are—as I said in my own review—”brats”, they were definitely fully-formed characters. And Nikolski has phenomenal characters. The themes of both books are pretty non-standard for CanLit, but they are both very character driven. What they are not driven by is throwing horrible shit at the characters over and over again until their lives fall apart, which seems to be what the panelists mean by being “about” characters.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to tomorrow.