Fall On Your Knees was voted out today! I wanted it to happen, and even I’m shocked. It never would have occurred to me that the panelists, these panelists anyway, would have been that strategic. Everybody in the studio and online were just as surprised as I was. Perdita Felicien was such a forceful advocate that I was worried her personality alone might carry the day.
Like Mr. Beattie I’ve found cause to slam my head against my desk more than once during this year’s debates. Seeing Nikolski criticized for being too difficult and requiring the reader to do too much work, but also for being “thin” is what’s given me my forehead welt. None of the panelists has mentioned Lazer Lederhendler’s translation as the cause of the difficulty, and a good thing too, because it was absolutely amazing. It’s not my idea of a difficult book, and part of me weeps that others find it so, but to hear it decried as too hard, and then almost in same breath as not substantial enough? My forehead and desk are now well known to one another. (And I can’t help but think that when the panelists describe Nikolski as “thin”, they mean that it isn’t very earnest; all the other books, with the possible exception of Generation X, have had earnestness dripping from their ears.)
After every day’s debate, the CBC holds a moderated chat on their website to discuss what was said. They’ve been held at 3pm, which is the single worst time of the day for me because of my work schedule, but I made a point of dropping in for the first half today. I think the chat is a great idea, but like a lot of these things run by large media agencies, they erred on the side of paranoia in their moderation rather than on the side of trust, and it wound up being mostly a way too chipper conversation between the two moderators. As a veteran of online chatting, I’ve seen it handled any number of ways. My preferred method is to put up clear rules of conduct and then allow folks to post freely, unless they say something that violates the rules, at which point moderation tactics like censoring or banning come into play. The CBC requires that every single comment be approved by a moderator, and only a handful make it through, which is pretty standard for media and “industry” moderated chats, but kind of disappointing nonetheless. The best way I’ve seen it handled so far is by the folks at The Agenda. What they do is require that every post be approved, but they approve all posts that do not contain offensive content, and eventually allow trusted commenters to post without restriction. In this way the show’s viewers actually wind up doing most of the talking, with the moderators steering the discussion rather than dominating it. Things may not work the same way with a greater number of people in the chat room, but it feels more like participation rather than just observation.
With only one day left to go in Canada Reads, it’s time to make predictions. I think Roland Pemberton will throw his lot in with Michel Vézina and the deserving Nikolski. Perdita Felicien, who has said more than once that she found Good to a Fault boring, will back The Jade Peony, leaving Simi Sara to cast the deciding ballot. I have little doubt that vote will go to Samantha Nutt and Wayson Choy’s The Jade Peony, leaving Canada primed to read a dull book that’s clearly Good For Us.