March 3, 2011

And the winner is...

The debates are over, and the decision has been made. The book that everyone in Canada should read, according to CBC Radio, is "Best Laid Plans" by Terry Fallis. Good news because I've already read it!

A few weeks before the debates were to be held I requested 2 tickets to the live taping of the debates. I got the tickets and invited my mother-in-law to come along. My mother-in-law has a passion for reading and had already read two of the books...I knew she was the perfect person to invite. After all she was the person who lent "The Best Laid Plans" to me well over a year ago.

Here is how our little adventure unfolded.

The tickets were for the Monday morning taping...the first of three days of debates. It was requested that we arrive an hour before the doors opened. The tapings were taking place at the CBC Broadcasting Centre, downtown Toronto. Since my mother-in-law lives in Hamilton, she spent the night at our place so we could get an early start Monday morning. The plan was to leave home at 7:30am...arrive at 8:30am...1 hour before the doors were set to open. The stars were aligned that morning., the streetcar arrived soon after we got to the stop. The ride downtown was uneventful. As we walked and chatted our way to the broadcast centre we laughed about how early we were arriving, just about 8:15am.

As we entered the building however, we were shocked to see a line, of mostly women, reaching almost to the door. We jumped in line and hoped that we wouldn't be bumped from attending. The tickets had come with a warning - they overbook for these tapings and some people would not get in...could we be those people? We stood and waited, and waited. Until finally a young woman came along and checked our names off the master list. As she stepped away from us, another woman joined her and brought along a stanchion. This second woman placed the stanchion directly behind us and informed the 20 or so people behind us, that they would be on stand-by...they might not get in! We made it! By the skin of our teeth.

Well, more waiting. By now it was 9:30. We had been standing in the same spot for over an hour. Our feet were sore, and we were beginning to wonder if we had been forgotten. Then the line started to move. We left the poor stand-byers behind, and marched toward the elevators. At the elevators, we were last in the door. Of course, this meant last one in...first one out. We moved up a few positions in line as a result of the elevator ride. Once upstairs, there was more waiting to be done. Almost another hour passed before we were let in the studio to find a seat.

The room was dark. The chairs were configured in a circle around the table and chairs, for the debaters in the middle of the room. We managed to find a spot for two people. We were sitting facing Jian Ghoemeshi...staring at a couple of the panelists backs.

The "warm-up" woman came out and told us the standard rules about bathroom breaks, or lack there of, and the need to CLAP and LAUGH LOUDLY. No problem! When she was done with her speech out came Jian. After his opening remarks and a quick question from the audience about his socks (Paul Frank socks) was time to introduce the celebrity panelists.

Ali Velshi - The Best Laid Plans
Lorne Cardinal - Unless
Debbie Travis - The Birth House
Georges Laraque - The Bone Cage
Sarah Quinn - Essex County

The debate began. If you would like to hear the debate from the first day follow this link. At the end of the hour it was obvious what the outcome would be...and it was confirmed with the final vote...Essex County was OUT. Essex Country is a graphic novel and according to the panel it was deemed to not be a "novel". Thus, it was eliminated.

Interestingly enough, when the recorded broadcast was completed Jian took questions and comments from the audience. I think the celebs were all taken aback by the overwhelming support for Essex County. The opinion that a "cartoon" cannot be considered great literature was not supported by the people in the crowd. The theory that this graphic novel can be seen as a "gateway" to reading was shunned by the panel, yet supported by the audience.

I have not read Essex County. It has just recently been added to the Toronto Public Library's catalogue...and there are 149 holds on 43 copies...I think I am around number 100.

Our experience was over. It was lunch time. Time to meet up with my bro-in-law and head to the food court for lunch.

As the next couple of days of debates progressed the panelists narrowed the list to "The Birth House" and "The Best Laid Plans". In the end "The Best Laid Plans" took the title. Both books I have read, and enjoyed. Do I agree with the final victor? I'm not sure. I understand that BLP is a fun, satirical look at Canadian politics, something we should all be more interested in. So, yes it is quintessentially Canadian. However, TBH is a beautiful historical novel..and to be honest after all the murderous and mysterious novels I have been reading of late (see my many previous posts) it was a nice distraction. I guess I believe that it wouldn't hurt for Canadians to read both novels.

Today I picked up "The Bone Cage" from the finished 4th. I'm curious to see if a novel about olympic athletes can pique my interest. We shall see.

PS - "The Best Laid Plans" began as a podcast...when author Terry Fallis couldn't find a publisher he decided to take matters into his own hands. You can listen to the chapter by chapter podcast at CBC's Canada Reads site.

** "The Best Laid Plans" book jacket image sourced from

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