Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Ministerial Reading Plan

As I was just mentioning a few posts back, writer Yann Martel is sending our Prime Minister a book every two weeks, hoping that he may read one and gain some appreciation of what the arts can do in our lives. So far, Martel has sent Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych and Orwell's Animal Farm, both accompanied by thoughtful, explanatory letters. The second one he inscribed as a birthday gift; no response yet, though. Harper is writing his own book; maybe if he ever publishes it, he'll send Martel a copy for his birthday!

Anyhow, as I've been following this process, which is causing a bit of a stir (among literary people anyway), I realized I can not expect the PM to read these books if I myself - a literary person, I like to think - have not read them. And I have not read either of these two novels; hard to believe, but they are the kind of novels you feel that you've read, because you know the storyline, and may have even read critical essays about them. But I've never actually sat down and read either of these novels, never taken the time to make my own judgements of them. I've decided that I am going to read these books as Martel suggests them. That way, I can tsk tsk over the PM not reading them without feeling like a hypocrite. :)
On this mission, I looked for Ivan Ilych at the library. All checked out. Hmm. I went down to my local independent bookstore and asked; the owner seemed surprised to have another request for it. "Is there a run on this book, or something?" he asked. "I'm all sold out."
So, Mr. Martel, if Stephen Harper never reads even one of the books you are sending him, you have the comfort of knowing that bookish people nationwide are following your lead.

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