books on the radio

Douglas Coupland Talks Generations A & X w/ Jian Ghomeshi

Apologies for the infrequent posts here but I’ve been spending most of my time working on the Advent Book Blog and a few side projects.

If you haven’t been checking the Advent Book Blog (@adventbooks) then I suggest that you get there, it’s a game changer.

In the meantime, check this interview with Doug Coupland and stay close for Books on the Radio’s Project 2010.

Thoughts on Generation X and Canada Reads 2010

Jian Ghomeshi poses with his Smithsonian Edition laptop and the Canada Reads 2010 Champions & their books.

I like a good party and I like books.  Throw those two things together and break out the mashed potatoes!

Mantan Moreland references aside, December 2009 is an excellent time to be a book lover because there’s some lively conversations about books going on.

I’d like to address just one of those conversations today.

On the Inclusion of Generation X in Canada Reads 2010

It took all of 20 seconds for the outcry to erupt and word to spread.

What's an Accelerated Culture?

Generation X?  Are you f*@&ing kidding me?” was the modest refrain most often repeated in coffee shop conversation this past week.  And last night I heard it again and again, this time of course, amplified by several swagger inducing rounds of local beer.

And ok, I get it.  Doug Coupland’s first book has a powerful hold on the Canadian imagination.  It’s a unique book that landed like a grenade on the literary scene in 1991 and its emanations have riffled past the standard circle of book conversation to permeate the fields of pop culture sound bites, marketing slogans and beyond.

It did things that almost zero per cent of books are capable of doing.

It transgressed boundaries at a strolling pace.  It brought a folding lawn chair to the abandoned parking lot on the outskirts of town and it sat there reading the newspaper. In blinding sunlight, wearing a fedora and smoking an absent-minded pipe.

The book always seemed like a taunt to me.  A kind of glib yodel from a passing car directed at the over-exposed suburban landscape.

And here it is again, taunting us anew, ruffling our hair, changing the channel when we’re watching something on TV, asking us stupid questions while we’re on the phone.

Questions like:

Cadence Weapon aka Roland Pemberton

What’s the problem with Generation X being a part of the Canada Reads 2010 shortlist?

Are Canadians so obsessed with historical fiction that any book that so cavalierly flaunts a contemporary mode – contemporary 20 years ago, of course – is immediately pilloried?

Do we expect less audacity from our literature?  More seriousness?

Does the inclusion of Generation X in the Canada Reads 2010 shortlist make people uncomfortable because it asks us to rethink our notion of what a great Canadian book looks and reads like?

Does it provide us an opportunity to create fresh context?

Is this a tremor in the landscape?

Are we afraid of Generation X?

Can something that has so suffused popular culture be considered literature?  Do we have a choice in the matter?

Does this book have the innate power to evoke a passionate cross-country conversation about what constitutes our literature?

It looks to me like that passionate conversation has already begun.

In the horse race of Canada Reads 2010 Generation X is out of the gate like a shot from a gun and the rest of the field has some catching up to do.

Roland ‘Cadence Weapon’ Pemberton made an audacious choice to champion Generation X in this edition of Canada Reads.  He’ll be hard pressed to make his case week after week against the Champions of the other books in the competition.

I look forward to reading and rereading all of the books in the Canada Reads 2010 competition and following the various arguments until the end.

I’ll be posting my thoughts and opinions here as the conversation develops.

Here’s a look at the Canada Reads 2010 shortlist with publication details:

Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott: September 2008, Freehand Books.

Nikolski by Nicholas Dickner: February 2009, Vintage Canada (French ed. 2007).

Jade Peony by Wayson Choy: October 1995, D&M Publishers.

Generation X by Douglas Coupland: March 1991, St. Martin’s Press.

Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald: August 1997, Vintage Canada.

Shapes begin to emerge: The Hal Wake Interview

Hal Wake-1


Read the post below and check the links while you listen to the podcast by clicking here.

In the earliest days of planning for Books on the Radio, when it was but a glimmer on the horizon, I knew that I wanted to interview Hal Wake about the Vancouver International Writers Festival.  I’ve known Hal for a few years and we have many mutual friends and I’ve been a big fan of the work that he and his team have done to bring a fresh international group of writers to Vancouver every year.

This interview could have gone on for an hour and a half and we still wouldn’t have covered everything that the festival has to offer.  I didn’t even get a chance to ask Hal about the Peter Mansbridge event!

That’s ridiculous and would be almost unforgivable had we not alighted on David Sedaris, Margaret Atwood, Audrey Niffenegger, Sal Ferreras and the Tribute to Alice Munro along the way.

So the festival is coming but it’s not all about percussive bandleaders and international heavyweight smackdowns.

The VIWF also features emerging talents like local beatboxing, wharf-dwelling, gravel voiced impresario C.R. Avery.  The always charming Billeh Nickerson brings his McPoems (published by the excellent Arsenal Pulp Press) to town for a few events.  Michael Turner is also making a few appearances in support of his new experimental novel 8X10.

And just when you thought that it was an unrelenting sausage party the VIWF drops the likes of Zoe Whittall, with her new book Holding Still for as Long as Possible, Lisa Foad with her short story collection The Night is a Mouth (note the Sonja Ahlers cover!) and local poet and unabashed Laurie Anderson fan, Elizabeth Bachinsky reps the legendary annual Poetry Bash in support of her new book of poems, God of Missed Connections.

And I’m only really touching the surface.  You can pick up the festival programs at bookstores and libraries throughout the city or you can check it out online.

It’s going to be another great year and I look forward to seeing you there.