Monday, November 22, 2010

BOOK: What is Stephen Harper Reading? by Yann Martel

What is Stephen Harper Reading? by Yann Martel, 228 pages

Bibliophilic Challenge; 4th CBC Challenge;

Just as a hockey game can't be reduced to its score, so a work of art can't be reduced to a summary. p174

Yann Martel started sending Prime Minister Stephen Harper a book, every two weeks, when Harper first came to power in April 2007. (Oh, dear, has he been PM that long? Sigh.)  Accompanying each book is a letter from Martel. Martel is hopeful to get a response sometime (other than the 2 replies from Harper's assistants.) This book is composed of the first two years of their 'book club', but it has been continuing, since Harper is still in power, albeit a minority government that never seems to collapse. (The letters are actually posted on a website, so it is possible to read the letters without the book, but the book allowed me to read on the couch.) It would be nice to think that Harper has read a few of the books Martel sent. I do believe in some ways Martel is rather optimistic, because he isn't picking some of the easiest books to read, but he explains his rationale for each book in the letter.He does try to make them all relatively short, since he acknowledges that Harper is a busy guy.

Notice how I subtly show my bias towards our Canadian leader; Martel is just as subtle in many of his letters. It is interesting to watch the progression of his letters, as Martel begins to lament some decisions, generally cuts to the Arts, of the Harper government. Martel also includes some history of books, rationale behind the importance of reading a variety of books, and some critiques of books as well. I particularly like how he sent him one of Michael Ignatieff's books. Ignatieff is the Leader of the Opposition who spent many years abroad, teaching and writing. He even has a Booker shortlisted book. Wouldn't Harper want to read a book by Ignatieff to get an insight into his opponent?

I've read eleven of the books sent, including Maus, Animal Farm, Mister Pip, The Cellist of Sarajevo and Gilead, sent because Obama had mentioned reading and enjoying the book. There are some I've wanted to read, like The Good Earth, and a few I'd like to read after this book's recommendation, The Gift and Oranges are Not the Only Fruit.There is even a group at Librarything trying to read all the books sent to Harper by Martel.