Tuesday, 13 November 2007

What Is Stephen Harper Reading?

Well, we now know that Stephen Harper doesn’t read all the correspondence addressed to him. That he has secretaries and aides that go through his mail is to be expected, but as we’ve seen this week in the Schreiber-Mulroney affair, there appear to be some letters that he should read which he doesn’t.

Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi and fervent believer in the importance of literature, must be shaking his head over this turn of events. Last spring he began sending Prime Minister Harper a short book every two weeks because he thought the PM could use some good bedtime reading. Martel had participated in a Canada Council tribute where Harper seemed to be too busy to pay attention. The PM needed more “stillness,” and the right book might help with that, he thought.

Martel got a brief letter of acknowledgement for that book, but he’s continued to send books every two weeks with no further response. It’s been a while since I looked at the list, and I was surprised to see the collection has grown to 16. Each is accompanied by a little essay on why the book was chosen which in itself is an interesting meditation. (See why Martel sent Jane Austen's unfinished novel The Watsons for example: there's a fine political message there.) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was sent Oct. 1, Le Petit prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Oct.15, and Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeannette Winterson (signed by the author) October 29.

As for the most recent, I almost didn’t believe my eyes. It is Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, sent yesterday, November 12, the day Harper avowed he never saw the letter from Schreiber sent to the PM’s office that mentions him.

Want to wager if Martel will get an acknowledgement of this gift?

No comments: