Wednesday, 16 April 2008

A Year of Reading Dangerously: Yann Martel's "What Is Stephen Harper Reading? Program Marks Its First Anniversay, Alas!

Yes, it has been busy chez nous, and I missed commenting on the anniversary of Yann Martel’s campaign to provide Prime Minister Stephen Harper with reading material. You’ll remember that last spring Martel participated in a ceremony for the Canada Council for the Arts at which Harper appeared very harried. Martel started sending a short book every two weeks in order to give Harper some good bedtime reading and a few moments of “stillness” at the end of the day.

A year later, Martel has received one letter of acknowledgement from the PM’s office, while the Prime Minister has been the beneficiary of a very interesting reading program, along with 26 letters explaining Martel’s choices, each an essay on literature, politics and life worth reading for its own merits.

For the birthday of Martel’s campaign, he sent Harper Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes, an instance where “if art can redeem, here is redemption.” Two weeks before that, the choice was a play, The Dragonfly of Chicoutimi by Larry Tremblay. Most recently—the choice beginning Martel’s second year—last Monday Martel sent To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.

Martel’s tally of Stephen Harper’s new library:

14 novels
3 collections of poetry
3 plays
4 books of non-fiction
4 children's books, and
1 graphic novel,

written (or, in one case, edited) by:
1 Russian
6 Britons
7 Canadians (including 1 Québécois)
1 Indian
4 French
1 Colombian
2 Swedes
3 Americans
1 German
1 Czech
1 Italian, and
1 Irish,
of whom:
16 were men
10 were women, with
2 books authored by both sexes, and
1 book authored by writers of unknown sex (though
Martel says his “guess is that the Bhagavad Gita was written by men)”

Quite a good list, and one worth consulting when you’re looking for something interesting to read.


Martin Langeland said...

Hopefully we won't have to wait 'til Mr. Harper's retirement for a copy of M. Martel's letters in a beautiful edition to appear.

Mary Soderstrom said...

It seems he hadn't intended to do a book, hoping that Harper wouldn't be around very long. But now he says, maybe.


Martin Langeland said...

Pardon! I certainly did not mean to wish for any extension of the current regime.