Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Does Stephen Harper Have a Recycling Project to Tell Obama about ? (It's Better Than Burning Them)

As Ottawa and Canada as a whole anticipate the whirlwind visit of President Barack Obama on Thursday, much thought has gone to imagining what the encounter between him and Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be like. Humourist Pierre Verville who impersonates figures in the news had Harper wondering Monday how to find common ground with Obama. “I could tell him how much I care about the environment,” Verville has Harper musing. “Take recycling: I’ve recycled all those books that Yann Martel has sent me.”

Of course, that might be part of the problem since author Martel has been sending Harper books every two weeks for nearly two years in an attempt to offer the PM some bedtime reading to give him some “stillness” because Martel found Harper apparently too preoccupied at a ceremony to care about culture. There was a short note of acknowledgment for the first book, but nothing since then, and who knows where they’d ended up.

But actually if Harper really wants to know what to talk about with Obama, he could do worse than to mention the book Martel sent him in early February, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. The book apparently is one of Obama’s favorites. Martel writes in his accompanying letter: “If there’s a novel that should give you a sense of stillness, it is this one....I hope you like it. And if you don’t, remember nonetheless that it is one of keys that will let you into the mind of the current President of the United States.”

This week, Martel’s selection is one he acknowledges is not political: Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. “In politics, victory comes through victory and defeat only brings defeat,” Martel writes. “The message of Hemingway’s poor Cuban fisherman is purely personal, addressing the individual in each one of us and not the roles we might take on. Despite its vast exterior setting, The Old Man and the Sea is an intimate work of the soul.”

I bet Obama likes that one too.

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