A local author’s book was the first eliminated in this year’s Rossland Reads.
A small crowd gathered at the Rossland Public Library on Thursday to watch the first debate in this year’s Rossland Reads — an event similar to CBC’s Canada Reads — and to learn which book Rossland should be reading. By the end of the night, the first book had been eliminated, and it was the only book by a local author — Nod by Adrian Barnes.
Kathleen Hill was the debater defending Nod, and following the debate, she told the News she wasn’t surprised at being eliminated. “It’s a genre that doesn’t appeal to everybody, it’s a very particular genre, and also having recently re-read it again, it reminded me of how raw the story can be at times. I think that was really uncomfortable for a lot of people.”
Nod, set in Vancouver, is a post-apocalyptic look at what happens when nearly everyone in the world stops being able to sleep.
Things started going wrong for Hill and Nod early on in the debate. Moderator Jennifer Ellis asked the debaters, “How do each of the authors avoid making their books terribly depressing?” and in her response Veronique Darwin — defending All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews — drew first blood and attacked Nod for what she saw as its alienating humour.
“It’s the humour in Nod that actually turned me off…, like I wanted to laugh, I wanted to have a reprieve from the horrors in Nod, and I couldn’t. I don’t think I laughed once, and I wanted to,” said Darwin. “I found the humour alienated me.”
Nicola Kuhn — defending Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese — agreed that the humour in Nod didn’t work for her.
“I know why you didn’t laugh at Nod, because I didn’t laugh at Nod either,” said Kuhn. “I think where the humour was trying to happen, it was off-kilter almost.”
Nicole Tigchelaar — defending Sweetland by Michael Crummey — added that she found Nod’s protagonist patronizing. “I found [the protagonist] really patronizing towards [his wife], Tanya,” said Tigchelaar, “and patronizing toward the audience.”
Later, Ellis stirred things up by asking debaters if they had any criticism to offer on the plots of the other books.
Kuhn again took a stab at Nod, criticizing the premise as unrealistic, as there’s no reason given for everyone’s sleeplessness. Hill defended her book, arguing that the lack of explanation made the book more interesting, and that the sleeplessness was a metaphor.
“I realized at some point that maybe the sleeplessness could be considered a metaphor for something, and is it sort of asking about our culture right now with the 24-hour news cycle, with devices in our hands all the time, with everything at out fingertips and just this ramped up society. And as far as the apocalyptic landscapes, and whether they actually apply to the here and now, all we need to do is see pictures of Aleppo right now and the Syrian and what’s happening in their lives to see a parallel.”
The final blows came during the bare-knuckle round when Ellis asked debaters to describe the plot of each novel in one sentence.
Tigchelaar described Nod’s plot as, “Nobody can sleep, and a failed-Hitler despot-type individual takes over and it’s a gong show”; and Darwin described it as, “A man watches the world burn while discussing linguistics.”
In the end, Darwin, Kuhn and Tigchelaar all voted against Nod, while Hill voted against Sweetland.
Following the debate, Hill said it was something of a relief to have her book eliminated. “I feel released to now defend the book that I enjoyed the most of the other three.”
To find out which book Hill plans on defending, attend the next Rossland Reads at the Rossland Public Library on Thursday, Oct. 27, 7-8:30 p.m. or listen to podcasts of the debates at rossland.bc.libraries.coop.