The gloves have officially come off in the battle to name the next Trent Reads literary selection. A panel of “celebrity” judges took to the stage on Wednesday, February 1, 2012, at Peter Gzowski College to champion their book selections for Trent Reads. The four panelists took turns defending their selections and waging good-natured attacks on the other selected works of fiction.
“A live panel battle of the books is a great way to get people interested in the program,” said Dr. Jocelyn Aubrey, associate dean of Undergraduate Studies and chair of the Trent Reads committee. “It adds an extra element of excitement.”
A committee selecting the books for the Trent Reads short list held to a few criteria. “The author had to be Canadian,” explained Professor Aubrey, “and preferably alive, so we could invite him or her to come and read – as we have in previous years. The book should be available in paperback, in order to make it more accessible to everyone who wishes to take part.”
Ellysa Cherny, Trent University Oshawa Student Association (TOSA) board member, defended The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews. “At its heart, it is a book about love and acceptance,” she said. “It’s a lesson about how to love each other.”
Trent Central Student Association (TCSA) president, Sheldon Willerton looked a bit sheepish when describing his book, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. “The movie may be PG 13,” he admitted. “But the book isn’t. It’s a novel about social equity, but also about lust and obsession.” Scanning the audience for support, he added, “I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say the other things that it is about.”
Peter Gzowski College head, Melanie Buddle noted that Thomas King’s The Truth About Stories, “explains why all stories are important. It explains why all stories are told. The stories he relates are the First Stories. He shows that none of our stories would exist if it were not for these stories of the First Peoples.” To emphasize her point she continued, “None of the stories that my fellow debaters are championing can lay claim to that kind of importance.”
Professor Emeritus Orm Mitchell defended The Englishman’s Boy by Guy Vanderhaeghe. Mr. Mitchell, son of the renowned prairie writer W.O. Mitchell and a “prairie boy” himself, took special delight in promoting Mr. Vanderhaeghe’s epic plains literature. “It’s a fascinating and rewarding read,” he said, “but not necessarily a ‘feel good’ one.”
“It’s a page-turner that makes us see, hear, feel, touch, and taste one of the most shameful incidents in Canadian history,” Mr. Mitchell said of the book.
With the arguments in, the real battle begins as students, faculty, staff and alumni will continue to vote online for their favourite book. Members of the university community are being encouraged to vote for their favourite selection at www.trentu.ca/trentreads. Online voting will continue to February 10, 2012.
Previous winners of Trent Reads include: Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson, Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, and the Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill.
Posted on Monday, February 6, 2012.