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Essex County on CBC’s Canada Reads 2011 Shortlist

Tuesday November 23rd, 2010, 3:54pm


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Windsor cartoonist Jeff Lemire, whose other titles include The Nobody and Sweet Tooth, has made it onto the shortlist for next year’s annual CBC Canada Reads contest with his award-winning trilogy of graphic novels, entitled Essex County.

Essex County is about a boy born in an imaginary version of our county. Through quirky and moody illustration, Lemire “crafts an intimate study of one community through the years, and a tender meditation on family, memory, grief, secrets, and reconciliation. With the lush, expressive inking of a young artist at the height of his powers, Lemire draws us in and sets us free.” Originally published in three parts over 2007 and 2008, the complete Essex County was re-released in 2009- compiling Tales From The Farm, Ghost Stories and The Country Nurse into one volume.

With its possible inclusion in this year’s Canada Reads list, Lemire’s work is being noticed on a national level. Canada Reads is a recurring competition between Canadian authors, where five novels are pitted against one another in order to find the ultimate Canadian read. Each book is championed by a Canadian celebrity, and the winning author (and champion) receives bragging rights. It’s a week long debate, and each day one book is eliminated.

In the inaugural season in 2002, books by Michael Ondaatje, Margaret Laurence, Rohinton Mistry, Margaret Atwood and George Elliott Clarke (probably the five most influential authors to come out of Canada), went head to head in a heated, week-long radio debate. Not surprisingly (to me, anyways), Ondaatje’s In The Skin Of A Lion came out on top, after being defended by ex-Barenaked Lady Steven Page.

In the years since, it’s been more likely for literary heavies like Leonard Cohen and Mordecai Richler to get the boot, and veritable unknowns hoisted into the spotlight as winners. The result is a major influx of cash for the newcomers, by way of heightened sales across the country. 2011 could be Lemire’s chance.

For the tenth anniversary of the competition, the CBC decided to open up the process a bit more. Through the month of October, Canadians were asked to nominate the books they think belong on the list of forty essential Canadian books of the past decade. Then, earlier this month, the CBC asked us to vote for our top ten.

The top ten books in the running this year are:

The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis

The Birth House by Ami McKay

The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou

The Book Of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

Bottle Rocket Hearts by Zoe Whitall

Essex County by Jeff Lemire

Life Of Pi by Yann Martel

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

Unless by Carol Shields

The panel of five debaters will be revealed at the CBC studio in Toronto tomorrow morning, at which time they’ll choose which book they’d like to defend in the competition. What other four books do you think belong in the top five?

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