Yann Martel is pelting Stephen Harper with good books

I thought sending Obama one Alaska book was a good idea. I hadn’t heard about Canadian author Yann Martel’s wonderfully quixotic project: sending Canada Prime Minster Stephen Harper a new book every two weeks.

Martel, author of THE LIFE OF PI, was offended by an overly perfunctory parliamentary reception he and other Canadian authors received last year. (According to Martel, the Prime Minister didn’t address the group of writers or even look up during the parliamentary proceeding.) He decided to try to influence the PM by starting his book-sending program. He claims he isn’t trying to “educate” Harper, he is simply encouraging him to take time out from the busyness of government to engage in the thoughtful “stillness” of literature. Except for one non-personal reply, Harper hasn’t answered yet, though Martel has sent (when I last checked) 39 books.

But here is the brilliant and dedicated thing about this particular quest: in each cover letter to the Prime Minister, Martel says something about reading in general, about the book being sent and why it was selected. Print reviews may be endangered, but Martel has discovered an innovative way to keep talking about books. The letters are both personal and essayistic. (I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they’ll be bound and printed as a collection.) I’ve read just a few but I plan to keep reading them, one or two at a time, for my own pleasure and edification. Perhaps I will discover some of this magical “stillness” about which Martel is so eloquent.

(Note: Canadians go to the polls today…)

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