Yann Martel, bearing great gifts — Is Stephen Harper reading?

by Yule Heibel on July 23, 2007

Arts News Canada carried an article from Halifax’s Daily News today: Author plays professor to prime minister, one book at a time:

One of Canada’s most popular authors is taking a decidedly novel approach in his efforts to encourage appreciation of the arts – he’s started a website to help expand Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s literary horizons.

Yann Martel, the author of the award-winning 2002 novel Life of Pi, is behind the website “What Is Stephen Harper Reading,” a project aimed giving the prime minister a little taste of culture.

Since April, Martel has been mailing Harper a different inscribed book every two weeks, along with a personal letter praising the book’s virtues. The letters are posted online at www.whatis stephenharperreading.ca.

Martel admits he’s taking a few jabs at Harper, but insists he isn’t preaching.

“There’s no point in writing to someone if you’re going to insult them. I certainly don’t agree with the prime minister – I’d never vote for him – but that doesn’t mean one becomes petty and petulant,” he says.

“I really do believe that if the prime minister reads any of these books that I’ve sent him, he will be a different person. It’s a completely sincere conviction. Otherwise, why would I bother being a writer?” [click on the link above for the rest of the article]

I then visited the website Yann Martel has dedicated to this project: What is Stephen Harper reading?. Please take a look — the letters that accompany Martel’s bibliographic offerings are literary works in themselves. They’re funny, full of insight into literature and life, and deeply philosophical, too. Stephen Harper is lucky to have such a “professor,” and amazingly for us, we get to read over their shoulders.

Harper isn’t saying much back, alas…

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