Here's the lowdown on the first Rossland Reads. The second is tomorrow...November 5!

Yolanda Ridge
By Yolanda Ridge
November 4th, 2014

Out of Africa is out of Rossland Reads October 30, 2014

 Last week, over twenty-five people gathered at the Rossland Art Gallery to hear four debaters duke it out over the book all Rosslanders should read in 2014. After a one year hiatus, local author Jennifer Ellis returned as moderator with some tough questions for the panel.

In defending her book, Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen, Kate Harrison Whiteside polled the audience to find out how many where expats (a few), entrepreneurs (more), and life long Rosslanders (not many) to make the point that many Rosslanders will relate to a memoir about being in a new place (Kenya) attempting to do new things (run a coffee plantation).

The other panelists were quick to point out, however, that although Out of Africa is beautifully written with descriptions of landscape that evoke all the senses, it is also a relic of the past.

“A place we can not go back to,” said Aerin Guy, “or at least I hope we can not go back there” in reference to Out of Africa’s overt racism.

Defending her own book, Guy described The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho as the patron book of travelers and seekers. A self described seeker, she feels Rossland is a community of like minded individuals who will appreciate The Alchemist’s theme of finding one’s personal legend. It was clear, however, that not all debaters connected with the metaphysical part of the Spanish Shepard’s epic journey across the desert to the pyramids in search of treasure.

Guy identified Endurance by Alfred Lansing as her book’s greatest competition for Rossland Reads. Mark Jeffery, who has visited Antarctica (although perhaps not the exact spot where Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship became engulfed in ice), also appeals to Rosslanders sense of adventure when recommending his title. “Even when you are near to death, things are not hopeless,” he said. A good message for Rosslanders who like to push the limits.

In terms of setting, Endurance was criticized for being bleak. In defense, Jeffrey relayed his own experience of witnessing the orange glow of a sunrise after days and days of black and white. “It’s like you’re seeing color for the first time.”

Riding the Bus with My Sister by Rachel Simon takes the most non-literal approach to this year’s theme of travel. Defender Liz Anderson describes it as a book about an emotional journey taken by the main character, which not everyone on the panel seemed to like – a definite concern for a memoir. The book’s main appeal, however, is found in bus trips through an unnamed city (also something a few panels didn’t like) where the author converses and philosophizes with drivers who’ve both shunned and supported her intellectually challenged sister. “Her sister’s ability to find support in her community is amazing.”

Although the panelist were on best behaviour in defending their book choices this week, expect more gnashing of teeth during the next round of debates after Out of Africa got voted off in a made for TV fashion (fitting, given that that all four books have been made into a movie.)

After the audience cast their ballots, one vote separated The Alchemist from Out of Africa. With Anderson and Guy voting against The Alchemist, it seemed a sure defeat for the book. But then Guy came back with a vote against Out of Africa and Jefferys sealed the deal by voting the same.

Which book will Harrison-Whiteside defend now that Out of Africa has been eliminated from the competition? And how will The Alchemist survive against an audience and panel who have already voted against. it? Find out next Wednesday, November 5th at the Art Gallery. Doors open at 6:30 and the action starts at 7pm. There will be some fierce debating, fine moderating and… door prizes!

Categories: Arts and Culture

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