Not exactly bear versus crocodile, this.
Yann Martel– author of the Booker-winning Life of Pi— will send a book to Stephen Harper every two weeks to encourage him to read. The first book Martel has mailed is Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych. As Martel writes on his website http://www.whatisstephenharperreading.ca./ :
For as long as Stephen Harper is Prime Minister of Canada, I vow to send him every two weeks, mailed on a Monday, a book that has been known to expand stillness. That book will be inscribed and will be accompanied by a letter I will have written. I will faithfully report on every new book, every inscription, every letter, and any response I might get from the Prime Minister, on this website.
Martel was prompted– nay, pushed!– to do so by the lack of attention the current (Conservative) government pays to arts funding. The Canada Council for the Arts, which helped Martel back in 1991 with a grant enabling him to write his novel, isn’t exactly getting much support now. As Martel asks:
Do we count for nothing, you philistines, I felt like shouting down at the House. Don’t you know that Canadians love their books and songs and paintings? Do you really think we’re just parasites feeding off the honest, hard work of our fellow citizens?
I think it’s a brilliant plan, one that’s educated the public about the government’s arts-unfriendly policies successfully. Will Martel manage to shame Harper into reading, though? I, for one, am going to keep an eye open for pristine copies of The Death of Ivan Ilych in Ottawa’s second-hand bookshops…
(Pic. of Yann Martel from www.randomhouse.ca)