Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

CBC Canada Reads Interview Series: Ron MacLean

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Ron MacLean

We've talked to the CBC Canada Reads authors, and now we will hear from their champions — the panellists who will debate until one book emerges victorious.

David Bergen has a strong defender in sportscaster and Canadian icon Ron MacLean, who will fight to see David's The Age of Hope (HarperCollins Canada) through to a Canada Reads win.

Ron talks to us about drafting David Bergen, throws down the gauntlet for his panellist-opponent Jay Bachurel and, of course, reminds us about that culinary wonder, tacos in a bag.

Hosted by popular CBC personality and author Jian Ghomeshi, Canada Reads pits five fantastic Canadian books against one another in a (mostly) friendly competition, with each book championed by a Canadian celebrity in a series of broadcast debates. For more information about CBC Canada Reads, please visit their website. The 2013 debates run from February 11-14.

Stay tuned to Open Book: Toronto for interviews with more of the Canada Reads panellists this week!

Open Book:

Tell us three things that make your selected book the best on the list.

Ron MacLean:

I've stolen the Hollywood model. In L.A. they ask: 1) Will this book make a great movie?, 2) Will it make me look good?, 3) Will I work again if I do it? Screenwriter Robert Towne created this template, which I imagine Jay Baruchel steals all the time. Well I'm onto Jay. Thus with complete confidence I submit The Age of Hope which scores a hat trick in answer to the three questions, and no defender can stop us.


What makes you particularly qualified to defend this title?


The real answer is I'm not qualified... however, I work in hockey. Now hockey is not the religion of everyone in Canada — Hope Koop, our book's main character, hates the sport and says so — but hockey is a shared Canadian experience. You need common beliefs, myths against which to explore truths. Otherwise the audience has nothing to work with. How do you create an illusion without a contrasting reality? I intend to apply this knowledge, hard won over 27 years of Coach's Corners to explore the wisdom written in The Age of Hope.


Where were you the first time you read your selected book?


I'm like the NHL scout, Wren Blair, who set out to see a couple of prospects in Gananoque, Ontario, and fell into witnessing 14 year old Bobby Orr. Canada Reads listeners selected 5 western region books, of which I was certain, Elizabeth Hays' Late Nights on Air would be mine. I sat in my home reading The Age of Hope, one of the 5 nominated books in the region I'm representing. Afterword, I finished my drink, thanked my scouts whoever they are, and drafted David Bergen instead.


How would you describe the literary culture of the region you're defending?


Marshall McLuhan. Simple as that. Mcluhan was raised in Edmonton and Winnipeg. In his dust, I'm essentially Red Deer and David Bergen more or less, Winnipeg. Anyhow, McLuhan is best known for his aphorism, "the medium is the message". In relation to the changes going on around us, he taught that nothing is done to us, and that nobody is doing it to us. We do to ourselves. That's a very prairie thing to feel. Because you're not too deeply involved in other people's problems, and yours are relatively small compared to other people's, you can be, as McLuhen said, "Ann Landers to the World".


If your writer wins the competition, how will you celebrate?


I will make "Tacos in a bag". A delicacy served at hockey arenas in Winkler, Manitoba. CBC was there for Hockey Day in 2008. The Mennonites of Winkler enjoy historic ties to Mexico. David Bergen, raised Mennonite, sets The Age of Hope in a small Mennonite town in Manitoba. So, Tacos in a bag. David and his wife Mary can choose the drinks.

Ron MacLean is the host of CBC'S Hockey Night in Canada. The nine-time Gemini Award Winner is also a two-time recipient of the George Gross Award, honouring excellence in sports broadcasting, and is also nominated for a 2008 Gemini Award for his role as host of the 2008 edition of CBC'S Hockey Day in Canada. In 2008, MacLean hosted Beijing 2008: The Olympic Games, which marked his ninth Olympic Games on CBC. MacLean is a former Level 5 referee for the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association and lives with his wife, Cari, in Oakville, Ontario.

For more information about The Age of Hope please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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