Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
May 18, 2024
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April 19, 2024
Volume 194 No. 17

The Great Debate of 2024

Full house at opening Authors Festival event chooses its book of the year
<p>Ernie Margetson at County Reads (Photo: Chris Fanning)</p>
Ernie Margetson at County Reads (Photo: Chris Fanning)

The County Reads Authors Festival opened with The Great Debate. Five readers picked their favourite recent Canadian book and prepared themselves to defend it — in five minutes.

An audience of about 175 gathered at St. Mary Magdalene’s, armed with ballots, ready to cast their votes.

Moderator Ken Murray amiably kept the proceedings going — armed with a stopwatch to keep everyone in line.

Presenters offered impassioned arguments to persuade us that their book was the book.

Novelist Andrew Binks defended Care Of, by Ivan Coyote. With great commitment he presented this book about the struggles of a transgender identity, and praised its compassion, generosity, and love. Its form, told in letters from strangers, he said, matched its subject.

Poet Roz Bound spoke for Superfan: How Pop Culture Broke My Heart by Jen Sookfong Lee, a series of memoir-essays that explore pop culture as a culture we all share, and so the glue that holds us together. For Lee, it helped her to overcome serious hurdles as a Chinese-Canadian woman, and to come to terms with an often hostile society.

Professor and publisher Karen Valihora represented Eleanor Catton’s Birnam Wood as a “masterpiece” that starts as a 21st-century novel of manners but becomes a thriller as the unstoppable forces of billionaire capitalism overwhelm individual human beings. “It speaks to our moment,” she said persuasively.

JC Sulzenko (Photo: Chris Fanning)

Poet JC Sulzenko said of C.S. Richardson’s All the Colour in the World. “I read it in one go!” Told in the second person in 195 short sections, it belies its size to become an epic, “an odyssey of a Canadian Everyman.” She stressed its poetic use of colour imagery while telling its hero’s journey from the World Wars and into the 1960s.

Former Councillor Ernie Margetson argued for Adam Shoalts’s Where the Falcon Flies, a true story about the author’s journey, by canoe and on foot, along the migratory path of the peregrine falcon, along the Great Lakes and into the North. Mr. Margetson spoke movingly of Shoalts’s bravery and humility in the face of the vastness of nature, while recognizing that, in the face of rapid climate disruption, nature needs advocacy. The book inspired its reader with patriotism and pride in the Canadian landscape, and the moral obligation to protect it.

There was a buzz in the hall as the audience cast their votes. Freshly baked cookies were anxiously consumed while the counting took place. Unlike in some other years, this time the voting was super-close for all.

But in the end one competitor stood head and shoulders above the rest—literally in this case. Ernie Margetson took the prize. As a furiously disappointed Ms. Valihora noted, “As soon as he started about ‘how the majestic falcon flies,’ I knew he had it wrapped up.”

Mr. Margetson said that he was glad to have been interviewed about his choice by CBC Radio early last Sunday morning, because it got him prepared.

The author of Where the Falcon Flies, Adam Shoalts, is at the Picton Library on May 23.

County Reads volunteer hosts, library staff, contenders, and audience members were very happy with the fun and convivial evening. With St. Mary Magdalene’s generous donation of the church space, all proceeds become funding for Library programs.

The rest of the weekend features author events hosted at the Picton Public Library. For more information visit

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 17 edition of The Picton Gazette
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