Lemire's Essex County
Jeff Lemire’s graphic novel Essex County was one of the five nominees for Canada Reads, a very influential (at least in terms of book sales) Canadian book award. Lemire didn’t win, but just his nomination and the debate around the book among the jurors opened a fascinating window into how comics are regarded by the larger culture. If you go here, you can find podcasts of the entire Canada Reads show for the year. Essex County is extensively discussed on round one (where it was eliminated).
For those interested in learning more about Canada Reads and its place in the Canadian literary ecosystem, I have an in-depth article on that very topic in The Walrus. You can read it here. My own take on Essex County can be found here.
An excerpt from The Walrus article:
It’s a measure of how profoundly Canada Reads has reshaped our literary landscape that the show has turned novelists — usually a rather introverted lot who spend their days locked away wrestling with sentences — into arm-twisting politicos eager to woo the crowd. The show’s importance can be explained in simple economic terms. Only a small circle of Canadian novelists, such as Margaret Atwood and Douglas Coupland, earn a living from their craft. For the vast majority who fall outside this fortunate club, only two surefire roads to bestsellerdom and financial security are available: you can win either the Giller Prize or Canada Reads. This is the bleak reality behind the unsettling eagerness of writers lobbying to be shortlisted.