Sunday, April 21, 2013

Happiness Economics

Laura's pick for the book club was Happiness Economics, by Shari Lapena.

Toronto is the setting and neighbourhoods like the Danforth, Queen Street West and the Financial District are named outright.

The author is a fellow Torontonian, who also happens to be Laura's neighbour. She was on hand to answer the Book Babes questions and take part in the discussion.

The novel doesn't take itself too seriously. It is full of ironies and plot twists that brought it to the shortlist for the Leacock Medal for Humour.

Will begins the Poets Preservation Society to help fund struggling poets, but also to capture the attention of a beautiful girl half his age. His wife Judy has a high profile as a celebrity economist and is being kept busy during the meltdown of 2008. She helps secure the funding for the nonprofit to keep her husband occupied with something other than writing poetry - a process that seems to make him incredibly unhappy.

Something I was wondering was why a book about poets had so very little actual poetry. Answer: copyright.  The international rights were too expensive. Names like Philip Larkin and Margaret Atwood could be mentioned but no verse quoted. An exception is Luminous Veil, by Steve McOrmond, about the Bloor Street Viaduct and its suicide barrier. Both the poem and its placement in the novel remind us poetry has power - but readers need to take part if there is to be any dialogue. Poems need to be written, but they also need to be spoken and read.

One of the characters observes, "It's great to support poets in need, especially the really talented ones, so that they can write... But unfortunately I don't think the problem is one of supply - it's one of demand."

Members of the Poets Preservation Society take this insight and try to increase demand for their products by adapting guerrilla marketing techniques. Parkeur and poetry combine for some Banksy-style graffitti.

The novel is entertaining and it was a treat to have the author there -  a reminder that books not only need readers, they need writers, too...

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