A Nova Scotia family, guilt-ridden middle-aged woman, three Chinese Canadian siblings coming of age, a trio of wanderers in Montréal and an entire generation are set to face off in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s ninth annual Canada Reads competition.

The war of words unfolds between March 8 and 12, 2010 on CBC Radio One and digital television channel Bold. It pits five Canadians against one another to defend a book of their choice as, one-by-one, defenders and their books are ousted by fellow panelists until just one remains.

Winning can trigger the “Canada Reads effect”, a pass to the top of bestselling book lists and other opportunities, explained competition host Jian Ghomeshi. Moderating the debate for his third consecutive year, the host of CBC Radio arts and culture magazine Q revealed the defenders and authors during a press conference yesterday at CBC’s Toronto headquarters.

Although they’d never met before yesterday, Edmonton poet laureate Rollie Pemberton (a.k.a. rapper Cadence Weapon) and Vancouver author Douglas Coupland developed instant rapport, often turning questions asked by media into one-on-one conversations.

Pemberton is defending Coupland’s debut novel Generation X, a framed narrative that relates stories of three traveling post-baby boomers to modern culture.

“It's the one I instantly thought of if I could represent a book, and a book I felt was thematically similar to things I've written and believe,” said Pemberton.

To Coupland, his nomination by Pemberton, just 24, is an indication Generation X itself speaks across generations. “It's not a snapshot or even time capsule of 1989/1990,” he said, “It's something eternal that's going on inside the book.”

Although he considers Pemberton’s gesture “deeply satisfying”, Coupland said he won’t listen to the program, deeming it too psychologically distancing. “For me, one of the creepiest things on earth would be having a tape recorder at a dinner party and listening to people's conversations as they leave: ‘Ugh, what's with his hair… the way he talks… the way he chews his canapé’,” he said.

Pemberton said he understands Coupland’s hesitation, but won’t tear apart competing books in order to win. “I will talk about why I like my book, but I'm not going to do it in the context of, 'My book is better than yours because this',”he said.

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