06 November 2013

Harper Hockey Book Watch: Fin (et raison d'être)

Good things come to those who wait, but so do the bad and the ugly.

Nine years and 138 days after it was first reported, one year and 321 days after he announced its completion, the prime minister's hockey book was released yesterday. Given authorship, website and book trailer, the launch for A Great Game seems to have been rather muted. No copies were in evidence at the Conservatives' frightening Hallowe'en convention. Costco catalogue copy aside, the only advance notice I spotted came this past Saturday in the form of an ineptly worded, poorly punctuated "Suggested Post" on Facebook:

Pub date publicity – the best being this video of stumbling Leafs –  was by mid-morning overshadowed by a confession from Rob Ford, the prime minister's fishing buddy. The afternoon brought the "political executions" – John Ivison's words, not mine – of Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin. The prime minister's will be done.

Power & Politics passed without a single mention of our prime minister's hockey book. Nevertheless, A Great Game had risen to #16 at Amazon.ca by that point, 782,390 places higher than on Amazon.com. Its placing south of the border must have come as a disappointment to agent Michael Levine, for whom American distribution played an "extremely important" role in selecting a publisher.

I wish Simon & Schuster well, and very much look forward to reading the prime minister's book. While recognizing that Chris Selley, who has written the most thoughtful review thus far, dismisses A Great Game as "dry, dispassionate and detailed as to induce test anxiety," I spot some fun. For example, the first chapter begins with the prime minister cocking a snoot at the world of academe by quoting "The Life I Lead", an American song written for a 1964 Disney musical set in pre-Great War England, as a means of anchoring Edwardian Canada.

Such wonderful childhood memories.

I recognize that some correspondents may question my good wishes for the prime minister and his book. One follower of the Harper Hockey Book Watch has accused me of "picking on the Stephen Harper" (before warning that I best not set foot in Alberta). In fact, my criticism has naught to do with the prime minister, but the fourth estate (and I've visited Alberta without incident).

For nearly a decade, the press picked up and dropped the story of the prime minister's hockey book with the enthusiasm and attention span of a playful, inbred puppy. Back in April 2006, when BC boy Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" topped the charts, Mr Harper announced that he expected to finish the book within months. In the midst of the 2008 election – "I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry – he again told reporters that it was on the cusp of completion. In December 2011 – Rhianna's "We Found Love" – the prime minister revealed to Jane Taber and Tonda MacCharles that he'd actually finished his book, adding that a publisher was in place and that it would appear in 2012. Each pronouncement launched a flurry of news stories, but never a follow-up. Not a single news source commented when the promised hockey book failed to materialize last year.

Not one member of the press has pursued Heritage Canada's sudden, unexpected and unexplained decision – which I support! – to allow Simon & Schuster Canada to publish Canadian books.

Hockey is not the only great game.

And so, I close the Harper Hockey Book Watch with two related queries and a gentle suggestion.

Queries: Has the beneficiary of proceeds, the Military Family Fund, received an advance on royalties? If not, why not?

Suggestion: Those who are choosing to boycott A Great Game may wish to consider donating directly to the Military Families Fund.

Note to the Conservative Party of Canada: A website update is long overdue. Rumours are fuelled by things like this:

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