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Review: A Nation Worth Ranting About by Rick Mercer

An all-new collection of furiously funny rants from the most recent seasons of the Rick Mercer Report plus three brilliantly written, previously unpublished pieces by Rick. Illustrated throughout with photos and snatches of dialogue from Rick’s encounters and exploits across Canada.

“A good rant is cathartic. Ranting is what keeps me sane.
They always come from a different place. Take the prime minister, for example. Sometimes when I rant about him, I am angry; other times, I am just severely annoyed – it’s an important distinction.” ~ Rick Mercer, from his introduction

Within these pages you’ll find every rant that Rick has so brilliantly and blisteringly delivered since the publication of his previous bestseller,Rick Mercer Report: The Book. Together these rants form a chronicle of human folly, mostly featuring politicians, of course, but with honorable mentions going to people who don’t know how to use escalators and Canadian drivers who don’t think they need snow tires.

Is Mercer getting better or are the fools among us getting worse? Whatever the inspiration-Rick Mercer’s ranting has never been stronger or more on target.

Watching to Rick Mercer deliver one of his trademark rants is akin to watching a great actor in an Oscar-winning role. There’s something compelling about his speech, delivered with humour but underlined with a gravitas that belies the initial impression. You quickly learn that under the bluster lies a passionate and patriotic heart. That’s part of the reason why his rants strike such a chord with viewers; even if you disagree, you have to admire someone who is so fervent in his convictions.

“A Nation Worth Ranting About” is a collection of his most recent rants, including those about Canadian elections, budgets, teen bullying, veterans affairs and various decisions made by the government. You can feel the excitement when you read about Rick’s experience meeting his idol, Rick Hansen – and the abject fear that he’s never hear from Hansen again after suggesting that they try bungee jumping (not knowing that Hansen is terrified of heights).

“Lucky for me and my viewers, Rick’s entire raison d’être is to prove time and time again that a person in a wheelchair can do anything he puts his mind to. A person in a wheelchair can circle the globe, can conquer ignorance and can conquer fear. Anything an able-bodied person can do, he can do as well or better. And thank God Rick doesn’t just talk the talk; he walks the walk – or in his case, rolls the walk. “ ~ p66

Both the delight and the detraction of the rants is that you can’t help but hear them in Rick’s voice. There were even a few pieces that were memorable enough for me to put down the book in favour of the YouTube clip, but here’s the thing: that’s not such a bad idea. What Mercer does best is engage the viewer/reader in the topic that he’s ranting about. He wants you to not just passively sit back and listen, but rather he wants you to get mad at him. The very best rants are those that inspire you to talk about your own feelings on a topic – be they agreement or not – and Mercer has a talent for getting people talking. Some of the very best conversations I’ve had about Canadian politics with my nieces have started because of one of Rick’s rants, and anyone who can inspire university students to become passionate about Canadian politics in any form has my loyalty.

There’s three new essays within the book that are reaction pieces to three very important moments: the escalation of ‘vote mobs’ at Canadian universities (he is effusive in his praise for the students behind the events at various universities), his aforementioned reaction to meeting Rick Hanson, and a reflection on the public reaction to his bullying rant. As much as I appreciate the work that he puts into his weekly rants for the show, I think that these behind-the-scenes moments really made the book for me.

The Jamie Hubley rant and reflection is a case in point. For those who may not be aware, Jamie Hubley was a fifteen year old boy who was being bullied for being gay (which, incidentally he was – not that it matters, as bullying in any form for any reason is unconscionable). In desperation and despair, Jamie made the decision to take his own life, leaving behind a devastated family, a shocked community and a nation that had to come to the realization that we haven’t come as far as we might like to think. Mercer’s rant was timely and from the heart, and it struck a chord with a lot of people all over the world. His point was simple – instead of telling kids that it gets better, we need to help to make it better – now. He suggested that gay adults in public life should accept the responsibility of being visible role models in whatever way is most comfortable for them for today’s GLBT youth. Let’s be clear: at no time did he suggest ‘outing’ anyone who wasn’t comfortable sharing who they were. In his essay, he further explains his point of view, drawing on his own experiences in high school in Newfoundland, and learning about openly gay figures in his own community.

“There average Canadian doesn’t care if I am gay. I get that. But there are Jamie Hubleys out there, and to them it matters.” ~ p. 144, “Make it Better Now”

So, does this mean I’m suggesting Mercer for Prime Minister? Not a chance. Parliament couldn’t handle his sense of humour and cut-to-the-chase observations without imploding, and we as a nation need him to keep us talking about the issues that (should) matter most to us as citizens.  If you are a Mercer fan, then this book is likely already on your To-Be-Read pile. However, if you aren’t familiar with his show or his views, this is a great introduction. Be prepared – this book will inspire discussion and debate, and more than enough laughs to keep you reading.

Most-discussed point in the book in store this week:

“When it comes to politics, we haven’t seen anything remotely positive in a very long time. Think about it. In the last American election, the defining themes were “change is possible” and “hope”. And they had the highest voter turnout in forty years. In our last election, the defining themes were ‘stay the course’ and ‘destroy the enemy’. And we had the lowest voter turnout in our entire history.” ~ p 46, “Obama’s Example”

A Nation Worth Ranting About by Rick Mercer is published by Doubleday Canada, a division of Random House. It may be purchased from Indigo, Amazon and your friendly indie bookstore! ISBN: 9780385676809, hardcover, 289 pages. 

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