Edmonton’s Lynn Coady wins the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize for Hellgoing

November 6, 2013 by · 7 Comments 

Scotiabank_Giller_Prize_logoThirteen proved a lucky number for House of Anansi Press at yesterday’s Scotiabank Giller Prize gala. Prior to this year, the publisher had seen eleven of its books shortlisted without a single win. The two Anansi titles shortlisted for the 2013 prize – Lisa Moore’s novel Caught and Lynn Coady’s story collection Hellgoing – brought the number of Anansi nominees to thirteen.

The publisher scored its first victory with the announcement that Hellgoing had won this year’s award. It was also the first time Coady has won the prize; she was nominated in 2011 for her novel, The Antagonist.

Coming a month after Alice Munro was announced as this year’s Nobel laureate in literature, Coady’s Giller win is also a victory for Canadian short fiction, which has long been considered the poor cousin to this country’s novels, despite the fact that Canada boasts some of the finest practitioners of the form anywhere in the world. Coady is only the third writer to win a Giller for a collection of stories; Munro won twice (in 1998 for The Love of a Good Woman and again in 2004 for Runaway), and Vincent Lam won in 2006 for his debut, Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures. Hellgoing is one of the first titles in Anansi’s Astoria imprint, a line devoted exclusively to short fiction.

This year’s Giller judges – Margaret Atwood (who was serving on her fourth Giller jury), Esi Edugyan, and Jonathan Lethem – selected Coady’s collection from a shortlist that also included Dennis Bock’s Going Home Again (HarperCollins Canada), Craig Davidson’s Cataract City (Doubleday Canada), and Dan Vyleta’s The Crooked Twin (HarperCollins Canada). Moore’s third novel rounded out the five-title shortlist. In its citation, the Giller jury praised “Coady’s vivid and iconoclastic language, which brims with keen and sympathetic wit.”

Quoted in the Winnipeg Free Press, Atwood says that “it was difficult to arrive at a five-book short list, but once we got there it wasn’t too difficult.” The same article quotes Edugyan as saying that the jury process was “wonderfully amiable,” and that no one “put anybody in a headlock or anything like that.” And Lethem quipped that the jury chose the winning book while “in a drunken stupor,” a reference to yesterday’s other big Toronto-area news story, mayor Rob Ford’s confession to having smoked crack cocaine.

Speaking to the National Post, Coady expressed pleasure at the notion that her book was the one to break “the Anansi curse,” and went on to say, “I know what the Giller nominee effect is, but we’ll see what the next level is.”

The next level should be impressive. The $50,000 cheque for winning the prize is the precursor to what has become known as the Giller Effect, the sales bump a winning title experiences heading into the all-important Christmas selling season. Although hard numbers are difficult to come by, anecdotal evidence suggests that a title can experience a jump in sales of anywhere from 200 to 400 percent following a Giller win. Indeed, Anansi president and publisher Sarah MacLachlan told the National Post that a reprint of 50,000 copies has already been ordered for the book. Good news for Coady, good news for her publisher, and – hopefully – good news for the future of the short story here in Canada.


7 Responses to “Edmonton’s Lynn Coady wins the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize for Hellgoing”
  1. Alex says:

    I wonder why the Giller page says this:

    Listen to CBC Radio One’s Q at 10:06 a.m. tomorrow for Jian Ghomeshi’s interview with Dennis Bock and replay the gala on CBC Books http://www.cbc.ca/books

    Ask Dennis Bock your questions about his win and his work on November 6 at 2:00 p.m. EST during a twitter chat hosted by Scotiabank. Please visit http://www.scotiabank.com/gillerwinner and use the hashtag #gillerwinner

  2. It looks like it’s been fixed.

  3. Very thrilled for Lynn and team Anansi.

    A great win for Canadian short fiction, for sure. We only need one more for a hat trick!

    Some of us short-fictionistas (Sarah Selecky, Jessica Westhead, Matthew Trafford and I were
    grinding our teeth yesterday after reading this nasty shot from Meister Ian McEwan earlier in the day (what an ass): We’re grinning today

    Author Zadie Smith interviewed author Ian McEwan in the current issue
    of The Believer.

    McEwan also shared some advice for young authors. He advised writers to get
    practice through writing short stories, which he compared to “trying on your
    parents’ clothes.”


  4. Alex says:

    And yet … from the Toronto Star:

    With Alice Munro winning the Nobel Prize for Literature for her short-story writing and now Coady winning the Giller, it appeared to some to be the year of the short story.

    But Coady said she doesn’t think of herself as a short-story writer on Munro’s level. “I think of myself as a novelist who sometimes writes short stories,” she told reporters.

    Coady said, in fact, that the only reason she suggested a collection of short stories to her publishing house, Anansi, was because she had “writer’s block” and couldn’t think of a novel. “But I had been writing short stories so I threw them together,” she said.

    And that made this nomination easier for her to handle, she added. When she was nominated for her novel The Antagonist, she felt like she had much more invested in a win because she had “bled into the pages for two years.”

  5. “just threw them together” ouch

    Now I’ll crawl back into my cave and bleed in private

  6. Finn Harvor says:

    “It looks like it’s been fixed.”

    I’ve heard this in previous years.