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.

Blurb this! House of Anansi edition

July 9, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

It’s not satire, per se, that is a problem for audiences, but a particular kind of satire: the kind that stings and bites and very frequently withholds happy endings. The kind Jonathan Swift, one of the form’s most impressive practitioners, famously characterized as “a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.”

Riche’s satire, by contrast, is amiable and often overly broad. The California religious cult with members who walk around in shoes made out of loaves of bread are unlikely to inspire a frisson on the part of readers, nor is the ex-talk show host now living as a derelict in the ravine that runs beneath the tony Toronto neighbourhood of Rosedale. Elliot meets this latter character after tumbling down a hill into the ravine while in the process of stealing a coveted bottle of wine from his new boss’s cellar, a scene that has more in common with slapstick than satire.

This is particularly ironic in a book that spends so much time bemoaning our culture’s inability to appreciate art that is nuanced or uncomfortable. On numerous occasions, Elliot lectures his interlocutors on the subtleties of complex wines and the deeper pleasures these can yield over lesser vintages. A wine that is easy to like, for Elliot, is not as ultimately satisfying as a wine that divulges its riches only gradually, requiring patience, dedication and a sophisticated palate to fully appreciate. Finally, that is perhaps the central problem with Riche’s novel: It’s easy to like.

– Steven W. Beattie, National Post, September 9, 2011

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“It’s easy to like.” – National Post

– Paperback reprint of Easy to Like, July 2012