Another delegation heard from

October 14, 2009 by · 5 Comments 

We’re drowning in literary awards here in the Great White North. First the Scotiabank Giller, then the Rogers Writers’ Trust, now the Governor General’s Literary Awards, which announced their shortlists today in Toronto. Only one book made it onto all three lists: Annabel Lyon’s first novel The Golden Mean. The moral here? You can write as many solid, urban stories as you want: it’s when you write that piece of historical fiction that the prizes will come a-callin’. And how fucking depressing is that?

Here are the fiction, non-fiction, and poetry lists in full:

FICTION:

  • Michael Crummey, Galore (Doubleday Canada)
  • Annabel Lyon, The Golden Mean (Random House Canada)
  • Alice Munro, Too Much Happiness (McClelland & Stewart)
  • Kate Pullinger, Mistress of Nothing (McArthur & Company)
  • Deborah Willis, Vanishing and Other Stories (Penguin Canada)

NON-FICTION:

  • Randall Hansen, Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany, 1942-1945 (Doubleday Canada)
  • Trevor Herriot, Grass, Sky, Song: Promise and Peril in the World of Grassland Birds (HarperCollins Canada)
  • Eric Margolis, American Raj: Liberation or Domination? (Key Porter Books)
  • Eric Siblin, The Cello Suites: J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece (House of Anansi Press)
  • M.G. Vassanji, A Place Within: Rediscovering India (Doubleday Canada)

POETRY:

  • David W. McFadden, Be Calm, Honey (Mansfield Press)
  • Philip Kevin Paul, Little Hunger (Nightwood Editions)
  • Sina Queyras, Expressway (Coach House Books)
  • Carmine Starnino, This Way Out (Gaspereau Press)
  • David Zieroth, The Fly in Autumn (Harbour Publishing)

The seasoned observer will note that the GG fiction list is, like the Giller and Writers’ Trust shortlists, an Atwood-free zone, leaving The Year of the Flood shut out of this fall’s major awards, both here and across the pond (Atwood, a former Booker winner, was absent from that list as well).

A big shout-out goes to TSR faves Sina Queyras and Carmine Starnino, both of whom nabbed nominations in the poetry category. The GGs will be handed out at a ceremony winners will be announced in Montreal on November 17.

Giller longlist defies expectations

September 21, 2009 by · 5 Comments 

It didn’t take long for the grousing to begin. The Scotiabank Giller longlist had barely been announced before critics started crying foul. Where are the men? asks The Globe and Mail. (Same place the women were last year.) Where are the non-European writers, tweets The Walrus. (Was there a major novel by a Canadian writer of non-European descent published this year?) Indeed, last year, out of 15 longlisted authors, only three (Emma Donoghue, Marina Endicott, and Mary Swan) were women (Endicott and Swan went on to place in the shortlist). And seeing as Giller has in the past honoured Rohinton Mistry, M.G. Vassanji (twice), Vincent Lam, Austin Clarke, and Michael Ondaatje, the argument that there’s a white, European bias to the award seems like a non-starter (Giller is guilty of many sins, but that isn’t one of them).

There were surprises on this year’s longlist, beginning with the exclusion of Lisa Moore, whose second novel, February, was widely considered to be a strong contender to take the prize. Also absent from the longlist were Douglas Coupland (dodged a bullet there, hm, Panic?), Michael Crummey, Lori Lansens, Bonnie Burnard, John Bemrose, and Shinan Govani. (Just making sure you were paying attention.) In their place, first-time novelists Claire Holden Rothman and Jeanette Lynes nabbed spots, as did Martha Baillie, for a book published with the small Ontario press Pedlar. These could not have been considered safe bets by anyone trying to outguess this year’s jury, which is composed of author Alistair MacLeod, U.S. novelist Russell Banks, and U.K. author and journalist Victoria Glendinning.

Atwood and Michaels are, of course, represented. It’s likely Munro would have been too had she not taken her collection, Too Much Happiness, out of the running. But a number of the names on this year’s longlist are by no means intuitive. The dirty dozen, in full:

  • Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood (McClelland & Stewart)
  • Martha Baillie, The Incident Report (Pedlar Press)
  • Kim Echlin, The Disappeared (Penguin Canada)
  • Claire Holden Rothman, The Heart Specialist (Cormorant Books)
  • Paulette Jiles, The Colour of Lightning (HarperCollins Canada)
  • Jeanette Lynes, The Factory Voice (Coteau Books)
  • Annabel Lyon, The Golden Mean (Random House Canada)
  • Linden MacIntyre, The Bishop’s Man (Random House Canada)
  • Colin McAdam, Fall (Penguin Canada)
  • Anne Michaels, The Winter Vault (McClelland & Stewart)
  • Shani Mootoo, Valmiki’s Daughter (House of Anansi Press)
  • Kate Pullinger, The Mistress of Nothing (McArthur & Company)

What is distressing, notwithstanding the jury’s assertion that the books “vary stylistically and structurally and connect with and extend a range of novelistic traditions,” is the preponderance of stories told in the same, blandly naturalistic style of most Giller-bait fiction. Really, the only stylistically adventurous title in the bunch is The Incident Report. Even Atwood’s futuristic dystopia employs the same flashback style that she’s been using at least since Cat’s Eye, if not well before. And if we had to have a novel about a freed slave on the list, I’d much rather it was Ray Robertson’s lively David than Jiles’s The Colour of Lightning.

Still, an interesting list. I’ll be watching for the shortlist, when it’s unveiled on October 6.