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Giller Finally Getting Serious

Thursday, October 5, 2006
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I’m thrilled at the shortlist which was announced on Tuesday for the 2006 Giller Prize. Not because I’ve read and like these books — in fact, I’ve never heard of any of them, or the five nominated authors.

That’s why I’m thrilled.

The Giller has always been about rewarding not necessarily literary excellence, but familiarity, name recognition and sales. Just look at a list of past winners: Alice Munro (twice — although, it’s hard to argue with that), M.G. Vassanji (twice), Austin Clarke, Michael Ondaatje, Mordechai Richler, Margaret Atwood. Basically most of the biggest names in Canadian publishing, where, in their works (aside from Richler and Munro maybe) you’re not going to get any real surprises.

Now, all of a sudden, we get five complete unknowns battling it out for the $40,000 main prize: Rawi Hage for De Niro’s Game, about two men trying to survive in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War; Vincent Lam for Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures, a short story collection set in the world of hospitals and medicine; Pascale Quiviger for The Perfect Circle, a love-and-love-lost story set in Tuscany and Montreal; Gaetan Soucy for The Immaculate Conception, a story of east-end Montreal in the 1920s; and Carol Windley for Home Schooling, a short story collection set on Vancouver Island the Pacific Northwest.

So. Who will win? Without having read any of these, I would give my vote to Hage, if only because it seems like the one book of the five that isn’t strictly about ‘the challenges of romantic interpersonal relationships,’ which is what about 97% of Canadian books are about, and it’s getting really boring. However, the Lam sounds interesting as well.

Whichever one wins, though, I give extreme kudos to the jury — former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, Alice Munro and Michael Winter — for coming up with such a ballsy shortlist. How much do you think Clarkson, who of course leant her title to the Governor General Awards all those years, had to do with it? She’s the only GG in a long time who probably could have chosen the winners herself and gotten it right, so I think she had a fair say in this Giller list.

We’ll find out the winner Nov. 7. 03971semaj

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. James17930 permalink
    Monday, November 13, 2006 5:27 pm

    And it was the Lam. Good work Lam.

  2. Tuesday, November 14, 2006 8:04 am

    I guess it helps to send Margaret Atwood a copy of your manuscript first.

  3. James17930 permalink
    Tuesday, November 14, 2006 7:23 pm

    Why . . . did he do that?

  4. Tuesday, November 14, 2006 8:32 pm

    So then, if I send Margaret Atwood a copy of something I write, it’ll nab me an award? Nice shortcut. Thanks for the tip, graeme.

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