Last night at 10 pm. Was anyone else as puzzled as I was to see CTV broadcasting an awards show about…books? I had to tune in to see what they would do about the authors’ reading. Most authors are not that great at reading to an audience. The show creators actually did a very good job of making the books television accessible, with each book being presented by a Canadian celebrity and then a clip of the author reading the book along with snippets from the settings of each book. One weird moment had Justin Trudeau introducing Ben Mulroney, who was at a literary fundraiser called the Giller Light in support of a literacy campaign. Mulroney suggested that the Harper kids were in the back serving beer. Ah Canadian humour, it’s wry…or is that rye?
Was anyone surprised when Vincent Lam (a U of Ottawa graduate by the way) won for his short story collection, Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures? I would have been, but once I saw that Margaret Atwood was the presenter, and it was the final book to be presented that evening, I was pretty sure he’d won. Interestingly it was on a boat trip to the Arctic that Atwood discovered Lam and his writing. He saw her on the ship and asked her to look at his writing. Now I suppose everyone who sees Atwood will be passing her manuscripts. Now that we know she looks at them.
I was rooting for Pascale Quiviger’s The Perfect Circle myself. There was some mumbling at the show about the translators also receive awards, but I didn’t even hear them mentioned at all. Sheila Fischman is an amazing literary translator who has translated so many Quebec books that I love by authors like Michel Tremblay, Marie Claire Blais and Anne Hébert.
I was surprised to hear the Giller referred to as Canada’s largest (meaning most money) literary prize. The Griffin has a higher value, doesn’t it? The Giller winner gets $40,000 with $2,500 to each person on the shortlist, while the two Griffin winners (Canadian and International) get $50,000 each. Even when the Griffin was $40,000 each, it was still higher than the Giller. It’s not that important, but I thought it was odd that they kept saying this over and over. I doubt we’ll see the Griffin televised any time soon. I thought it was pushing things to have a literary awards show at all on the land of reality tv and game shows with Howie Mandel, but they managed to pull it off.
I wonder how many people actually watched.
Here’s the shortlist. I was pleased to see so many smaller publishing houses on the list:
Rawi Hage, De Niro’s Game, Anansi
Vincent Lam, Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures, Doubleday Canada
Pascale Quiviger, The Perfect Circle, Sheila Fischman, TR, Cormorant Books
Gaétan Soucy, The Immaculate Conception, Lazer Lederhendler TR, Anansi
Carol Windley, Home Schooling, Cormorant Books
Award founder Jack Rabinovitch, who started the Giller in honour of his late wife, Dorothy Giller, a book reviewer for the Montreal Gazette, mentioned that for the price of dining out in Toronto, we could buy all of the books on the list. I intend to buy a few of them anyway. Rabinovitch said that over 60 million dollars in book sales have been generated to date thanks to the Giller Prize.
I found the evening very inspiring and the fact that it was actually put on television gives me hope that people are actually reading fiction in Canada these days. Phew. I can keep writing now ;) (Now if only they would pay as much attention to our wonderful Canadian poets!