Tuesday, November 07, 2006

De Niro's Game

I hope you got your pick in for the Library’s “Guess the Giller” contest, organized by the good folks at the Giller Prize organization. (sorry, that's "Scotiabank Giller Prize" now. Sigh.) The contest closed at midnight on Monday. There will be two winners from St. Albert, with each winner getting a copy of all the five nominated books. We were pleased that the Gillerians allowed a mid-sized public Library to participate this year.

The winner will be announced at the Giller Prize ceremony in Toronto tonight. Locally it is televised on CTV at 8pm, with Justin Trudeau hosting. If you haven’t been paying attention, the Toronto Star provides a handy summary:

A bluffer's guide to Giller nominees:

De Niro's Game by Rawi Hage
First line: "Ten thousand bombs had landed, and I was waiting for George."
Our reviewer wrote: "De Niro's Game is a feverish nightmare of a book, written with a distinctly European flair. True to the existential tradition, it stubbornly refuses to offer the reader any easy comfort."

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam
First line: "Desperate stragglers arrived late for the molecular biology final examination, their feet wet from tramping through snow banks and their faces damp from running."
Our reviewer wrote: "Lam creates vivid characters and circumstances that satiate our morbid curiosity about medicine, from med school corpse dissection to gruesome complications on the maternity ward."

The Immaculate Conception by Gaétan Soucy, translated by Lazer Lederhendler
First line: "I was there myself."
Our reviewer wrote: "The atmosphere in which these characters breathe is, if not Gothic in the mode of Poe, then certainly grotesque and repulsive.... The world of the novel was simply not a world I could believe in."

The Perfect Circle by Pascale Quiviger, translated by Sheila Fischman
First line: "If you watch my hand move through space, you will realize that it's trying to find you."
Our reviewer wrote: "This is a story about madness.... Madness, even the madness of love, is inherently boring, inherently prone to excess rhetoric."

Home Schooling by Carol Windley
First line: "That summer a boy went missing from a field known as the old potato farm, although no one could remember anything growing there but wild meadow barley, thistles in their multitudes, black lilies with a stink of rotten meat if you brought your face too close or tried to pick them."
Our reviewer wrote: "Rooted in the wet green landscape of the Pacific Northwest ... each story is overloaded with irrelevant incidents, perspectives, voices."

I picked De Niro's Game by Rawi Hage, as have many I think. I don’t agree with the jury’s decision to pick two translated books. There are prizes such as the Governor General’s Awards for translations after all, and the Soucy novel won the GG award for Best Fiction in French in 1994! And, as with many fellow library patrons, I’m afraid I’m not a fan of short story collections, which knocks out the other two books.

I was cheering for local favourite Todd Babiak and his novel, The Garneau Block, which made it to the Giller longlist but ended its triumphant advance there. Todd was pleased as making the longlist meant that Alice Munro had read his book! Munro as well as writer Michael Winter and deposed Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson are this year's Giller jury.

Have I read any of the shortlist? Heck no! I promise I will read the winner however. I have a friend, an academic, who prides himself on reading all the titles. Good for him. (I rolled my eyes just now…)

* Update Nov. 8 - I turned on the television at 10 to 9 to hear Justin Trudeau say "If you're just tuning in now you picked the perfect time as we are about to announce the winner." Thanks Justin! Moments later the winner was indeed announced - Vincent Lam for his book Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures. A surprise win I suppose, but the Giller has been making a point it seems of not picking the front-runner.


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