Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Giller 2008

The 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist is out. Of course, the Gillers are playing second fiddle to the Hockey Night in Canada "hockey anthem challenge" right now. But after you have voted for Colin Oberst's "Canadian Gold" (a great tune and Colin is an Edmontonian!) you can turn your attention to the Guess the Giller contest, which St. Albert Public Library is participating in again this year.
The Giller winner will be announced on November 11th at one of those "rich galas" that Stephen Harper was so steamed about earlier in the federal election campaign. But Mr. Harper need not fret about the Gillers, given that they were founded and funded by private funds (Toronto businessman Jack Rabinovitch) and are now supported by Scotiabank. (I hope Scotiabank can still scrape up the money for the prize given the financial chaos of the moment!). But then again, the Giller jury this year may give Mr. Harper fits: an openly gay Irish novelist, Colm Tóibín, the fierce and vocal critic of Harper's comments and actions on the arts, Margaret Atwood and archnemesis, former NDP Premier of Ontario, current Liberal candidate in Toronto-Centre and most recently the exposer of Mr. Harper's 2003 plagiarized speech: Bob Rae. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that Mr. Harper will not be attending this 'rich gala'!
Personally, I think the jury's Toronto-centrism (Atwood and Rae at least) may have skewed their choices away from the west (note: I say this every year). Missing from the longlist this year was Winnipeger Miriam Toews The Flying Troutmans, Victorian Bill Gaston's The Order of Good Cheer and Calgarian Fred Stenson's The Great Karoo. Making the longlist but not the shortlist was Victorian Patrick Lane's Red Dog, Red Dog and Vancouverite Steven Galloway's The Cellist of Sarajevo. The Galloway omisson is a surprise, given the positive buzz around it.

Regardless, here are the five nominated books (all novels except for Barnacle Love, a short story collection), with annotations from the Giller folks:

Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden
"A novel of contemporary aboriginal life, full of the dangers and harsh beauty of both forest and city. When beautiful Suzanne Bird disappears, her sister Annie, a loner and hunter, is compelled to search for her, leaving behind their uncle Will, a man haunted by loss. While Annie travels from Toronto to New York, from modelling studios to A-list parties, Will encounters dire troubels at home. Both eventually come to painful discoveries about the inescapable ties of family."

Barnacle Love by Anthony De Sa
"In stories brimming with life, the innocent dreams and bitter disappointments with immigrant experience are captured. A young fisherman washes up nearly dead on the shores of Newfoundland. It is Manuel Rebelo who has tried to escape the suffocating smallness of his Portuguese village and the crushing weight of his mother's expectations to build a future for himself in a terra nova. Manuel's son, Antonio, is born into Toronto's little Portugal, a world of colourful houses and labyrinthine back alleys. In the Rebelo home the Church looms large, men and women inhabit sharply divided space, pigs are slaughtered in the garage, and a family lives in the shadow cast by a father's failures."

Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott
"Absorbed in her own failings, Clara Purdy crashes her life into a sharp left turn, taking the young family in the other car along with her. When bruises on the mother, Lorraine, prove to be late-stage cancer, Clara - against all habit and comfort - moves the three children and their terrible grandmother into her own house. In Good to a Fault, Clara decides to give it a try, and then has to cope with the consequences: exhaustion, fury, hilarity, and unexpected love. But she must question her own motives. Is she acting out of true goodness, or out of guilt?"

Cockroach by Rawi Hage
"During a bitterly cold winter in Montreal's restless immigrant community, a self-described thief has tried but failed to commit suicide by hanging himself from a tree in a local park. Rescued against his will, the narrator is obliged to attend sessions with a well-intentioned but naive therapist. This sets the story in motion, leading us back to the narrator's violent childhood in a war-torn country, forward into his current life in the smoky emigre cafes where everyone has a tale, and out into the frozen night streets of Montreal, where the thief survives on the edge, imagining himself to be a cockroach invading the lives of the privleged, but wilfully blind, citizens who surround him."

The Boys in the Trees by Mary Swan
"Newly arrived to the countryside, William Heath, his wife, and two daughters appear the picture of a devoted family. But when accusations of embezzlement spur William to commit an unthinkable crime, those who witnessed this affectionate, attentive father go about his routine of work and family must reconcile action with character. A doctor who has cared for one daughter, encouraging her trust, examines the finer details of his brief interactions with William, searching for clues that might penetrate the mystery of his motivation. Meanwhile the other daughter's teacher grapple with guilt over a moment when fate wove her into a succession of events that will haunt her dreams."

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You probably know this already, but Marina Endicott is Edmonton's most recently acquired writer. She just moved there in late August. Cochrane's loss is Edmonton's gain. P. Banting

3:48 PM  
Anonymous Melanie Little said...

Peter, as Marina's publisher and the editor of Alberta's newest literary press, Freehand Books (an imprint of Broadview Press), I do hope you'll find out more about Calgary's Freehand so that you can share our excitement at having a new nationally acclaimed press based right here in Alberta. And yes, Marina is proudly Albertan as well.
I've been working like a demon to help spread the word, but I guess it takes time. So: www.freehand-books.com. I'll hope you'll help by encouraging the library to order the books! Best wishes and thanks for blogging, Melanie Little

12:57 PM  
Blogger Libarbarian said...

A mea culpa about Marina in my next post!

4:03 PM  

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