Let’s start with the obvious: it’s not perfect. This whole question of a literary prizelist.
A prizelist is going to reflect many different things, from the jurors’ preferences to the prize founders’ or administrators’ networks, from the cultural zeitgeist to the political climate.
It is unlikely to reflect any single reader’s taste. And yet it is, by nature, intended to be representative. If only representative of the work published in a given period of time.
Which means a lot of people are going to be annoyed that it doesn’t represent the way they think it should.
The books included are going to be “too much” of some things and “not enough” of other things. Their stories too safe and too traditional, or too alienating for readers and too experimental. Their voices too jarring and raw, or too banal and ordinary. Their pagecount too slight and insignificant, or too verbose and sloppy. Their distribution too widespread and mainstream (copies everywhere) or too barebones and indie-minded (copies nowhere).
When it comes to Canadian literary prizes, the books included might be criticized for being too Canadian (too preoccupied with matters within the borders of the land currently called Canada) or not being Canadian enough (like Thea Lim’s, this year, set in the future when borders don’t hold the same positions or significance, set south of the border which currently separates Canada from the United States).
The authors themselves might be too Canadian or not-enough, with matters of citizenship and residence the subject of complaint (say with Rachel Cusk or Eleanor Catton).
And whether too-Canadian or barely-Canadian, they’ll be expected to choose a side in the ongoing debate which has polarized the literary community here since 2016, related to a scandal in a west-coast creative writing program, in this “either-or” climate which affords no seating arrangements for “both-and” thinkers.
So, let’s assume that the Giller Prize longlist was an imperfect selection.
Then, we can just get to talking about the books which were selected for it.
I’ve read them all (links to my reviews are here) and I’ve read more than a hundred other books by Canadian writers this year beyond this.
(You can search via tag or publication date, or you can check for specific works on my Books Discussed page, where the Canadian authors are marked with red stars.)
If you’re interested in the Giller Prize, you can watch the televised event below. (My apologies to international viewers as I believe this is available only to Canadian visitors).
And there are plenty of interviews (text, audio and video) with Esi Edugyan, the winner of the Giller Prize, Eric Dupont (whose shortlisted 2012 novel, Songs for the Cold of Heart, translated by Peter McCambridge in 2018, was the Shadow Giller Jury’s chosen winner) and the other ten authors whose works were longlisted.
CBC has an excellent series with each of the longlisted authors online and here’s a quick peek at a video with the shortlisted authors as well (which I believe is available to view internationally).
We’re just single readers united by the ideas that reading is a good thing, that books are good things, that the kinds of people who tell stories are among our favourite kinds of people.
Here’s to good reading and good writing, the prizelist kind and the not-so-prizelist kind!
[Edited to add: Naomi has her wrap-up post up now too. With a link to the official photo evidence of the shadow jury’s calculations on Kevin’s blog. Spoiler alert: it’s not quite as high-tech as you might have thought!]