The Canadian literary awards season is heating up with the announcement of the short list of five books in the running for this year’s Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Dennis Bock is up for his novel Going Home Again; Lynn Coady for her short-story collection Hellgoing; Craig Davidson for his novel Cataract City; Lisa Moore for her novel Caught; and Dan Vyleta for his novel The Crooked Maid.
Both Ms. Moore and Ms. Coady, who have been shortlisted for previous Gillers, are also finalists for this year’s Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. But few awards have as much sway with readers as the Giller, which is renowned for its “Giller effect,” sending sometimes little-known works rocketing onto the national bestseller lists.
The publishers, too, claim bragging rights. HarperCollins Canada publishes Mr. Bock and Mr. Vyleta, and House of Anansi Press publishes Ms. Coady and Ms. Moore. Doubleday Canada, which publishes Mr. Davidson, rounded out the list.
The nominees, announced Tuesday by CBC personality Jian Ghomeshi during a VIP reception at Toronto’s Soho House, were selected from a long list of 13 books chosen last month by the three-member jury: previous Giller winners Margaret Atwood and Esi Edugyan, as well as Brooklyn author Jonathan Lethem. Sixty-one publishing houses submitted a total of 147 books for consideration.
Mr. Lethem, who lived intermittently in Toronto in the early 2000s, said after Tuesday’s announcement that reading all of the submitted books gave him a new understanding of Canadian literature. “I was really made aware, in a way I wouldn’t have previously, of how – there’s not a national voice, there are national voices here. And regional, cultural flavours that are really distinct.”
The jury dodged a bullet in leaving off David Gilmour’s novel Extraordinary, one of the 13 books on the long list, from the short list. A part-time lecturer at the University of Toronto, Mr. Gilmour was pilloried last month after saying that he was not interested in teaching books written by women. But the short list was chosen in mid-September, before the controversy flared. If he had been nominated, “it would have been very confusing to have to answer for it,” Mr. Lethem acknowledged.
While the list is considered a strong one, it also snubs a number of books that were considered shoo-ins, including Joseph Boyden’s heavily praised novel The Orenda, which is up for the Governor-General’s Literary Awards.
“Let the debates begin,” Mr. Ghomeshi said.
The Gillers were established in 1994 by philanthropist Jack Rabinovitch, in memory of his wife, the literary journalist Doris Giller, to honour the best in Canadian fiction published each year. The winner receives $50,000, and runners-up are awarded $5,000.
This year’s Scotiabank Giller Prize will be awarded Nov. 5 during a live broadcast on CBC Television.