Familiar names and former winners made little impression on the three-person jury that chose the long list of semi-finalists for the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Among the baker’s dozen of authors nominated this year, only one – Annabel Lyon, author of The Sweet Girl, sequel to her bestselling The Golden Mean – has made a prior appearance among the finalists for Canada’s highest-profile literary award.
Prominent no-shows on the 2012 list include broadcaster Linden MacIntyre, author of Why Men Lie, and Toronto doctor Vincent Lam, author of The Headmaster’s Wager. Both are former winners of the $50,000 prize – MacIntyre for The Bishop’s Man in 2009 and Lam for Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures in 2006.
Also absent is perennial favourite and two-time winner Alice Munro, whose new volume of short stories will not be published prior to the September 30 deadline for submissions. Munro voluntarily withdrew her most recent collection, Too Much Happiness, from competition in 2009 in order to make room for younger writers.
As this year’s list shows, they needed little encouragement. Although none of the authors still competing for the 2012 prize are newcomers to the trade – with the exception of Marjorie Celona, nominated for her debut novel, Y – few have previously enjoyed the sort of success a Giller nomination inevitably brings.
Better known as a humorist and travel writer, Calgary’s Will Ferguson made the cut with 419, a novel centred on the world of Nigerian e-mail scams. Toronto’s Robert Hough earned his place with Dr. Brinkley’s Tower, a fond romance set in an impoverished Mexican border town in the 1930s. The Emperor of Paris by C.S. Richardson of Toronto, former winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, centres on an unlikely relationship between an illiterate baker and a disfigured art conservator in contemporary Paris.
After writing five novels, veteran Toronto writer Cary Fagan earned his first spot on the Giller lists with My Life Among the Apes, a collection of short stories. Also earning a nomination with short stories is Newfoundland’s Russell Wangersky, author of Whirl Away. Best known for the non-fiction memoir Burning Down the House, Wangersky was long-listed for the 2006 Giller for a previous collection of stories titled The Hour of Bad Decisions.
Montreal’s Kim Thuy earned a nomination for Ru, a short poetic novel based on her family’s exile from Vietnam and struggle to establish a new life in Canada. Thuy’s first attempt at writing anything, Ru was originally published in French. Rounding out the Montreal contingent of long-list nominees is Nancy Richler, tipped for The Imposter Bride, her third novel.
In addition to Lyon’s new novel about Aristotle’s daughter, the west coast is represented by Billie Livingston’s One Good Hustle, a contemporary tale of female struggle. Globe and Mail columnist Katrina Onstad earned a place with Everybody has Everything, her second novel.
With the five-book short list due to be announced Oct. 1, attention for most of the current nominees will be fleeting. In the meantime, reading lists across the country will be revised to make way for a new generation of writers.