Two veteran novelists and a newcomer are among the five writers whose works are shortlisted for the Governor-General's $15,000 award for fiction.
But the big shocker is that Alice Munro's new collection of short stories, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage didn't make the cut.
"We discussed that [Munro's book]long and hard," said jury member Lynne Van Luven in a telephone interview from Victoria, after the shortlist was released. "We came to the conclusion that the five we did select were interesting and strong and going in some interesting directions.
"It was an agonizing choice, not putting her on. We didn't do it lightly, and I can't explain it any more than that."
Yann Martel, Life of Pi; Tessa McWatt, Dragon's Cry; Jane Urquhart, The Stone Carvers; Thomas Wharton, Salamander, and Richard B. Wright, Clara Callan,got the nod from journalist van Luven and authors M.G. Vassanji and Austin Clarke.
Wright and Urquhart are also contending for the Giller Prize for fiction. Naturally, they were delighted by their double nominations.
"I feel wonderful," Urquhart said in a telephone interview. "This is a wonderful vote of confidence from two totally different juries."
Wright said it was gratifying to be on both lists again, referring to his double nomination for his 1995 novel, The Age of Longing. He refused to speculate on whether this was going to be his lucky year. "It would be great to win either of them," he said, because it "raises the profile of the book." But, he added, "you never know."
Dragon's Cry,a novel about a young Guyanese woman adopted by a white family in Toronto, is the only small-press book on the G-G list. The judges commended the book for its "lyrical evocation of history and memories drawn from characters that move between places and cultures."
Journalist Peter Gzowski, a judge for the non-fiction prize (along with biographer Elspeth Cameron and non-fiction writer Terry Glavin) said the surprise for him was the "breadth and depth of the overall list."
He went into the judging thinking he wouldn't have to read all the books all the way to the end. But what he found was that he "got caught up and read the whole damn thing," even when he knew the book wasn't going to make his personal shortlist.
The five authors contending for the English-language non-fiction prize are: Susan Crean, The Laughing One: A Journey to Emily Carr; Thomas Homer-Dixon, The Ingenuity Gap; Ross A. Laird, Grain of Truth: The Ancient Lessons of Craft; Alberto Manguel, Reading Pictures: A History of Love and Hate, and Jack Todd, The Taste of Metal: A Deserter's Story.
A book that took Gzowski completely by surprise, he said, was The Taste of Metal. "I was not familiar with the guy and I thought I don't need to read another anti-Vietnam book at this time and yet when I got into it, I found it and his character gripping."
The other book by an unknown that "grabbed" him is Grain of Truth. "The book is almost the zen of working with wood," Gzowski said. "It is thoroughly engrossing."
Noting that he is "not a guy who whittles his own marimbas," he said he might consider it after reading the book. "It is a long personal essay about this craft, or art, that is beyond me, but I liked following him through his adventures," Gzowski said. "I actually gave it to a couple of my friends who do like working with wood."
The English-language poetry contenders are: Anne Carson for Men in the Off-Hours; George Elliott Clarke, Execution Poems; Phil Hall, Trouble Sleeping ; Robert Kroetsch, The Hornbooks of Rita K., and Steve McCaffery, Seven Pages Missing.
Michael Redhill, who made the Giller list for his first novel, Martin Sloane, got the G-G's nod for drama for his play Building Jerusalem.
Other drama nominees are: Clem Martini, A Three Martini Lunch; Mark Brownell, Monsieur d'Eon;Jason Sherman, An Acre of Time: The Play,and Kent Stetson, The Harps of God.
"Once again, Canadian literature is honoured by the distinction of the nominees for the Governor-General's Literary Awards," Gov.-Gen. Adrienne Clarkson said in a statement yesterday. "They are writers whose beauty of language, commitment to truth and brilliant imaginations bring our inner and outer worlds to life."
The French- and English-language winners in all categories will be announced on Nov. 14 in Ottawa. The Governor-General's Award contenders ENGLISH-LANGUAGE NOMINEES Fiction
Yann Martel, Montreal, for Life of Pi
Tessa McWatt, Toronto, for Dragons Cry
Jane Urquhart, Stratford, Ont., for The Stone Carvers
Thomas Wharton, Edmonton, for Salamander
Richard B. Wright, St. Catharines, Ont., for Clara Callan Poetry
Anne Carson, Montreal, for Men in the Off Hours
George Elliott Clarke, Toronto, for Execution Poems
Phil Hall, Toronto, for Trouble Sleeping
Robert Kroetsch, Winnipeg, for The Hornbooks of Rita K.
Steve McCaffery, Toronto, for Seven Pages Missing Drama
Mark Brownell, Toronto, for Monsieur d'Eon
Clem Martini, Calgary, for A Three Martini Lunch
Michael Redhill, Toronto, for Building Jerusalem
Jason Sherman, Toronto, for An Acre of Time: The Play; inspired by the book by Phil Jenkins
Kent Stetson, Montreal, for The Harps of God Non-fiction
Susan Crean, Toronto, for The Laughing One: A Journey to Emily Carr
Thomas Homer-Dixon, Toronto, for The Ingenuity Gap
Ross A. Laird, Delta, B.C., for Grain of Truth: The Ancient Lessons of Craft
Alberto Manguel, Mondion, France, for Reading Pictures: A History of Love and Hate
Jack Todd, Greenfield Park, Que., for The Taste of Metal: A Deserter's Story Children's Literature -- Text
Brian Doyle, Chelsea, Que., for Mary Ann Alice
Beth Goobie, Saskatoon, for Before Wings
Julie Johnston, Peterborough, Ont., for In Spite of Killer Bees
Arthur Slade, Saskatoon, for Dust
Teresa Toten, Toronto, for The Game Children's Literature -- Illustration
Harvey Chan, Toronto, for Wild Bog Tea, text by Annette LeBox
Murray Kimber, Nelson, B.C., for The Wolf of Gubbio, text by Michael Bedard
Kim LaFave, Roberts Creek, B.C., for We'll All Go Sailing, text by Maggee Spicer and Richard Thompson
Mireille Levert, Montreal, for An Island in the Soup, text by Mireille Levert
Cindy Revell, Sherwood Park, Alta., for Mallory and the Power Boy, text by Pete Marlowe Translation (French to English)
Sheila Fischman, Montreal, for The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches ( La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes, by Gaétan Soucy)
Fred A. Reed and David Homel, Montreal, for Fairy Ring ( Le Cercle de Clara, by Martine Desjardins)
Gail Scott, Montreal, for The Sailor's Disquiet ( Le Désarroi du matelot, by Michael Delisle FRENCH-LANGUAGE NOMINEES Fiction
Marie-Claire Blais, Montreal, for Dans la foudre et la lumière
Pan Bouyoucas, Montreal, for L'autre
Rachel Leclerc, Montreal, for Ruelle Océan
Andrée A. Michaud, Quebec City, for Le ravissement Poetry
Tania Langlais, Montreal, for Douze bêtes aux chemises de l'homme
Paul Chanel Malenfant, Rimouski, Que., for Des ombres portées
Hélène Monette, Montreal, for Un jardin dans la nuit
Stefan Psenak, Aylmer, Que., for La beauté
Jean-Philippe Raîche, Paris, France, for Une lettre au bout du monde Drama
François Archambault, Montreal, for Code 99
Réjane Charpentier, deceased, for Un Autre Monde
Normand Chaurette, Montreal, for Le Petit Köchel
Michel Ouellette, Gatineau, Que., for Requiem, in Requiem suivi de Fausse route Non-fiction
Jacques Allard, Outremont, Que., for Le roman du Québec: Histoire, perspectives, lectures
Michel Biron, Montreal, for L'absence du maître: Saint-Denys Garneau, Ferron, Ducharme
Renée Dupuis, Quebec City, for Quel Canada pour les Autochtones? La fin de l'exclusion
Madeleine Gagnon, Montreal, for Les Femmes et la guerre
Jacques B. Gélinas, Charlesbourg, Que., for La globalisation du monde: laisser faire ou faire? Children's Literature -- Text
Christiane Duchesne, Montreal, for Jomusch et le troll des cuisines
Cécile Gagnon, Montreal, for Le chien de Pavel
Ann Lamontagne, St-Augustin-de-Desmaures, Que., for Les mémoires interdites
Marthe Pelletier, Outremont, Que., for Chante pour moi
Jean-Michel Schembré, Quebec City, for Le noir passage Children's Literature -- Illustration
Marjolaine Bonenfant, Saint-Lambert, Que., for L'abécédaire des animots, text by Robert Soulières
Pascale Constantin, Montreal, for Alexis, chevalier des nuits, text by Andrée-Anne Gratton
Stéphane Poulin, Montreal, for Vieux Thomas et la petite fée, text by Dominique Demers
Mylène Pratt, Montreal, for Le dimanche de Madame B, text by Bénédicte Froissart
Bruce Roberts, Westmount, Que., for Fidèles éléphants, text by Yukio Tsuchiya, translated by Michèle Marineau Translation (English to French)
Agnès Guitard, Saint-Côme, Que., for Les hauturiers: ils précédèrent les Vikings en Amérique ( The Farfarers: Before the Norse by Farley Mowat)
Michel Saint-Germain, Outremont, Que., for No Logo: La Tyrannie des marques ( No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies by Naomi Klein)
Maryse Warda, Montreal, for Motel de passage ( Suburban Motel by George F. Walker)