The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, October 11, 2007

My Crystal Ball is Defective


by Tricia Dower


Two out of five. That’s all I got right trying to guess the Giller Prize short list. Ondaatje and York. Maybe I should have read more than one book.

The list was announced on Tuesday: Elizabeth Hay for Late Nights on Air, Michael Ondaatje for Divisadero, Daniel Poliquin for A Secret Between Us (translated by Donald Winkler), M. G. Vassanji for The Assassin’s Song, and Alissa York for Effigy.

Except for York, the jury went with age and experience, and no small or medium-sized press made the cut. Ondaatje has won the Giller once and Vassanji twice. (Did you know his first name is Moyez?) Hay has been short-listed before. Although it’s Poliquin’s first nomination, he’s won awards for his French language books and is a member of the Order of Canada. There’s little geographic spread represented by the short list. Everyone lives in either Ottawa or Toronto. And no short story collection! (To add insult to injury, in an October 1 Globe and Mail article, Vassanji says, “I'll write short stories if I'm totally desperate.”)

I was surprised the jury chose another translation, as there was much moaning and groaning over the two on last year’s short list. The Giller is awarded for an English language book and although a translation, in this case from French to English, qualifies, it’s a filtered version of the original. If it wins, do author and translator share the $40,000 prize equally? (I should properly be calling it the Scotiabank Giller Prize, but it lacks a certain grace, as does the Save-On-Foods Arena here in Victoria.)

I won’t even attempt to postulate on the winner. If you’re into it, a Guess the Giller contest open to the public is being run through 20 library systems across Canada and some Scotiabank branches. I reckon you have better odds of winning the CWC’s Hallowe’en Haiku contest. Give it a go!

The Final Giller Five, clockwise from upper left: York, Hay (credit John W. MacDonald), Poliquin, Vassanji (credit Philip Cheung for The Globe and Mail), and Ondaatje.

6 Comments:

Blogger Anne C. said...

What can I say? It was a brave of you to post your predictions.

Thu Oct 11, 08:10:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

Sigh. Once again, Ontario proves to be the only place that counts in Canada. As a citizen, I'm not surprised by the list. As a writer, I am not encouraged by it one bit.

Thu Oct 11, 10:12:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Don't be haters, you not-from-Toronto people. You matter! Like the velvet background matters to all diamonds on display. We Torontofolk would not sparkle half so much without your dark plushness to float above. Thank you.

Thu Oct 11, 01:49:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Very funny, Tibbetts. To think I travelled all the way out to BC to become your piece of velvet. Fellow velvets, rebel! Let's have our own Giller.

Tamara, I feel as you do, although last year a BC writer made the list. (A Toronto writer won, though. Hmm.)

Thanks, Anne. I was hoping others would hazard a guess, but they weren't as foolish ass I.

Thu Oct 11, 04:05:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I meant as I, not ass I, although perhaps that's more accurate.

Thu Oct 11, 04:05:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

We BC'ers are the Doris Lessings of Canada and we pooh-pooh your silly prizes. Nobel-shmobel, Giller-shmiller!

(Watch out, there's a Dennis Lee poem in there somewhere...)

Fri Oct 12, 02:33:00 am GMT-4  

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