Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Giller Shortlist: In With The New

In a clear triumph for a fresh new breed of Canadian fiction writing, the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist was announced this morning. The five finalists - Joseph Boyden, Marina Endicott, Rawi Hage, Mary Swan and Anthony De Sa - are all relative newcomers to the CanLit scene, and a number of massive names have been left off the list, including David Adams Richards, Nino Ricci and David Bergen. The five nominees will appear together at IFOA on the last night of the festival, November 1st. The jury was comprised of Margaret Atwood, Liberal MP Bob Rae and IFOA's guest-curator Colm Toibin (it's pronounced "toe-bean," you philistines).

I'm no Giller historian, but I'm going to stick my neck out and say this is the first time the entire shortlist has been made up of first or second books. I find this extremely exciting (being a debut writer myself). I also find it incredible, almost too incredible. (Almost. I said almost. I said nothing about Atwood's proven track-record of backing the young/undiscovered. I will continue to say nothing about this. I find such conjecture cheap and nasty.)

Personally, I'm disappointed for Nino Ricci, who is a member of the Toronto Writers' Centre (TWC), where I also toil. I'll never forget my first day at the TWC... I stole Nino's long-held seat in the quiet room. For those of you who don't know, stealing someone's seat at the TWC is the equivalent of stealing a man's fourth wife. It's like robbing a man of his last vestige of hope. And although I'm sure it must have riled Nino to no end, he was remarkably cool about it.

I'm also a bit bummed for Steven Galloway, who was my MFA thesis supervisor at UBC Creative Writing in 2004. I remember sitting with him at the infamous Helen's Grill on Main Street in Vancouver for a thesis meeting. He made me swear on my mother's grave I wouldn't tell anyone about his fantastic new book idea. Sadly, Steven's got too many books under his belt for this year's prize; the Cellist is his (egads!) third.

One last note: my money (like the money of most, I'm sure) is on Boyden or Hage. Both of their first books did massively well and received worldwide acclaim, but were shut out of the GG's and the Giller. If anyone holds an IOU from a humbled CanLit community, it's these two.

IFOA kicks off in two weeks!

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