Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Broadcast Journalist Wins Canada’s Richest Literary Prize

I don’t understand why everyone keeps talking about Linden MacIntyre’s “surprise upset” in winning the 2009 Scotiabank Giller Prize for The Bishop’s Man (Random House Canada). OK, actually: I do understand. I’m just not in the mood to dance the CanLit dance of literary vs. commercial novels. It’s a song that’s been playing through the Canadian media all autumn. It’s all been said -- more or less been said -- and no one appears to be listening, so I’ll keep my soapbox under my desk for the moment.

But the 2009 Giller...

At the risk of sounding unsportsmanlike (and I wasn’t in the race, so you can call me what you like) the biggest Giller surprise this year was that Margaret Atwood’s fantastic and luminous The Year of the Flood (McCLelland & Stewart) didn’t make the shortlist. Ditto Douglas Coupland’s very thoughtful Generation A (Random House Canada). If you’re a Canadian who follows literary stuff, it’s possible you have a few favorites of your own to chip in. Still, Coupland gets weirdly overlooked when the time to hand out CanLit trophies comes around. Atwood has won her share but -- oh! -- The Year of the Flood is breathtaking.

But, clearly, I digress.

The winner of the Scotiabank Giller prize was announced at a mondo gala in Toronto last night that was wildly tweeted about. (In fact, January tweeted the results within about an a minute of the announcement being made last night. How fun is that?)

MacIntyre picked up a check for $50,000 as author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English. The other finalists won $5000. each. Those finalists were:
  • Kim Echlin, The Disappeared (Hamish Hamilton Canada)
  • Annabel Lyon, The Golden Mean (Random House Canada)
  • Colin McAdam, Fall (Hamish Hamilton Canada)
  • Anne Michaels, The Winter Vault (McClelland & Stewart)
The 2009 Giller prize judges were US author Russell Banks, UK author and journalist Victoria Glendinning, and Canadian author Alistair MacLeod. Of the winning book, the jury remarked:
The Bishop’s Man centres on a sensitive topic -- the sexual abuses perpetrated by Catholic priests on the innocent children in their care. Father Duncan, the first person narrator, has been his bishop’s dutiful enforcer, employed to check the excesses of priests and, crucially, to suppress the evidence. But as events veer out of control, he is forced into painful self-knowledge as family, community and friendship are torn apart under the strain of suspicion, obsession and guilt. A brave novel, conceived and written with impressive delicacy and understanding.
I’m not sure how surprised everyone should be that MacIntyre won. (Especially considering Atwood wasn’t in the running. But we did that already.) He is, after all, a respected and well known journalist. He’s co-host of CBC television’s The Fifth Estate, an investigative journalism program. He’s won nine Gemini Awards for broadcast journalism and his most recent book, the memoir Causeway: A Passage from Innocence was critically acclaimed and also won some significant awards.



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