This is the 18th anniversary of the Giller Prize, Canada’s most recognized award for literary fiction. It is also the 17th anniversary of the Shadow Giller Jury, Canada’s most persistent (and perhaps annoying) tracker of the “real” Giller. We will let Jack Rabinovitch (the founder and financer of the prize in honor of his wife, Doris Giller) and invited friends celebrate the “real” Giller — we will have a good time with the Shadow version.
I do think this will be an exciting Giller Prize year. Already, three Canadian novels (Alison Pick’s Far To Go, Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers and Esi Edugyan’s Half Blood Blues) have featured on the Booker longlist. I was disappointed with that longlist and will go out on a limb here — I am confident that the 2011 Giller longlist will reflect more quality than the 2011 Booker longlist did. And I am pretty sure a number, but not that many, have already been reviewed here — stay turned for next Tuesday’s longlist announcement. The Real Giller Jury — authors Annabel Lyon, Howard Norman and Andrew O’Hagan — better not let me down because an outstanding list of books is available (to see all 200+ check out the list of potential nominees on the official ScotiabankGiller website).
The Shadow Giller was hatched in the lobby of the news room of the Calgary Herald when three reading souls came together quite by happenstance — Herald book editor Ken McGoogan, Calgary author Robert Hilles and myself, then the publisher of the Herald. As it happened we had all recently spent some time with one of that year’s Giller jurors — Mordecai Richler (McGoogan), Jane Urquhart (Hilles) and U of Ottawa English professor David Staines (me).
The intitial Shadow Giller deliberation was a 10-minute affair — Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance (still my favorite book of all-time) prevailed in a two-to-one vote over Barbara Gowdy’s Mister Sandman. (Aside: If you visit here, Ken, could you explain why you made such a bad choice?)
Since that time in 1995 both the Giller and Shadow Giller have grown. We have tracked the growth of the main prize and will continue to do so. We used to promise a $50,000 prize to any winner we chose that the Real Jury didn’t — subject to available funding of course — and still owe Ann-Marie MacDonald (Fall On Your Knees) and Wayne Johnson ( The Colony of Unrequited Dreams) the money. Needless to say (and a sorry to last year’s Shadow Giller winner, Alexander MacLeod for Light Lifting), we don’t promise that anymore.
A few years ago, the “Real” Giller added an international judge to its panel and the Shadow Giller was quick to follow. This year, I think we have overtaken them. Neither of the two longtime Canadian jurors (that would be me and Alison Gzowski, who produced CBC Radio’s Talking Books until its unfortunate demise) were willing to quit, so we will have four jurors this year.
Introducing (much fanfare, please):
Kimbofo from Reading Matters, one of my favorite book blogs. Kimbofo is Australian-born and raised, now resident in London (the UK not the Ontario one). Mr. Reading Matters is Irish so Kim frequently heads — and reads — north. She is my number one source on Irish fiction and I am delighted to welcome her to the Shadow Giller jury. While I look after Canada and the Caribbean, Kimbofo will look after the rest of the Commonwealth. The Giller is restricted to Canadian authors, but writers with non-Canadian roots have always featured in the list and there is usually a global flavor to it.
Trevor blogs at The Mookse and the Gripes and this will be his third year as a Shadow Giller juror. He not only brings a U.S. view to our thoughts, his interest in translated fiction adds a global perspective. He is a developing expert in Canadian fiction, I must say. And we do need a juror who is not steeped in Commonwealth tradition, which I think is a fair description of Trevor.
The Giller longlist (normally 12 titles) is a challenge for the Shadow Jury — since so many Canadian titles are released in September and not available internationally, we simply can’t get all of them into the hands of all jurors before the shortlist is announced. We promise that at least one of us will read each title, but that is all. I will do my best to provide reviews of all of them here eventually.
As for the shortlist (out Oct. 4), we will do our best to review all five on each of the three blogs (Alison doesn’t blog, but will be commenting everywhere). When Kimbofo or Trevor post reviews on their blogs, I will highlight some excerpts here with links to their full reviews. Of course, all comments are welcome, both here and on Kim and Trevor’s blogs. And sometime about Nov. 3 or 4 — some days in advance of the Nov. 8 Giller announcement, for sure — we will reveal this year’s Shadow Jury choice when visitors’ choices will also be most welcome.
So please join us by contributing your thoughts. The Giller Prize has become an internationally-recognized award — we on the Shadow Jury would like to reflect that here. We love reading and writing about the books but we love it even more when there are others on the journey so please join us. There is no entrance bar at all — if you like or dislike a book, just say so.