…Hellgoing, Lynn Coady’s nine story collection.
While I have not spoken to my fellow Shadow Jurors, I would say we are surprised, perhaps even stunned. On our six book shortlist (including The Orenda) she finished fifth of six, beating Dennis Bock’s Going Home Again by a single point. The collection was fourth of five with Boyden not included — it edged Bock by two points on that ballot.
All three of us with blogs have reviewed Hellgoing — you can find Kim’s review here, Trevor’s here and mine here. None of us actively disliked the collection, but neither were we particularly impressed — the stories read just fine, but were not particularly memorable. What is interesting about that similarity of opinion is that Trevor is a genuine short story aficionado, Kim says she doesn’t like the genre (until she actually has to read a collection) and I am somewhere in-between (always feeling guilty that I don’t read more story collections). Three very different starting points, but we all had pretty much the same response.
This is a victory of significance for Canadian publisher House of Anansi and their new Astoria imprint. Introduced just this year, Astoria is devoted to short fiction with the promise of publishing at least three titles a year (Theodora Armstrong’s Clear Skies, No Wind, 100% Visibility and Peter Behrens’ Travelling Light were the other volumes in 2013). In a year where Canada’s queen of the short story, Alice Munro, won the Nobel Prize for Literature, Anansi has come up big with its decision to support a genre that many feel is deliberately overlooked by major publishers.
All book prize juries (including ours) develop their own personalities and I am not going to speculate on what lead the Real Jury to make this choice — anyone willing to do that in comments is more than welcome and I’ll certainly offer an opinion then.
When the original Shadow Jury started its deliberations 19 years ago, we did promise that if our selection did not win the Real Giller we would match the Prize (then $25,000, now $50,000), subject to funds being available. Ann-Marie MacDonald (Fall on Your Knees) chalked up our first debt in 1996 and Wayne Johnston (The Colony of Unrequited Dreams) became the second creditor in 1998. There have been a few others since and they are now joined by Joseph Boyden. Alas, for Shadow Giller winners who did not win the Real Giller, funds have never been available to enable us to make good on our debts. I have no desire to calculate what our total amount owing currently is.
For those who did get to watch the CBC broadcast, I think they did an excellent job — viewers were given a very good idea of what each book was about and what each author was trying to accomplish. From my point of view, it was the best Giller broadcast in memory.
That’s it for Giller 2013. I promise we will be back (and probably as far off the mark) again next year.