Tomorrow the winner of one of my favourite book awards will be announced: the Scotiabank Giller Prize! Who are you rooting for? As usual, the choices are diverse and explore some unique themes. All five books seem well-deserving of their place on the shortlist and the ones I haven’t got to quite yet are definitely on my to-read list (a.k.a.: my own longlist). The winner will be announced live on CBC tomorrow (Tuesday, November 10th at 9 pm EST). For more info, visit: http://www.scotiabankgillerprize.ca/. All five books are currently in stock at Backbeat.
So as not to show favourites, in alphabetical order by the authors’ last names, the contenders are:
- Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis
An utterly convincing and moving look at the beauty and perils of consciousness.— I wonder, said Hermes, what it would be like if animals had human intelligence.
— I’ll wager a year’s servitude, answered Apollo, that animals – any animal you like – would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence.
And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto veterinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old ‘dog’ ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks.
André Alexis’s contemporary take on the apologue offers an utterly compelling and affecting look at the beauty and perils of human consciousness. By turns meditative and devastating, charming and strange, Fifteen Dogs shows you can teach an old genre new tricks.
- Arvida by Samuel Archibald
A twenty-five-thousand-copy bestseller in Quebec, Arvida, with its stories of innocent young girls and wild beasts, attempted murder and ritual mutilation, haunted houses and road trips heading nowhere, is unforgettable. Like a Proust-obsessed Cormac McCarthy, Samuel Archibald’s portrait of his hometown, a model town design by American industrialist Arthur Vining Davis, does for Quebec’s North what William Faulkner did for the South, and heralds an important new voice in world literature.
- Outline by Rachel Cusk
A woman writer goes to Athens in the height of summer to teach a writing course. Though her own circumstances remain indistinct, she becomes the audience to a chain of narratives, as the people she meets tell her one after another the stories of their lives.Beginning with the neighbouring passenger on the flight out and his tales of fast boats and failed marriages, the storytellers talk of their loves and ambitions and pains, their anxieties, their perceptions and daily lives. In the stifling heat and noise of the city the sequence of voice begins to weave a complex human tapestry. The more they talk the more elliptical their listener becomes, as she shapes and directs their accounts until certain themes begin to emerge: the experience of loss, the nature of family life, the difficulty of intimacy and the mystery of creativity itself.
Outline is a novel about writing and talking, about self-effacement and self-expression, about the desire to create and the human art of self-portraiture in which that desire finds its universal form.
- Daydreams of Angels by Heather O’Neill
The fantastic has always been at the edges of Heather O’Neill’s work. In her bestselling novels Lullabies for Little Criminals and The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, she transformed the shabbiest streets of Montreal with her beautiful, freewheeling metaphors. She described the smallest of things–a stray cat or a second-hand coat–with an intensity that made them otherworldly.In Daydreams of Angels, O’Neill’s first collection of short stories, she gives free reign to her imaginative gifts. In “The Ugly Ducklings,” generations of Nureyev clones live out their lives in a grand Soviet experiment. In “Dear Piglet,” a teenaged cult follower writes a letter to explain the motivation behind her crime. And in another tale, a grandmother reveals where babies come from: the beach, where young mothers-to-be hunt for infants in the surf. Each of these beguiling stories twists the beloved narratives of childhood–fairy tales, storybooks, Bible stories–to uncover the deepest truths of family life.
- Martin John by Anakana Schofield
Martin John is not keen on P words. He isolates P words from the newspapers into long lists. For you, so you know he’s kept busy, so you don’t have to worry he might be beside you or following you or thinking about your body parts. So you don’t have to worry about what else he has been thinking about.From Anakana Schofield, the brilliant and unconventional author of Malarky, comes a dark, humorous and uncomfortable novel circuiting through the minds, motivations, and preoccupations of a character many women have experienced, but few up until now, have understood quite so well. The result confirms Schofield as one of the bravest and most innovative authors at work in English today.