The 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize Longlist

The 2010 Scoitabank Giller Prize Longlist

David Bergen – The Matter With Morris

Douglas Coupland – Player One

Michael Helm – Cities of Refuge

Alexander MacLeod – Light Lifting

Avner Mandelman – The Debba

Tom Rachman – The Imperfectionists

Sarah Selecky – This Cake Is For The Party

Johanna Skibsrud – The Sentimentalists

Cordelia Strube – Lemon

Joan Thomas – Curiosity

Jane Urquhart – Sanctuary Line

Dianne Warren – Cool Water

Kathleen Winter – Annabel

The Scotiabank Giller Prize is one of the biggest literary events on the Canadian cultural scene. Much can be said about the Giller prize: it tends to be Toronto-centric, established writers are often long- or short-listed simply because it is “their turn”, the lists are often dominated by authors from the Bertelsmann group of publishers, and, as with almost any award, the best book doesn’t always win. But, perhaps more important than any of these common criticisms, the Giller Prize shines a spotlight on CanLit in the same way the big film festivals shine a spotlight on independent cinema.

In 1994 Jack Rabinovitch established the award as a tribute to his late wife Doris Giller, former literary editor of the powerhouse newspaper The Toronto Star. Almost from the outset The Giller Prize established itself as one of the premier literary awards in the country. Its winners have included icons such as Margaret Atwood, Mordecai Richler, Michael Ondaatje, Alice Munro, and David Adams Richards but has also rewarded great books by relatively unknown or obscure writers like Bonnie Burnard, Vincent Lam, and, relatively unknown in literary circles, Linden MacIntyre. Through the long-lists, short-lists, and winners, the reading public is exposed to amazing literature that they may otherwise might not see.

Part of what I like about the Scotiabank Giller Prize is the pomp and circumstance that surrounds it. The night of the actual award is something that rivals any other Canadian awards show. Other Canadian literary awards should take note of this. The Governor-General’s Literary Awards, arguably the most historically significant literary award, would benefit greatly from this format. I have always found the awarding of the GGs somewhat anti-climatic. The GGs consist of 14 different awards, 7 in each official language. This could easily translate into a black-tie awards show event. Only time will tell if they take my suggestion.

So, what can be said of this years long-list? I am not surprised by the inclusion of Jane Urquhart’s and David Bergen’s books but am surprised by the exclusion of Yann Martel; this is simply because of what I mentioned earlier with the “their turn” mentality that sometimes comes out when prominent authors release a new title. That being said, a prominent writer on this year’s list, Douglas Coupland, was a shocker to me. While he is a masterful writer, Coupland seems to rarely get any kind of recognition from the major Canadian accolades (this is his second title on a long-list). His novel, Player One, is a novelization of Coupland’s CBC Massey Lecture. Having read a few pages of this book once the list was released I am very confident in saying that this is a serious contender. Other novels that I am not surprised to see on this list include Kathleen Winter’s Annabel, Joan Thomas’ Curiosity, and Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists. All of these novels have had a lot of positive critical attention and will be strong contenders in the coming months.

Ultimately I am looking forward to collecting these novels and eventually reading them all. There are very few occasions that a Giller nominated book has disappointed; a Giller winner has never failed to be a great book. I foresee this years awards night being as unpredictable as any other. Remember 2008 when everyone was positive that Rawi Hage would be taking home the prize and Joseph Boyden’s name was pulled from the envelope or in 2007 when Elizabeth Hay took down the powerhouses Michael Ondaatje and the first two-time winner M.G. Vassanji? Anything can happen. Of course I have to put in my two-cents on who will be on the short-list. Here are my five picks:

Douglas Coupland – Player One

Avner Mandelman – The Debba

Sarah Selecky – This Cake Is For The Party

Joan Thomas – Curiosity

Kathleen Winter – Annabel

Every year Jack Rabinovitch reminds the crowd that for the price of a good dinner in Toronto you can buy all five books on the short-list. Take his advice. Eat at home on November 9th and buy these five books.

Disagree with my picks? Go to and make yours.

One response

  1. Really? You must have read The Debba, I assume…here’s a review:

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