November 11th, 2015

Gillers are now!

And not last night, as I erroneously said in my previous post. I am very excited for the live-stream, starting in a few minutes unless I or the CBC somehow screws it up…

First commercial break: I do not understand any of the jokes in the opening monologue, but always happy to see Rick Mercer again. The room looks glamorous but I don’t spot anyone I know yet. The mini-interviews with Rick and the authors take place in the Halifax public library this year and are very mini–maybe there’s more later [edit: there wasn’t]. Buffy Saint Marie does Andre Alexis’s *Fifteen Dogs* intro–a better choice of presenter than usual, though she still sounds very scripted. The mini-movie that accompanies Alexis’s reading is awesome, because it’s full of dogs–much more engaging than any I’ve seen in previous years. Coming up next: Samuel Archibald’s *Arvida*.

Second commercial break: A ballet-dancer presents *Arvida*, but it turns out to make more sense than it sounds because the dancer grew up in Arvida (the town the book is set in) and so he can vouch for its accurate vibe. He also sounds very scripted but is pretty enthusiastic (also handsome). The mini-movie, this time with archival footage from the town back in the day, is again pretty good–the GIllers have really upped their mini-movie game. Archibald’s tiny speech is for his daughters and partly in French, very sweet. He’s shown in a video clip picking a question from a hat–is this going to be a reoccuring feature throughout the show?? How come Andre didn’t get to do one? Or did I miss it?

Third commercial break: Rachel Cusk’s outline is introduced by a “science-fiction actor” (not a thing) and her mini-movie is just shots of people doing the things being described in the reading, a bit boring and on the nose–did Cusk draw the short straw? Her mini-speech is about how grateful she is to have hung out with the other nominees though, which is an excellent thing to say. Then Mercer does a “comic” bit that he did last year, alleging he’s written a memoir about his interactions with Canadian politicians but needs help with the metaphors, to coax the nominees into playing a mad-libs type game. It’s really silly and not funny. An opera singer introduces Heather O’Neill’s *Daydreams of Angels*, which is still not a logical choice but she does have a wonderful presentation style. The mini-movie for O’Neill’s book is really good, sparkly and simple. Her question from the hat is from Patrick DeWitt and her answer is funny.

Forth commercial break: The judges are introduced but not invited to the stage or allowed to speak–they just stand in a clump in the audience and then sit back down. That seems shameful considering how hard they worked. Pleased to hear Alex MacLeod get a big round of applause–everyone loves that guy–but they all deserve that and much more. The presenter for Anakana Schofield’s *Martin John* is the director of TIFF, which makes even less sense than most of the presenters, but he is the only one who sounds like he’s speaking extemporaneously, from a genuine sense of respect for the book. The mini-movie is fine, I like the public transit scenes. AK looks fantastic in her flow purple dress and her mini-speech is sweet. Next up: the winner!!!

Fifth commercial break: There was no speech from Jack Rabinovich this year, or from any of the bank guys. There was a brief shuffle over the envelope and who got to read it–I was just asking Mark when someone was going to say that for the price of a meal out in Toronto, you could buy all the shortlisted books when he shushed me–the envelope was open!!!

*Fifteen Dogs* won. Alexis gave a dignified but sweet speech and then it was all over. As the winner was announced I yelled, “I am shocked!” because I genuinely loved Anakana Schofield’s *Martin John* enough to be blind to the possibility of any other book winning. Which is a pretty stupid position for someone who has not read three out of five of the nominated books, and who understands that other people, including lit juries, have agency and different subjectivities from her.

Schofield posted some lovely things about being happy for Alexis on social media and others in the community seem pretty thrilled, too, so I’m going to try to take that to the bank. I’m less dejected than I was last night (hence the delayed posting)–really, so many great books got celebrated, a bunch of deserving authors got money and a fancy dinner and some well-deserved attention, and because of who the jury is I’m sure *15 Dogs* is a great book, though I probably still won’t read it…or perhaps I will. It was an interesting couple months running up to this event, and an interesting event too. I should be feeling lucky that my country celebrates authors like this, and mainly I do…but I was so sure I was right!!

 

April 19th, 2014

Back(ish): *Once* play, poem repost, famous friends

Wow, I’ve never had a blog lull like this one before–and I hope to be somewhat back in the saddle as of now. The break was brought on by the insane busyness that I’m starting to think is just a part of adult life. Sometimes it’s a bit less, sometimes a bit more, but grownups who are lucky enough to have friends and family and a way of earning a living are just going to always be busy. We were in the “a bit more” side of things for all of 2014 so far, due to work stuff and (cough) trying to finish my book, but I’m heading into two weeks of vacation starting…sometime this week, and while the book is still a foot, it’s very close to done for this round. So I’m trying to do a bit more from the other categories of life, like blogging.

The other reason you haven’t heard much from me here is that I was taking my own advice not to take blogging as duty, since no one really cares that much and blog posts written out of drudgery are as unfun to read as they are to write. I haven’t had much that felt like it needed reporting, other than rants about people who are rude on the subway and in grocery stores, so I haven’t posted.

During my silence, a few interesting things have crept in, so please allow me to summarize:

–my poem Dead Boyfriend Disco got posted in a “from the archives” dealie on the echolocation blog. The poem appeared in their print journal way back in 2006, and still stands as my only published poem, as it is likely to remain. This one lone poem though seems to get mentioned and reprinted every now and again, so perhaps it is all I really need.

–the *Once* play is coming to fruition–April 25 and 26 down in Saint Catharines, you’ll be able to see it as part of the Soil festival. Here’s the Facebook invitation if you’re interested, though I know it’s far for many….*Once* presented by Twitches and Itches. I have no idea what to expect–the playwright and company worked up the play from the stories, but i don’t know more than that. I’m terribly excited, and will be there on the Saturday night to see it in all it’s glory.

–my beloved friend Fred was on Jeopardy on Thursday and won!! I had been looking forward to this for months, but it was still thrilling to actually see her face on my friends’ giant screen tv. That link above is to the full show, and though I’ve spoiled the ending for you, it’s worth watching for the fun trivia but also to see the tiny moment between when she wins and when she *realizes she won*. The Jeopardy party guests at I was with were SCREAMING, it was so amazing (too bad about the formerly sleeping baby upstairs). And then she went back last night and she won again (there’s a video out there that I can’t seem to post, but it exists). This time I was at my parents house for the holiday/to do my taxes, and again with the screaming. Quoth my brother: “Fred is really improving my life. It’s so much fun to watch something on tv I actually care about.” He was totally right. She’s back again on Monday and I can’t wait–if you have the opportunity to watch, I strongly encourage it!!

–I went to a few truly outstanding book launches in the past few weeks, and for some I’ve already read the books–that’s how exciting the launches were. I’ll try to give a report on some of these in the weeks to come, but I’m out of practice in the blogging department. So for now, wonderful things you might want to read include: Career Limiting Moves by Zachariah Wells, Mothering in the Age of Neoliberalism edited by Melinda Vandenbeld Giles (a little out of my subject area, that one, but that’s what I get for being friends with an anthropologist), Yaw by Dani Couture, and The M Word edited by Kerry Clare. That last one is what I am immersed in currently and it is SO good it’s addictive.

So that’s what I’ve been up to–not too shabby, eh?

November 6th, 2013

Tonight! Plus a guest blog

I know I’ve already seen the film of How to Keep Your Day Job 1 million times (not actually, but close) but I’m still so excited to see it tonight at the Toronto Short Film Festival at the Carlton Theatre. It will be special to witness this little film’s Toronto public debut. Also, people have been telling me how they feel about the film and where they laughed or were surprised, but I’m so curious to actually *be there* in a room full of strangers, hearing and feeling them reacting to the events on screen. There’s also a lot of other wonderful-looking stuff on the bill tonight–can’t wait!

Oh, and I wrote a little blog post for the Compose Journal blog. It’s about the origins of the story of mine they published, Loneliness and, more interesting to me in the present tense, what happened after I wrote it.

Oh, and Lynn Coady won the Giller??!! The first time I have been truly thrilled by a Giller-winning book! I wish she could come be mayor of Toronto!

October 1st, 2012

What I’ve Been Up To

I was doing so well at the regular posting for a while there, but seem to have fallen off last week. Do I have excuses? Not really, but here’s what I was doing instead of blogging:

1) On Tuesday night, I went to the Bibliobash, where my fellow Biblioasis authors were reading. I was late, because of my evening class, and so missed all the actual readings, but still managed to a) get Alice Peterson’s excellent collection signed, purchase CP Boyko’s new one and c) chat up the authors. I meant to buy the new Chekov translation by David Helwig, but due to a miscommunication, didn’t–next time!

2) Following that, I had a migraine for 48 hours (unrelated…I think). For those familiar with migraines, mine are not the worst kind–some people see auras, throw up, and basically have to be alone in a silent dark room until things improve. My migraines are usually of the sort I can function through, albeit not cheerfully. The worst-case scenario is fairly serious pain, shaking hands, nausea, and an inability to concentrate, which is where we were on Wednesday, a day on which I slept for close to 16 hours. It was sort of glorious, in a way. The worst of the pain had abated by evening, but it took another day to shake it completely.

3) On the weekend, we went to stay in a fancy hotel, a treat given to us as a very lovely wedding gift. Since the hotel was in Toronto, we figured we didn’t need to bother with tourism or posh restaurants, so we spent the whole time in the hotel. Swam in the pool, examined the fancy piano bar, then ordered pizza and watched 4 hours of televisions–we don’t have TV at home, and the lost art of channel surfing is sorely missed. The best part was re-watching *Edward Scissorhands* after an interval of 20 years. It’s still so gorgeous and moving, but the ending???? SPOILER ALERT: Winona Ryder decides their love is too difficult so she leaves Edward all alone in his house at the top of the hill. Then she returns to her normal surburban life for FIFTY MORE YEARS, with only a slight tinge of regret. Why is she not a really horrible person??? Why????? Ahem.

4) Throughout all of this, I was reading Pasha Malla’s People Park, an extremely overwhelming experience. Were it not for my abiding love of Malla’s first book, I would not have touched *People Park*–500-page alternative realities are not my friends, normally. Just a personal preference, not a judgement. So perhaps it was for lack of context that I was so overwhelmed by People Park–so wildly ambitious, so diverse and imaginative, so *weird.* I don’t know if it was brilliant or terrible or what. I’m leaning towards brilliant, but I would really like to talk this through with someone, only no one I know has read it yet. I tried reviews online, but seem to stick with effusions or excoriations without much explanation or examples. I know, I know, reviews aren’t tutorials, but you’d think someone could help a girl out here. Did *you* read People Park? Any thoughts?

November 27th, 2011

Things Happening

So I went out west to do a bunch of readings and had an amazing time–but I also was in 4 timezones in 4 days, and am now very tired. So this recap will be brief–but with links elsewhere, and a few pictures.

Before I left, the November Quill and Quire went online, including that review of *The Big Dream*. Also the December print edition of Q&Q came out, and if you should read it you might see a gang interview on the short story with me, Jessica Westhead, D. W. Wilson, Alexander MacLeod, and Michael Christie. You should read that interview, because it’s definitely interesting, but you should also take a look at the picture of us (sadly minus the east-coast dwelling Mr. MacLeod) looking confused and friendly, as your garden variety short-story writer often does. (Bonus: there’s an extra picture in the table of contents).

Then on Sunday the Winnipeg Free Press ran a short interview with me by Ariel Gordon, in advance of my appearance there with Ray Robertson on Thursday. But before that, Calgary and Vancouver. Here are some highlights:

Ray reading from his essay collection "Why Not?" at Pages on Kensington in Calgary.

A veritable fiesta of breakfast cereal at my hosts' home in Calgary.

Gorgeous weather in Vancouver.

Me, baffled in Vancouver because I couldn't find the Ocean--where are you, Ocean?

Cathy Stonehouse reading at the Incite series in Vancouver.

Post-reading socializing with awesome friends in Winnipeg.

And home again, home again, jiggety-jig (what is that line from, anyway?)

November 12th, 2011

Rose-coloured Reviews the Giller Prize Show 2011

To watch last year’s Giller show, Mark and I had to head for someone else’s house, but this year through the power of live-streaming, we could watch at home and keep the kitten company. I have no idea if CTV had a live-streaming version of the Gillers, too, but the CBC one was hitchless–no hiccups or buffering issues. Lots (and lots) of commercials, but I guess that was the point.

So there we were with our smartpop, our wine, our kitten going insane under the desk, watching the camera roll over the vast and glittering crowd at the Four Seasons up to…Jian Ghomeshi?? Hooray, I love that guy. He was the host at the Writers’ Trust Awards the year I was a presenter, and he did a lovely, low-key, and charming job of it. What a shock to find that at the Gillers, right off the bat, Ghomeshi was unfunny!

Worse, as the show wore on, he seemed to be rolling his eyes at his own jokes. He’d kind of grimace, look down at his notes, make the joke quickly, and then say, “C’mon, c’mon, that’s funny, right?” It was all a lot more Fozzie-Bear-ish than I was expecting.

But that was the cumulative effect of the entire show–at the beginning he just seemed a little stiff as he introduced Lang Lang, who played something lovely on the piano and was, unique among the men I saw on the telecast, wearing an open-collared shirt.

The next segment was a bit from the judges, talking about how hard it was to read so many (140+) nominated books. One of the judges (I don’t know who any of them were except Annabel Lyon–always nice to see her) said, “All of the books had something about them that made them worthy of the prize,” or something along those lines. “They’re talking about my book!” I squealed. (Full disclosure: I have no idea if *The Big Dream* was put forward for the Giller, I just know that–technically–it was eligible.)

Like last year’s event, things moved along at a good clip, and as I recall after that we got pretty much directly into the book presentations. As with last year’s, the presentaters were a random assortment of vaguely famous non-book-related people. The first one, “international celebrity” Lisa Ray was no one I’d heard of and her telepromtation delivery of the introduction to David Bezmozgis’ novel did not make me want to investigate further. Nelly Furtado, Robbie Robertson, and that guy from Hedley did slightly better jobs, but still–who cares? I seriously doubt anyone who was not going to watch the show would see an advert and say, “Hey, Nelly Furtado is not singing, but is speaking for 120 seconds? I’m so there.” As for me, who was looking forward to the show, there’s pretty much no one whose literary opinion I respect less than the Hedley guy’s, and I consider myself *un*curmudgeonly among litsy types–why not cater to your audience?

Weirdly, the only presenter who did such a good job that I believe (a) that he was speaking extemporaneously, and (b) that he had read the book, was Ron MacLean introducing *The Antagonist* by Lynn Coady. Mark explained that he is some sort of hockey commentator, and he certainly spoke bomastically, but also with genuine enthuasiasm for the book and its author, whom he address directly, as “Lynn”–he also said he was going to call her parents and congratulate them. If all the presentors had been like that, I could’ve forgiven their literary irrelevance.

I should admit that Michael Ondaatje’s book *The Cat’s Table* was introduced last and, though I genuinely liked the excerpt in the New Yorker, by that point I was not paying attention. I don’t even know who introduced it. Part of the problem was that the kitten had become increasingly destructive, flipping a folder off the desk and sending a plume of papers into the air, followed by partially eating a little rubber thing that could not be subsequently identified. But also, there was the fact that I was freaking bored.

The best parts, as last year, were the personal interviews with the authors. This year’s however had shucked off the lame invasive aspects–showing the writers with their partners and kids–in favour of actually focussing on the books, and writing in general. They had also left off the syrupy natural settings (strolling beside a river, anyone?) in favour of a really nice, book-lined studio, the same one for all six. The questions were interesting if not overly intellectual, and the editor kept in only the bits where the authors sounded thoughtful and smart. I liked last year’s pieces very much, but these were far better–weirdly, making the setup less personal allowed the authors’ personalities to come through far better. I was especially impressed with what Coady said about what the reader owes the book (nothing) and what Zsuzsi Gardner said about why she writes (to comment on the world). I also liked that the writerly questions were folded in with the life ones, so that no one was stuck standing in front of a white wall just after the commercials, talking about what is their muse. Really well-done segments, all six (fine, I didn’t really watch Ondaatje’s–the cat was trying to dig through the floor).

I said it last year and I’ll say it again–why are there no readings at the Gillers? The Oscars show clips, the Tonys show song-and-dance numbers, the Grammys have songs, the Gillers have…that Hedley guy reading the back cover bumpf. These are supposed to be our country’s best crafters of words–how come some speech-writer is crafting everything that’s said in the awards presentation? And if the worry is that the authors themselves would be too nervous and unprofessional for a CBC telecast, one could certainly hire actors to read passages–they’d be cheaper than Robbie Robertson, I’m guessing. Although I vastly prefer to see how a writer reads his/her own work, and anyway, this year the writers didn’t even get to stand up on tv (except the winner) and I wanted to see what they were wearing.

And while I’m ranting, with all the serious, respected, professional criticism and reviews that has been written about these 6 books, why was the only quotation in the broadcast of Nelly Furtado’s tweet that she was “consumed” by *Half-Blood Blues*?? WHO ARE THEY TRYING TO APPEAL TO???

Deep breath. Esi Edugyan won. I’ve only read Better Living through Plastic Explosives and The Antagonist (and loved both) but Mark read *Half-Blood Blues* and assured me it was strong novel and a worthwhile winner…though he, like me, was pulling for Coady’s novel. And Edugyan gave a calm, sweet speech and also is absolutely stunning, so it was pleasant to watch her (though for some reason I STILL couldn’t see what she was wearing).

So though we were happy enough with the outcome and were glad these 6 books were celebrated, I found the broadcast of the Gillers extremely lame and unrepresentative of the glorious books it was supposed to be showcasing. And there were *so many* commercials. I haven’t watched broadcast TV with any kind of regularity in nearly a decade, and almost never with my partner, and it turns out there is a strange kind of silence that comes the first time you watch a yeast-infection-treatment advert together…which was probably the most memorable part of the experience.

November 2nd, 2011

A Canadian Affair

I think most Canadian lit folk are familiar with Salty Ink, Chad Pelley’s outstanding blog about literary endeavours on Canada’s Atlantic Coast. Though I am attempting to marry my way to Atlantic Canadian status, in the meantime I am very honoured to be Salty Ink’s first “Canadian Affair,” which means I got to do a cool interview with Chad, even though I’m from boring Ontario. Awesome!

July 11th, 2011

Hello, Canada!!

Hey guys, I’m back. I went to England for 11 days of mainly awesomeness and a little bit of rain and projectile vomiting. I’m planning a massive post on the subject (Rose-colour Reviews England) but that will take some time, so I just wanted to check in and say hi!

Also wanted to let you all know that I did a guest post at the wonderful site Canadian Bookshelf all about my new book, in case you are interested.

And I have a reading coming up on August 8 to launch the summer fiction issue of Fiddlehead (if you follow that link, you can also get a sneak peak at a few of the stories in the journal, including mine. If you don’t make it to every or any reading of mine well, that’s understandable, but I urge you to consider this one, as I’ll be reading with Mark Jarman and Leon Rooke, two of Canada’s very greatest short-story greats, and likely a couple other awesome people besides. And it’s at the Dora Keogh pub, a delightful place to be, so you can’t really go wrong.

Stay tuned for detailed descriptions about old buildings, scones, and rail service in jolly old England!

June 6th, 2011

What I’ve Been Doing Lately

Re-reading Big Two-Hearted River (parts I and II) A lot of things I loved when I was 14 don’t stand up so well these days, but the two stories that make up Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River” piece are solid gold and always will be. I love the gentleness of the force behind them–unhurried, unprentensious but so involving, so *intense*. And I have to say, I don’t think a lot of 14-year-old girls read much Hemingway, because if they did there’d be way more of us with giant crushes on Nick Adams. *swoon*

Watching the movie Bridesmaids. I am pretty sure I am the ideal target market for this film. I love comedy of all kinds–situational, standup, sketch, improv, whatever you’ve got. I used to be a huge SNL fan (back when I had a tv that worked) and I’ve been on board the Judd Apatow for a few years now. I am also a feminist who gets depressed when there’s a great comic film with all the ladies sitting quietly on the sidelines. And I’m slated to be a maid of honour this summer, and just last week got engaged myself. I saw the movie with the friend I’m mutual maids-of-honour with and a fistful of candy. No one could have been more primed to see this movie. So you have to take it with a grain of salt when I say I laughed. A lot! I didn’t actually know anything about Kristen Wiig, writer and star, before I saw this, but now I think she’s brilliant. The best part is when she wrestled with the giant cookie. The worst part is the protracted diarrhea joke–but even there, I sorta chuckled when I peeked out from behind my hands.

Playing Wii Sports Resort. Did I mention I got a Wii for my birthday? I am officially the luckiest person in the world! I love it all, but especially the sporty games for some reason. I am unexpectedly good at wakeboarding–if I tried to do that in real life I would be killed immediately–and swordplay. Total goofball fun–ie., exactly my thing.

Making spinach dip. There is no way to subdivide a package of frozen spinach, so you can only make this dip for a large party or gathering, so I spend most of life pining for it. Had a party this weekend and got the chance–hooray! For those who asked for the recipe, here you go:
1 package of frozen spinach
2 cups plain yoghurt or sour cream (I prefer yoghurt)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I skimp a little because I hate mayonnaise, but it actually blends in just fine)
1 can of water chestnuts, chopped
2 scallions or green onions, chopped
Thaw the spinach completely, then take it in your (clean) fists and wring all the water out of it. This is important and I’ve never been able to think of a better way–let me know if you do. Once it’s wrung out, mix all the ingredients together, seal it in a Tupperware and leave in the fridge overnight…or as long as you can stand without going and eating it with a spoon. You can serve it with vegetables or crackers or sturdy chips–whatever it is will just be a dip-delivery system.

Going to the Clark Blaise/Bharati Mukherjee launch Ok, I technically haven’t done that yet because it’s tonight, but then I *will* be doing it, and who knows when I’ll get around to writing another blog post? It should be a great night, two great writers at a lovely pub. You coming?

Not freaking out over reviewing my proofs for The Big Dream Nosireebob, absolutely not. I’m completely calm about it, as usual.

November 10th, 2010

Rose-coloured reviews the Giller Prize show

I have not watched an awards ceremony on tv since…whenever the first time Steve Martin hosted the Oscars (ah, 2001! thanks, wikipedia). I thought it would be fun because I like Steve Martin, but I hadn’t seen any of the films, got bored almost immediately and gave up. As a child, I liked watching the Tonys, but only for the musical numbers.

Historically, I’ve taken little interest in the Giller Prize, for similar reasons—I had rarely read any of the books, no musical numbers, not even Steve Martin. But this year a number of authors I admire—and books I love—appeared on the list, and it suddenly had something to do with me.

I have to say, good as the nominees are, I have not found following the Giller run-up especially rewarding. I liked seeing This Cake Is For the Party flash randomly on the tv while I ran on the treadmill at my gym, and Steven Beattie’s five reviews are always interesting, but the Giller pledge? A seemingly drunken conversation in the Globe about how everyone under 40 is an idiot? I think a lot of stuff went on on tv, which I don’t have except randomly at the gym, which might have been more entertaining.

But I did want to watch the ceremony, so Mark (cableless) found us a home containing the three necessary elements—a functioning tv, cable, and a resident who didn’t mind watching the ceremony.

I gotta say, the CTV/Bravo folks (I didn’t know they were the same until this event) worked really hard. The show was exactly one hour, unlike the long rambling Oscars. Of course, it helps that they had only one award to give away. Mark and I briefly fantasized that perhaps there would be equivalents of the Oscars’ sound and lighting awards—stuff for book design and editorial work—but of course there wasn’t. Maybe next year.

The host—a Michael J. Fox-ish news anchor who was very charming but who made such intense constant eye contact with the camera his pupils seemed dialated—kept things moving at a good clip. Each book was introduced by a famous person who I had never seen in the flesh before, so I kept exclaiming “That’s what Anne Murray/Barbara Amiel Black/Jim Cuddy looks like?” The famous folks were non-literary except for one past winner, but all did admirable teleprompted jobs describing plot and character. Then there was a mini-movie about each author, showing them strolling around town with their partners and kids and talking about writing. Intercut with that was interviews with the judges, who described what was awesome about the book.

I’m not sure if I should admit this, but I really liked the personal stuff. Most of it had nothing to do with the books, but it was all very sweet and interesting. One relevant bit I especially liked how David Bergen’s university-student son described how he tried to challenge his dad with his philosophical readings, and that had ended up in the book. Some of it—especially the shots of each writer writing—was lame-o, but on the whole pretty tasteful.

After the little movie, the author was called to the stage. I was confused by this—were they going to give a reading?—but no, they were just given little leatherbound books with the Giller rose on them (what were they?), embraced by the presenter, and sent back to their seats. I guess it was a chance to show off their party cloths (wow, everyone looked good—how does a writer know where to buy and how to wear an evening gown? Does the Giller committee have people to help with that?)

I was surprised that there was so much talk about the books, but no readings. I had thought that’s what the authors were going up there for, or perhaps the presenters would do it, but no. Surely the books are the point of it all, and these talented folks’ actual prose would be much more interesting than the back-flap-chat summaries offered instead. I wonder why no readings…? Especially when so much time was lavished before and after commercials on showing the authors standing against a white screen, answering weird questions very badly. Almost all the clips involved them saying the questions were hard or impossible to answer, and that’s what was kept *in*. I wonder what they cut??

In truth, it wasn’t a very literary evening, even though the host kept exhorting viewers—with increasing anxiety, I felt—to read the books. It was really a sales-y style they used, mentioning the Giller effect and actually showing percentages of how much sales of past winners had increased with the win. I’m not sure what the point of that was, but if I was Linden McIntyre, I’d resent being called Mr. 710%, as he was last night. Isn’t it “The books sold so much because they’re awesome” not “The books are awesome because they sold so much”—right?

Those of us in the peanut gallery fell into decidedly non-literary behaviour, exclaiming over people’s clothing and what might be wrong with Barbara Amiel Black’s head (our hostess explained probably Botox). And then Johanna Skibsrud won, which I think was a big surprise to most, but a pleasant one. She was emotional, but still managed to give a good, clear, not-too-long speech. It was really worth the price of admission (well, we paid in Pirate cookies, but even more than that) to see Skibsrud’s sister crying with delight in the audience. That was lovely.

It was a pleasant evening and I’m glad I watched, though I don’t know that I’ll be in a desperate hurry to do so again. The emphasis on promoting Canadian authors in this show was a bit skewed—they’re only promoting five books. And the Giller pledge doesn’t make much sense and offends me in a way I can’t quite put a finger on—why do we have to promise? Can’t we put the books down if we get bored? And yes, I do think everyone should buy lots of Canadian books to keep our publishing industry going, but there was so much sales talk on this show, completely ignoring how much many people depend on the libraries systems, borrowing from friends, etc., and how that’s pretty good for the industry in its own way.

But then again, I don’t even know how to put on an evening dress, so I can’t really say.

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