The Giller Prize Show

Did you catch the Giller Prize show on the CBC last Monday? The Scotiabank Giller prize is awarded each year for the novel or collection of short stories judged the best Canadian fiction of the year. Toronto businessman Jack Rabinovitch established the award in 1994 to commemorate his wife, literary editor Doris Giller. Scotiabank joined as sponsor in 2005. The winner receives $100,000, one of the richest literary purses for English language writing. Nominees receive $10,000 each. This year, 32-year-old Sean Michaels from Montreal was the winner with his debut novel, Us Conductors. His novel relates the fictionalized life of Lev Termen, a Russian-American inventor and musician who devised the theremin, a musical instrument which gives sound to electrical currents in the human body and which was popular in the 1920s. There were five other nominees, all well-established writers, some major prize-winners:

Frances Itani for Tell
Padma Viswanathan for The Ever After of Ashwin Rao
Heather O’Neill
for The Girl Who was Saturday Night
David Bezmozgis for The Betrayers
and Marion Toews for All My Puny Sorrows

The three-person jury chose what they considered a particularly strong panel of nominees from over 161 entries this year.

Martin Knelman, in the Toronto Star, called the award show “the most deliriously enjoyable televised Giller night ever, with a bubbly and spunky tone that kept the audience in a constant state of bliss.” He praised host Rick Mercer for his understated handling of what he called “the elephant-in-the-room matter of Jian Ghomeshi, former host of the event,” and for his high-speed humour including the claim that “the guest list provided proof that there was no such thing as ‘the downtown Toronto elite.’”

I caught the show on my computer, live streamed on CBC Books, with an accompanying live chat. This was a novel experience for me and totally delightful. Comments posted by book lovers from across the country attest to the enthusiasm of Canadian readers and their appreciation of how the CBC contributes to promoting Canadian literature. Consider the following:

“Giller prize nominees all so adorably awkward.”

“This Giller Prize feed is one of the greatest twitter things to ever happen in my life. Thank you fellow #booklovers #readers #writers.”

“Go Canada. Are you watching PM Harper?”

“Possibly the most awkwardly Canadian thing I have ever seen. In the best way.”

“Canada: The country where book award hash tags trend: #Giller Prize #love.”

“Funny, entertaining, classy and engaging.”

“#Giller Prize CBC class act show!”

“OMG @Miriam Toews reading AMPS. I’m teary and goose bumpy.”

“Can we please talk about how cool the #Giller Prize is?”

“My must read book list is growing tonight.”

“And a classical pianist playing Chopin? Eat your heart out Oscars.”

“I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed an awards show this much!”

“@cbcbooks. No idea! They are all so deserving! a great night for Can Lit. I love that in Canada we treat our authors like rock stars.”

For a list of all Giller prize winners and the nominees each year since 1994, check out Wikipedia on the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Notwithstanding the demise of distribution houses and the fact that writing as a profession is not particularly remunerative, there is no shortage of talented Canadian writers. Thanks to Jack Rabinovitch for establishing the Giller prize, and for insisting that CBC host the Giller Prize Show. Promoting Canadian literature is precisely what the CBC should be doing. Great show everyone!!!! We are very proud of you. 


One comment

  1. Beth

    How lovely, Marion. (I) did not see the show but have been researching and listening to theremins, plus placing a hold on Us Conductors at the Toronto Public Library. Hope you are enjoying Vancouver.


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