In her acceptance speech for the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Edmonton author Lynn Coady said that the event “makes me proud not just to be a Canadian writer but to be a Canadian, to live in a country where we treat our writers like movie stars." — which was a pretty good summary of last night's awards gala in Toronto, which aired live on CBC.
Canada's literati, including most of the prize's previous winners, were on hand with actors, musicians, politicians and business people to watch Coady take home $50,000 for excellence in Canadian fiction. The guest list included names like Michael Ondaatje, Bob Rae, Measha Brueggergosman and Gordon Pinsent, as well as the three members of this year's jury: Margaret Atwood, U.S. novelist Jonathan Lethem (who made the night's only "drunken stupor" joke) and the 2011 winner, Esi Edugyan.
Although the prize typically recognizes novels, Coady's book Hellgoing is a collection of eight short stories about characters who each go through a personal hell, like a nun who has to persuade a hospital-bound girl to stop starving herself to death — even though she's doing it out of a religious conviction. The win marks a second recent high honour for a Canadian short story writer following last month's awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Alice Munro.
Each of the authors of the five nominated books was introduced on stage by a different presenter, including George, who talked about Lisa Moore's literary adventure novel Caught. The book tells the story of David Slaney, a big-time pot dealer who escapes from jail and embarks on a cross-country journey to meet up with his partner. It's a story about consequences, said George, "which is why you should get your kids to read it." (Dennis Bock was introduced by Jennifer Podemski, Craig Davidson by Paul Haggis, Dan Vyleta by Shad and Coady by Wendy Crewson.)
The Giller Prize was founded 1994 by Jack Rabinovitch in honour of his late wife, Doris Giller, and celebrated its 20th anniversary last night.
Check out the gallery above for some highlights of the night.