CBC Literary Prizes

Dilettante by Richard Joseph

Richard Joseph has made the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist for Dilletante.

2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist

Richard Joseph is a writer, journalist and copywriter based in Montreal. (Liam McInnes/The Western Gazette)

Richard Joseph has made the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist for Dilettante.

The winner will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and will have their work published by CBC Books.

Four finalists will receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and will have their work published by CBC Books.

The shortlist will be announced on Sept. 24. The winner will be announced on Oct. 1.

About Richard

Richard Joseph is a writer from Chennai, India. He is currently a master's student in English at McGill University and he holds a BA in English literature and creative writing from Western University. His writing has appeared in the Globe and Mail, the Western Gazette and the Saint and Occasus. He was a finalist for PEN Canada's 2020 New Voices Award and he was longlisted for the 2020 CBC Short Story Prize. He is currently working on his first novel, The Pythia, which explores the life of a young journalist in Toronto.

Entry in five-ish words

"The joys of short-lived obsessions."

The story's source of inspiration

"I often feel a rush of covetousness when I see a particularly impressive skill, whether it's someone playing an instrument beautifully, speaking a second language or cooking an incredible meal. Now, in the age of the internet, it's easier than ever to learn these skills, but how many of us actually commit? More interesting, to me, is the journey there, the frustrations and roadblocks. I write in the hope that I'm not the only one with a personal graveyard of half-acquired abilities."

First lines

It began, I think, with a handwritten proof of a Walt Whitman poem. I barely paid attention to the actual content of the poem, but immediately I was struck by the glorious penmanship: the high loops of his "h," the elaborate flourishes on his "y," the easy coalescence of the cursive vowels, all laid out with the Gothic intricacy of a wrought-iron gate. The extravagance of it all was deeply appealing, and I felt a familiar pang of acquisitiveness.

"Oh God," said Norah, when I told her I had ordered a fountain pen and a new notebook. "Is this going to be one of those things?"

The last time, it was knitting. After weeks of scouring online stores for a cable-knit sweater, I got fed up and decided it would be cheaper and easier to just make one, an idea which would make any knitter worth their salt burst out laughing. 

About the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize

The winner of the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, have their work published on CBC Books and attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity. Four finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and have their work published on CBC Books.

The 2021 CBC Short Story Prize is currently open for submissions. The 2021 CBC Nonfiction Prize will open in January. The 2021 CBC Poetry Prize will open in April.

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