Giller finalist: Sean Michaels reads from his nominated novel, US Conductors

Sean Michaels made the Giller shortlist with his debut novel US Conductors, based on the life of the Russian-born inventor of the Theremin, a strange musical instrument.

Russian-born Lev Thermen, inventor of strange musical instrument, is subject of shortlisted novel

Sean Michaels, Giller prize finalist, reads from his nominated novel, Us Conductors and describes how he learned he was shortlisted for the literary prize. 1:23

Sean Michaels is a finalist for the 2014 Scotiabank Giller prize for his novel US Conductors.

The Giller is Canada's richest book prize, with a cheque for $100,000 awarded to the winner.

His work of fiction is based on the life LevThermen, the Russian-born inventor of the Theremin, an electronic musical instrument that is played without direct physical contact and produces an eerie sound. Two metal antennas sense the position of the musician's hands. 

Michaels, who is also a music critic and blogger, says he was drawn to write about the Theremin because it's been so misunderstood. In his novel, Michaels explores Thermin's life as he returned from the US to the Soviet Union under Stalin.

The Giller jury said, "He succeeds at one of the hardest things a writer can do: he makes music seem to sing from the pages of a novel."

Michaels, who was born in Scotland in 1982 and raised in Ottawa, recalls his reaction when he heard he'd made the Giller shortlist for his debut novel.  "I think I felt the desire to shout without actually shouting," he said. "It feels like you're just suddenly lucky."

Michaels reads from his nominated work, US Conductors in the above video.

This year's Scotiabank Giller prize winner will be revealed at a televised gala hosted by Rick Mercer on Monday in Toronto.

Watch the broadcast at 9 p.m. (10 p.m. AT /10:30 NT) on CBC Television and livestreamed on CBC Books


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