Wednesday, 27 October 2010
International Festival of Authors - Governor General's Literary Award Finalists Readings (Oct. 25th at the Fleck Dance Theater) by Caitlin Galway
Since its beginnings in 1937, the Governor General’s Award has become one of Canada’s most highly regarded, widely coveted prizes - and this year’s finalists have been announced. Author Kate Pullinger, regal in glitzy black and platinum waves, hosts an evening honouring those shortlisted for the achievement. Pullinger herself is the most recent recipient of the Governor General’s Award for Literature, for her novel The Mistress of Nothing (McArthur & Company, 2009)(click).
The first nominee to be spotlighted is Sandra Birdsell, Canadian novelist and short story writer. Birdsell’s credits include the Gerald Lampert Award, the Marian Engel Award, and previous inclusions on the GGA’s shortlist. She reads tonight from her newly nominated novel Waiting for Joe (Random House of Canada, 2010)(click), an often lyrical yet reality-bitten depiction of the recession. The story presents us with the uncertain discourse of financial crisis, with lives sagging like tired skin below the eyes. Much like Waiting for Godot, which Birdsell seems clearly to be referencing, there is a light being cast on desperation, on patience and truth. But Birdsell’s is a light of a different sort; here, it is a flat, drugstore phosphorescence.
Emma Donoghue is an Irish-born novelist, playwright, and literary historian, and winner of the Stonewall Book Award, and Ferro-Grumley Award for Lesbian Fiction. In her latest novel, Room (HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2010)(click), she has created a locked world within a world. She reads to the audience in an animated mock-child’s voice, guiding us through a day in the life of five-year-old Jack. Our curious narrator undertakes the task of entertaining himself, his mother’s dopey, temporary catatonia leaving her coherence an ephemeral veil. He has that day been presented, for the first time, with the notion that there are planes of existence outside of the small room wherein he and his mother live in isolation. Jack’s one window into ‘Outside’ has never been more than channels on ‘T.V.’, though he believes these projections are no more than orchestrations of fantasy.
Ojibway playwright, author, and journalist Drew Hayden Taylor, unable to attend the event, has asked that previous Governor General’s Award winner Thomas King read from Motorcycles & Sweetgrass (Knopf Canada, 2010)(click) in his stead. The selected passages focus on the clear-water vantage point of a watchful sunfish. There is a pitch-perfect blend of the lyrically sage and the comedic. A weaving of tender, earthy mythology. A heartfelt nod to both the present and the past.
Dianne Warren then reads a segment titled ‘Cocktails’ from her novel Cool Water (Harpercollins Canada, 2010)(click), a portrait of a small, prairie desert town. Warren has won such awards as the Marian Engel Award, and her play Serpent in the Night Sky was shortlisted for the 1992 Governor General’s Award for Drama. In ‘Cocktails’, Willard, who runs a drive-in movie theatre with his widowed sister-in-law, has come home to their shared bungalow to find her preened and waiting, a warm roast in the oven. The unkempt bachelor falls into a looping internal neurosis as he shares a drink with the woman he secretly loves, all the while fearing that she is, at any moment, going to tell him that she’s leaving forever.
Our last finalist is Kathleen Winter, winner of the Winterset Award and Metcalfe-Rooke Award for her debut short story collection boYs (Biblioasis, 2007)(click). Her nominated title tonight, Annabel (House of Anansi, 2010)(click), is also shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and the Roger Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. The novel depicts the frustrations of a young hermaphrodite in 1960s Labrador being raised as a boy named Wayne. In a powder-soft voice, Winter glides us through his awkward stroll through a shopping mall. The appraisal of clothing, of make-up, the way women’s shoes aren’t that unlike those of men. We hear his shy exploration of the other, secret person he feels inside of himself, a female reflection named Annabel.
*Note - All photos supplied by readings.org.(click)