Canadian short fiction is having a very good year. Hot on the heels of Alice Munro’s Nobel win, Lynn Coady’s short story collection Hellgoing won Canada’s biggest prize for fiction, the C$50,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Coady thanked her Toronto-based publisher, House of Anansi Press. The company is also celebrating the win, which breaks what Coady said has sometimes been called “the Anansi curse.” This book was the 13th time that an Anansi book was shortlisted for the Giller, but until last night’s gala in Toronto, none of its books had won the prize.
“l’m so glad that my book could be the one to break the curse, as it was once called,” said Coady. “It’s one of Canada’s last big independent publishers and they do such great work, so I’m just thrilled that they are going to be sharing in this award.”
“It’s great news for Anansi and great news for Lynn,” said Anansi president and publisher Sarah MacLachlan. The company had also published Coady’s novel The Antagonist, which was shortlisted for the prize in 2011. This year, Anansi had two authors to root for among the finalists because it was also the publisher for the novel Caught by Lisa Moore, who has been on the Giller shortlist twice before and whose novel February was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize.
A Giller win has a big effect on sales that publishers have to be prepared for, and MacLachlan said an order for an additional 50,000 copies has been ready for the printers tomorrow. According to figures from BookNet Canada, the average spike in sales after a Giller win is 543%.
Coady’s collection of eight short stories draws from some previously published stories going back as far as 2000 with half of the stories being new stories published in Hellgoing for the first time.
This year’s jury — Margaret Atwood, 2011 Giller winner Esi Edugyan and American author Jonathan Lethem — selected a longlist, shortlist of five books and the eventual winner from 147 submissions. In their citation, they praised Coady’s “vivid and iconoclastic language, which brims with keen and sympathetic wit. Whether from the perspective of a writer flailing in the social atmosphere of a professional conference, or a woman trying to extend forgiveness to a lover’s abusive father, Coady offers a worldview full of mournful humour, ready indignation and vertiginous possibility; the reader feels in the presence of life itself.”
Coady said that, so far, the book does not have a publisher in the U.S.
She is currently studying writing for television at the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto.
HarperCollins Canada also had two books on the shortlist, Dennis Bock’s novel Going Home Again and Dan Vyleta’s novel The Crooked Maid. The other shortlisted title was Craig Davidson’s novel Cataract City, published by Doubleday Canada, a division of Random House of Canada. Each of the finalists receives $5,000.
Coady thanked the Scotiabank Giller Prize organizers, particularly Jack Rabinovitch and his daughter Elana, “for giving us this incredible, glamorous celebration of Canadian literature for 20 years…It 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.” The gala is broadcast nationally on CBC television. According to the network, last year’s broadcast was watched by 347,000 people. Jack Rabinovitch founded the award 20 years ago in honor of his late wife literary journalist Doris Giller.