What book is on your night stand now?
There are a few. My current audiobook (Yes, they count; of course they count; why wouldn’t they?) is “The Sisters Brothers,” by Patrick deWitt. It was recommended by Lemony Snicket (through his representative, Daniel Handler), and I trust Mr. Snicket implicitly. (Or anyway, as implicitly as one can trust someone you have never met, and who may simply be a pen name of the man who played accordion at your wedding.) I’m enjoying it — such a sad, funny book about family, framed in a Wild West of prospectors and casual murder.
My “make this last as long as you can” book is “Just My Type: A Book About Fonts.” It’s illuminated a subject I thought I understood, but I didn’t, and its chapter on the wrongnesses of Comic Sans came alive for me recently visiting a friend at a Florida retirement community, in which every name on every door was printed in Comic Sans. The elderly deserve more respect than that. Except for the lady I was visiting, widow of a comics artist. For her, it might have been appropriate. On the iPad there are several books on the go, but they are all by friends, and none of them is actually published yet, so I will not name them.
When and where do you like to read?
When I can. I read less fiction these days, and it worries me, although my recent discovery that wearing reading glasses makes the action of reading more pleasurable is, I think, up there with discovering how to split the atom or America. Neither of which I did. (I clarify this for readers in a hurry.)
What was the last truly great book you read?
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By Shannon Webb-Campbell
Esi Edugyan and Patrick deWitt will go head-to-head once again, this time for the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction, a U.K. literary award established in 2010.
Last year, the duo dominated the Canadian award circuit. Edugyan won the Scotiabank Giller Prize for her novel Half-Blood Blues (Thomas Allen Publishers) and deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers (House of Anansi Press) took the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Literary Award. Both were shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize, but lost to Julian Barnes.
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The Sisters Brothers
By Stuart Woods
Two of the most high-profile winners of the 2011 Governor General’s Literary Awards have already won major literary prizes this season.
Charles Foran won the non-fiction prize for Mordecai: The Life & Times (Knopf Canada), which last month won the inaugural Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for non-fiction and, earlier this year, the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-fiction. In total, Foran has earned $130,000 in prize winnings for his biography of the late Montreal author (and two-time GG winner for fiction). Foran is also in the running for the $40,000 B.C. National Award for Non-fiction, which will be handed out in 2012.
This year’s fiction winner is Patrick deWitt, whose comic Western, The Sisters Brothers (House of Anansi Press), also won the $25,000 Rogers Writers’ Trust Prize for Fiction.
Authors on the Booker prize shortlist: left to right, Carol Birch, Stephen Kelman, Patrick deWitt, Esi Edugyan and A. Miller. Photograph: Ferdaus Shamim/WireImage
The Booker prize judges misunderstand literature and its purpose. Would they blame maths for being difficult?
By Jeanette Winterson
The Booker Best Pony in Show row is an annual event that at least lifts novels off the books pages and into the public debate. This year’s fight about readability tempts me to set up a new publishing house, funded by Sir Stelios. EasyBook could recruit the chair of the Booker judges, Stella Rimington, as CEO and offer a no-frills novel-reading experience that goes from A to B and does not tax the brain.
Nothing wrong with that. There are plenty of entertaining reads that are part of the enjoyment of life. That doesn’t make them literature. There is a simple test: “Does this writer’s capacity for language expand my capacity to think and to feel?”
Subject matter is not the point. It might be socially relevant, or it might not. It might be historical, science fiction, a love story, a crime novel, a meditation in fragments. There is no point judging a novel by its subject matter; what is in vogue now will be out of date soon. Nobody reads Jane Austen because we want her advice on marriage. And we don’t care that she lived right through the Napoleonic wars and never mentioned them once. Who cares about the Napoleonic wars now?
Novels that last are language-based novels – the language is not simply a means of telling a story, it is the whole creation of the story. If the language has no power – forget it.
The problem is that a powerful language can be daunting. James Joyce is hard work. Virginia Woolf’s The Waves is a very slow read. Schools teach language-friendly versions of Shakespeare.
By Sue Carter Flinn
Although there’s been much buzz over award newbies Esi Edugyan and Patrick deWitt’s impressive hat trick of nominations, another story unfolded today as Michael Ondaatje’s well-received The Cat’s Table was noticeably absent from this morning’s Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction shortlist.
According to his publisher, McClelland & Stewart, Ondaatje asked for The Cat’s Table, which is shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, to be withdrawn from consideration.
By Leigh Anne Williams
The shortlist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada’s richest prize for fiction, was announced Tuesday morning in Toronto. The finalists are: David Bezmozgis The Free World (HarperCollins Canada); Michael Ondaatje The Cat’s Table (McClelland & Stewart);
Lynn Coady The Antagonist (House of Anansi Press); Zsuzsi Gartner Better Living Through Plastic Explosives (Penguin Group Canada); Patrick deWitt The Sisters Brothers (House of Anansi Press); and Esi Edugyan Half-Blood Blues (Thomas Allen Publishers)