Monday, July 21, 2008

Gillers under fire at CNQ

The summer issue of CNQ (Canadian Notes and Queries) carries a withering attack on the Giller Prize by Alex Good, who may be the only person in Canada to have read (and to admit having read) or slogged his way through the entire Giller shortlist of 2007. In a thoughtful and amusing polemic, he concludes that the Gillers, as an institution administered by a “poisoned pool of peers,” have grown “sclerotic and incestuous.” The effects of the Giller process of culture-making-by-coterie, he suggests, are insidious and widespread, and tend to reinforce the making of a dull semi-official literature consisting of “historical” novels and soft romance stories set in exotic locales. After fourteen years, the Gillers, he writes, have “led to the creation of our own home and native genre: the ‘Giller bait’ novel”:
Giller bait novels are very serious books emphasizing history and geography, generally without any sense of humour, and written in a vague, pseudo-poetically lush and highbrow style. And it’s not only the authors who are being corrupted. Getting the Giller Prize winner has become a ritual for many occasional readers. Indeed the “bounce” in sales provided by being selected for the shortlist is often publicized. But what kind of introduction to the world of Canadian literature does the shortlist provide? How will books like Divisadero or The Assassin’s Song turn anyone on to Canadian writing? As Russell Smith put it in the Globe and Mail, the Giller Prize shortlist is typified by “ecstatically lauded, good-for-you Canadian books . . . that you can’t bear to even begin.”
Stephen Henighan is another critic who writes on the Giller Effect; his column in Geist two years ago provoked cries of foul-play from offended Giller supporters.

CNQ is the venerable literary review published three times a year by Biblioasis.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this a news story or a plug for a Geist writer?

2:30 pm  
Blogger D. B. Scott said...

This is the second time in a week that an anonymous commenter has questioned the judgment behind postings on the basis that the posting is not "news".

While news is one aspect of Canadian Magazines, it is only one. As important are "views" and "reviews", both of which would apply here. Quite often, when we come across interesting stories or initiatives at a magazine, we tell readers about them and provide links so they can explore them further if they wish...or not.

Contributors at least sign their names rather than sniping from the bushes.

It bears repeating that anonymous comments will continue to be allowed, though moderated, but this was generally intended to give cover to people whose views might jeopardize their jobs.

2:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's d.b.'s blog -- why should it fit anybody else's criteria?

it's useful and it's often entertaining, which is why it's popular.

4:28 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

for d.b.: there are other reasons to use anonymous besides job security.

Mine is to be able to express views that may be in conflict with others' without danger of it getting personal, as it so often does (and so quickly) in online forums.

Another, secondary reason, is that cyber-stalking is so prevalent that I'm reluctant to post anywhere using my name. It just takes one brush with a persistent, creepy, weirdo to find out doing so is a mistake.

4:46 pm  
Blogger D. B. Scott said...

I should have said that people have their own, quite legitimate, reasons to remain anonymous, but avoiding harrassment by "creepy weirdos" seems like a good one to me. Thanks for the comment.

5:06 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


In terms of news and 'not news,' I would just like to stick in my 2 cents. It doesn't matter what type of NEWSpaper or magazine you open, they have various sections (editorial-opinionated, latest news-factual yet biased, entertainment-truths, untruths, reviews). As a writer I must say that variety is important to attract new readers who wouldn't normally read your blog and to keep current readers interested.

As for whether to be anonymous or not, I feel as a writer I want to stand behind what I write and not have to hide. Yes, there have been some whackos, but that's what my security programs and settings are for. I suppose I could have made up a pen name, but somehow it feels like lying.

Thank you for your time!

2:49 am  

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