Thursday, November 09, 2006

Giller Chatter vs the code of silence

In lieu of posting the entire discussion here, which would mess up my pretty blog, I have stolen my concluding point from the Giller postmortem now online at Good Reports.

(Also up at The Danforth Review)

Rant ho!

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It's not really their fault, but I would be a lot more generous to this jury if there was some effort made to break this code of silence that surrounds the selection process. Booker judges routinely spill the beans on what went on in the meetings, and why certain books got picked and others didn't. I think there needs to be more transparency about the whole thing, not because I think there are conspiracies at work, but because it would be interesting, period, and would genuinely add to the understanding of how writing and publishing and the rest of it works. There is a vested interested in maintaining this illusion that books appear before us and are rewarded through means far too sacred and rarified for us to ever comprehend. For us mere mortals to be told that, say, Vincent Lam's was the book the entire jury could agree on, but was no one's first pick (not saying that was the case, but it's just as likely as any other scenario) would not disillusion us all and send us spiraling into doubt about the worth of awards. And yet, we are supposed to take everything the jury says at face value and believe they picked the absolute "best books."

Imagine if, say, Munro admitted afterward that there was no way she was going to vote for the Windley because it was too Munro-esque? (Again, just a wild theory.)

Instead, we are left to indulge in the silliest CanLit Kremlinology every single year.

Why Canadian publishing people have not yet learned the lesson of publicist-planted gossip and leaked songs as promotion is baffling to me, and just further cements CanLit's reputation as an institution always a few decades behind the times. People love dirt; they get excited about it, and if they get excited about something, they are more likely to see the thing behind it all - books - as something with a bit of life to it.

Is finding out why and how the jury picked the books they did really too much to ask?

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