Michael Crummey, Ian Williams are in, Margaret Atwood and André Alexis are out on Giller Prize short list

Michael Crummey, Ian Williams are in, Margaret Atwood and André Alexis are out on Giller Prize short list

“Enjoy each other’s company.”

That’s the advice of 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Michael Redhill to the six finalists for the 2019 prize as they get set to embark on a month-long, cross-country tour.

A jury of five announced this year’s short list at a morning event at Toronto’s Scotiabank Plaza. The list brings a geographic balance with writers from both coasts of the country dominating. But with big names like Margaret Atwood and André Alexis making the long list but not the final list, this year’s Giller is perhaps most surprising for who’s not in the running for the $ 100,000 prize.

In another surprise, there are six finalists (normally, they try to keep it to five, although 2016 and 2014 also saw six) whittled down from 117 books submitted.

Two of the finalists are women — both published by the same publisher, House of Anansi. “You know, we’ve got this (marketing) campaign going called ‘women do it write,’” said Sarah MacLachlan, the company’s president. “So that’s the way we feel.”

The finalists are, in alphabetical order:

David Bezmozgis

Nominated for: His short-story collection “Immigrant City”

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From: Toronto

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

This is his third time nominated; he was a finalist in 2014 for “The Betrayers” and in 2011 for “The Free World.” The Star’s reviewer said the latest book showed that “his skills at creating perfect (and perfectly unsettling) worlds-within-worlds remain unparalleled.”

Megan Gail Coles

Nominated for: Her novel “Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club”

From: Newfoundland

Publisher: House of Anansi Press

This is Coles’ first Giller nomination. The Star’s reviewer said, “She does conjure a remarkably hard and unforgiving world, where appetite along with an imbalance of power and outlooks create heartache, chronic pain and fleeting escapes.”

Michael Crummey

Nominated for: His novel “The Innocents”

From: Newfoundland

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

He was a Giller finalist for “River Thieves” in 2001. The Star’s reviewer said the novel “never reads as excessive; its beauty is restrained, weighted and often heartbreaking.”

Alix Ohlin

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Nominated for: Her novel “Dual Citizens”

From: Montreal, Victoria, B.C.

Publisher: House of Anansi

She was a finalist for “Inside” in 2012. Of the main character, Lark, the Star’s reviewer said, “under Ohlin’s unerring guidance she’s filled with remarkable observations.”

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Steven Price

Nominated for: His novel “Lampedusa”

From: Victoria

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

His 2016 book “By Gaslight” was also longlisted, but this is his first time as a finalist. The Star’s reviewer said, “Price’s fictional reimagining of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s life is powerful and vital.”

Ian Williams

Nominated for: His novel “Reproduction”

From: Brampton, British Columbia

Publisher: Random House Canada

Williams is a first-time Giller nominee although he’s well known for his poetry (he was shortlisted for the 2013 Griffin Prize). The Star’s reviewer said, “at its best, ‘Reproduction’ serves as a literary representation of the various intersections of culture, race and gender in contemporary Canada, it is a mirror with graffiti/social commentary both humourous and powerful scrawled all over it.”

This year’s jury included Canadian authors Randy Boyagoda (jury chair) and Donna Bailey Nurse, Canadian playwright José Teodoro, Scottish-Sierra Leonean author Aminatta Forna and Bosnian-American author Aleksandar (Sasha) Hemon.

“All the books on the long list were very strong,” said Hemon in an interview. “Then it becomes a question of fine margins and small differences.”

“Everyone knows you can’t objectively score the books based on some set of qualities,” he added. “It becomes a question of discussing and agreeing and then discovering the vibe in the room, what books are really, really exciting to us.”

The winner will be announced at a gala in Toronto on Nov. 18, broadcast by CBC, and hosted by musician and author Jann Arden.

All finalists receive $ 10,000, with $ 100,000 going to the winner.

In an effort to give Canadians across the country — and in New York City — a chance to hear, meet and see the finalists, the Giller “Between the Pages” tour will take them to six cities in two weeks, between Oct. 16 and 30. The tour includes readings, panel discussions and book signings and, said Redhill, “a lot of it is stressful, anxiety-inducing and ego-provoking. So just enjoy it.”

The prize was founded in 1994 by businessman Jack Rabinovitch, who died in 2017, to honour his wife, literary journalist and former Toronto Star books editor Doris Giller.

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