Monday, February 11, 2008

Yea for Donis, and more on Book Awards

Vicki here.

First off, heart-felt congratulations to Donis. Well done. For what it’s worth, I’ll be rooting for you to win.

I also think it’s great that a mystery novel has been nominated for what I’ll call, for lack of a better word, a mainstream award. The idea of a mystery being nominated for an award in Canada (other than the Arthur Ellis awards for crime writing) makes me break out in paroxysms of hysterical laughter. Not gonna happen.

I was discussing the state of Canadian literature the other day with a friend, and we concluded that although Canadian mysteries are very popular with readers, they are pretty much scorned by most Canadian publishers and agents in favour of ‘literary’ works. (You put your nose in the air when you say that). And even more so by the esteemed judges of award committees. The day Peter Robinson or Giles Blunt is nominated for a Giller or a GG, (you have to be Canadian to know what they are), or even the Saskatchewan Book Awards I’ll eat my hat. Although I’d probably guess that Peter and Giles outsell by a wide margin (taking world wide sales into account) the latest graduate of the U.B.C. creative writing program who’s written a heartbreaking novel of love and loss in Newfoundland fishing villages or an insightful work of a family torn by conflict in a hardscrabble prairie farm.

Before I get too far into Canadian-bashing, I’ll also take a guess that it would be about as difficult to get a mystery set in New York into the finalists for a mainstream New York award.

Am I complaining? Not really. I like writing crime novels, I like the sense of community in the mystery world that you don’t get in the ‘literary’ world, I like people reading my books and telling me that they enjoyed them. Although the money given out by something like the Giller would be nice, too.

I wish I had the exact quote here, but recently in the Globe and Mail, the wonderful irreverent Russell Smith said something about how crime writers could teach literary writers a thing or two about plot.

That’s my two cents worth on mainstream book awards, and if anyone can prove I’m wrong, please, please, set me straight.


JJ said...

I read something by Peter Robinson not long ago that kind of stuck. He's a great writer and the only difference between his work and that of a more 'literary' vein is that the set-up and, possibly, the resolution follow a path. Otherwise, I'd put him up beside any of our Canadian award winning authors any day for style, emotional connection, &c. Anyway, here's what he said in the Quill and Quire about his sales and recognition not being as high in Canada: 'Most of the time, I think, ‘I made the New York Times bestseller list, I made the Sunday Times bestseller list, I’m a bestseller in Sweden, France, Italy – when it really comes down to it, fuck Canada.”
It's too bad that we in Canada are so often so provincial and weak-kneed about our own arts that we need to push forth our most difficult writers as being 'Canadian'.

Vicki Delany said...

Sad, isn't it.

Vicki Delany said...

A lot of people don't even know PR is Canadian. When I tell them he lives in Toronto, they're usually surprised.

Rick Blechta said...

Okay, Vicki, to be fair, he's originally a Brit. He's no more Canadian than, why, I am! If their only contact with Peter is hearing him speak, they're going to go away thinking he's what he really is: a Yorkie.

That being said, I'm glad he's thrown in his lot with us Canucks. We have every right to be proud of him. Unfortunately, every artist in Canada suffer from the same thing: lack of recognition.

Look at the music biz. How many musicians had to go to the States to become famous and have their music heard? Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, the Band...