The 2013 Giller Prize: The Year of the Short Story

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The 2013 Giller Prize: The Year of the Short Story


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

This year’s 20th Annual Scotiabank Giller Prize Gala was glorious as usual, a black-tie affair housing the who’s-who of Canadian literature, and its powerhouse publishers, hosted by Toronto’s Jian Ghomeshi.

While I wasn’t as successful in guessing which books would make it onto the shortlist—(I was baffled at the omission of Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda and shrugged my shoulders in disbelief)—there was still enough literary calibre to impress the jury, Canada, and the world.

The runners in the Giller Prize race were equally well-written, if not had stories that moved its readers to question the dynamic of relationships with:

The Crooked Maid by Dan Vyleta

the crooked maid book cvr***

In watching Dan Vyleta accept his hardbound copy of The Crooked Maid, I especially appreciated his humility, grace—and his crooked bow tie!

The book itself:

The Crooked Maid is a dark, suspenseful novel set in post-war Vienna about Anna Beer and Robert Seidel, who meet on a train and then return home to find their households and their lives in disarray, and then are reunited as spectators at a criminal trial to deliver judgment on Austria’s Nazi crimes.

– Paraphrased from Chapters-Indigo online catalogue.


Caught by Lisa Moore

caught book cvr***

“It’s a book about consequences…,” and according to the author, a book about “doing what we’re afraid of,” and how that can be a positive thing. Though Lisa Moore confesses not living like her characters do, she was indeed brave enough to make creative writing her career.


Cataract City by Craig Davidson

cataract city book cvr


Cataract City is about two childhood friends, Owen and Duncan, who grow up in Niagara Falls, better known as Cataract City, who experience a near-death incident that bond them together, and later in adulthood, a story about “what breaks those mends.”


Going Home Again by Dennis Bock

going home again book cvr


Going Home Again is about “a man in crisis,…” and the question, “Do we fail love or does love fail us?” It’s a  wrenching and dramatic story that explores the fabric of family: sibling rivalries, marriages on the rocks, hurt children, midlife crises-in short, modern life.

– From the Chapters-Indigo online catalogue.


And to introduce us to the winner of the Giller Prize, here are the literary figures who were asked to join this year’s Giller Prize reading panel who successfully read and critiqued a total of 147 books of fiction written by today’s prominent Canadian writers: Jonathan Lethem, Esi Edugyan (last year’s winner of the Giller for Half-Blood Blues), and Margaret Atwood.

The 2013 Giller Prize Jury with host, Jian Ghomeshi. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
The 2013 Giller Prize Jury with host, Jian Ghomeshi. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


When asked if Margaret Atwood would read on the Giller Prize jury again, she blatantly answered, “No,” and when asked why not, her reasoning was that she would be “too old,” and teased Jian Ghomeshi that he would soon find out what that’s like when “he grows up.” For those of us who know and love Ms. Atwood, we know her humour is as biting sharp as her writing and her wit—and that she has a deep affection for those she teases.

Margaret Atwood, Giller Prize Gala. November 6, 2013. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Margaret Atwood, Giller Prize Gala. November 6, 2013. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


Esi Edugyan was elegant and graceful in her support of the diversity of writers and the calibre of Canadian writing and joked that being on the jury this year didn’t allow her “to win,” — an indirect reference to her snag of the Giller Prize last year for her book, Half-Blood Blues.

Jonathan Lethem entertained us with his answer of how he felt about the reading experience of being on the Giller Prize jury this year—a reference to the news of Rob Ford’s admission of smoking crack cocaine—that they read “in a drunken stupor.” Only in Toronto, eh?


And the winner of the 2013 Giller Prize is…

hellgoing book cvr


It seems this year in lieu of Alice Monroe’s win of the Nobel Prize, that “Canada is [indeed] known for its short stories,”—and that yes, the short story is not a lesser one than its bulkier and longer novels.

It’s with great admiration and pride that I congratulate Lynn Coady on her spectacular win of this year’s Giller Prize. Her narrative voice is authentic, hilarious, harrowing, fast, and smart; and her writing, a recognizable force in today’s writing industry.

Lynn Coady, Giller Prize Winner 2013. (c) Photo from All rights reserved.
Lynn Coady, Giller Prize Winner 2013. (c) Photo from All rights reserved.


It’s with great pleasure and pride to congratulate all writers shortlisted for the prestigious Giller Prize this year and to congratulate Ms. Coady on her win of the much-coveted prize. It seems she won’t be going to Hell any time soon.


Have you read any of the books that were shortlisted for the Giller Prize this year?

Which book would you have chosen to win this year’s prize, if not Lynn Coady’s book “Hellgoing?”

Did you watch the Giller Prize Gala or attend a Giller Light Bash?


zara bird autograph


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