Stephen Henighan, known for his biting, if occasionally conspiracy-minded, commentary on the Canadian literary scene, takes aim at the Scotiabank Giller Prize in this column for Geist. Henighan calls the prize a symptom of the sickness ruining literature, saying, “Nothing signaled the collapse of the literary organism as vividly as the appearance of this glitzy chancre on the hide of our culture.” The column questions the prevalence of shortlisted books coming from publishers owned by the Bertelsmann Group, such as Knopf Canada, Random House Canada, and McClelland & Stewart (in which Bertelsmann has a 25% stake).
Henighan also makes much of Margaret Atwood’s connection to this year’s winner, Vincent Lam. Atwood helped Lam find a publisher and introduced the author at the gala. While his first observation, that “Margaret Atwood does not introduce losers,” holds some credence, he takes the point a little too far with his further comments. “By placing her authority behind Lam, she was giving the equivalent of el dedazo, the crook of the finger with which a Mexican president signals his successor.”
Quillblog’s favourite conspiratorial fact is Henighan’s observation that almost all Giller winners between 1994 and 2004 lived within a two-hour drive of Yonge and Bloor.
(Quillblog had been telepathically instructed by Margaret Atwood not to blog about this, but luckily we were able to briefly block her powerful brainwaves – emanating, of course, from the Yonge/Bloor epicentre – with our homemade tinfoil helmets.)
Exclusive: The 2006 Giller Conspiracy Runs Deep
Below is a photo of Margaret “El Dedazo” Atwood in a lineup with Giller jury member Michael “Mr. Tall” Winter. Was Vincent Lam’s Giller win arranged in the joint? Is Atwood Keyzer Soze?
(OK, it’s just an old Anansi ad, but suspicious nonetheless.)