Sunday, November 07, 2010

A Final Pre-Giller Gala Review

So: this part of it is almost over. Today I work on final details and packing and trying on my tuxedo, hoping -- despite the sedentary nature of the last two to three weeks as we try and keep up on everything (sadly, failing) -- that it still fits. Tomorrow we head to Guelph at the Bookshelf for an event with CNQ, TNQ, K.D. Miller, Seth, A.J. Somerset, Shane Neilson and Jessica Westhead (7 pm). Then off to Toronto for the Giller gala. Then a couple of frantic days in Toronto -- whether we win or lose -- before Minneapolis for US Sales Conference. And then, hopefully, things become far more manageable.

This whole Giller experience has been.... something else. Too radically different from my day-to-day existence and focus for the last six years as a publisher to comment on in any way at the moment. Except to say that we are extremely grateful to the Giller Jury of Ali Smith, Claire Messud, and Michael Enright for landing us on this most interesting of all shortlists, and for all of the opportunities which have resulted from it. Also to Elana Rabinovitch and June Dickinson, who have been gracious in guiding us through the maze by the elbow, the CTV crews who have handled their material so well, and to Jack Rabinovitch, whom I have yet to meet, but look forward to thanking on Tuesday in person.

Win or lose -- and the odds seem certainly stacked more one way than the other -- we have already won. The spotlight has shone on a few small presses in a way that it never has before, and may never again, and I feel that, despite a few hiccups, all has been handled rather well. A first book of short fiction which had seen initial orders of approximately 300 copies has now sold thousands, and should continue to sell regardless of what happens on Tuesday. Two of our writers have made the final five. (Anansi, of course, may beg to differ: but Kathleen Winter will always be one of ours.) Two excellent short story collections have made the cut, and perhaps a group of readers have discovered (with the exception of Andrew Gorham (but you can't please everybody)) that short stories might have something to offer after all. As the press in Canada which publishes more short story collections (at least as a percentage of output, if not in fact) than any other press in the country, this is a very good thing indeed.

The photograph above was taken back of the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto the day of the Toronto launch of Light Lifting, 24 hours after the book made the Giller longlist and 48 hours after it was published. I think we both look a little more tired these days, but are greatly appreciative for what these last 7 weeks have wrought.

Today the Toronto Star published it's review of Light Lifting, and as they were the first to profile Alex after the longlist, it seems fitting to end this run with their review. Here's a taste of what James Grainger has to say:

Critics, authors and scholars still routinely attempt to define the parameters of a distinctly Canadian literature by discussing issues of regionalism, multiculturalism and rural versus urban living. But it takes a book like Alexander MacLeod’s Giller-nominated debut story collection, Light Lifting, to remind you what’s missing from so much sanctioned CanLit: the daily grind of work and its impact on the lives of ordinary people.

Reading the output of so many of our celebrated authors, you’d think that nine out of 10 Canadians of the last two centuries were explorers, cartographers, sea captains, archivists, artists, intellectuals, journalists and convention-defying rural doctors, teachers and midwives. A reader from away might well ask: Who built the houses and vehicles for this nation of solitary types brooding over questions of personal and national identity? Who delivers their pizzas?

MacLeod’s characters do those things and even dirtier jobs. Few authors in this country have delved so deeply into the workplaces of working-class Canadians as MacLeod, and the characters he finds there are as rich and complex as any of the cerebral exotics that populate the work of Ondaatje, Urquhart and Atwood.

Yet none of the seven stories in Light Lifting can be reduced to mere kitchen-sink realism. Though all are technically of the naturalist school, MacLeod’s stories employ multiple narratives and stylistic techniques to capture the particular tone and texture of the dramatic situation unfolding.

For the rest, please go here.

And we'll see you around these parts post Giller soon.

No comments: