Boyden 'psyched' about winning Giller Prize
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Wednesday, November 12, 2008 10:28AM EST
There's a new wave of Canadian literature that's capturing the world's interest, says Joseph Boyden, winner of the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize. With his award-winning book, "Through Black Spruce," Boyden firmly plants his name atop Canada's new generation of laurelled authors.
"I'm psyched, to borrow an expression from my students," Boyden told Canada AM's Seamus O'Regan Wednesday morning.
Boyden ebullience, however, transcends his feelings about winning $50,000 and one of Canada's most prestigious literary prizes.
"We are in a place right now in our history of Canadian literature that is going to be remembered," says Boyden, who, according to some critics and fans, should have nabbed the Giller three years earlier for his novel, "Three Day Road." A critical favourite and a big seller, the apparent shoo-in for the Giller Prize in 2005 was passed over by judges.
Yet Boyden harbours no ill-will. Describing this year's judging panel as "people who know how to think for themselves," Boyden expressed his gratitude to former Giller Prize winner Margaret Atwood; Liberal MP Bob Rae; and renowned journalist, professor and author Colm Toibin for awarding him this prize.
Boyden also heaped praises on his competition.
"Look at this year's authors. They're all extraordinary people," Boyden told O'Regan.
Competing against Boyden were Rawi Hage for "Cockroach," Mary Swan for "The Boys in the Trees," Anthony De Sa for "Barnacle Love" and Marina Endicott for "Good to a Fault."
But Boyden's poetic portrait of contemporary aboriginal life and that culture's urban-rural divide most impressed this year's judging panel.
"We always hear about the diabetes and the suicide rates among Canada's Native peoples. But there is such a beauty in them - and in the land. I wanted to get that across to people in this book," Boyden told CTV.ca.
As Annie, one of the book's characters points out, the Cree inhabitants living within Boyden's fictional book have "gone from living on the land ... hunting, trapping, trading in order to survive, to living in clapboard houses and pushing squeaky grocery carts up and down aisles filled with overpriced and unhealthy food." They have, as Annie ironically puts it, become "civilized."
"I am very happy to speak for a people in my own way who often don't have their own voice," Boyden told O'Regan.
Making Giller history
In 1994 businessman Jack Rabinovitch founded the Giller Prize in memory of his late wife, Doris Giller. A well-known literary journalist, Giller served as a reporter and editor at three major Canadian newspapers during her career. She died of cancer in 1993.
Created to recognize excellence in Canadian fiction for both long or short stories, the Giller originally endowed $25,000 to prize winners. In 2008 the prize purse was increased to $70,000, awarding $50,000 to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English and $5,000 to each of the four finalists.
To date, the Giller Prize has endowed more than $250,000 to Canadian authors.
More than 2.5 million books nominated for the Giller Prize have been sold during the first 10 years of the award. More than $60 million in book sales have been generated because of the prize.
The importance of such exposure is not lost on the 42-year-old Boyden, who grew up in Willowdale, Ont. and now resides in New Orleans.
"I'm so deeply humbled to be counted among the writers here," Boyden told the black-tie crowd - which included several past Giller winners -- gathered at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Toronto.
Boyden's mother, Blanche, and wife, Amanda - an American author herself, watched Boyden accept the Giller. Boyden said with a laugh, "I'm just glad my mother was dabbing tears from her eyes last night, not mascara."