Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Giller Prize Longlist 2014

The Giller Prize longlist was announced on the 16th of September. The shortlist will come out on Ocober 6th. To get you going, here is the longlist:

Waiting for the Man by Arjun Basu 

Joe, a lauded copywriter for a prestigious Manhattan firm, is confronted by the grim truth that material success is no guarantor of personal happiness. Jaded, deeply unhappy with his shallow life, Joe begins to dream of a mysterious figure, the Man. On the advice of the Man, Joe abandons his career in search of a life poorer but with meaning. Thanks to a reporter named Dan, Joe's personal quest will become the focus of a growing media frenzy, unasked for fame yet another distraction on Joe's long road west towards a quiet ranch and a deeper, truer connection to the world. Abandoning riches for road trips and rustic contemplation in a quest for insight is a story that has appeared in various forms for millennia; indeed, religions have been founded by people who undertook similar journeys. This version, told in two intertwined time-lines, moves this familiar tale to a modern setting to good effect. Although this is the author's debut novel, his experience at shorter forms (Squishy) shows; fans of his 140-character Twisters on Twitter will be pleased to know that the author's talents are on display in this novel. Agent: Neil J. Salkind, Salkind Literary Agency. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis

Bezmozgis (The Free World, 2011) takes a more tightly focused approach than in his previous kinetic works in this taut, vigorous, and fast-flowing tale of an unexpected encounter between two old enemies in Crimea. After arousing outrage by opposing the prime minister's stand on the West Bank settlements, Baruch Kotler, a famous Soviet dissident turned prominent Israeli politician, flees Tel Aviv, his longtime marriage, his whip-smart daughter, and his son, who is experiencing an intense moral quandary over his service in the Israeli army. To add to the scandal, Baruch is accompanied by his much younger lover; then their search for lodging in Yalta delivers them to the home of Tankilevich, the man who betrayed Baruch to the KGB. Bezmozgis tracks back and forth between Kotler and Tankilevich's radically different lives, which encompass the fear and misery of the Soviet era, and the sorrows, tenacity, and struggles of Israel. Bezmozgis' dialogue has the ringing clarity of a play, while his characters' churning thoughts address the dilemmas of marriage and family relationships and the hidden predicaments that make judging others such a perilous undertaking. Nearly everyone is a betrayer in some way in Bezmozgis' wise, transfixing, and annealing novel of humor and pathos in which today's personal and political paradoxes embody the archetypal conflicts of humankind.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2014 Booklist

American Innovations by Rivka Galchen

In one of the intensely imaginative stories in Rivka Galchen's American Innovations, a narrator's furniture walks out on her. In another, the narrator feels compelled to promise to deliver a takeout order that has incorrectly been phoned in to her. In a third, the petty details around a property transaction detail the complicated pains and loves of a family. The stories in this unusual collection also have secret lives in conversation with earlier stories. As in the tradition of considering Wallace Stevens's "Anecdote of the Jar" as a response to John Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn," Galchen's "The Lost Order" covertly recapitulates James Thurber's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," while "The Region of Unlikeness" is a smoky and playful mirror to Jorge Luis Borges's "The Aleph." The title story, "American Innovations," reimagines Nikolai Gogol's "The Nose." Alternately realistic, fantastical, witty and lyrical, these are all deeply emotional tales, written in exuberant, pitch-perfect prose and shadowed by the darkly marvellous and the marvellously uneasy. Whether exploring the tensions in a mother-daughter relationship or the finer points of time travel, Galchen takes great risks, proving that she is a writer like none other today.

Tell by Frances Itani

In 1919, only months after the end of the Great War, the men and women of Deseronto struggle to recover from wounds of the past, both visible and hidden. Kenan, a young soldier who has returned from the war damaged and disfigured, confines himself to his small house on the Bay of Quinte, wandering outside only under the cover of night. His wife, Tress, attempting to adjust to the trauma that overwhelms her husband and which has changed their marriage, seeks advice from her Aunt Maggie. Maggie, along with her husband, Am, who cares for the town clock tower, have their own sorrows, which lie unacknowledged between them. Maggie finds joy in her friendship with a local widow and in the Choral Society started by Lukas, a Music Director who has moved to the town from an unknown place in war-torn Europe. While rehearsing and performing, Maggie rediscovers a part of herself that she had long set aside. As the decade draws to a close and the lives of these beautifully-drawn characters become more entwined, each of them must decide what to share and what to hide, and how their actions will lead them into the future.

Watch how we walk by Jennifer Lovegrove

Alternating between a woman's childhood in a small town and as an adult in the city, this novel traces a Jehovah Witness family's splintering belief system, their isolation, and the erosion of their relationships.

Us Conductors by Sean Michaels

"Novel inspired by the true life and loves of the Russian scientist, inventor and spy Lev Termen (Leon Theremin) - creator of the theremin. In a finely woven series of flashbacks and correspondence, Us Conductors takes us from the glitz and glam of New York in the 1930s to the gulags and scientific camps of the Soviet Union. Lev Termen is imprisoned on a ship steaming its way from New York City to the Soviet Union. He is writing a letter to his 'one true love,' Clara Rockmore, the finest theremin player in the world. "Us Conductors" is a book of longing and electricity. Like Termen's own life, it is steeped in beauty, wonder and looping heartbreak. This sublime debut inhabits the idea of invention on every level, no more so than in its depiction of Termen's endless feelings for Clara - against every realistic odd."--Publisher.

Jonathan Lewis-Adey was nine when his parents, who were raising him in a tree-lined Toronto neighbourhood, separated and his mother, Sid, vanished from his life. It was not until he was a grown man, and a promising writer with two books to his name, that Jonathan finally reconnected with his beloved parent--only to find, to his shock and dismay, that the woman he'd known as "Sid" had morphed into an elegant, courtly man named Sydney. In the decade following this discovery, Jonathan made regular pilgrimages from Toronto to visit Sydney, who now lived quietly in a well-appointed retreat in his native Trinidad. And on each visit, Jonathan struggled to overcome his confusion and anger at the choices Sydney had made, trying with increasing desperation to rediscover the parent he'd once adored inside this familiar stranger.

Gorgeous twins Noushcka and Nicolas Tremblay live with their grandfather Loulou in a tiny, sordid apartment on St. Laurent Boulevard. They are the only children of the legendary Quebecois folksinger Etienne Tremblay, who was as famous for his brilliant lyrics about working-class life as he was for his philandering bon vivant lifestyle and his fall from grace. On the eve of their twentieth birthday, the twins' self-destructive shenanigans catch up with them when Noushcka agrees to be beauty queen in the local St. Jean Baptiste Day parade. The media spotlight returns, and the attention of a relentless journalist exposes the cracks in the family's relationships.

Paradise and elsewhere by Kathy Page

Best known as a literary realist, Kathy Page (nominated for the Orange Prize for The Story of My Face) has created a collection of 14 fabulist short stories that marks a somewhat unsatisfying shift in her writing. The stories feature an eclectic mix of characters ranging from a poor young villager in "G'ming," to a shape-shifting selkie in "Low Tide," to a cannibalistic yet tender mother in "Lambing." Page links these tales together with a folkloric writing style which seems foreign to her and which constricts her characters' dialogue to the point where their personalities bleed together. Page addresses political issues such as globalism and feminism throughout her collection but allows these issues to overshadow the stories themselves. "Clients," the impressive standout within the collection, abandons these fetters, allowing Page the opportunity to explore the unique idea of a world in which couples hire professional conversationalists in order to speak with one another. Page's talents also shine through in "The Kissing Disease," a story about a contagious kissing virus that causes infected individuals to develop ludicrous alternate personalities. The politically-charged demi-fables in this collection tend to sound prescriptive. However, when given the freedom to develop organically and with subtlety, Page's stories demonstrate her impressive creative abilities. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

My October by Claire Holden Rothman

Luc Lévesque is a celebrated Quebec novelist and the anointed Voice of a Generation. In his hometown of Montreal, he is revered as much for his novels about the working-class neighbourhood of Saint-Henri as for his separatist views. But this is 2001. The dreams of a new nation are dying, and Luc himself is increasingly dissatisfied with his life.
Hannah is Luc’s wife. She is also the daughter of a man who served as a special prosecutor during the October Crisis. For years, Hannah has worked faithfully as Luc’s English translator. She has also spent her adult life distancing herself from her English- speaking family. But at what cost?
Hugo is their troubled fourteen-year-old son. Living in the shadow of a larger-than-life father, Hugo is struggling with his own identity. In confusion and anger, he commits a reckless act that puts everyone around him on a collision course with the past.

Weaving together three unique voices, My October is a masterful tale of a modern family torn apart by the power of language and the weight of history. Spare and insightful, Claire Holden Rothman’s new novel explores the fascinating and sometimes shocking consequences of words left unsaid.

All my puny sorrows by Miriam Toews

Elfrieda's a concert pianist. When we were kids she would occasionally let me be her page-tuner for the fast pieces that she hadn't memorized." This sentence, in the voice of the younger Yolandi, crystallizes the dynamic of the two sisters in Toews's (Summer of My Amazing Luck) latest novel. While Elfrieda is the genius and the perfectionist, it is the practical, capable Yolandi on whom she depends. Over the course of this tender and bittersweet novel, Elf tours the world while Yoli stays put, has two kids with two different men but stays with neither of the fathers. It is Elf's debilitating depression and suicidal tendencies that keep the two urgently close as Yoli, for decades, does everything she can to help Elf ward off her psychological problems. The prose throughout the book is lively and original and moves along at a steady clip. Though there are some underdeveloped aspects (their upbringing in a Mennonite household, Yoli's experience of motherhood), the novel is a triumph in its depiction of the love the sisters share, as Yoli tries, just as when she was a page turner, to stay a few beats ahead. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

The ever after of Ashwin Rao by Padma Viswanathan

A stunning new work set among families of those who lost loved ones in the 1985 Air India bombing, registering the unexpected reverberations of this tragedy in the lives of its survivors. A book of post-9/11 Canada, The Ever After of Ashwin Rao demonstrates that violent politics are all-too-often homegrown in North America but ignored at our peril. In 2004, almost 20 years after the fatal bombing of an Air India flight from Vancouver, 2 suspects--finally--are on trial for the crime. Ashwin Rao, an Indian psychologist trained in Canada, comes back to do a "study of comparative grief," interviewing people who lost loved one in the attack. What he neglects to mention is that he, too, had family members who died on the plane. Then, to his delight and fear, he becomes embroiled in the lives of one family caught in the undertow of the tragedy, and privy to their secrets. This surprising emotional connection sparks him to confront his own losses. The Ever After of Ashwin Rao imagines the lasting emotional and political consequences of a real-life act of terror, confronting what we might learn to live with and what we can live without.

Any you find interesting? I have only read All My Puny Sorrows, have to get on it!

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