It always seemed weird to me that the three-person Giller Prize jury typically included two panelists from outside Canada. Was it because foreign adjudicators are more fair, given the small scale of our literary community? Was it that they have unassailable taste?
Whatever the reasoning, you can imagine the embarrassment of the Giller team when 2009 juror Victoria Glendinning complained about the striking homogeneity of CanLit and that some Giller nominees were "unbelievably dreadful."
Who needs those UK snobs?
The prize organizers agree, recently adding Margaret Atwood to the 2013 panel, alongside 2011 winner Esi Edugyan and American Jonathan Letham. It's the first time since 2008 that there ave been two Canucks among the judges.
Many will complain that Atwood's upcoming novel Maddaddam, the last of her futuristic triology, set for release in September, now has no chance of being short-listed. But Atwood won't be among the complainers. She has previously asked that she not be considered for the prize, suggesting she has enough awards.
Typical Atwood. It was she who insisted that NOW's Readers Poll add a Best Emerging Author category so another author other than herself would get recognized. For 17 years straight, since NOW initiated the poll, Atwood has won the Best Local Author category.
Now we have a terrific Giller jury on our hands. Given Edugyan's work, we know she'll take seriously writers who push the envelope when it comes to language. Lethem's a genre-bender, and gifted essayist, likely to consider alternative genres. And Atwood, though she publishes with Canada's biggest mainstream house McLelland & Stewart, has a deep appreciation for Canada's small presses.