Photo by Venturi + Karpa
Edugyan thanked her publisher, Thomas Allen's Patrick Crean (who was later seen in a state of complete euphoria) for taking up the book when her original publisher Key Porter ran into financial difficulties. You can imagine her state of shock a year after that financial meltdown to find the book not only in print, but on all Canada's major short lists - and the Booker's - and now taking Canada's biggest literary prize.
This year's Giller instalment seemed especially swell-egant, with all guests having to walk the equivalent of a red carpet and getting our picture taken before entering the hall. This is a big black tie party and I didn't notice a single person who tried to get away with being underdressed.
In fact, federal Liberal leader Bob Rae, who later got the loudest applause among the attending politicians (this was definitely a Liberal crowd), was waiting at the top of the escalator in front of the hall entrance for his wife Arlene Perly Rae to arrive with his dinner jacket.
During the cocktail component, I spoke with presenter Lisa Ray who looked glowingly healthy after surviving a rare cancer and assured me she was feeling well. T.O.'s poet laureate Dionne Brand bemoaned the leadership at city hall and is still working to fund poetry intitiatives at city libraries. Sheila McCarthy and I recalled our magic moment backstage at the Liza Minnelli concert.
The formalities, hosted by the CBC's Jian Ghomeshi, began with pianist Lang Lang rocking the house with some virtuoso Liszt, whereupon celebrity presenters celebrated the six shortlisted books. All were heartfelt but Ron Maclean's introduction to Lynn Coady's The Antagonist was by far the most entertaining.
First off, credit him for pumping a book about the problem with masculinity and kudos for the Don Cherry joke, something like:
Maclean: "I'm going to an event on the subject of literacy."
Cherry: "Good idea, too many people litter."
Ghomeshi didn't waste the moment when he returned to the podium. "Gee," he said," I didn't think we were allowed to tell Don Cherry jokes."
He was referring to the fact that the Giller gala, after a lengthy stint with CTV, was televised this year by the CBC. Though the mother corp tried to give the impression that they'd won a bid for it, it was no secret that CTV was not exactly getting a big bang for its buck.
CBC had a time problem for the live telecast, or something, cutting off Edugyan's acceptance speech. But by the time the ceremony was aired on the main channel at 11 pm, you could see Edugyan's speech in full.
After the awards ceremony, Michael Ondaatje was seen giving fellow shortlist David Bezmozgis a consolation hug. Zsuzsi Gartner, another losing shortlister, could at least take pleasure in the company of her charming young son, who sported a cool bowler hat. As for Patrick deWitt, he wasn't too worried about not taking the Giller prize, still basking in the glow of his Writers Trust win last week.
Coady, however, admitted to being disappointed at having lost the prize, but she did did say how much she appreciated Maclean's tribute.
"I mean," she said, "he actually read the book."
All hail Jack Rabinovitch, who founded the prize to honour his late wife, the editor Doris Giller and who reminded the television audience that for the price of going out to dinner one time, you can buy all the books on the short list .
"So stay home one night and buy the books," he advised.
Then read them, I would add.