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Catching up with awarded awards

October 4, 2009 | 11:11 am


Fall is book awards season; September was so full of them that a few slipped by us. Such as the  Rona Jaffe Foundation awards. Recipients are pictured above with poet Elizabeth Alexander (center, front). These awards -- which are granted exclusively to women -- are designed to help early-career writers focus more intensely on their work. From left, front row, the 2009 award winners are Krista Bremer (nonfiction), Heidy Steidlmayer (poetry), and in the back row, Janice N. Harrington (poetry), Helen Phillips (fiction), Vievee Francis (poetry) and Lori Ostlund (fiction). Each will receive $25,000.

Uwem Akpan did not win the Dayton Literary Peace Prize -- Richard Bausch took that honor, and the $10,000 award, for his novel "Peace." As a runner-up, Akpan received $1,000, but he had an additional consolation: Oprah Winfrey had just selected his short-story collection "Say You're One of Them" as her new book club pick.

Canada's Scotiabank Giller Prize -- which comes with a $50,000 award -- had no sooner announced its long list of finalists when judge Victoria Glendinning caused a stir by disparaging Canadian fiction. In a piece in the Financial Times, she wrote, "There is a striking homogeneity in the muddy middle range of novels, often about families down the generations with multiple points of view and flashbacks to Granny’s youth in the Ukraine or wherever.... Apart from brilliant Giller contestants, there are – as Naughtie boldly said about the Man Booker entries – 'unbelievably dreadful' ones."

The Globe and Mail ran two separate indignant responses, generating more than a hundred comments. The blogger Bookninja wrote, "For me, it’s not the content of what she said, it’s that she said it like a drunken aunt with lipstick on her teeth hitting on her inlaws at a wedding." The conflict overshadowed another early concern -- that 10 of the 12 long-listed authors are women. Whether that gender imbalance will be maintained in the shortlist will be known when it's announced on Tuesday.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Star Black