Scotiabank Giller Prize - 2007 Winner And the winner is . . .
By Rowdy Rhodes
Photo credit Mark_Fried
Toronto, ON – November 6, 2007. She has been compared to Annie Proulx, Alice Hoffman, and Isabel Allende, yet Elizabeth Hay is uniquely herself.
On November 6th, at a gala affair held in Toronto's Four Seasons Hotel, Elizabeth Hay ascended the stage and entered the winner's circle of former Giller Prize Winners for her novel Late Nights On Air. The victory was not unexpected.
A former radio journalist, the Ottawa author set most of Late Nights On Air in a Yellowknife CBC Radio Station during the 1970s. Hay worked for CBC Radio in Yellowknife, Winnipeg, and Toronto, providing the opportunity to write from her background and personal experiences. In a light-hearted moment after receiving the award, Hay said, "Perhaps it's taken me 30 years to learn to write fiction, and then to take a subject like the North and give it a full, expansive treatment."
Written in gorgeous prose, laced with dark humour, her third novel Late Nights On Air is Hay's most seductive and accomplished novel. Inspired by her work in public broadcasting, the story tells of a hard-bitten television journalist, Harry Boyd, who returns to radio and falls in love with a voice on the air. Though the real woman, Dido Paris, is both a surprise and more than he imagined when they meet.
Dido and Harry are part of the cast of eccentric, utterly loveable characters, all transplants from elsewhere, who form an unlikely group at the station. Their loves and longings, their rivalries and entanglements, the stories of their pasts and what brought each of them to the North, form the core of this novel.
Hay's skewering insights into the frailties of the human heart and her ability to tell a spellbinding story were talents ultimately recognized by the three Giller judges – novelist Camilla Gibb, author David Bergen, and poet/short-story writer Lorna Goodison. The trio, since we first covered this story in September, had to read a record 108 books submitted by 46 publishers from every region of Canada before finally choosing Late Nights On Air as the best 2007 novel.
Tradition requires that the judges pick the winning novel the day of the ceremony, and it took them only about an hour to do so. In a statement by juror David Bergen, "We definitely had some discussions before reaching the decision. It was a smooth process and had nothing to do with her previous nominations. It had to do with the excellence of this particular book."
Hay has been nominated for many of Canada's top honours before, including a 2000 Giller, as well as serving as a Giller juror in 2005. Most Canadian authors and writers felt that she well-deserved claim on the bronze statue signifying Giller supremacy.
A gracious woman, Hay at 56 was emotional and excited about the win. Accepting the award with charming dignity and humour, part of her acceptance speech included the comment, "I am very thrilled and very lucky; so lucky in fact that I'll probably be hit by a truck tomorrow, so it's important that I say my thank-yous now."
Hay's novel Late Nights On Air triumphed over Michael Ondaatje's Divisadero, MG Vassanji's The Assassin's Song, Alissa York's Effigy, and Daniel Poliquin's A Secret Between Us for the prize. Each of the runners-up received $2,500.
The invitation-only, black-tie, star-studded event of about 500 people included such individuals as former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, onetime Ontario Premier David Peterson, and broadcaster Knowlton Nash. Presenters included actors Gordon Pinsent, Lisa Ray (Water), and Kelly Rowan (The O.C.), author John Ralston Saul, and Pamela Wallin, former Canadian Consul General to New York. The host was Seamus O'Regan, co-host of Canada A.M., the Giller's broadcast partner.
Hay's other novels include A Student Of Weather, a finalist for The Giller Prize and the Ottawa Book Award, Garbo Laughs, winner of the Ottawa Book Award and a finalist for the Governor General's Award, and Small Change.
Congratulations to Ms. Hay from all of us here at Inkwell Newswatch!
Rowdy Rhodes is the Site Manager of The Freelance Writing Organization International and General Manager of Inkwell Newswatch (IN). He is also known to freelance an article or two when the fancy strikes him. If you are looking for written content for your website, ezine, or print publication, drop him a line email@example.com. He'll get back to you as soon as possible.