I’ve been fulminating in this space over the past little while about the lack of a Canadian Canon. Canadian criticism has for the most part run in the opposite direction of its evaluative responsibilities. Present though on this leveled playing field are at least two lists which lend some topography, some perspective, some/any measures of greatness. The Governor General’s Award for Fiction, and more recently the Giller, regardless of their faults, do serve a valuable purpose, especially in a land where judgment is so foreign. Telling, I suppose, that until recently, the task of identifying what has value, what is worthy of praise (at least according to the jury du jour), has been performed primarily by government. Now, the choices may all be ‘wrong,’ and largely unjustified, but at least they are out there, waiting for the brave to berate or congratulate them; to take them on, to defend or attack them at length. To get the ball rolling.
In light of these musings, it was with pleasant recognition that I read this from Philip Marchand in the National Post:
"Giller Prize juries make the best they can of an impossible task, anointing one book as best of the year. It’s ridiculous in a way, but it’s also useful. Like the university canon of Canadian literature, the Giller Prize choices give us a starting point to talk about Canadian books. In a world where we’re flooded with novels, we need a list of books to argue over and compare. We need a shared conversation about Canadian literature. For helping to stimulate that conversation, the Giller Prize deserves thanks."