Source : Globe & Mail
Stories of med-school graduates earn Vincent Lam prestigious literary award
TORONTO — A collection of 12 short stories about a quartet of University of Toronto medical school graduates has won the 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize for excellence in English-language Canadian fiction.
Torontonian Vincent Lam, himself an emergency-room physician, received the $40,000 prize and a small bronze statue at a lavish, televised gala at Toronto's Four Seasons Hotel last night. His book, Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, a debut work, beat out four other finalists — two women and two men — for Canada's richest literary prize. Each runner-up receives $2,500.
In his acceptance speech, Dr. Lam, 32, thanked his wife, his agent Anne McDermid, his publishers Doubleday Canada and Margaret Atwood.
In fact, Ms. Atwood, a Giller winner herself in 1996, presented Dr. Lam with the prize. The 2006 winner said he plans to use his new largesse to give him more time to write.
"For any writer the difficult balance is making time," he said after receiving the award. Winning $40,000 may "shift the balance a little bit more to writing. But I certainly have every intention to enjoy my career as a medical doctor."
Right now, Dr. Lam is finishing a novel about a Chinese headmaster and compulsive gambler living in the former Saigon during the Vietnam War.
In their citation, the three Giller judges — former governor-general Adrienne Clarkson, famed short-story author (and two-time Giller winner) Alice Munro, and novelist Michael Winter — said "this series of interlinked stories is a profound and meaningful glimpse into a world which seems on the surface to be purely medical, but leads us into the metaphorical. The characters and the situations are unexpectedly bound together and make us, as readers, not just witnesses to, but participants in the world that has been created for us."
It took the jurors about 90 minutes to come to their decision yesterday morning. The judges considered 101 books published between Oct. 17, 2005, and Oct. 3, 2006, and, for the first time in the prize's history, announced a long list of 15 nominees in early October. Previously, only the short list of five (sometimes six) was made public.
Dr. Lam's victory was a surprise. But then any other winner would have been a surprise, too, in what was easily the hardest-to-predict joust in the 13-year history of the award. Previous Giller prizes — named after Doris Giller, the late wife of the prize's founder, Montreal-born businessman Jack Rabinovitch — have gone to either well-established writers such as Ms. Atwood and Richard L. Wright, or to authors associated with larger publishing houses, like last year's winner, David Bergen, published by McClelland & Stewart.
By contrast, this year's contest was dominated by entries from little-known authors published by small and medium-sized publishers, with only Dr. Lam's book carrying a big-label imprint, that of Doubleday Canada. Moreover, two of the finalists were novels originally published in French: The Perfect Circle by former Quebec resident Pascale Quiviger (published in English by Cormorant Books in Toronto, with translation by Sheila Fischman) and The Immaculate Conception by Montreal's Gaétan Soucy (published by House of Anansi Press, Toronto, with translation by Lazer Lederhendler).
The other finalists were Home Schooling, a collection of short stories by Carol Windley of Nanaimo (Cormorant), and another debut, House of Anansi's, D e Niro's Game, a novel by Rawi Hage, another Montrealer, formerly of Beirut.
Dr. Lam, a devout Anglican, said he believes the fortune and luck he has experienced of late falls into "the category [of] divine blessing for which I am grateful."
If any book could have been considered a "pre-game favourite" it was Mr. Hage's kinetic saga of a young man's violent struggle for survival during the Lebanese civil war. It is also up for this year's $15,000 Governor-General's Award for Fiction, to be announced Nov. 21. Dr. Lam's Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures is bound to vault on to the nation's bestseller lists. A confidential study released last month by BookNet Canada, based on a survey of 650 retailers, found that a Giller Prize nod "increases sales more than any other prize in Canada — twice as much as winning the Governor-General's Award for Fiction."
Last night's ceremony was hosted by Justin Trudeau, 34, the oldest son of Canada's 15th Prime Minister.
Celebrants included Margaret Trudeau, Liberal leadership hopeful Bob Rae, New Yorker author Malcolm Gladwell, publishing mogul Heather Reisman; authors Austin Clarke, Susan Swan and Barbara Gowdy, and actors Sonia Smits and Graham Greene.
© Globe and Mail