International Festival of Authors: Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Finalists Reading

A Review of the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Finalists Reading

Featuring Clarke Blaise, Michael Christie, Patrick deWitt, Esi Edugyan and Dan Vyleta; hosted by Rabindranath Maharaj.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011. The Brigantine Room.

This past Wednesday, the TRB attended the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Finalists Reading at the International Festival of Authors. The award, sponsored by Rogers Communications, recognizes Canadian writers for the year’s best novel or short story collection, as selected by a three-member jury of past nominees and winners. This nominees for this 11th iteration of the prize include, according to host Rabindranath Maharaj, some of the strongest contenders yet.

The Finalists:

Clarke Blaise’s selection from the eleventh and final chapter of his short-story collection, The Meagre Tarmac, paints a vibrant portrait of Calcutta’s “splendour by squalor.” Described as an “Indo-American Canterbury Tales,” the hyphenate points to Blaise’s cross-cultural exploration of place as a forum where tradition, innovation, culture and power, people and their connections or disconnections, converge.

Michael Christie’s debut short story collection, The Beggar’s Garden, follows from his experience as a former social worker in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. In a thrift store in the notoriously impoverished neighbourhood, a woman tries to make ends meet while pushing “No Sale” on her register, while elsewhere a mentally ill woman relentlessly pursues a paramedic she imagines herself to be in love with. Strikingly original and versatile, Christie’s prose speaks to the difficulties and rewards of constantly reliving humanizing experiences.

A cross between a Cormac McCarthy novel and a comedy of manners, Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers is the alternately violent and comic odyssey of two brothers through the boomtowns and refuse of the Old West. Reading from a scene that answers the question “what happens when assassins go clothes shopping,” deWitt’s compelling deadpan warrants one’s taking the time to discover what that answer — and the rest of his seamlessly idiosyncratic novel—might entail.

Lawrence Hill read on behalf of Esi Edugyan from her latest novel, Half Blood Blues. Nominated for several awards, including the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Edugyan skillfully suspends the audience between two boys who debate leaving their apartment during curfew to buy milk — a nascent exploration of jazz, race, love and loyalty throughout pre-war Berlin to the salons of Paris in the 1940s.

Dan Vyleta bids entrance into the dark confines of an apartment building in Nazi-occupied Vienna, where a series of unsolved murders has the inhabitants on edge. The Quiet Twin, self-professedly “what happens when you live in Vienna for years and read Chekhov,” is a novel about the unhinged mind as a medical mystery — about watching and mistaking false horrors for real ones, and real for false ones.

500-word excerpts from each of the nominated works can be found on the Globe and Mail website, where readers can vote for which finalist should win the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. The winner will be announced at the Writers’ Trust Award event at the Isabel Bader Theatre on November 1st.

The International Festival of Authors ran from October 19th to 30th, 2011.