Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Book Mark: 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize

A little behind with this one, as it was awarded the end of October. Nonetheless, it is a significant win for humorist / travel writer / fiction writer Will Ferguson.

Will Ferguson has won the 2012 Giller Prize, the $50,000 award considered one of Canada's most prestigious literary honours.

Though best known for his humour and travel writing, the Calgary writer won for his dark novel 419 on Tuesday night, accepting the prize at a star-studded gala in Toronto.

"I want to thank the jury for putting together such a fresh list of books," Ferguson, who was dressed in a traditional kilt, said after taking the stage to accept the prize.

"I commend them for taking the books on their own merit, without preconceptions — which is how a jury should act."

Then, reaching into his sporran for a flask, the author concluded his speech by leading the audience in a toast.

"Ladies and gentlemen: To the written word," Ferguson said before taking a sip from the flask he procured from the pouch.

"And finally, to answer the question you're all wondering — yes I have something on underneath!"

A departure and a continuation

419 is a provocative tale of an email scam and a woman who sets out on a wide-ranging search for those she believes responsible for her father's death. It's different sort of writing for many fans of Ferguson, a three-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal.

"Everyone's saying it's a departure, which is understandable, but I think it's a continuum from Spanish Fly," he told reporters after the ceremony, referencing his earlier book.

"Spanish Fly was about con artists in the 1930s. It was a historical novel. So I didn't think of [419] as out of the blue, but I think of it as a continuation."

Ferguson didn't worry as much about writing in a genre for which he isn't as known.

"I think my publisher really took more of a risk than I did, to be honest, when I switched to literary fiction," he said.

Despite the kudos he's received for 419, he not ready to limit himself to one type of writing either.
"If a funny story grabs you, it grabs you. If travel grabs you, it grabs you," he said, noting that his next book will be a travel narrative about Rwanda, Burundi and potentially eastern Congo.
"I try to switch between fiction and travel. It uses different parts of your brain. No, I'm not giving up on travel writing, but I'm certainly enjoying fiction."

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