The $25,000 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the last of Canada’s major literary fiction awards to choose its 2013 winner, will do so on Nov. 20. Up for the prize are Lynn Coady, for Hellgoing, which has already won the Scotiabank Giller prize; Lisa Moore’s Caught; A Bird’s Eye by Cary Fagan; A Beautiful Truth by Colin McAdam; and Krista Bridge’s The Eliot Girls. In the lead-up to the awards ceremony, Maclean’s is sharing excerpts from all five shortlisted works, introduced by the writers’ thoughts on their literary influences:
Read comments and excerpts from fellow nominees:
“I am in love with the Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen. Her characters are full of feelings and they are compelled to act. They run travel agencies and attend parties and perpetrate infidelities. They sleep in and smoke and have tea brought up. They are witty, acerbic, knowing; or they are vain, or passionate or destroyed by unrequited love. The young heroines are rich and sometimes spoiled and fiercely independent. All the women are risk takers, driven through Bowen’s plots by ungovernable desire. They are lonely and vibrant. The reader arrives on a scene just in time to catch each character in the midst of becoming.
“Bowen writes sensually about ice forming on a pond, candlelight, infidelity during the war, inherited fortunes, friendship between girls and women, tumbling down old Irish mansions, secret love letters, and growing up in ramshackle hotels without much supervision.
“I love that Bowen has so much fondness for her characters, though she is honest about foibles and flaws. There is weather and change. Character is altered as it is revealed. There’s an unmistakable voice, and a current of propulsive energy running through every page.”
An excerpt from Lisa Moore’s Caught:
Ten Reasons To Go On
Slaney had hit the road after the beer at the bar and this time he was heading west. He’d had two rides and then nothing came or went for more than an hour.
He thought about walking away.
Reviewed his options.
This was the advice of his prison psychotherapist. Review and calculate. Employ reason. Adjust your position.
Why didn’t he walk away? The idea of going back to prison made the elastic give out in his socks. His socks were loose and rubbed and his guts were like his worn-out socks when he gave thought to it. He could walk away and work under the table and live a quiet life under a false name and be forgotten. The law would forget him.
But there were reasons to go on:
1. They’d be millionaires inside a couple of months, him and Hearn.
2. He wanted to be on the water. The wide-open openness of that. The exultation and dolphins and flying fish. The swashbuckling glamour of fucking going for it. The wind on the water and beaches and not knowing if they’d make it. Adrenalin and heat.
3. If he quit, it would mean they’d broken him.
4. He would not betray the innermost thing. He didn’t know exactly what the innermost thing was, except it hadn’t been touched in the four years of incarceration. Come and get me. They couldn’t get him. It fluttered in and out of view, the innermost thing, consequential and delicate.
5. He wanted to believe he couldn’t be broken.
6. They had a modicum of luck. Whatever unit of measurement they employ to quantify luck. They had more of it than before. An iota more luck, and it might be enough to get them through. They had experience. What he’d learned could fill a book.
7. He wanted Jennifer to fall in love with him again. He wanted to experience an ordinary moment. A room in a house full of TV murmur and sigh, leafy shadow and the whir of laundry in the dryer. Copper pots hung over the range, pink-orange and faux antique.
He wanted to be half awake in the kitchen of a new house with Jennifer. He practiced the phrase: Let me show you around the property.
Saturday morning, a little hungover and horny.
Jennifer in his plaid flannel housecoat, her hair mussed up from bed, pressing half an orange down on the glass juicer she had, twisting it back and forth so the juice ran over the fluted glass dome into the lip beneath and the seeds slipped out. The intent, becalmed look she wore making breakfast.
8. The little glass of orange juice
9. Her ass as she bent over the toaster to light a smoke. She had candles all over the place. You could be having a conversation and she’d slink off the chair to the floor and start doing yoga. She’d be on her hands and knees, focused and lost, and her legs would straighten out and her ass up in the air she’d keep on talking.
He wanted her spaghetti.
Nobody could stop him once he got on the water, heading back to Colombia.
If he could hear Hearn’s voice, he’d feel better. Four years, maybe Heard had changed.
Slaney needed someone who knew him from before, a human X-ray machine that could get through bone and scar tissue and say: not malignant, not morphed, not monstrous. You are the same, Slaney, as you were before. Only better. An iota of luck lodged like a splinter.
10. There’s a butterfly under your ribcage: the innermost thing.
A butterfly or comet or silver bullet. Something untouched, inviolate, capable of velocity, flight. He was willing to put it to the test. Take it out for a spin.
He sat on a lichen-scabbed boulder with his head in his hands and he tried to resummons a brotherly trust for Hearn.