Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My Night At The Gillers; Joseph Boyden's Giller Win; and Vincent Lam On Writing

First, congratulations to Joseph Boyden for his '08 Giller win. Boyden's Through Black Spruce, a terrific tale of trees and shrubs and leaves and snow, took the $50,000 Prize. When asked what he planned to do with the money, Boyden said, "Moisturize."

As I've warned before, Seamus O'Regan hosted the ceremony. O'Regan was quicker than Jack E. Leonard, riffing on the "celebs" stuck in Giller traffic. "We're here at the Four Seasons, right in the heart of Yorkville," O'Regan started. "The Four Seasons--you know what 'four seasons' means in Canadian fiction? That's right [and here O'Regan shivers]...cold--ice cold--and white: Margaret Atwood's panties."

I was at the dinner, having a few drinks with Rawi Hage. "I'll have Canadian Club on the rocks, please," I said.

"Me too," said Hage, "but I'll have mine on him." And here he pointed to me. Cash bars are tricky, but it was my pleasure.

Vincent Lam was there. Now, I hate Vincent Lam. I hate him. But I've learned to tolerate him as a Canadian author. The man never finishes a meal. Never. You serve him a steak, he eats half. A fish? He eats the head. A hamburger? I've seen him eat the bun and leave the burger.

A friend of mine works at a Toronto-area publishing house, and a few nights ago she helped to host an online dialogue between Nino Ricci, Vincent Lam, Doug Pepper, and Lewis DeSoto. (The National Post story says "...Lewis DeSoto and more," but I'll just end with LD.)

Ricci is an excellent writer; certainly one of Canada's best. I have nothing against Pepper and DeSoto.

But Lam's still hanging around. He's still here. He baked a nice pie--once--and now he keeps saying, "I could bake another. You know I could...I'll bake it! Don't make me get out the flour. Don't tempt me!"

And from the artistically charged halls of medical school, Lam has now become cemented as a Canadian literary giant. A true writer. But as a person he prefers prostate exams.

It reminds me of an interview that I heard years ago; an interview with Woody Allen that tried to get at the core of the question of "funny." The reporter kept asking Allen why the audience laughed when he told a joke. Allen said there was just something about him that people found funny. It was his voice, his posture, his appearance, and his energy that were responsible for 90% of the laugh. The other 10% was material.

Which makes me wonder what an interview with Lam would sound like. I don't think Vince is much of a writer, and my opinion hasn't been changed by rumours that CBC is trying to develop a film based on Lam's improbable doctor-to-writer success story. They're having a bit of a problem because it doesn't look like Colm Feore can play "Asian."

But, you know, there are a lot of rumours re: Lam floating around. And last night at the Giller I had a chance to talk to him. To size him up.

"Vincent," I said, "how's your book coming?"


"I hear it's a comedy."

"It's funny. But serious, too."

"What's the plot?"

"No, I couldn't talk about that."

"Okay. I understand. But are we going to see it soon? I'm really anxious to read it."

Lam groaned. "It's taking so long. But you know how the process is: Margaret's such a perfectionist."

Thanks again to Jack Rabinovitch, Scotiabank, and the rest of my Giller hosts. It was a lovely night. Bronwyn Drainie looked beautiful, as always. It's gotta be tough finding a Petro Canada jumpsuit to match black Mary Janes, but she does it every year. What a gal.

1 comment:

Margo said...

Nothing against DeSoto? I'll give you something to hold against DeSoto. At last year's GG reading series he introduced the finalists by claiming that "there is no such thing as Canadian literature" because "Canlit" is now a "world literature." What do you think of THAT? Does it get any more neoliberal?

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