Johanna Skibsrud wins Giller Prize, jaws drop
It was to the sound of numerous jaws hitting the floor that author Johanna Skibsrud was awarded the Scotiabank Giller Prize last night for her book, The Sentimentalist. The win was a bit of a coup: Skibsrud is only 30 years old, and the obscure book was published and hand-printed by Gaspereau Press in a run of only 800 copies.
The award is obviously good news for Skibsrud and the tiny Nova Scotia publishing house but may present some challenges. Winning the Giller usually means sales of about 75,000 copies, far more than the boutique publisher can quickly produce. Still, Gaspereau publisher Andrew Steeves is determined not to sell out: he’s already refused a commercial publisher’s offer to print the second edition and told the Globe, “If you are going to buy a copy of that book in Canada, it’s damn well coming out of my shop.”
Steeves’ attitude flies in the face of today’s Chapters- and Amazon-dominated book market, which relies more heavily on prizes like the Giller than ever before. According to McClelland and Stewart president Douglas Pepper, the influence of prizes only grows as small bookstores disappear. This is because readers become more dependent on literary awards—in the absence of shop owners—to tell them what’s good.
If you’re one of those readers who follow the literary award winners like the advice of your now unemployed bookshop keeper, you’ll likely be trying to get your hands on a copy of The Sentimentalist. After hearing what Steeves has to say about it, we wish you luck.
• Johanna Skibsrud wins Giller Prize for The Sentimentalists [Globe and Mail]
3 thoughts on “Johanna Skibsrud wins Giller Prize, jaws drop”
Steeves is not an anti-corporate rebel, he’s just obstinate. The “but he’s standing up for art” reaction from the book blog community is disappointing, since he’s preventing people from reading the book, and doing a disservice to his author. He’s also being pretentious as hell. Why can’t Gaspereau keep putting out their well-crafted editions and partner with another publisher to have a mass market edition put out as well? Ego, apparently.
Literature is literature, whether it’s printed on Steeves’ olde-timey nostalgic hand-crank press, displayed on an e-reader, or scrawled on the back of an envelope. The words are the thing, and Skibsrud’s are being kept from a waiting audience thanks to some silly, misguided anti-populist ideology.
Let Chapters wait – the graveyard of books.
Appreciate a young and talented publisher that stands firm. Everyone, including the author, knows what Gaspereau does. They simply have not wavered.
You can’t blame Mr. Steeves for wanting to maintain quality standards in printing, especially when the article quoting him (see above) appears to have misprinted the title of the book – twice (see photo above). Hang in there, Gaspereau!
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