Home > canlit, giller prize > Hype, hoopla, Hollywood!

Hype, hoopla, Hollywood!

November 5, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Globe & Mail reports that (pause for breathless gasp; am unable to contain excitement) “stars of Twilight films, Flashpoint TV series will be on hand at Scotiabank literary gala.”

I will not remark on the use of lightweight entertainment to promote serious literature (objection duly noted), except of course that I just did. But I will not remark further.

I will remark on the hype and hoopla surrounding the Giller.

And on the Globe‘s continual promotion of said hype, which should hardly surprise us given that CTV has the broadcast rights, and that CTV Globemedia shamelessly uses its own properties to promote each other, which practice has even descended so far as inserting copies of the Globe into B-roll shot for the CTV news. People fuss about media bias, and let this disgraceful advertorial pass?

But I digress. What I really want to remark on is the effect of this hype.

Steven Beattie posted today concerning the book trade’s habit of promoting what already sells. But people want Dan Brown and Stephanie Meyer, responds the book trade (en masse), so we provide. Fair enough.

But is there any evidence that people want the Giller winner? Of course not; the demand is created by the prize itself. It’s a clear example of the problem Beattie is getting at: selecting a single book and creating demand by promoting the hell out of it.

Booksellers and publishers needn’t care: if books are toothpaste, then they all clean your teeth equally well. But readers should care.

To put a huge promotional push behind one book is harmful — and to brand that one book as “serious Canadian literature” is ultimately bad for readership. If you want to convince people that CanLit is boring, stuffy, and not worth their time, the best way to do it is by promoting a single narrow vision of it, rather than revealing the true diversity of Canadian writing. Look at this year’s Giller longlist: am I to believe that not one worthy book saw print this year outside the genre of historical fiction, save The Year of the Flood?

It doesn’t have to be this way. We have three big prizes in this country; three winners and three shortlists can all get a push.

But all the hype is on the Giller, thanks to the campaign to brand the Giller as the premier award, and crowd out the other two. That campaign doesn’t benefit Canadian books (save the winner). It benefits the Giller as an institution.

The Giller Prize hoopla is no longer about books; it’s about the Giller Prize itself.

Categories: canlit, giller prize
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