I'm of two minds on the Giller shortlist. On the one hand it's nice that small (ish) presses are entirely represented. Offhand I can't remember the last time Random House was represented only by a short fiction collection. Secondly, a couple short story collections on the shortlist is great. I've always maintained that short fiction is where the better writing can be found. It's very hard to sell short fiction because the novel has become so paramount among fiction readers. Whether it's to do with book clubs or not is another question, but unless you're Alice Munro, short fiction is a tough thing to meet the rent with.
Therefore, as a bookseller it's a hell of a lot easier having a David Adams Richard and Wayne Johnston around to gift a shortlist a push. Quill and Quire reported "an audible gasp" when it became clear that both writers weren't going to be at the best tables come Nov 7, the date the winner is announced.
So many booksellers are really just professional readers in the sense that they try to some degree to read strategically; to get familiar with both the big names and the stuff they can hand sell at the margins.
That we always fail at this brings up the next point.
Because there's so much this year means that I'm going to miss a lot and that's okay, because if publishers continue to push more titles through the fall, they'll figure out soon enough that it's self defeating. Until such time as the pool of readers increases, putting more fish in the pond is only going to lead to a lot of unhealthy fish. To wit, many unhappy returns.
In the meantime, handicapping is as big a waste of time as this. I stole the line from Mark at TEV, but it works for the Gillers, too. Nonetheless, keep an eye on Vincent Lam and Carol Windley, the short fiction people. Cormorant publisher Marc Cote makes a good point when he said, “when Alice Munro (one of the jurors) says you have written a great short story … you have.”
Posted by Dave