Friday, September 17, 2010

ReLit Award 2010 Shortlist

Regarding literature, reinventing literature, relighting literature.

It's time again for the ReLit Awards. This award (established in 2000 by Newfoundland's Kenneth Harvey) celebrates the best in Canadian independent publishing. This one is not about the money, but does come with a cool ring.

The Beautiful Children by Michael Kenyon

"Michael Kenyon’s The Beautiful Children is a novel of style and power. At the novel’s core is a story of reclamation. A man wakes up in a hospital with one word in his head “Sapporo” He remembers this as the place he was raised and it becomes his only identity. As he struggles to recollect his life, and wife, and to create a connection with his young son, he falters and flees. Left without a guardian, the boy claims drug–addicted neighbours as his caregivers. It is here that both father and son begin their separate journeys. Other stories emerge from Kenyon’s often–surreal vision. Victims and monsters range across landscapes from Vancouver to Japan, from Africa to the Gulf Islands. But at its heart, The Beautiful Children remains an investigation of human relationships that fail expectation. Societies, like tectonic plates, reshape and redefine definitions of family. And, in the vicious cycles of abandonment and violence, hope is established within the fragmented psyches of these characters, and their stories, more than the lives they have lived, ferry the past toward the future. The only certainty is that memory isn’t carried in the blood, and love can be brutal." - publisher

Away From Everywhere by Chad Pelley

"Brothers Owen and Alex Collins are brought together when mental illness claims their father and sets off a chain reaction of unrelated, heart-breaking events. Both tender and bold in its delivery, Away from Everywhere cuts no corners in telling the story of their crushing childhood, the reasons the brothers become different men, and the unthinkable act of love that tears them apart. Nearing thirty-five, Owen is plagued by childhood demons, the ghosts of failed relationships, and a persistent feeling that his life lacks meaning. When Alex arranges for Owen to stay with his wife and family, what feels like a new beginning becomes one last wrong turn. Part warped love story, part family tragedy, Away from Everywhere is a heart-stomping pageturner." - publisher

Wrong Bar By Nathaniel G. Moore

"When self-obsessed Maudlin City writer Charles Haas wakes one early morning in a shallow grave complete with window pane roof, he realizes two things: one, it’s a scene reenacted from one of his abandoned manuscript of fiction, and two, he’s got to stop showing his writing to strangers. While still fresh in the dirt, Charles becomes obsessed by the city’s ‘enfants terrible’ who jump through his sprinklers without asking with steak knives in their mouths, searching for mayhem and the next high and plot a demonic dance party hoax lead by evil eighteen-year-old Shawn Michaels. Charles soon realizes Maudlin City’s paranoid literary community wars are nothing compared to the throngs of knife totting teens that are obsessed with plotting and hacking each other post-avatar, and spends every waking second thinking about the end of the world boys and girls who “run through sprinklers glistening with kitchen knives and sloppy kisses.”- publisher

Overqualified by Joey Comeau - "Cover letters are all the same. They're useless. You write the same lies over and over again, listing the store-bought parts of yourself that you respect the least. God knows how they tell anyone apart, but this is how it's done. And then one day a car comes out of nowhere, and suddenly everything changes and you don't know if he'll ever wake up. You get out of bed in the morning, and when you sit down to write another paint-by-numbers cover letter, something entirely different comes out.
You start threatening instead of begging. You tell impolite jokes. You talk about your childhood and your sexual fantasies. You sign your real name and you put yourself honestly into letter after letter and there is no way you are ever going to get this job. Not with a letter like this. And you send it anyway." - publisher

Holding Still for as Long as Possible by Zoe Whittall

"In this robust, scruffy, elegantly plotted, and ultimately life-affirming novel, rising star Zoe Whittall presents a dazzling portrait of a generation we’ve rarely seen in literature — the 25-year-olds who grew up on anti-anxiety meds, text-messaging each other truncated emotional reactions, unsure of what’s public and what’s private. With this extraordinary novel — which offers a thrillingly detailed inside look at the work of paramedics, devastating insight into anxiety disorders, and entertaining celebrity gossip — Zoe Whittall fulfills the promise of her acclaimed first novel, Bottle Rocket Hearts, and proves herself as one of our most talented younger writers." - publisher

The Plight House by Jason Hrivnak

"The unnamed narrator of The Plight House receives a letter: his childhood friend Fiona has committed suicide at the age of thirty-three. As children, he and Fiona had constructed a dark and violent fantasy world, an imaginary network of laboratories where they performed experiments upon their neighbours, families and friends. Now, aware that Fiona had used a document from their shared world as her suicide note, the narrator becomes obsessed with the possibility that he unknowingly held the key to preventing her death.Invoking the half-forgotten methods of his childhood, he begins to compose a test. Intimate and unrestrained, the test is designed to drive from Fiona all trace of the self-destructive impulse. But by devoting himself to a project that can never bring about its desired effect, the narrator has opened the door to a new frontier of grief. And as he pushes the test yet further into realms of decadence and fever, he precipitates a crisis in his own deeply troubled life. Part love letter, part elegy, The Plight House chronicles one man's obsessive attempt to resurrect the image of a lost friend." - publisher

After the Red Night by Christiane Frenette

"In 1950, a devastating fire breaks out in Rimouski. Thomas survives the blaze, but loses his memory and is institutionalized. A shell of his former self, he pieces together a makeshift existence by becoming a gardener. Upon his release five years later, two childhood friends, Marie and Romain, hire Thomas to do their landscaping. Little do they know that they are also inviting him into their marriage, a union characterized by male dominance and female subservience. As time passes, Marie begins to see Thomas as her escape from the unendurable. In 2002, Romain and Marie_s youngest daughter, Lou, returns home for the first time since running away to Chicago thirty years before. She brings along her husband Joe, who has recently suffered a brain aneurysm that has imprisoned him in his own body. Their presence reminds Marie of her own past, of the connections she never asked for and the ties she can never break." - publisher

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