He may have despised superstition, but if he were alive today the philosopher Aristotle couldn't deny it was third time lucky for Annabel Lyon, his unlikely Canadian champion. After being denied two of the big awards for which she was nominated this year, last night Ms. Lyon won the $25,000 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize for The Golden Mean, her popular novel narrated by a boldly imagined Aristotle.
Ms. Lyon offered thanks yesterday to the small literary magazines that launch so many Canadian writers.
"I started in those places and I wouldn't be standing here if I hadn't had that assistance," she said. "So for whoever out there who's still listening, I beg, no more cuts to the arts."
Described by the Writers' Trust jury as an "alarmingly confident and transporting debut novel," The Golden Mean jumped onto bestseller lists after becoming the only work of fiction nominated as a finalist in each of the three literary contests that now dominate the fall publishing season in Canada. Only recently did it lose pride of place to Linden MacIntyre's The Bishop's Man, winner of the richer and more heavily publicized Giller Prize.
Ms. Lyon's win completes the partial eclipse of an older generation of writers that began when all three juries eliminated Margaret Atwood's bestselling The Year of the Flood from their selections of finalists - and ended last night with the second loss for Alice Munro's Too Much Happiness, which last week lost the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction to Kate Pullinger's The Mistress of Nothing.
Another B.C. writer, Brian Brett of Saltspring Island, took the $25,000 Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize for Trauma Farm: A Rebel History of Rural Life. Described by the jury as "a rare celebration of youth, age, and the tumultuous, surprising journey between them," Mr. Brett's memoir beat Wade Davis's The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, a Massey Lecture spinoff currently ranked No. 7 on The Globe and Mail non-fiction bestseller list.
Former Giller-winning novelist David Bergen of Winnipeg also emerged $25,000 richer at the end of the evening, winning the Writers' Trust Notable Author Award. Yasuko Thanh of Victoria won $10,000 as winner of the McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize for emerging writers and Marthe Jocelyn of Stratford, Ont., won the $20,000 Vicky Metcalf Award for Children's Literature.