25th Trillium Award

Trillium Testimonial: Gregory Betts

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This year marks the 25th Anniversary of Ontario's illustrious Trillium Book Award/Prix Trillium. To celebrate this silver milestone, Open Book has asked members of the literary community to tell us what they love about their favourite award-winning Trillium title. If you're looking for a recommended read (or re-read), follow these Trillium Testimonials on Open Book: Ontario from now until the winners of the 2012 award competition are announced. Today, author Gregory Betts tells us why he's chosen Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion (McClelland and Stewart), winner of the 1987 Trillium Book Award.

Open Book:

What do you love about this book and when did you first read it?

Gregory Betts:

What I love about this book is intimately intertwined with my first time reading it, back in the summer after grade eight. My older brother had read the book in his first year English course, and recommended it to me. So, I curled up in the Nova Scotia sunshine and read my first Canadian novel. I literally lost my breath at the description of the construction of the viaduct, having ridden my bike over that wide road many times. I had never seen it before as a thing made. Dennis Lee once wrote about the experience of realizing a total cultural alienation from Canada that led him into nearly a decade of silence. In contrast, reading this book made me realize an alienation I didn't know existed and left me hungry to read and indeed write where I was.

If I was allowed a second choice, it would be Rachel Zolf's Human Resources, which made me realize that the line between cutting-edge and award-winning writing was happily dissolving in this country. It is a marvelous accomplishment, creepy and endlessly entertaining at the same time.

Gregory Betts is the Director of the Centre for Canadian Studies at Brock University. He is the author of five books of poetry, including The Others Raisd in Me (Pedlar 2009) and The Obvious Flap (BookThug 2011). He has also edited four books of experimental Canadian writing, including work by Bertram Brooker and Lawren Harris.

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