In the no-big-surprise department, former Writing instructor, celebrated alumna and 2011 literary It-girl Esi Edugyan appeared in a number of year-end best-of lists for her Giller Prize-winning and Man Booker/ Governor General/ Writer’s Trust-nominated sophomore novel, Half-Blood Blues. (Heck, my mom even got it for Christmas!)
Adrian Chamberlain of the local Times Colonist newspaper noted that “Victoria’s writerly reputation was confirmed dramatically” by Edugyan’s “astonishing year,” Mark Medley of the National Post named her one of the two Canadian authors of the year (along with fellow multi-nominated writer Patrick DeWitt) and John Barber of the Globe and Mail said that, with the collapse of publisher H.B. Fenn and its Key Porter imprint, “2011 began ominously for independent Canadian publishers and then quickly turned to roses. Rescued from the Key Porter wreckage, Half-Blood Blues became the most popular title ever published by Thomas Allen & Son, with 100,000 copies on the market and a stable perch overlooking James Patterson and Stephen King on Canadian bestseller lists.”
Quill and Quire also reports it was the most popular title in the Toronto Public Library in 2011, with Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table in second place and DeWitt’s The Sisters Brothers rounding out the top three. Alas, if you were hoping to check it out of the Greater Victoria Public Library system, you’d better get in line—as of this post, there are 399 holds on 82 copies . . . but you could always reserve Edugyan’s debut novel, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, which currently only has 41 holds on five copies.
Edugyan also appeared on the year-end cover of local entertainment weekly Monday Magazine, where writer Reyhana Heatherington said she “learned from some of Canada’s top literary stars” while studying here at UVic.
“I studied with so many great teachers,” Edugyan is quoted as saying. “Patrick Lane was my first great teacher. I found myself following poetry because he was so inspiring. The calibre of guidance was so amazing. Jack Hodgins, Lorna Crozier, Bill Gaston—such a high level of instruction. They can’t teach you to write if you’re not inclined that way. But what [school] does is cut the apprenticeship time down. Peer reviews prepare writers for working with an editor in a professional capacity.”
And in the January 8, 2012, edition of the Times Colonist, Adrian Chamberlain ran a new interview with Edugyan, a long profile featuring insights from her former Department of Writing instructors, Bill Gaston (“You always say, ‘this one could be the next Michael Ondaatje.’ You can’t predict, but she was one of those”) and Jack Hodgins (who was “amazed at her ability to inhabit the voices of vastly different characters authentically.”) Chamberlain also mentions rumours of a Half-Blood Blues film adaptation, about which a “close-lipped” Edugyan says, while noting there is nothing concrete, “There’s some discussion—yeah, actually.”