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City writer in race for $140,000 prize
Thomas Wharton shortlisted for Dublin Award

Marc Horton
The Edmonton Journal
Thursday, April 06, 2006

EDMONTON - Edmonton writer Thomas Wharton has made the 10-book shortlist for the prestigious $140,000 Cdn IMPAC Dublin Award, one of the richest literary prizes in the world.

Wharton's The Logogryph is the only novel by a Canadian to make this year's shortlist. An international jury picked it over novels by the likes of V.S. Naipaul, Isabel Allende, Man Booker Prize winner Alan Hollinghurst, Peter Ackroyd, Roddy Doyle, Joyce Carol Oates, Andre Brink and Margaret Drabble, among others.

"I was pretty stunned, actually, when I heard," said Wharton, an assistant professor of English at the University of Alberta.

"The Logogryph was a book that was meant to be a fun sort of side project between other things and for us to get on that shortlist is pretty amazing, pretty wonderful."

The winner will be announced June 14.

Wharton agrees he's in a heady group of acclaimed writers. "That long list was incredible," he said.

"Some of those names on that list I think of as almost fictional beings, they're just so great."

Ahead is a fantasy novel that he began as he put the finishing touches on The Logogryph.

"As usual, I'm awfully slow," the 41-year-old said. His previous novels are Icefields and Salamander, both of which were acclaimed by critics.

The Logogryph, published by Gaspereau Press in a handsome slipcover edition, can be demanding on readers. When he's asked to describe the book in 25 words or less, Wharton fails to come in under the quota.

"It's not quite a book of short stories and it's not quite a novel book," he says.

"It has a frame story about a boy growing up in Jasper who gets this suitcase of used books and it turns him into a reader. From there, the book becomes a bibliography of all the books he's never read and that he wishes he could read.

"In one way or another each of these books is both a metaphor for reading or the process of reading -- I like to call it the alchemy of reading -- and each book is a metaphor for what he has lost."

Libraries in major cities around the world are each allowed to nominate three books for the IMPAC Dublin award. To qualify, a novel has to be written in English or translated into English in the previous year.

Edmonton's and Calgary's public libraries both nominated Wharton's book for the long list. Edmonton also nominated Bedlam, by retired University of Alberta English professor Greg Hollingshead.

Other Canadian nominees on the long list included Wayson Choy for All That Matters, Miriam Toews for A Complicated Kindness, Trevor Cole for Norman Bray in the Performance of His Life, Robert Hough for The Stowaway, Joel Hines for Down to the Dirt, Beth Powning for The Hatbox Letters, Russell Smith for Muriella Pent, Michael Winter for The Big Why and Richard B. Wright for Adultery.

While Canadian writers such as Rohinton Mistry, Margaret Atwood, Sherman Alexei and Douglas Glover have been nominated for the prize in the past, only Alistair MacLeod has ever won, for No Great Mischief in 2001.

Wharton joins an impressive list of authors on the shortlist including Chris Albani for Graceland, Nadeem Aslam for Maps for Lost Lovers, Ronan Bennett for Havoc, In Its Third Year, Jonathan Coe for The Closed Circle, Jens Christian Grondahl for An Altered Light, translated from the Danish by Anne Born, Yasmina Khadra for The Swallows of Kabul, translated from the French by John Cullen, Vyvyane Loh for Breaking the Tongue, Margaret Mazzantini for Don't Move, translated from the Italian by John Cullen and Colm Toibin for The Master.

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© The Edmonton Journal 2006

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