Canada’s Giller Winner is Coming: Catch the Last 2 WANL “Come from Away” Readings of the Year

The Giller Prize is the country's richest literary award. Come see what all the fuss was about, RE: Us Conductors.

WANL, the Writers Alliance of NL, is a local literary organization devoted to supporting and promoting the writing scene in NL. They also run an annual reading series in which prominent local authors invite a favourite Canadian author to come to Newfoundland for a reading and discussion of their work.

The first invitee this year – now come and gone – was Giller Nominee Marina Endicott, invited by Leslie Vryenhoek. Still to come are last year’s Giller Prize Winner Sean Michaels (invited by, and to be introduced by Elisabeth de Mariaffi), and Barry Dempster (invited by, and to be introduced by Don McKay).

Last Year’s Giller Winner Is in Town This Weekend:

Prior to winning the country’s biggest, $100,000 literary prize last year, for his debut novel Us Conductors, Sean Michaels was already well-known for having started one of the world’s first music blogs (Said the Gramophone).

Surprisingly, media failed to flag it last year, but Sean Michaels was the first author to ever win the Giller with a debut. Come see what all the fuss was about with his novel Us Conductors last fall.

His novel sprung from promising origins: esteemed big-league publisher Knopf Canada have a special line of books under a moniker called “The New Face of Fiction.” The goal of the series is to bring “spectacular first-time Canadian novelists to readers.”

The New Face of Fiction has launched the careers of acclaimed Canadian authors like Ann-Marie MacDonald, Yann Martel, Mary Lawson, Gail Anderson-Dargatz, Dionne Brand, Timothy Taylor, Nicolas Dickner, Ami McKay, and St. John’s very own Jessica Grant.

Sean’s book, Us Conductors was Knopf’s 2014 New Face of Fiction release. The novel is inspired by the “true life and loves of the Russian scientist, inventor, and spy Lev Termen – creator of the theremin.” (A theremin  is a very bizarre instrument played without touching it.)

The story is delivered as a series of flashbacks and correspondence that takes readers “from the glitz and glam of New York in the 1930s to the gulags and scientific camps of the Soviet Union.”

He’s a music teacher in New York, making his name and falling madly for a lady named Clara. But he ends up in trouble with some Russian spooks, and finds himself imprisoned on a ship steaming its way from New York City to the Soviet Union.

He’s writing a love letter to Clara, who happens to be the finest theremin player in the world. The novel tells the story of Termen’s early days as a scientist in Leningrad, and the acclaim he received as the inventor of the theremin, eventually coming to New York under the aegis of the Russian state.

“Termen returns to Russia, where he is imprisoned in a Siberian gulag and later brought to Moscow, tasked with eavesdropping on Stalin himself. Us Conductors is a book of longing and electricity. Like Termen’s own life, it is steeped in beauty, wonder and looping heartbreak.”

Michaels can be caught at the following times and places: October 1 in Corner Brook (Swirsky’s at 8 PM), October 3 in Port Rexton (Fishers Loft Inn at 6 PM), and October 4 in St. John’s (Ship Pub at 8 PM). 

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