The Writers' Trust of Canada announced four awards on Wednesday, including one for Rohinton Mistry - the Timothy Findley Award for a male writer in mid-career. His A Fine Balance is one of my favourites books, one that envelops me in its world for the days I spent reading it, only to release me into the mundane world with a sigh. It's overpoweringly, unapologetically depressing in parts, but always entertaining and enlightening.
Book awards are not exactly rare, but the ones announced today are a little different from most in that they reward authors for their careers, not single works. Unlike the Oscars or Emmys, many book awards not only bring attention to quality work, they bring money to the award recipient. And just as the Oscars tend to boost a filmâ€™s box office, and the Emmys ... do nothing much, if you take Arrested Development as a lesson ... book awards tend to boost readership, which is why I even care that the Writers' Trust bestowed an award on a favourite of mine.
Much as I love movies and television, it makes me sad to think that the average bestselling book is read by a tiny fraction of the number of people who see a generic Hollywood blockbuster. I wonâ€™t whine about the increasing illiteracy of our society, though. Itâ€™s partly math. A movie lasts a couple of hours â€“ more if Peter Jacksonâ€™s name is on it. Depending on the book, it can take days or weeks to finish. Itâ€™s hard to measure precisely how long, since most of us read in bits and pieces without a stopwatch, but The Time Travelerâ€™s Wife audiobook, for example, clocked in at almost 18 hours.
Plus, going to a movie or watching TV can be a social occasion. I might be a nerd, but even I don't get together with my friends to read, and I might protest if a guy proposed a reading date.