Sean Michaels, a debut novelist, this week won Canada’s biggest award for fiction, the Scotiabank Giller Prize ($100,000 to the winner and $10,000 to each finalist), with Us Conductors. The story is inspired by the life of Lev Sergeyevich Termen, the Russian inventor of the theremin (an instrument played without touch), and follows him from the New York clubs of the 1930s to the gulags of the Soviet Union. In the literary magazine Brick, based in Toronto, Michaels reported on a trip to Magadan, in Russia’s far east, to research the novel.
Brick also has a piece by Russell Banks on scene-setting in the stories of Mavis Gallant, who died in February this year: “… she is a writer of the American North, of the region and culture that overlap the US-Canada border from Maine and the Maritimes all the way west to Seattle and Vancouver. In these stories, darkness comes early and stays late; summer is not a condition, it’s an all-too-brief holiday. Cities are grey, skies are mauve or milky, and there are always wet boots slumped in entryways.”