The fuss over 'The Sentimentalists' - Johanna Skibsrud's Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning novel

‘The Senitmentalists’, by Johanna Skibsrud, won the Giller Prize on Tuesday. Usually, winning the Giller leads to a large spike in book sales. This time, however, the publisher of the winning book is Gaspereau Press, which specializes in hand-stitched books. The most they can produce is 1,000 copies per week. Because their entire reputation rests on printing these beautiful, handcrafted books, they are at present refusing to outsource to another publisher. Large book retailers like Chapters/Indigo are beside themselves. E-book copies are flying off the server. And depending on who you talk to, the publisher is either an asshole, a luddite or a misunderstood craftsman…

Full stories from the Toronto Star here -

Good luck trying to buy a copy of Giller-winning novel
Scarcity of Giller-winning ‘Sentimentalists’ a boon to eBook sales
Don’t be pressing this publisher

It’s an interesting saga…

And now, there’s a resolution - Deal struck to meet surge in demand for Giller-winning book.

I particularly liked this quotation -

The thing that annoys me is that most of the people clammoring for the Gaspereau edition, wouldn’t know a handcrafted book from second-hand toilet paper.

A hand crafted book is softer.

I wanted to post in some other thread but of the things that annoy me much is book fetishism to which digital book does reduce somewhat. Even more annoying are the guys from this tiny publishing house who are promoters of book fetishism as if the fact that all pages are put together manually somehow increases the value of the written word. It does not and it steers from the main idea of the book. This kind of BS is totally in line with get more books to as many people as possible enlightenment idea. NOT!

However, the whole hoopla does bring me to two points I’d like to make.

First, the fact that this is the publisher Johanna went with and their almost cult like approach to book publishing leads to me speculate on the essential value of the content. And secondly, while in US (Franzen) or France (Houellebecq) winning books are taking for a theme and subject somewhat contemporary context and events, we in Canada are served a book on the subject relatively foreign to most Canadians, that of Vietnam War.

It is very hard to find someon talking about the book content. I found one review and my take is it will be a challenge to read this but it is what it is.

I only own one book published by the Gaspereau Press - “This Way Out”, by Carmine Starnino. I bought the book for the poetry, having first read “Squash Rackets”, a poem of his in Best Canadian Poetry in English 2008.

That being said, it’s an exquisite book; beautiful, heavy paper, elegant font and the feel that says ‘This book is going to stay together.’ I’ve got far too many books with the pages falling out to totally ignore the quality of the printing…

I’m not sure of the extent to which Johanna went with Gaspereau vs. she took the first offer from any publishing house. It’s pretty rare for the author of a first novel to be in a situation to pick and choose.