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2019 Atlantic Book Awards Shortlists

By 49thShelf
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The Atlantic Book Awards Society is pleased to announce the shortlist for the thirteen different book prizes that make up the 2019 Atlantic Book Awards. For the second time in seven years, the Atlantic Book Awards gala is travelling to Newfoundland. The event will take place in St. John’s on Thursday, June 6, including the presentation of the 2019 Pioneer Award, which will go to someone from Newfoundland and Labrador who has made a substantial contribution to the literary life of the region.
Some Days Run Long
Why it's on the list ...
Nominated for the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction
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Something for Everyone
Excerpt

Orlando, Florida. I’m here with a conference of twenty thousand librarians from all over North America, two weeks after the Pulse massacre. It’s very early; I’m jogging around two big, olive-coloured ponds and not a breath of wind, an empty eight-lane highway between the ponds and I’m on the median.

A lizard skitters over the curb and across the highway. It goes in fast-forward but there are glitches. Stops. Goes, stops. Darts. A jellied quivering. The long thin body is still, but the legs. You can’t even see the legs in the bald light. Just a blur of motion.

There are squiggles of fluorescent spray-paint here and there on the sidewalk in pink, orange, and lime. They’re construction directives, targets for jackhammers, indicating the location of water or sewage pipes beneath the concrete, positions for embedded spigots, underground tunnels for workers and who knows what else — bog people, muskets, cannonballs, arrowheads. I took two planes to get here.

Orlando was retrieved from the swamp by a wily entrepreneur who set up dummy companies to purchase the land cheap. A hundred thousand people work in the theme parks here, vomiting in their oversized cartoon-costume heads because you aren’t allowed to vomit in a theme park. It’s hot in those cartoon heads. You aren’t even allowed to die of heat prostration.

People who die on the parks’ premises are secreted away, whisked from the grounds in unmarked cars and why not? Why not have a zone that death can’t in infiltrate? It costs fabulously to squeeze into these crowds, to belong.

Of course you offer life without death.

You offer furry animals that speak.

When I’m coming around the second pond the sprayers come on and shuffle out sheets of recollected water, the sign says. Water that I don’t want to touch my bare skin because who knows.

It’s not true that the wily entrepreneur is cryogenically preserved. That’s an urban legend. People say just his head in a murky aquarium: mouth open, the lower lip looking grey and nibbled, deteriorating despite the formaldehyde, like he’s developed a cold sore, and a five o’clock shadow, because hair still grows in death. Sometimes the head burps and a wobbling bubble escapes a corner of the mouth. A fold-encrusted eyelid utters. But that is just the underwater air infiltration.

This place is where the GoFundMe stage-four cancer children come to fulfill a bucket list. The parks around here specialize in reconstituting hearts — break ’em, put ’em back together. The white beluga in the aquarium will do it for you, all by itself. Defibrillate your soul. The ghostly mammal emerges from the murk, tail dragging because of a low-grade fugue.

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Why it's on the list ...
Nominated for the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction, Nominated for Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award
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Tiger, Tiger
Excerpt

Finally, I managed to seize on something. I lifted it, trem­blingly, from the bag, and Dr. Singh and I crouched together in order to gaze, with wonder and delight, at . . . well, at nothing. We could see almost nothing at all at the tweezers’ pinched end. I motioned to Dr. Singh to move aside, and in unison the two of us shuffled a pace or two so that our backs were now to the door rather than to the window, and the specimen was suddenly exposed to the light. Now, we could just barely make out a small speck, as inconsequent seeming as a mote of dust. It was so slightly different in colour and texture from the air that if we had not been looking very hard we would, almost certainly, not have seen it all.
     There it was. The tiger.
It had been Dr. Wolff, in fact—not either myself or Dr. Singh— who had stumbled on the idea. He who had first informed us of the team of Russian scientists who had recently unearthed the remains of a laboratory dating back at least a hundred years, since sometime before the Last War. The laboratory had evidently been affiliated with a wildlife sanctuary and had housed the genetic information of at least several now extinct Siberian tigers. The specimens had been carefully stored, and three of them had been recovered—it was tempting to say miraculously—intact. They were now being sold to the highest bidder.
     A lab in Moscow had already snatched up one of them, Dr. Wolff informed us. But their science programming hadn’t yet fully recuperated from the war, and it was doubtful that anything would come of it. The second specimen had been sold shortly after, to a collector from Brazil. He would keep it on some high shelf in his Rio penthouse, no doubt, Dr. Wolff sniffed. Show it off whenever he remembered it to his more fashionable guests. 
     The Chinese would almost certainly sweep up the last speci­men. Take it back to their laboratories and—hastily, without a thought to the consequences—create their own little monster . . .
      “Yes! That would be just like them,” Wolff cried. “A scien­tific approach like that of a spoiled child!”
      Dr. Singh began to fiddle with the top button of his laboratory coat. I gazed ahead, using a technique I’d perfected—my eyes making just enough contact with the doctor to suggest attention, but in fact gazing steadily past him, toward the row of high shelves that flanked his desk.
      The shelves housed the Wolff’s own collection—the extent and variety of which would have impressed even a Brazilian collector. And just like the specimens in Rio, there was no more promising future for these than to remain where they were, gathering dust and waiting for the day when, in a burst of paternal affection, Wolff would take out the feather duster he kept for the purpose and dust each jar—contemplating their secrets, which he alone now kept. His eyes would shine as he dusted the jars in the way that eyes shine only in moments of sincerest love.
      How quickly that light would go out once the job was done! It almost made you sorry for him, the way his eyes flickered, then turned inward, toward the trap he had made of his mind. To imagine him in there, shut up and alone—the last of his kind.
      Just as for Dr. Wolff, the jars provided me with a source of respite and relief by offering me something to look at while he spoke. For some reason I couldn’t bear to listen to him and look at him at the same time. One or the other, yes—but not both. And so I would look behind him at the collection of human and chimp fetuses floating in formaldehyde, their skin grey from long exposure to preserving agents, and think about how strange it was to decay that slowly—or rather, to not decay at all. Because it was the preservative process that was slowly eating away at the specimens, not the other way around—the possibil­ity of their own immortality that was now slowly destroying them. Sometimes I even imagined I could see it happen. That I could actually detect, in the length of time that I gazed at them, their incremental deterioration. (No doubt this was only my imagination; the oldest specimens, boasted Wolff, were nearly four hundred years old. It was quite ridiculous to imagine that given that great length of time I, who was witness only to the smallest fraction of it, might actually be able to see the moment in which some identifiable change occurred.)
     Other times, I would amuse myself by hazarding guesses at which of Dr. Wolff’s specimens were human and which were not, because often in the smaller, less developed specimens it was quite difficult to tell—especially from a distance. I tried to keep my eyes level, and my mind focused on this task, because if I let my eyes drift even slightly—according to some irresist­ible gravity—down toward the lower shelves, they would inevitably betray me.
      The lower shelves housed the doctor’s collection of preserved testicles—all of the human variety. It was the second-largest collection of human testicles in the world, Wolff would some­times boast, transferred into his care by the great-great-grandson of an ex-Nazi surgeon. Wolff maintained the collection “in the name of science,” though even he would have had to admit that, by this point, the evidence these specimens supplied was less scientific than spectral; from within their murky jars, they con­jured a gruesome past only Wolff was capable of looking in the eye. My own always blinked, compulsively, when they drifted to those lower levels. Or skittered away.
     It will be an immense relief, if and when the Wolff ever does finally retire, to clear out those lower shelves. Sometimes I even allow myself the brief fantasy of overseeing the operation. Of course, I would hire someone to do it; I could never bring myself to actually touch them. I would merely watch as the specimens were carried away by a sanitation engineer on a metal dolly, but it would give me a great sense of satisfaction—even pleasure—to see them go.

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Why it's on the list ...
Nominated for the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction
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Short for Chameleon
Why it's on the list ...
Nominated for the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children’s Literature
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Finding Grace
Why it's on the list ...
Nominated for the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children’s Literature
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Catching the Light
Why it's on the list ...
Nominated for the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children’s Literature, Nominated for the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award – Fiction sponsored by Royden Trainor, Weed Man Maritimes and the family of John and Margaret Savage
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Saltwater Mittens from the Island of Newfoundland
Why it's on the list ...
Nominated for the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association Best Atlantic-Published Book Award Sponsored by Friesens Corporation
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Hope Blooms
Why it's on the list ...
Nominated for the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association Best Atlantic-Published Book Award Sponsored by Friesens Corporation
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