Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize nominees: Colin McAdam

Read an excerpt from A Beautiful Truth

The $25,000 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the last of Canada’s major literary fiction awards to choose its 2013 winner, will do so on Nov. 20. Up for the prize are Lynn Coady, for Hellgoing, which has already won the Scotiabank Giller prize; Lisa Moore’s CaughtA Bird’s Eye by Cary FaganA Beautiful Truth by Colin McAdam; and Krista Bridge’s The Eliot Girls. In the lead-up to the awards ceremony, Maclean’s is sharing excerpts from all five shortlisted works, introduced by the writers’ thoughts on their literary influences: 


I used to turn to Jack Kerouac when I wanted to cheer up or get my pen moving. I still do sometimes. There are many narratives and cultural accretions around Kerouac and Beat culture – not a lot of them are interesting to me. What sometimes gets ignored, and what still appeals to me as a reader, is Kerouac’s energy and what he can do with the rhythms of English prose. He gets dismissed by literary snobs as simplistic, if not moronic, but there is a lot of learning behind his sentences. He reminds me that people are carried by rhythm as much as they are by meaning – that there is emotion in syllables as much as import in words. And he has been a model for me in remembering that every sentence can be a search for surprise.

An excerpt from Colin McAdam’s A Beautiful Truth:

Loee was not a conventionally cute little baby, but there was something about the fact that he had hands that made Walt and Judy feel right away that he was more than a hairy beast. And the way he moved in Judy’s arms made Walt say that’s a cute little guy right there.

Henry said just give him plain old milk and you’ll find soon enough that they’ll eat just about anything, too much if you let em. He looks good and healthy to me.

Judy carried him away like she was determined to take him somewhere better.

It was April and snow sat on the mountains.

Judy held Loee in the backseat while Walt drove to various stores after Judy said there’s all kinds of stuff we need. Looee stayed still in her arms like a newborn baby, alternately dimming and shining his eyes.

At Kmart a woman said how cute, when he was wrapped up, and screamed when she saw his face.

When they all arrived home Looee seemed awfully hot. Judy got a thermometer under his tongue and his temperature was 103.

That might be normal said Walt.

They gave him milk and bananas but through the night he grew weaker and hotter and Judy could swear he stopped breathing sometimes. She was sure he had a fever.

At dawn when things seemed worst Walt said do we take him to a doctor or a vet.

Judy said doctor without hesitation.

What on earth have you got there said Dr. Worsley, and Walt said that’s a baby chimpanzee.

The situation was inadequately explained, and Dr. Worsley said I’m just not sure you shouldn’t take him to a vet but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious, Walter.

He had a look at weary Looee and thought his private thoughts about bodies and death and how he and his medical brethren found thrills in life and love despite their knowledge of flesh and its banal truths.

He took his temperature but frankly wasn’t sure what was normal for chimpanzees.

His lungs sound congested, so as far as I can tell it’s a respiratory illness. I’ll do some reading about it.

Looee coughed a lot at home like a baby and Walt and Judy ran the shower in the bathroom and hugged him in a way his body remembered. The stream did him good and drenched them all in sweat. When Judy dried him with a towel in the bedroom on the bed, it seemed for a moment that he might be ticklish under his arms.

I think he’s smiling, Walter.

That sounds night felt longer than the first. When Looee slept and his chest stopped moving Judy would panic and wake him up and think what on earth have we done, who is this. He developed diarrhea and made a terrible mess of the bed.

He truly seemed pale under his hair and Walt thought that maybe they should have take him to the vet but Walt was in a jungle of sleeplessness and confusion.

They waited, like they waited with each other when they were sick, ultimately relying on the instinct of the body to live and find its own solutions. Eventually his fever broke and his limbs regathered their twitches and kicks. The three of them slept.

Copyright Colin McAdam, 2013. Reprinted by permission of Penguin Canada Books Inc.

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