My second novel, The Garneau Block, is about building a mythology about a place without a mythology: Edmonton.
It is, essentially, a fairy tale. I remember thinking, when I lived in Montreal, that it would be difficult to write a novel set in Edmonton. Somehow, the city wasn’t real enough to be fake. So I made that a part of the story.
Edmonton is not just the setting. It is a character who changes over the course of the novel, through the lives of the human characters and a spectacularly ugly dog. It was longlisted for the Giller Prize and won the City of Edmonton Book Prize. Recently I saw a lovely thing on the internet. A clever group of writers and readers at the University of Alberta have started a new literary journal.
They’re calling it Glass Buffalo Head, which nearly made me bawl when I read the story. Why are they calling it that?
“In [Todd Babiak's] novel The Garneau Block, a cast of Edmontonian characters suggest that the city build a museum in the shape of a buffalo head, made of glass. The first essay in the magazine, written by Dorothy Roberts and entitled “Glass Buffalo,” plays on that idea from Babiak’s novel, and suggests that a new downtown Edmonton arena could be shaped like a “Glass Buffalo” too.”
Damn it hell, yes.
The lovely and frustrating people over at Canada Reads are running a contest this year, to see which novels ought to be debated. It’s a bit of a contest, for the public. You can vote for novels. The Garneau Block is on the shortlist of ten for the Prairie and Northern Region, with some other fine books. I am, of course, biased. I would love it if you would be biased with me.
When they get to five, a celebrity will pick one. I can only hope it is someone who, like you and me, wants to move out of that bungalow and live in a glass buffalo head.