Percival Everett won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction, highlighting "the funniest novel of the past 12 months, which best evokes the Wodehouse spirit of 'witty characters and perfectly-timed comic phrases,' " for his novel The Trees (Graywolf Press), the Bookseller reported. Everett receives a jeroboam of Bollinger Special Cuvée, a case of Bollinger La Grande Année, the complete set of the Everyman's Library P.G. Wodehouse collection and a pig named after his winning book.
Prize organizers praised The Trees as a "bold and provocative book in which Everett takes direct aim at racism and police violence, in a fast-paced style that ensures the reader can't look away.... Confronting America's legacy of lynching, it is an enormously powerful novel of lasting importance, while at the same time a comic horror masterpiece."
Everett observed: "It's ironic that this prize for comedy goes now to a book about the American practice of lynching, but that's why I love comedy. Comedy allows us for short bursts to be smarter animals than we usually are. To realize the absurdity is to transcend the absurdity. Funny that. Thank you."
Chair of the judges Peter Florence added: "Comedy can entertain, can mock, can tease out our compassion and empathy, it can make you laugh and smile and feel better about other people and even ourselves. And Percival Everett's The Trees can do something else as well. It can lighten the most atrocious darkness and tell truths in ways that begin to make sense of the absurdity of life. He brings us back to the core of our own humanity. You have to go back to Joseph Heller's Catch-22 to find this done so well as Percival Everett does it. He's in that company with Heller and Swift, with Chaplin, Pryor and with Wodehouse. What a joy to read such a book."
Writer and director Sarah Polley won the C$10,000 (about US$7,420) Toronto Book Award for Run Towards the Danger: Confrontations with a Body of Memory, "an essay collection that explores difficult stories from her own life," Quill & Quire reported. Each of the finalists for the prize, which was established in 1974 and honors books inspired by the city, received C$1,000 (about US$740).