Prizewinning fiction, pure and undoctored

Giller Prize winner Vincent Lam's approach, in life as in literature, is to keep it simple

Article by Val Ross, Globe and Mail
November 9, 2006


incent Lam's face is benign and smooth, his voice light, with each syllable precisely articulated. A question about his salary elicits a response — “Why do you want to know? Is that relevant?” — that would sound rude from someone else.

But from the 32-year-old man who on Tuesday night won the $40,000 Giller Prize for a collection titled Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures, it sounds curious and concerned, the professional tone a doctor uses to ask, “How do you feel if I pull on this?” And because he's an emergency room doctor at Toronto's East General Hospital, he knows the right voice for not alarming patients, or journalists, while sincerely trying to understand their needs.

The day after his Giller victory, Dr. Lam is being hounded by journalists. No wonder: The combination of parents emigrating from Vietnam, a job in emergency room gore, a chance encounter with Margaret Atwood that helped him find a publisher, and winning Canada's most glamorous literary prize on his very first try is genuine real-life drama.

To help field all the media requests, his mother-in-law is at the downtown Toronto apartment where he lives with his wife, Marguerita, a family doctor, and their toddler son. What is his son's name? “Let's leave that out,” says Dr. Lam gently, shielding his family as if he's an old hand at dealing with reporters.

© The Globe and Mail 2006