Ah, well. De gustibus non est disputandum.
After being shut out of the IMPAC shortlist, women sweep the Pulitzer fiction finalists and end The Tournament of Books Pulitzer streak. Taking home the prize is Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, a book we noticed climbing the ranks of our Top Ten, even though we haven't written much about it. Here are this year's Pulitzer winners and finalists with excerpts where available:FictionWinner: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout - (a Year in Reading pick, excerpt)Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich (excerpt)All Souls by Christine Schutt (Christine Schutt participates in our Year in Reading)General Nonfiction:Winner: Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon (excerpt)Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry That Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age by Arthur Herman (excerpt)The Bitter Road to Freedom: A New History of the Liberation of Europe by William I. Hitchcock (excerpt)History:Winner: The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed (National Book Award winner, excerpt)This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust - (National Book Award Finalist, excerpt)The Liberal Hour: Washington and the Politics of Change in the 1960s by G. Calvin Mackenzie and Robert WeisbrotBiography:Winner: American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham (Kevin's review, excerpt)Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by H.W. Brands (excerpt)The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century by Steve Coll - excerptWinners and finalists in other categories are available at the Pulitzer Web site.
Much as The 9/11 Commission Report made big headlines for its non-fiction National Book Award nomination, the nomination of Bob Dylan's Chronicles, Vol. 1 for best biography by the National Book Critics Circle (though I'm told the book is deserving of this honor) will likely steal the spotlight in terms of news coverage of the prize. There seems to be a subtext to those fiction finalists, though. In contrast to the NBA brouhaha, the critics' finalists for fiction aren't likely to cause much of a stir. In fact, the list of nominees, topped by Philip Roth's The Plot Against America, looks very much like the set of books that most "critics" were hoping for when they decried the NBA finalists and their obscurity. The AP's book guy Hillel Italie also notes the switch that the NBA and the NBCC have made this year: "Critics are known for championing the obscure, but this year's list was filled with prominent names and titles, especially compared with last fall's National Book Awards, a supposedly more glamorous affair." I'm wondering if the NBCC is trying to prove a point here. Here are all the finalists:Fiction:The Plot Against America by Philip RothGilead by Marilynne RobinsonThe Dew Breaker by Edwidge DanticatThe Line of Beauty by Alan HollinghurstCloud Atlas by David MitchellNon-fiction:Arc of Justice by Kevin BoyleBlue Blood by Edward ConlonThe Reformation: A History by Diarmaid MacCullochThe Working Poor: Invisible in America by David K. ShiplerBlood Done Sign My Name by Timothy B. TysonBiography:Chronicles, Vol. 1 by Bob DylanAlexander Hamilton by Ron ChernowWill in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen GreenblattQueen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart by John GuyDe Kooning: An American Master by Mark Stevens and Annalyn SwanPoetry:The School Among the Ruins: Poems 2000-2004 by Adrienne RichDanger on Peaks by Gary SnyderCocktails by D.A. PowellThe Orchard by Brigit Pegeen KellyInterglacial by James RichardsonCriticism:Paper Trail: Selected Prose, 1965-2003 by Richard HowardThe Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel by James WoodSontag & Kael: Opposites Attract Me by Craig SeligmanWhere You're at: Notes from the Frontline of a Hip Hop Planet by Patrick NeateStrangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century by Graham Robb A lifetime achievement award will be given to Louis D. Rubin, Jr., the founder of Algonquin Books. The winners will be announced March 18.
The National Book Critics Circle announced the nominees for its annual best of the year awards over the weekend. Ed has stepped up to call the fiction selections in particular "safer than a dinner for four at the Olive Garden." The relative safety of the books aside, my understanding was that this award was meant to be given to the books that the nation's critics believe are of the highest quality, regardless of how well known or how obscure they are.While it might have been more interesting to for us to discuss five relatively unknown and incredibly challenging novels, I think that such a slate would have been intellectually dishonest when the critics are charged with picking the books they think are the best. Let us not forget 2004, when the five National Book Award nominees in fiction were basically unknowns across the board. The people behind the Award that year were roundly derided for their selections and those nominees were anything but safe. In that case, and in looking at this year's NBCC nominees, I would suggest that we debate the books' quality rather than whether they are too "predictable," which strikes me as an even more slippery qualifier.For more on how the NBCC makes its picks, check out TEV's interview with NBCC president John Freeman. Here are this year's nominees in fiction and nonfiction along with excerpts where available (nominees in other categories can be found at the NBCC site):Fiction:Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (excerpt, an Emerging Writers best of the year)The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai (excerpt)What is the What by Dave Eggers (excerpt, Garth's review)The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford (excerpt, Noah's review)The Road by Cormac McCarthyNonfiction:The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq by Patrick Cockburn (One of Cockburn's Iraq diaries in the LRB)The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe V. Wade by Anne Fessler (NYT review)The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan (Patrick's review)Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution by Simon Schama (excerpt)The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan (excerpt)
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It's been a busy week on the awards circuit. What seemed like a relatively calm Booker season grew divisive after the winner was announced: "The worst, certainly the most perverse, and perhaps the most indefensible choice in the 36-year history of the contest," said former Booker judge Boyd Tonkin of this year's choice, John Banville's The Sea, and then the Irish press called the British press "bitchy" (reg. req.) in response. The National Book Awards, meanwhile, will likely involve less controversy than last year thanks to a more diverse mix of finalists. And the less said about the Quills, the better.But it has been the Nobel Prize for Literature, usually a civilized affair, that has been grabbing headlines this year. First, it came to light that the award was being delayed a week as the judges fought over the politics of a potential Laureate, the Turkish author Orhan Pamuk. Then, a day before the announcement, former judge Knut Ahnlund denounced last year's Nobel winner Elfriede Jelinek, whose writing he called "whingeing, unenjoyable, violent pornography." But now we have a new Laureate, and he seems less likely to incite controversy, the British playwright, Harold Pinter, whose name, as the LA Times puts it, "has become a synonym for a unique space in the universe of drama." Pinter is the first British Laureate since V.S. Naipaul in 2001, and he is, as far as I can tell, the first playwright to win the Nobel since Eugene O'Neill in 1936. For those wanting to get their hands on Pinter's body of work, try his Complete Works: One and TwoUpdate: So, from Richard and Jenny in the comments, it seems as though Dario Fo and Wole Soyinka are more recently lauded playwrights than O'Neill, and possibly there are others depending on how you classify them.
In the third year that the Booker Prize has been open to U.S. authors, five American authors again make the longlist, including National Book Critics Circle Award-winner Paul Beatty. Double winner J.M. Coetzee is the lone former winner on the list, while Elizabeth Strout is the most celebrated American to be tapped. Other notable names include A.L. Kennedy and David Means, and four debut novels made the list. All the Booker Prize longlisters are below (with bonus links where available): The Sellout by Paul Beatty (The Inanity of American Plutocracy: On Paul Beatty’s The Sellout) The Schooldays of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee Serious Sweet by A.L. Kennedy Hot Milk by Deborah Levy His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet The North Water by Ian McGuire Hystopia by David Means The Many by Wyl Menmuir Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh (Ottessa Moshfegh's Year in Reading) Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (Elizabeth Strout's Year in Reading, A Millions Top Ten book) All That Man Is by David Szalay Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
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