Edward P. Jones continues to receive accolades for his National Book Critics Circle Award. This AP article gives some more insight on Jones and his book, The Known World. Could a Pulitzer be around the corner? In the San Francisco Chronicle, a considerable profile of T. C. Boyle. It looks like Boyle’s next book will be called The Inner Circle. This one will be about Dr. Alfred Kinsey, a real life sex researcher from the 1940s and 50s. And the New York Times Book Review finally finished reading William Vollmann’s massive treatise on violence, Rising Up and Rising Down, (weighing in at 3,299 pages) and makes the review its cover story. They appreciate the expanse of the work, but not so much the content.
The winners of the National Book Critics Circle Award have been announced in New York City. The award is voted on by critics and considers all books in English (including in translation), no matter the country of origin. The winners in the various categories and some supplementary links: Fiction: Marilynne Robinson, Lila ("Marilynne Robinson’s Singular Vision") Nonfiction: David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation (excerpt) Autobiography: Roz Chast, Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant (excerpt) Criticism: Ellen Willis, The Essential Ellen Willis Biography: John Lahr, Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh (The Duality of the Human Psyche: On John Lahr’s Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh) Poetry: Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (A Year in Reading: Tiphanie Yanique) Previously: The finalists
The annual MacArthur "Genius" Fellows have been named. This award gives people from diverse fields $500,000 with "no strings attached," for "exceptional creativity, as demonstrated through a track record of significant achievement, and manifest promise for important future advances." There are typically a handful of literary types among the scientists, artists, and musicians who become Fellows. This year, by my count, there are three.Stuart Dybek, as a highly regarded short story writer and novelist, is the best-known among them. When most people think of Dybek, they think of Chicago, where much of his writing is set. He's also the writer in residence at nearby Northwestern University. I haven't read any Dybek, but when I do, I'll likely start with The Coast of Chicago or I Sailed with Magellan.Peter Cole is co-founder and co-editor of Ibis Editions, "a small press and non-profit organization founded in Jerusalem in 1998 and dedicated to the publication of Levant-related books of poetry and belletristic prose. The press publishes translations from Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, French, and the other languages of the region. New writing is published, though special attention is paid to overlooked works from the recent and distant past." Among Cole's more recent efforts is The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492Lynn Nottage is a Brooklyn-based playwright. According to the Hartford Courant, "Nottage is developing a workshop production at Chicago's Goodman Theater of 'Ruined,' set in a mining town in the Congo rainforest. She recently workshopped another new play for the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York, an adaptation of slave narratives for the stage. She is also working on a children's musical 'Sweet Billy and the Zulus' for the Philadelphia-based touring company, Colored Girl Productions." Her most recently published plays are Intimate Apparel and Fabulation.
After all the talk that America is a literary backwater, it's not terribly surprising that the Nobel Prize went to an international writer. Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio is not a very well known name. In fact, he only has a few of books translated into English that are in print.Wandering Star "tells two discrete stories of two young girls, one Jewish and one Palestinian, who meet once briefly by chance. Their stories are connected by substance, rather than plot. Each is a wandering star in search of a homeland-Esther escaping the Nazi holocaust, and Nejma, who experiences the horrors of life in the camps." The Round and Other Cold Hard Facts is a collection of stories. "Set largely in locations near the French Riviera, these eleven short stories depict the harsh realities of life for the less-privileged inhabitants of this very privileged region." The Prospector (link to more info on the publisher's site): "Haunting and lyrical, this Bildungsroman of the narrator's search for the lost treasure of the Corsair is near-mythic but has realistic details that bolster its plausibility. Set in early 20th-century Mauritius, the story follows the life of a young man who, after the death of his father, tries to restore his family's fortunes by tracking down some buried gold." And The Mexican Dream: Or, The Interrupted Thought of Amerindian Civilizations, which Booklist described as a "brilliantly conceived analysis of Mexican civilization as a series of 'dreams' that come into conflict is breathtakingly well written, sweeping us away with the intensity and lapidary shimmer of its prose."Judging by the very low (as of this writing) Amazon rankings, Le Clezio hasn't had much of a readership in the US, but this will likely change as publishers rush to get more of his books into print. Books and writers and Wikipedia offer up longer bios of Le Clezio.Update: Another that's been translated and is in print is Onitsha: "Onitsha tells the story of Fintan, a youth who travels to Africa in 1948 with his Italian mother to join the English father he has never met. Fintan is initially enchanted by the exotic world he discovers in Onitsha, a bustling city prominently situated on the eastern bank of the Niger River. But gradually he comes to recognize the intolerance and brutality of the colonial system. His youthful point of view provides the novel with a notably direct, horrified perspective on racism and colonialism."Update 2: The Lit Saloon rounds up excerpts from decades of reviews of Le Clezio's work. Decidedly mixed.
The National Book Award winners for 2011 have been announced. The big prize for fiction went to Jesmyn Ward for Salvage the Bones, a novel one critic called "Katrina-drenched" and another "gritty, loamy and alive." (excerpt) The non-fiction award went to The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt (excerpt). The Poetry award was won by Nikky Finney for Head Off & Split. The winner in the Young People's Literature category was Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (excerpt).
Comcast's Internet service was been down for about 36 hours which has made blogging difficult. Now that my day job is officially a work from home gig, I rely on steady Internet access like never before, and considering the amount of time I spend blogging and using the Internet for pretty much all of the information consumption in my life, going without is next to impossible for me. I'd say that's a little scary, but it's been like this for several years now so I'm pretty used to it. At any rate, hopefully I'm back up and running for good, no thanks to Comcast - it took three phone calls to them and 12 hours before they could even confirm that an outage was causing my problem. Luckily, Mrs. Millions was kind enough to let me use her office for work, otherwise I would have been really screwed.In the meantime, the Pulitzer Prizes were announced yesterday. To me, the Pulitzer Prize for fiction is the most predictable of all literary prizes as it usually goes to the most well-known American literary work of the previous year, especially if the book deals with American themes, namely the American immigrant/Melting Pot idea. American history is usually an important theme as well. This year I figured E.L. Doctorow's The March was a lock, both because it sold well and because it's about an iconic episode in American history, General Sherman's great march during the Civil War. Instead, Doctorow's book was named a finalist, but the much less well-known, but similarly named and themed book March by Geraldine Brooks won the prize. March is about the Civil War as well, but the book is not simply a fictional account of a historical event, rather March tells the story of Mr. March, the father who in Louisa May Alcott's classic Little Women is away fighting in the Civil War. This isn't the first time that what Booksquare calls a remix has won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In 1999 Michael Cunningham's The Hours, a "remix" of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway won the prize.Listed below are this years winners and finalists in all the "Letters" categories. I've included links to excerpts and other interesting material where available.FictionWinner: March by Geraldine Brooks - excerptThe March by E.L. Doctorow - excerptThe Bright Forever by Lee Martin - excerptDrama:No Winner: (I rather like that the Pulitzer unlike most other prizes is unafraid to not pick a winner if they don't feel there's a worthy book in a category - though, admittedly, I'd be surprised to see them not pick a fiction winner any time soon.)Miss Witherspoon by Christopher Durang - New York Times reviewThe Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow by Rolin Jones - New York Times reviewRed Light Winter by Adam Rapp - New York Times reviewHistory:Winner: Polio: An American Story by David M. Oshinsky - Bookslut reviewNew York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan by Jill Lepore - excerptThe Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln by Sean Wilentz - interviewBiography:Winner: American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin - excerptThe Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion - excerptThe Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism by Megan Marshall - Megan Marshall at SlatePoetry:Winner: Late Wife by Claudia Emerson - a poemAmerican Sublime by Elizabeth Alexander - excerptElegy on Toy Piano by Dean Young - excerpt (pdf)General Non-fiction:Winner: Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya by Caroline Elkins - (very short) excerptPostwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt - Judt in The NYRBThe Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq by George Packer - excerpt
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