Joseph Epstein (Fabulous Small Jews, Snobbery) takes a look at the glut of awards, literary and otherwise in a Wall Street Journal piece: “All this prize-giving has made the field of culture rather like one of those progressive preschools where, on graduation day, even the most hopeless child is given a prize for not actually maiming his classmates.”
● ● ●
The Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to the 56-year-old German writer Herta Müller. Müller is the author of 19 books. Not all of them have been translated into English and only a handful are anywhere close to being in print. The Prize committee said Müller, "with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed." Müller was born in Romanian and emigrated to Germany in 1987. Her first books were published only in censored versions in Romania. The Nobel's "bio-bibliography" has more. It's not easy at present to get a hold of a book by Müller in the U.S., but doubtless her works that have been translated into English will come back into print quickly. The Appointment was published by Metropolitan books and The Passport by Serpents Tail. Nadirs was brought out by the University of Nebraska Press, and Northwestern University Press put out The Land of Green Plums and Traveling on One Leg. The latter two are technically in print right now though I wouldn't expect hardly any bookstore to actually have them on the shelves. Kudos to The Complete Review for calling the Prize for Müller in advance. The Complete Review also has a good deal more information available about Müller.
The IMPAC Award shortlist was announced today. The IMPAC sets itself apart with its unique approach. Its massive longlist is compiled by libraries all over the world before being whittled down by judges. This makes for a more egalitarian selection. It's also got a long lead time. Books up for the current prize (to be named June 15th) were all published in 2009, putting the IMPAC more than a year behind other big literary awards. There's a distinct upside in this. By now, nearly all the shortlisted books are available in paperback in the U.S. The IMPAC also tends to be interesting for the breadth of books it considers.This year's shortlist is typically eclectic, representing four countries and ranging from bestsellers, to relative unknowns.Galore by Michael Crummey (excerpt, At The Millions, Michael Crummey's "Whale Music")The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (excerpt, In his Year in Reading, Sam Anderson suggests some edits.)The Vagrants by Yiyun Li(excerpt, At The Millions, Yiyun Li on Per Petterson)Ransom by David Malouf (excerpt)Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (excerpt, A Millions Hall of Famer)Little Bird of Heaven by Joyce Carol OatesJasper Jones by Craig Silvey (excerpt)Brooklyn by Colm Toibín (excerpt, Edan's Year in Reading)Love and Summer by William Trevor (excerpt)After the Fire, a Still Small Voice by Evie Wyld (excerpt)
● ● ●
As expected, Cormac McCarthy's The Road took home the top prize in TMN's Tournament of Books. Oprah stole some of the award's thunder with her surprise announcement, but the excellent finale, with commentary from 17 judges, is a great read. In fact, I had a great time following the Tournament this year (for me it rivaled the NCAA's in terms of holding my interest). It was a treat to read reactions to books like The Road and One Good Turn day after day from a big group of people. I'm already looking forward to next year.And incidentally, after reading all these reactions to The Road in the Tournament, along with all the Oprah-fueled media coverage, it's starting to sound like The Road is one of those important books that comes along from time to time. One that has real staying power.
Back in January I briefly made mention of something called the WHSmith Award. It's a British award that is determined by public opinion. People vote from a list of nominated finalists to determine the best book of the year. After 148,000 votes cast, they have announced the winners in eight categories, including the latest Harry Potter in the fiction category, Brick Lane by Monica Ali for best debut novel, Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It by Geoff Dyer for travel books, and Michael Moore's Dude, Where's My Country?, in something called the "factual" category. So as not turn over complete control to the masses, the also give out an award called the "Judges' Choice," which was awarded to the American writer, Richard Powers for his dense critical favorite, The Time of Our Singing. As I said when I first found out about this award, I would be very interested to see the results of an American award determined by popular vote. A lot more Americans read than people think, so an astute businessperson could, in my opinion, do quite well creating an award like this to fill the void. Here are the complete results of the 2004 WHSmith Awards.