The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is unique in that the longlist (or pool of nominees) is not created from submissions by publishers. Instead libraries throughout the world nominate books, resulting in a very long longlist that spans many countries. Eventually, the list is whittled way down to a shortlist by a panel of judges who then goes on to name a winner. Another result of the nominating process is that, by the time the award is handed out on June 14th, 2006, the winning book could be as much as two years old. Despite all this, a look at the past winners reveals an engaging and diverse batch of books. Still, perhaps this award could be better than it is. The Literary Saloon identifies some possible improvements, including a way to cut out the nationalism that pervades the longlist.
Award season is in full swing now. The Booker was awarded yesterday, and the winner of the Nobel Prize for literature will be announced tomorrow or soon after, but today is all about the finalists for the National Book Award. As Ed remarked, in so many words, for the second year in a row, the judges have managed to deliver a crop of fiction finalists that satisfyingly occupy the sweet spot between obscurity and being, well, too obvious. On to the finalists in all categories, and, where available, excerpts from the books.Fiction:Only Revolutions by Mark Z. Danielewski – an excerpt of sortsA Disorder Peculiar to the Country by Ken Kalfus – excerptThe Echo Maker by Richard Powers – (very short) excerptEat the Document by Dana Spiotta – excerptThe Zero by Jess Walter – excerptNon-fiction:At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68 by Taylor Branch – excerptImperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran – excerpt 1, 2The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan – excerptOracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present by Peter Hessler – excerptThe Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright – excerptPoetry:Averno by Louise Gluck – poemChromatic by H.L. HixAngle of Yaw by Ben Lerner – poemsSplay Anthem by Nathaniel Mackey – poemCapacity by James McMichael – poemYoung People’s Literature:The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson – excerptKeturah and Lord Death by Martine LeavittSold by Patricia McCormick – excerptThe Rules of Survival by Nancy WerlinAmerican Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang – pages
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:
Nonfiction: Maya Jasanoff, Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary War (excerpt)
Criticism: Geoff Dyer, Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews (“Putting It Together,” “The Millions Interview: Geoff Dyer on the London Riots, the Great War, and the Gray Lady“)
Poetry: Laura Kasischke, Space, in Chains
Previously: The finalists
Last year we noted that by honoring William T. Vollmann in 2005 and then Richard Powers the following year, the National Book Award seemed to be making a move toward “honoring some of the names on the leading edge of American fiction,” as opposed to the old guard or the merely obscure. One could say that the NBA has always filled this roll, but it seemed to have lost its focus in the years before 2005, particularly in 2004, when five relative unknowns were nominated for the fiction prize and the entire literary community seemed collectively bewildered.The NBA has stayed true to form, however, in 2007 with a strong slate of nominees and with this year’s fiction winner, named last night, Denis Johnson, for his Vietnam War novel Tree of Smoke. In discussing the finalists, we called Johnson the “presumptive favorite,” and he was a favorite that many readers seemed to want to win. We have a review of the book available, and curious readers can also check out an excerpt. With Johnson away on assignment in Iraq, his wife accepted the award for him.Moving to the other categories, Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes: The History of the C.I.A. (excerpt) took home the non-fiction prize, beating out Christopher Hitchens. Sherman Alexie, whose adult fiction has never made the cut for the fiction award, was a winner in the Young People’s Literature category for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (excerpt). The poetry award went to Robert Hass for Time and Materials (poem).For more on the award ceremony, check out the Times writeup. And Ed, who attended with several other bloggers, offered his own coverage as well.
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.