It’s that time of year again – the time of year when various orginizations and institutions take the cue from the NCAA basketball tournament to create their own contest in which various products are placed into brackets so that, via head to head competition, the best of the best can be determined. Usually this sort of thing is reserved for beer commercials, and it’s hard for anyone to pay that much attention to it, but, as they proved last year, The Morning News has taken the March Madness ripoff to a new level with its Tournament of Books. It was good fun for basketball fans and book fans alike last year and it promises to be good fun this time around to. To play along, meet the judges and download your bracket (pdf). Anyone want to start a pool?
A year after declining to present the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the jurors went ahead and named a winner this year. Perhaps nudged by the North Korea's mad, headline-grabbing sabre-rattling, the award has gone to Adam Johnson's novel of the hermit kingdom, The Orphan Master's Son. Nathan Englander and Eowyn Ivey were the other fiction finalists. Here are this year's Pulitzer winners and finalists with bonus links: Fiction: Winner: The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson - (excerpt) What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander (Englander's Year in Reading, excerpt) The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey General Nonfiction: Winner: Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo (The Millions Interview) The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature by David George Haskell (excerpt) History: Winner: Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam by Fredrik Logevall (excerpt) The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675 by Bernard Bailyn (excerpt) Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History by John Fabian Witt (excerpt) Biography: Winner: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss (excerpt) Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece by Michael Gorra (excerpt) The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy by David Nasaw (excerpt) Winners and finalists in other categories are available at the Pulitzer Web site.
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Longtime readers will recall my interest in a fairly obscure literary prize called the Lettre Ulysses Award, which recognizes works of book-length journalism from around the world. I wrote about the shortlist and winner in 2005 and the longlist and winner in 2006. Thinking it might be time for this year's installment of the Lettre Ulysses, I recently visited the award's website and was dismayed to discover that the award is on hiatus, perhaps permanently:The Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage will not be presented in 2007. The only world prize for literary reportage was brought to life by the cultural quarterly Lettre International in 2003 with the financial support of the Aventis Foundation and was presented annually up until 2006. The Goethe-Institut has been a partner of the project from the very beginning. Since the contract with the Aventis Foundation expired the Foundation Lettre International Award has not succeeded so far in finding a new partner to finance the award. The organizers hope to be able to present the award again annually from 2008.I'm hoping that Lettre Ulysses is successful in finding backing for next year. Though not a well-known prize, it highlighted the work of reporters around the world who shed light on conflicts and cultures that deserve global attention.
We take a break from our countdown to salute this year's literary "Genius grant" winners (the full list of Geniuses). The MacArthur grant awards $500,000, “no strings attached” to “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” This year’s literary geniuses are: Millions favorite Deborah Eisenberg was a winner this year. The grant seems perfect for this incredibly talented but not very prolific short story writer. Many critics have been jumping on the Eisenberg bandwagon in recent years, and this honor seems sure to cement her in the pantheon of contemporary masters. Eisenberg's masterpiece (as yet) is Twilight of the Superheroes, and ten years before that saw the publication of All Around Atlantis and The Stories (So Far) of Deborah Eisenberg, which combines her first two collections, Transactions in a Foreign Currency (1986) and Under the 82nd Airborne (1992). Garth wrote a long and essential consideration of Eisenberg nearly two years ago, and prior to that, Andrew wrote of seeing Eisenberg and longtime companion Wallace Shawn in Toronto. Edwidge Danticat is another well-known name, at least in literary circles. The Hatian-American writer has written several books. She received a National Book Award nomination for her 1996 collection Krik? Krak!, and more recently her novel The Dew Breaker and memoir Brother, I'm Dying won praise. Danticat first rose to prominence when her novel Breath, Eyes, Memory was selected for Oprah's book club. Finally, MacArthur honored poet Heather McHugh, of whom the judges say, "Heather McHugh is a poet whose intricately patterned compositions explore various aspects of the human condition and inspire wonder in the unexpected associations that language can evoke." Her collection Hinge & Sign: Poems, 1968-1993, published in 1994, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and Eyeshot, published in 2003, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
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Of all the many literary awards out there, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is the most egalitarian, international, and exhaustive in scope. This year, 169 libraries in 45 countries nominated 138 novels. All of the books must have been published in English or in translation in 2005. Libraries can nominate up to three books each. Taken as a whole, the literary proclivities of various countries become evident, and a few titles recur again and again, revealing which books have made a global impact on readers. Here are this year's highlightsOverall favorites: books that were nominated by at least five libraries.Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (one in Canada and five in the US)Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden (all six in Canada)Saturday by Ian McEwan (one each in England, Germany, Greece, New Zealand and Russia)The Accidental by Ali Smith (one each in Belgium, Brazil, England, Ireland and Scotland)The Kreutzer Sonata by Margriet De Moor (all five in The Netherlands)The Sea by John Banville (two in Ireland and one each in the US, Hungary and Czech Republic)You can also look at the list and see which books are favorites in different countries. Aside from Three Day Road in Canada and The Kreutzer Sonata in The Netherlands, several books were nominated by multiple libraries in the same country. Here's a few:In South Africa, Gem Squash Tokoloshe by Rachel ZadokIn New Zealand, Blindsight by Maurice GeeIn the US, Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala and March by Geraldine BrooksIn Australia, The Secret River by Kate GrenvilleThere were also several countries with only one library nominating just one book. Here are a few of those:From Pakistan, Broken Verses by Kamila ShamsieFrom Malaysia, The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash AwFrom Spain, Cold Skin by Albert Sanchez PinolFrom Suriname, Circle of Love by Soecy GummelsThe shortlist will be announced on April 4, 2007 and the winner on June 14, 2007.