The action at TMN’s Tournament of books continues. Judge Marcus Sakey shocked the world by selecting The Emperor’s Children over The Echo Maker, which was, to my mind, the presumptive favorite having taken down the National Book Award and all manner of praise from critics spanning the globe. But this, folks, is why we play the games. The Echo Maker going down early hurts our chances to win this thing as we had it going all the way (my pdf bracket). Luckily, a number of other folks had the book going far as well, so the damage is somewhat limited. In other news, the little rat that could, Firmin, made it through round one, selected by judge Sarah Hepola over Brookland, which she found to be “so boring.”
There are plenty of awards for fiction and quite a few for different types of non-fiction, but, according to the people behind the Lettre Ulysses Award, “no world prize for reportage literature existed before 2003.” That’s when a couple of German foundations got together “to provide symbolic, moral and financial support for reporters whose courage, curiosity, and integrity drives them to create in-depth, well-researched texts, bringing unknown, forgotten, and hidden realities to light. The prize is also intended to publicly honor and highlight the extraordinary achievements of literary reportage.” Each year they award a first, second and third prize worth 50,000, 30,000 and 20,000 Euros, respectively. One of the most interesting aspects of this award is its international reach. In the award’s first two years, a Somali, a Russian, two Chinese and two Americans have been prizewinners. Indeed this international bent is a part of the award’s mission: “By facilitating the translation and publication of texts from often inaccessible places or languages, this project aims to focus attention on diverse topics and issues.”This year’s award will be announced on October 15th, and the Shortlist looks very interesting:Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq by Riverbend (Iraq)Von den Kriegen: Briefe an Freunde (Of the wars: Letters to friends) by Carolin Emcke (Germany)Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier by Alexandra Fuller (Zimbabwe)A Season in Mecca: Narrative of a Pilgrimage by Abdellah Hammoudi (Morocco)The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime by William Langewiesche (USA) (my review)Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta (India)Muerte en el Pentagonito: Los cementerios secretos del Ejarcito Peruano (Death in the Pentagonito: The Secret Cemeteries of the Peruvian Army) by Ricardo Uceda (Peru)
The Booker longlist was announced yesterday. Going over the list, I noted that it didn’t seem very multi-cultural. One of the interesting things about the Booker is that any author from the Commonwealth of Nations or from Ireland is eligible. This means that any of 54 countries might send a writer to Booker glory. This year, however, the judging committee is keeping things geographically constrained, with only three countries represented among the 13 finalists:England, 9 (Byatt, Foulds, Harvey, Lever, Mantel, Hall, Mawer, Scudamore, Waters)Ireland, 3 (O’Loughlin, Toibin, Trevor)South Africa, 1 (Coetzee)Moving on to less serious matters, the Booker betting odds are now out (and subject to change as punters put their money on the line). The bookmakers like Toibin and Waters to win, but James Lever is putting in an impressive showing with his mock memoir of a chimp.4/1 Colm Toibin – Brooklyn4/1 Sarah Waters – The Little Stranger5/1 Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall6/1 J.M. Coetzee – Summertime8/1 James Lever – Me Cheeta10/1 A.S. Byatt – The Children’s Book12/1 William Trevor – Love and Summer14/1 Ed O’Loughlin – Not Untrue and Not Unkind14/1 Simon Mawer – The Glass Room16/1 James Scudamore – Heliopolis16/1 Adam Foulds – The Quickening Maze16/1 Sarah Hall – How to Paint a Dead Man16/1 Samantha Harvey – The Wilderness
The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award has unveiled its voluminous 2009 longlist. Recall that libraries around the world can nominate books for the prize, and these nominations, taken together, comprise the longlist. This year there are 146 novels on the list, nominated by 157 libraries in 41 countries. All of the books must have been published in English in 2007 (including translations).Because of the award’s global reach and egalitarian process, it’s always interesting to dig deeper into the longlist. 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.Overall favorites: books that were nominated by at least five libraries.A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (18 libraries representing Belgium, England, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland, Uganda, and the US)Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje (13 libraries representing Belgium, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, and the US)On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (10 libraries representing Canada, the Czech Republic, England, Estonia, Germany, Portugal, The Netherlands, and the US)The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (8 libraries representing Belgium, Canada, England, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, and the US)The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon (8 libraries representing Canada, England, and the US)The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (7 libraries representing Ireland and the US)The Gathering by Anne Enright (6 libraries representing Brazil, the Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, and the US)What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn (5 libraries representing Canada, England, and Northern Ireland)You can also look at the list and see which books are favorites in different countries. Several books were nominated by multiple libraries in the same country. Here’s a few:In The Netherlands, The Dinner Club by Saskia Noort and Lost Paradise by Cees NooteboomIn the US, Tree of Smoke by Denis JohnsonIn Canada, Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay and The Outlander by Gil AdamsonThere were also several countries with only one library nominating just one or two books. Here are a few of those:From Colombia, Delirium by Laura RestrepoFrom Barbados, Man Gone Down by Michael ThomasFrom Estonia, Between Each Breath by Adam ThorpeFrom Jamaica, The Pirate’s Daughter by Margaret Cezair-ThompsonFrom Russia, Tomorrow by Graham SwiftFrom The Gambia, Ishq and Mushq by Priya BasilThe shortlist will be announced on April 2, 2009 and the winner on June 11, 2009.
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.