Ah, well. De gustibus non est disputandum.
Bring Up the Bodies author Hilary Mantel, Ladbrokes’s 6/4 favorite for this year’s award, has won her second Man Booker Prize in three years. This is the third time in eight years that the favorite has won the award (Wolf Hall was one of the others).
In our Most Anticipated Books post for the first half of 2012, Sonya Chung said of Bring Up the Bodies:
Those of us who gobbled up Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall eagerly await the release of its sequel, the ominously-titled Bring Up the Bodies. In Wolf Hall, we saw the operatic parallel rise of both Thomas Cromwell and Anne Boleyn in the court of Henry VIII. In Bring Up the Bodies, Anne’s failure to produce a male heir, and Henry’s eternally wandering attentions, present Cromwell with the challenge of his career: protecting the King, eliminating Anne, and preserving his own power base. How we loved to hate Anne in Wolf Hall; will her destruction at the hands of the king and his chief minister win our sympathies? If anyone can effect such a complication of emotional investment, Mantel can.
Mantel was also recently profiled by Larissa MacFarquhar for The New Yorker, and you can read multiple excerpts from her latest work online thanks to the New York Review of Books, Parade, Macmillan, and The Telegraph. Also, you can check out reviews and excerpts from the five other titles on the Booker shortlist over here.
For years, Bob Dylan has been considered a longshot contender for the Nobel Prize. Nobel watchers have not taken the possibility of a Dylan win seriously, not because he isn’t a legendary talent, but because giving him the prize would be so out of character for a committee that has so often used the Nobel to bring a regional master to a global audience. A case can and certainly will be made that Dylan is as deserving as any other for something as arbitrary as a literary prize, but there is some disappointment in not bringing a lesser known talent to worldwide acclaim, let alone one whose primary medium is books.
That said, as far as rock memoirs go, Dylan’s Chronicles is considered perhaps the best of the genre. The book is meant to be the first in a trilogy but there has been little in the way of firm news as to when the second and third volumes might appear. In 2012, Dylan told Rolling Stone, “Let’s hope [it happens].” Certainly, however, the committee did not have Chronicles in mind when it gave Dylan the prize. A new edition of Dylan’s collected lyrics is set to be released within the next month.
In 2009, in these pages, Andrew Saikali made a strong case.
Whole books have been written, whole careers launched, with discussion of the lyrics of Bob Dylan. But reading Bob Dylan and listening to Bob Dylan are two completely different experiences. And it’s his melodies, vocal phrasing and musical arrangements that lift these masterful words off the page, animating them, haunting them, imbuing them with mystery.
In 2010, Jim Santel explored the suddenly popular rock memoir genre, setting aside Chronicles as an exception “among the most persistently disappointing of literary subgenres.”
In 2011, Buzz Poole reflected on Dylan’s 70th birthday: “Lurking in everything Dylan has ever done, for better or worse, is the myth of America, its chameleon-like quality to be everything to everybody its greatest asset, permitting openness, not for the sake of change but because of its necessity.”
The finalists for the annual National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Award have been announced, offering up the customary shortlists of great fiction and nonfiction. In addition, the John Leonard Prize for best debut novel was awarded to Yaa Gyasi for Homegoing; the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing went to Michelle Dean (check out her 2016 Year in Reading); and Margaret Atwood took home the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.
The NBCC Award will be presented March 17 in a public ceremony.
Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Lisa Lucas and Imbolo Mbue on the book)
Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive Idea of Racist History of Racist Ideas in America
Jane Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires behind the Rise of the Radical Right
Viet Thanh Nguyen, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (edited by our own Zoë Ruiz!)
John Edgar Wideman, Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File
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