By now you’ve read the result, Toni Morrison’s A Mercy edged out Tom Piazza’s City of Refuge to win The Tournament of Books. Now, if I were a betting man, and it were possible to bet on the Pulitzer winner, I’d bet on A Mercy. Why? The Tournament of Books has called the Pulitzer winner the last two years running. In 2008, Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao took home the Pulitzer on the heels of the Rooster. And in 2007, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road saw its Pulitzer win presaged by not just a Rooster, but also its unlikely companion, an Oprah’s book club pick. On April 20th, we’ll see if the Rooster still has the jump on America’s oldest literary prize.
Tomas Transtromer, the 80-year-old poet, became the first Swedish laureate since 1974. The Nobel committee gave Transtromer the award “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality.” He is the first poet to take the $1.5 million prize since Polish poet Wisława Szymborska in 1996. The Associated Press called Transtromer a “perennial favorite,” and indeed he has ranked high in the betting odds in each of the last several years. The AP also noted that Transtromer suffered a stroke in 1990 that left him half-paralyzed but that he has continued to write. A number of collections of his poetry have been published in translation. Here are a few:
Bonus Link: Solitude (I) by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robin Robertson
In the third year that the Booker Prize has been open to U.S. authors, five American authors again make the longlist, including National Book Critics Circle Award-winner Paul Beatty. Double winner J.M. Coetzee is the lone former winner on the list, while Elizabeth Strout is the most celebrated American to be tapped. Other notable names include A.L. Kennedy and David Means, and four debut novels made the list.
All the Booker Prize longlisters are below (with bonus links where available):
The Sellout by Paul Beatty (The Inanity of American Plutocracy: On Paul Beatty’s The Sellout)
The Schooldays of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee
Serious Sweet by A.L. Kennedy
Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
The North Water by Ian McGuire
Hystopia by David Means
The Many by Wyl Menmuir
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh (Ottessa Moshfegh’s Year in Reading)
Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves
My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (Elizabeth Strout’s Year in Reading, A Millions Top Ten book)
All That Man Is by David Szalay
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
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.
This year’s IMPAC shortlist was quite eclectic, as we noted when it was released. One side effect of this is that the 2008 IMPAC won’t have an impact on the “Prizewinners” tally that we keep. The upshot, of course, is that the IMPAC shed its spotlight on some less well-known names, including this year’s winner: Beirut-born, Canadian novelist Rawi Hage, who won for his debut effort, DeNiro’s Game.Andrew reviewed the book for us last year, writing “Less a political tract than a survival story, DeNiro’s Game illustrates how a war breeds anarchy which then gives way to militia rule.” Elsewhere, The Globe and Mail covers the award and offers an excerpt from Hage’s acceptance speech.