The 2010 National Book Awards were announced this evening. In fiction, Jaimy Gordon won for The Lord of Misrule; in nonfiction, Patti Smith won for Just Kids; in poetry, Terrance Hayes won for Lighthead; and for young people’s literature, Kathryn Erskine won for Mockingbird.
Nowadays, we take it as a given that Tolstoy’s fame was guaranteed by his talent, but many of his contemporaries thought he’d never get a readership outside his native Russia. Why? His writing, as Rosamund Bartlett puts it in a comparison with Turgenev, was “unpolished, more uncompromising and altogether more Russian” than his peers’. If you generally prefer Dostoevsky, you’ll appreciate our survey of scholars on which author was greater. (h/t Arts and Letters Daily)
“To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail,” Will Self told The Guardian. He and six other authors, including Margaret Atwood and Lionel Shriver, reflect on their life, career, and love disappointments. Pair with: our own Edan Lepucki’s essay on accepting rejection.
A new issue of The Quarterly Conversation has arrived, featuring an essay on Wizard of the Crow by QC creator Scott and a review of William T. Vollmann’s Poor People from Dave Munger. Lots of other good reviews in there too.Also via Scott, Political Theory Daily Review, a dense and daily collection of linksIn a Newsweek sidebar accompanying an excerpt of his book The American Religion, Harold Bloom names his “five most important books.” The most recent one to appear on the list? A tie, more or less, between Don Quixote and the complete works of Shakespeare. Bloom was also asked to admit to an important book he hadn’t read. His answer: “I cannot think of a major work I have not ingested.” That’s a lot of pages to store in one’s belly. (via Stephen)Good week for Mark Sarvas, first he announces that he’s sold his novel and now he’s off on his honeymoon. Filling in at TEV is Joshua Ferris, author of the much praised Then We Came to the End.And finally, a Baltimore Sun review had me intrigued by a new squirm-inducing non-fiction book by a former crime scene investigator for the Baltimore County police. Dana Kollmann’s book Never Suck a Dead Man’s Hand: Curious Adventures of a CSI gives a real-life look at a profession recently glamorized by TV show “CSI” and its many offshoots. Krall, however, describes a job both more boring and more odious than the one described on TV, but she does so with “dark humor,” which I’d imagine the job requires. The book’s title, for example, “comes from a story that involves a dead man, his hand and her attempts to get fingerprints on a freezing cold day.” Yikes.
Did you know that a new Jonathan Safran Foer book is coming out this week? We didn’t until we saw a mention of it at Kottke. More surprising is the form of the book itself. Foer has created a new work called Tree of Codes by cutting out sections of one of his favorite books, The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Shulz. The die-cut, Kindle-proof volume is the first major title by London-based Visual Editions. Vanity Fair has more.