Lisa pointed out in a comment on yesterday’s post that I neglected to mention the finalists in the Young People’s Literature Category of the National Book Award. That’ll teach me to cut corners. So here they are (and the poetry nominees as well… they need the love, too):Young People’s LiteratureHoney, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti — excerptGodless by Pete Hautman — excerptHarlem Stomp! A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance by Laban Carrick Hill — Hill on the novelThe Legend of Buddy Bush by Shelia P. Moses — excerptLuna by Julie Anne Peters — excerptPoetryShoah Train by William Heyen — a poemCollected Poems by Donald Justice (posthumous) — obitThe Rest of Love by Carl Phillips — some poemsGoest by Cole Swensen — poemsDoor In The Mountain: New And Collected Poems, 1965-2003 by Jean Valentine — poems (cool website)A Visit from DoctorowE.L. Doctorow described writers as prophets and the act of using a library as a sacrament in an obliquely political and densely literary talk at Northwestern on Wednesday. He decried President Bush, describing his “dismal public conduct so shot through with piety.” In his talk, entitled “Apprehending Reality,” he used the Bible as a jumping off point citing it as the first appearance of many literary techniques: adaptation, driving a plot with characters and working backwards from conclusion to motivation as a mystery writer might. From his Biblical introduction, he made the leap to the present day divide in America “between the old stories and the new, between the writers of the old and the impertinent writers of the new.” The talk was adapted from an essay in Doctorow’s book, Reporting the Universe. Doctorow’s most recent work of fiction is Sweet Land Stories.
Confirming speculation that it would be given to a woman, the 2004 Nobel Prize has been awarded to Elfriede Jelinek, an Austrian author who is probably unknown to most American readers. Her books are dark and often disturbing. She is best known for her book, The Piano Teacher, which was made into an award-winning film. Her other books available in English are: Women As Lovers, Lust, Wonderful, Wonderful Times
Eleanor Catton has claimed the 2013 Man Booker Prize – as well as its £50,000 payout – for her second novel, The Luminaries. Catton had 11/4 odds to win this year’s prize according to popular bookmakers, Ladbrokes, and she has now become the youngest author to ever win the prestigious award. The four judges read 151 novels before deciding on Catton’s work, and chairman Robert Macfarlane estimates that the reading amounted to “about 21 kilometres of prose” at “12-pt Adobe Garamond.”
In a recent review for our site, Martha Anne Toll referred to Catton’s novel as “that rarest literary treasure, a book of such dazzling breadth and scope that it defies any label short of masterpiece.” She continued:
Deeply entrenched in New Zealand’s South Island, The Luminaries makes clear that this author commands the world at her fingertips. Her literary ancestry derives less from her homeland and more from the British and American giants of the nineteenth century. Catton deserves their company. Nodding to Melville, she’s nailed the tormented sea captain and the revenge obsessed “Chinaman.” With so many characters taking on false identities and trying to out-cheat each other in New Zealand’s gold rush, Catton, too, has mined the seamy underside of greed and poverty so beloved by Dickens. Like George Eliot, Catton looks behind the stereotype of the whore and the opium dealer and forces us to question where the real morality lies. By the novel’s end, every character’s initial presentation has been destabilized. Reader, Catton instructs, don’t judge a book by its cover.
Next year will be the first year in which American authors will be eligible to win the Man Booker Prize, which has previously been open only to authors from the British Commonwealth.