The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul

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2008 NBCC Winners: 2666 Takes Home the Prize

Even though it was undoubtedly the work of literary fiction that engendered the most excitement during 2008, by dint of its South American pedigree Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 wasn’t eligible for most of the English-speaking world’s literary awards. However, the National Book Critics Circle, which doesn’t place many limits on who is eligible for its annual award, saw fit to recognize the book. The full slate of winners:Fiction: 2666 by Roberto Bolaño (Why Bolaño Matters, excerpt)Poetry (two winners): Sleeping it Off in Rapid City by August Kleinzahler and Half of the World in Light by Juan Felipe HerreraCriticism: Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History by Seth Lerer (Lerer’s Year in Reading at The Millions)Biography: The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul by Patrick French (a Year in Reading pick)Autobiography: My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq by Ariel SabarNonfiction: The Forever War by Dexter Filkins (excerpt)

A Year in Reading: Peter Straub

Peter Straub, the author of seventeen novels, including two with Stephen King, and two collections of short fiction, has won a Grand Master, a Life Achievement, and a Living Legend Award. He most recently edited Poe’s Children, an anthology of new horror writing.This year, I read five books that were really compelling. They are:White Heat, by Brenda Wineapple. A smart, close-up look at the relationship between Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Completely fascinating. He both got her and was completely baffled by her. The man remained totally loyal to the end.Warlock, by Oakley Hall. Believe it or not, a western. A great western. Thomas Pynchon wrote a long blurb. It’s newly published by nyrb in their lovely line of reprints. Oakley Hall was Michael Chabon’s writing instructor, I believe. I was crazy about this book and recommended it to all my friends.Hallelujah Junction, by John Adams. A wonderful memoir by a fine, fine composer who worked his way out of academic serialism to a vibrant, enhanced minimalism, a minimalism that is not minimal, by being open-minded, hard-working, and really talented. Full of good things.The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul, by Patrick French. Naipaul always was a dodgy man who wrote wonderful, scathing, rather nasty books. Filled with one unpleasant surprise after another, but you finish it eager to look back at some of Naipaul’s work. I have to say, though, that this book offers an all-round portrayal of how writers should not behave.When Will There Be Good News, by Kate Atkinson. An elegant, funny thriller that does not at all conduct itself like a thriller. Beautifully assembled, always true to its feelings.More from A Year in Reading 2008

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