Who will be the 2011 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Fiction?


March 16, 2011

The Pulitzer Prize announcement is still more than a month away (April 18th is the big day). But with all of the predictor variables entered, we are ready for our final prediction. Here is our 2011 Pulitzer Prize prediction list prepared by a fellow Pulitzer collector, and research scientist. This regression analysis has a new process of weights to account for a given book's performance in the current year awards and the author's past award and nomination history.

The PPrize.com Prediction List for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction:
1.A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
2.Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
3.Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon
4.Nemesis by Philip Roth
5.The Surrendered by Chang Rae-Lee
6.Nashville Chrome by Rick Bass
7.Fun with Problems by Robert Stone
8.Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
9.Sourland: Stories by Joyce Carol Oates
10.Point Omega by Don DeLillo
11.Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler
12.Collected Stories by Deborah Eisenberg
13.The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall
14.Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
15.Next by James Hynes
16.The Lotus Eaters by Soli Tatjana

This list is based upon analysis that ultimately incorporates over 30 independent or predictor variables such as newspaper notable and best book lists; other awards and award nominations; and authors previously nominated for the Pulitzer and other awards. There is still much that cannot be predicted about winning the Pulitzer Prize and lots of other factors that cannot be quantified as variables that certainly contribute to the award process. Readers should only consider this list for what it is intended to be, a fun exercise in second guessing (or pre-guessing) the Pulitzer Prize judges.

Here is an additional list of books that ranked lower in the regression analysis, but were singled-out by the PPrize.com community as having potential to win this year's Pulitzer Prize for Fiction:
1.Great House by Nicole Krauss
2.How to Escape from a Leper Colony by Tiphanie Yanique
3.How to Read the Air by Dinaw Megestu
4.I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita
5.The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
6.Kings of the Earth by Jon Clinch
7.The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse
8.New Yorker Stories by Ann Beattie
9.Parrott and Olivier in America by Peter Carey
10.The Privileges by Jonathan Dee
11.The Spot by David Means
12.Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
13.Walking to Gatlinburg by Howard Frank Mosher
14.The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass
15.Wild Child by T.C. Boyle

Note: The books on these lists are not endorsements. We are not stating that any particular book deserves to win the Pulitzer Prize. Nor are we saying what book should win. Rather we are presenting the books we think are most likely to be selected by the Pulitzer organization as the winner based upon notable and best book lists, other awards and award nominations, an author's track record, and the types of books that have won in the past.


Comment on our lists, or offer your own opinion about who you think will win the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction:

Kris
April 12, 2010, 7:48 pm
Alright, I'll bite. On my uber-preliminary list, I'd have to include the following works: Noah's Compass (Anne Tyler), Burning Bright: Stories (Ron Rash), Union Atlantic (Adam Haslett), and The Unnamed (Joshua Ferris). The final predictor list will likely contain several former award winners and nominees who will be releasing works in the near future, like Philip Roth, Jennifer Egan, Jane Smiley and Jonathan Franzen.

As of right now, my two favorites are Noah's Compass and Union Atlantic. Haslett's first book, a collection of short stories entitled You Are Not a Stranger Here, was nominated for book the National Book Award and the Pulitzer in 2002, if I recall correctly. Union Atlantic is, in my opinion, more bold and mature, dealing with the causes of the economic recession in highly imaginative ways. Noah's Compass, on the other hand, strikes a nice balance between naiveté and existential angst, and feels slightly more self-reflexive than some of Tyler's previous works (which is saying something). Both have received substantial positive press (though the NYT's Michiko Kakutani vilified Noah's Compass) and were penned by authors whose previous nominations give them a 'predictor's edge', if you'll allow me to use the term.

Wow, this feels very 'meta' - predicting the predictions!

Mike
April 12, 2010, 9:18 pm
After you mentioned Haslett's book (in the 2010 prediction discussion), I looked him up and you're right, You Are Not a Stranger Here was highly decorated, and Union Atlantic looks strong... I've ordered my copy. Both Noah's Compass and The Unnamed got pretty iffy reviews, but I've already stocked up on them and plan to read both this year. I'm sure Noah's Compass will be in the Top 15 in the model ... I did a quick calculation had it been a 2009 release (when we were uncertain), and it would have been in the Top 10. Not sure I thnk she'll win again, but looking forward to reading the book. I think that Franzen's novel, Freedom, could be huge... it will certainly get the hype. I loved The Corrections, so it will be interesting to see if he can deliver ... people will hold him to pretty high expectations and, of course, he and Michiko Kakutani have had a spat or two! I like the Ron Rash prediction, he was a PEN/Faulkner finalist with Serana.

I've mentioned that I think Louise Erdrich's new book, Shadow Tag, is an early favorite ... I've got it to read and plan to do so soon. Also, someone's already mentioned T.C. Boyle's Wild Child, which is now out. I think Gail Godwin has a new one coming out and so does Oscar Hijuelos (it's a sequel to Mambo Kings). Other early notables that seem to be getting press are Karl Marlante's Matterhorn and Howard Frank Mosher's Walking to Gatlinburg.

I'd really like to hear from folks as they read these (and others). If there's enough word-of-mouth, perhaps we can avoid missing the next Tinkers! (Though, of course, one person on the discussion did mention it, and I'm kicking myself for not paying closer attention to that!)
Mike
April 12, 2010, 9:48 pm
Oh yeah, I think The Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee looks like a possibility. He's a past PEN/Hemingway winner.
Mr. Benchly
April 15, 2010, 9:29 am
I had a good track record of owning first printings of Pulitzers before they were announced; that is, until Olive Kitteridge and Tinkers, both of which cost a pretty penny online now. So my new philosophy is to treat myself to one nice, signed, first of a potential Pulitzer per month until the next awards are announced. Today's purchase was a signed first of Union Atlantic.
Is Howard Frank Mosher really getting a lot of press for his latest? He lives in my neck of the woods and my bookstore sells tons of autographed copies. Maybe that will be next month's purchase!
I haven't read any 2010 books yet so I don't have any predictions to offer but I'll be sure to come back later when I do. Until then, thanks again for this site. I've been using it for years.
Tom
April 16, 2010, 10:08 am
I truly have no crystal ball but I DO read an awful lot. It did my soul good to see that the meritorious "Tinkers" grabbed the brass ring this year because it had a "poor relations" beginning, in that it was NOT backed by a major house and a huge PR firm. Well done, indeed.

It's early in the game, as we all know, but be on the look-out for this simply told tale with a rich text and brimming imagination and characters you will never see in any other story --- it called "In the Land of the Chalice Maker". It's the debut novel by T.J. Cahill. It runs easily on several levels. The "Potter" crowd might go for it because it's really a warm and often very funny tale with a few life lessons thrown in (a la "The Alchemist"). But the older readers will enjoy the tale as it is written, but more, perhaps, for the superb use of the English language and tightly written dialogue/conversations between and among the main characters. It seems like they actually live and breathe on the page. Seasoned readers will take to it because the author has spared no emotion in bringing you along on this odyssey where monumental loss and winds of change will resonate with the readers who have truly lived their lives. In other words, it something for everyone -- a rarity in publishing these days and almost unheard of in a debut novel. It's quite a find. You can actually read this novel over again and still love it -- eventhough you already know what's going to happen.
THAT'S the kind of novel you want to see win the Pulitzer. Time will tell.
Mike
April 18, 2010, 12:35 pm
You certainly weren't alone with Tinkers! I had a copy of Olive Kitteridge, though, because it was a Natinoal Book Critics Circle finalist. I try to do basically what you're describing... pick up signed copies of potential winners in advance. Truthfully, in most cases, I would spend less money annually if I just waited until after the announcement is made and pick up a signed copy at the high prices then... though I'm not sure that would have been the case this year ... but I also figure that those books that seem strong contenders in any given year are written by authors who will contend again. Thus, I don't think my investments in signed first by Louise Erdrich's The Plague Doves (finalist last year) or Jayne Anne' Phillip's Lark & Termite (this year) will be wasted, as there's a strong chance these authors will contend again. I also try to get signed copies of an authors first book before they hit it big, as first books and first novels go up in price almost as much as the actual winner does. I too picked up a signed first (and ARC) of Union Atlantic (based upon Kris's recommendation), and then went and picked up a signed copy of his first book of short stories. I spent most of my time in the first part of this year trying to read as many of the 2009 books that might be in contention as I could, so will be switching now to 2010 contenders, starting with Louise Erdrich's Shadow Tag. I picked up Noah's Compass on CD, so will listen to it, and then I think Union Atlantic will be the next read.

I've seen quite a bit of buzz about Mosher's book, Walking to Gatlinburg, so I think that's a good investment. I belong to a Signed, First Edition club run by the Odyssey Book Store in Hadley Mass., where they send one book per month, and that is one of their selections. He's also coming through my area, so I plan to go listen to him and will try to read the book beforehand. Another book getting a lot of buzz is Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes.

I'll look forward to people posting their perceptions of books as they read them.
Kris
April 19, 2010, 8:43 am
I just finished Don Delillo's 'Point Omega' (February 2). I'm a huge fan of Delillo's work - 'White Noise' ranks among my favorite novels - and enjoyed this book, too. The novel's plot is easy to follow. A young filmmaker, Jim Finley, asks an academic-turned-defense-strategist, Richard Elster, to become the subject of a minimalist film about Elster's role in planning the Iraq War. Apparently ambivalent about the idea, Elster invites Finley to spend time with him at his desert retreat, where he "philosophizes geologically" about the war, the nature of time and social transformation. Most of the story centers upon the relationship forged between Elster and Finley (who increasingly doubts that he will ever receive a response to his inquiry). A curveball is thrown into the plotline, however, when Elster's daughter comes to visit under suspicious circumstances, arousing the spirits of both men. All of this is concentrated between the book's opening and closing scenes, which depict a museum-goer's compulsion toward "24-hour Psycho," a work of installation art by Douglas Gordon.

Delillo's writing is sparse and his subject matter follows naturally from 'Falling Man' (2007). But is this a Pulitzer contender? On the one hand, Delillo has been nominated for nearly every major literary award I can think of, including twice for the Pulitzer (in 1992 for 'Mao II' and in 1998 for 'Underworld'). On the other hand, 'Point Omega' is a novel of big and abstract ideas, and critical reviews have reflected the controversy courted by pursuing grand themes. Delillo, himself, stated that the book plays with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's idea "that human consciousness is reaching a point of exhaustion and that what comes next may be either a paroxysm or something enormously sublime and unenvisionable." From my perspective, the work also returns to Delillo's employment of "hyperreality" as a literary theme, in which images become simulacra that mediate myths of American exceptionalism. Moreover, the author clearly uses metaphorical diction to critique the expressive capacity of language, itself, for articulating events that are "sublime" in their incomprehensibility, be it the majesty of an open desert or human folly made manifest by misguided wars. Much of Elster's theorizing is shrouded in the kind of mysticism for which Delillo has become famous in academic circles. I would argue that the same is true of Finley's character development, which, toward the end of the book, gravitates toward a kind of moral reconciliation common to works like Jane Smiley's 'A Thousand Acres', where concepts of 'logos' and the 'right order of things' are as much a part of the story as the characters' actions.

Back to the central question: Is it Pulitzer-worthy? I think the reviews are too polarized, indicating critical split that most Pulitzer candidates don't face. It's certainly an interesting read, though, if you don't mind works that challenge your intellect as much as your heart.
Mike
April 19, 2010, 4:47 pm
Kris, you should review books professionally, that's a great review of Point Omega, very helpful! I haven't read it, it's on my list to read before the year's out, but I'll guarantee it will be in the top 15 from the statistical analysis for the very reason you name... Delillo's been nominated for everything and some things twice. I thought White Noise was great, enjoyed Running Dog quite a bit, and likedFalling Man, though as I have mentioned before in discussions on pprize.com, I appear to be in the minority with the latter. I didn't like Cosmopolis at all and The Body Artist at all, and keep picking up Libra and not being able to finish it, though I intend to do so. Underworld is on my must read list. I wondered if Point Omega, which isn't very long, would be another bust like Cosmopolis and Body Artist, both of which were almost novellas. It sounds, though, as if that's not the case, which gives me hope that I'll at least enjoy it.

You mention polarized reviews, Michiko Kakutani said the following:

But even its clever structural engineering can’t make up for the author’s uncharacteristically simplistic portrait of its hero: a pompous intellectual who shamelessly justifies sending thousands of young soldiers off to die in an unnecessary war with abstract, philosophical arguments, but who suddenly comes to know the meaning of death and loss firsthand when his beloved daughter abruptly disappears. Instead of the jazzy, vernacular, darkly humorous language he employed to such galvanic effect in “White Noise” and “Underworld,” Mr. DeLillo has chosen here to use the spare, etiolated, almost Beckettian prose he used in his 2001 novella, “The Body Artist,” and his 1987 play, “The Day Room.” And in place of the electric, highly detailed observations of American life that animate “Libra” and “Mao II,” he has substituted dreary and highly portentous musings about mortality and time.

So, it will be on the prediction list, I'm certain, so worth reading to be able to make a decision about more subjectively!
Mike
April 19, 2010, 5:11 pm
I just noticed that Deborah Eisenberg has releaased a "Collected Stories" volume (end of March 2010). She's a former PEN/Faulkner finalist (for Twilight of the Superheroes, published in 2007) and a past recipient of a MacArthur "Genius" award. Maybe one to watch out for ... if it shows up in any of the award nominations (otherwise it probably won't make the top 15). I think short story collections are the hardest to predict ... I though Lydia Davis' volume of Collected Stories was one to watch last year and got nary a nomination. But, I haven't noticed any other short story collections that might be in the running, so thought I'd throw it out there. It is, unfortunately, a paperback original ... and 980 pages at that!
Kris
April 21, 2010, 4:40 am
Thanks, Mike. That was a very nice thing to say and I needed the confidence boost, today. Can't wait for your thoughts on 'Shadow Tag', which I just started reading.
brak
April 21, 2010, 1:13 pm
I liked "Point Omega" a lot--but I have described it in the past as a shard of a novel. It feels like it could be a vignette out of "Underworld" (which is one of the best books I have ever read)--not just because of its size but because, while Delillo almost always deals with grand themes, "Point Omega" ends just as you are settling in. Definitely worth reading, but I would be surprised if this is the book Delillo wins for. In the 2009 forum, we discussed whether the Pulitzers are ever given to authors because those authors are owed. (I don't personally feel that they are, however the only possible evidence I see for this is Cormac McCarthy, whose "The Road" was a wonderful novel, but not his best.) But if any author is owed, Delillo is certainly among them.
brak
April 21, 2010, 1:23 pm
Er, I meant the 2010 forum, not the 2009. The 2009 prizes announced in 2010. So confusing. Haha!
Mike
April 24, 2010, 7:02 pm
I had several plane trips this week, so had time to finish Shadow Tag by Louse Erdrich, then went back and read the reviews from the NY Times, the Washington Post, the Miami Herald, and others. The reviews all use terms such as bleak and troubled in reference to the book’s story line (which is about a failing marriage and the dynamics, often pretty ugly, surrounding that), and all of them point to the book as in some way self-referential to Ms. Erdrich’s marriage to the author Michael Dorris, from whom she separated after allegations of child abuse. He committed suicide a few years later. The reviews are, almost universally, glowing as well. It’s often hard to like either of the main characters, Irene and Gil, though Gil’s particularly difficult to stomach, in my opinion, and at times I thought that the drama was overplayed in relation to the relatively awful things they do to one another, and what that does to their children, but in the end I have to say that the book creates a tension that keeps you interested and probably does capture what a marriage spiraling to its end is probably like in many cases. There is a subplot in the novel about the painter George Catlin that was intriguing (and pretty damning, really) and makes me want to find out more about him. I liked Plague of Doves better, personally, but that’s in part because I have always liked the multilayered plots that Erdrich uses, and this book has a very straight forward plot. In fact, in the ARC I have, the letter from the editor mentions that she wrote it “straight on, a single, gripping narrative” and suggests the reader will experience it that way. I’d bet money it shows up on the ‘best books” lists in most newspapers and that we see it nominated for some award or another. Anyone else read it yet?
brak
April 28, 2010, 8:40 pm
I'm reading, savoring, "Tinkers" still...it is pretty stunning. I'm just sorry I didn't pick up on this book early when NPR, among others, was raving about it. (It's weird, but for some reason Tara's recommendation on the previous forum stuck with me, but I always forgot to write down the title / author...and so, when I was at a bookstore, I wouldn't remember what it was called.)

I asked on the previous forum, but all the action has moved over here, so I'll ask again. Does anyone have any thoughts about how adv. readers copies differ in value from first editions?

But, as I am reading the winner/finalists now, I haven't yet turned to next year. Jonathan Dee and Adam Haslett have been mentioned before, though the New Yorker compared them and seemed to prefer Dee's book. I'd love to think that Delillo will get it, but I don't think it will be for this book. That being said, I think it will be the fall before I can make any big predictions until Roth and Franzen's books come out--not to mention that the Fall is a pretty big season for books, particularly big names who publish every year. (Updike's, Roth's, Kingsolver's books etc., all typically come out in the fall.)
Kris
April 29, 2010, 7:43 am
While completely irrelevant to the 2011 discussion, I just noticed that neither 'Tinkers' nor 'In Other Rooms, Other Wonders' won the L.A. Times Prize for First Fiction, which, instead, went to 'American Rust' by Philipp Meyer. The general fiction award went to 'A Happy Marriage' by Rafael Yglesias. I doubt that any writer nominated for this year's L.A. Times prizes will be publishing anything this year, but I wonder how many previous L.A. winners have become Pulitzer nominees. Mike, good indicator for the future or not so much?

On another unrelated note, Hawaii tends to lag behind the rest of the country in sales (among other things), so many hard-to-locate, but reasonably current first editions can be found at local bookstores. For examples, I saw three first edition copies of 'Tinkers' tonight, as I was purchasing books that may be nominated for this year's Man Booker Prize - isn't that a stacked list, this year? Anyway, if, in the future, I see anything similar, I may pick up what's available and resell them at sticker price, so people can complete their collections without having to spend a fortune. I'll keep everyone posted.
Mr. Benchly
April 29, 2010, 2:52 pm
Kris,
If you run across a first edition copy of Tinkers, I will gladly pay you for it.
On a side note, I'm about 60 pages into The Unnamed and I have to admit I like it so far. I was a huge fan of Then We Came to the End so maybe I'm just being optimistic but so far it's gripping. I'll keep you all posted. And speaking of firsts, I happened upon a first of In Other Rooms, Other Wonders today at Borders. I bought it with a 40% off coupon for a nice little bargain.
brak
April 29, 2010, 11:03 pm
If any of those are hardcovers, Kris, I'd love a copy!
Kris
April 30, 2010, 10:06 am
Shucks! There was one, and only one, hardcover first. I raced back to Borders after seeing your message, but it had already been picked up, leaving only the first edition softies. I'll keep my eye out, though. As I said, Hawaii has a weird bookseller's market (Hawaii is a unique place, generally), so there may be something floating around. I'll check a couple of the indie bookstores on the other side of the island, tomorrow, after classes end.
Mr. Benchly
April 30, 2010, 11:11 am
Hi Kris - I'll gladly buy one of the soft covers from you if you still have access to them. If so, please feel free to email me at mrbenchly@gmail.com so we can set up the transaction. Maybe I could trade a signed Walking to Gatlinburg 1st by Howard Frank Mosher if you're interested. - Seth
Tom
April 30, 2010, 11:50 am
Kris,
Your humble webmaster of this website is also seeking a hardcover first. Please keep me in mind as well if you run into one. You can always reach me at the questions@fedpo.com mailing address.
brak
April 30, 2010, 1:20 pm
My email is: brakface@gmail.com
Mike
April 30, 2010, 7:03 pm
Brak, I too read Tinkers too late and can see why it won ... as I said before, I'm kicking myself for not having listend to Tara's recommendation!

You asked about how advance reader copies hold up with regard to value. In general, it appears to me that you can actually get ARCs for less than a comparable (condition-wise) hardcover 1st, though that's not always the case, obviously. I collect all versions of the 1st, including uncorrected proofs, ARCs, 1st hardcover, etc.) and generally can get the ARC reasonably, if one's available.. .they''re usually harder to find than trade firsts and its tougher to find them in fine condition. With Tinkers specifically, everything is going for sky high prices, as I presume you've seen. I've only seen one and it went for just over $300, while a signed harcover just went for over $1,000. One softcover original went for just under $300. The ARC had some minor flaws and wasn't signed, but still, I expected it to go for more. It will be interesting to see what softcover 1sts go for from this point on.
Mike
April 30, 2010, 7:16 pm
Kris, with regard to the LA Times award winners as predictors for the Pulitzers, they're not very helpful. For one thing, they're announced after the Pulitzer is announced, so the best you can do any year is look at whether the author was a previous winner or nominee. Of those, only if an author has multiple LA Times nominations in the past is a significant predictor, and even then not very high in strength. The First fiction has only been awarded since 1991, so it doesn't go back far enough to be helpful in my model. As for Pulitzer winners that also won the LA Time Fiction prize, there hasn't actually been one since they started giving the award in 1980. That's in part because the LA Times prize, like the National Book Critics Circle Award, is open to any author, not just US citizens, so you get a much wider range. In fact, only Marilyn Robinson from among Pulitzer Winners has won the LA Time Fiction Prize, and that for Home.
brak
April 30, 2010, 7:40 pm
Hey Kris, by the way, I just want to thank you for rushing back to Borders for a stranger. That's really kind of you--and while I am sorry to hear that the hardcover you saw is not now available, I just wanted to thank you for that gesture. Truly kind.
Mike
April 30, 2010, 8:08 pm
By the way, no Pulitzer prize winner has also won the LA Times First Fiction Award, though Elizabeth Strout's first novel did win.
brak
May 3, 2010, 8:11 pm
He was also once written about as being the new Updike...
Mike
May 3, 2010, 9:09 pm
That might be hard billing to live up to! It's on my list to read.
Mike
May 5, 2010, 5:37 pm
I just finished Anne Tyler's "Noah's Compass." I liked this book better than her last (Digging to America), but for the first third of the book I had the odd sensation I was reading a Richard Russo book. The focus on the male character and his interaction with his daughter's boyfriend in the first chapter sets a tone not unlike Russo's The Risk Pool or Mohawk. After the interactions between the male protagonist, Liam Pennywell, and his daughters, ex-wife, and a potential new flame take over the plot, though, the book settles into a more typical Tyler observation of couples and relationships. The book is pretty predictable, at least in how Liam will act, if you've read a lot of Tyler's novels. I read two reviews, including Michiko Kakutani's review, and both started their review with the comment that Anne Tyler's male protagonists seem to fit a similar mold. Here's how Kakutani described that character: "a lost soul or self-proclaimed loser who realizes that his life is stalled and who sinks into a low-grade depression — a sad-sack sort of fellow, basically well meaning but detached and more than a little passive." That's an apt description of Liam Pennywell. Kakutani describes Tyler's narratives as having an intimate feel "as if we were flipping through an album of snapshots belonging to a friend or a neighbor", and I think that's true for Richard Russo's books as well, and is why I like both of them. That said, Liam's constant passivity and apparent naitivity and the female protagonist's sort of over-the-top dumpiness and eccentricity make the narrative somewhat plodding and some of their revelations about their emotions about one another seem contrived. Kakutani concludes that the "complete implausibility of that story line makes for a flimsy and unsatisfying novel, a novel quite unworthy of this gifted author’s talents," and while I think that's a bit harsh, since I did like the book overall, I don't think it's a novel that will garner many nominations this coming year. Truthfully, I think both Tyler and Russo have gotten their Pulitzer... and I say that as somoene who likes both (Richard Russo, in fact, is one of my favorite authors). I think Noah's Compass will perform about like Russo's last book, That Old Cape Magic (though I must say I liked Cape Magic better)... it will make it on several "best books of the year lists, be (of course) a best seller, but not get nominated for any awards. It will, like Cape Magic, make it to the top 15 of the regression analysis because of Tyler's past accomplishments, but I don't think it will really be much of a contender for any awards, including a second Pultizer for Tyler. Others' thoughts?
brak
May 6, 2010, 2:43 pm
I enjoy Anne Tyler's work too, but I agree that she and Russo have most likely gotten their Pulitzers. It is rare for an author to receive more than one anyway--even someone like Roth, who has been nominated many many times, only has one under his belt. In fact, the only three people I can think of who received more than one are: Updike, both for fiction; Mailer, one for fiction, one for non-fiction; and Robert Penn Warren, one for fiction, one for poetry, I believe.

Tyler is also hit-or-miss. She is a very capable writer, and sometimes writes with amazing beauty, but she also has books like "Saint Maybe", which almost seems to have caricatures, to me, instead of characters--I didn't dislike the book, but I certainly would not read it again (like I would "Dinner at Homesick Restaurant" or "Breathing Lessons". I do not read her novels in a committed way, but I would be surprised if she joined the elite club of multiple pulitzers.
Mike
May 7, 2010, 2:54 pm
There are, in fact, three double Pulitzer for fiction winners... Updike (1981, 1990), Booth Tarkington (1918 and 1921), and Faulkner (1954 and 1962), as well as folks like Robert Penn Warren and others who won once in fiction and again in dramatic plays (Wilder, I thnk), poetry, non-fiction, etc. I think both Russo and Tyler would have to write a very different kind of book than their typical novels to win a second (and that seems very unlikely). Who out there might actually be viable for a second Pulitzer? Well, Updike is the only such double winner in the last 50 years, and he won for two Rabbit books. Not sure I see anyone out there who has one Pulitzer with a character-driven series that might win another one. Roth seems the most likely candidate, certainly. Perhaps someone like Jhumpa Lahiri, who won for her first book, which was a short story collection, might have a chance at it if she keeps writing at a high level. Cormac McCarthy, maybe? I hear tale he's got a new novel in the pipe. Marilyn Robinson seems capable of it... Home did well as a sequal to Gilead. I don't know if James Alan McPherson is still actively writing, at least I haven't seen anthing, but he won a while back for Elbow Room, a book of short stories, and he might have a great novel in him still that could take it. Maybe Richard Ford or Toni Morrison?
brak
May 7, 2010, 7:29 pm
Wow--Elbow Room! There's one that has fallen off the map, huh. I don't know if he's still writing--I think Roth is the best candidate for a second Pulitzer. He has been a finalist so many times--but as you said of Delillo, he needs to stop putzing around with small books and write one of his brilliant, ambitious books. I really loved Exit Ghost, and Everyman had some nice things. I thought Indignation was mediocre, and Humbling was a solid well-written book, the premise of which could have come from almost any writer, honestly. (Beautiful cover on that last one, however.) We'll see--maybe his next book?

I think Toni Morrison could also win a second pulitzer, as could Marilyn Robinson--and, actually, Jeffrey Eugenides has promised his publisher to complete his new novel by 2011, I believe. He spends so long writing each novel, they are both so well-crafted. (He has also been publishing short stories over the years too, so I would expect a collection of those at some point.) And finally, I could see Edward P. Jones winning for either a novel or his short stories, both of which are incredible. (Meanwhile, Paul Harding probably will continue to write stellar fiction, as well...certainly someone to keep watching.)
Mike
May 8, 2010, 11:38 am
I thought Middlesex was great, and presumed he'd have another in the works, though hadn't heard a 2011 date, so that's good news. I kind of think of him in the same mode as Michael Chabon, whose books I also like a lot, though of course, Eugenides has only published two novels to date. I saw Chabon when he was on the book tour for his latest book of essays, and he's got another novel nearing completion, though I didn't get the sense in talking with him that it was as close as even a 2011 publication. Both Eugenides and Chabon were young enough with their first Pulitzer win that they might have another Pulitzer-worthy novel in them, so I certanily don't discount that as a possibility. I agree, as well, about Jones ... in fact his last collection of short stories was a Pulitzer finalist.

I just saw that Jane Smiley has a new novel out, Perfect Life. I tend to think that she's in more of the Tyler, Russo camp and has won the Pulitzer she's going to win and would have to write a very different type of book to win again.

In addition to speculating who might win a second Pultizer, we should throw out names of authors who haven't won one yet, but seem likely candidates. I'd start that list with Jonathan Franzen and, of course, Don Delillo. I also think that Louise Erdrich is on the cusp. We've brought up E.L. Doctorow during discussions in past years, and he's a perennial candidate. I like Pete Dexter a lot, but he'd have to write something to match Paris Trout, I think, to get a Pulitzer. I'd put Colson Whitehead in that group. In past, I would have listed T.C. Boyle and Russell Banks, but I'm beginning to wonder about both. Banks' Cloudsplitter was, I think, his magnum opus and was a Pulitzer finalist, but not winner. I think Boyle's best novels were World's End and Drop City, and though I've liked more recent ones by him, I don't think they were up to those to earlier books. Colum McCann, maybe. Richard Powers? I thought Echo Maker was great, but have had a hard time even finishing some of his books.

I was looking at the list of National Book Award winners to see if Wright Morris had won two NBA awards (he had), and was struck by how the same names appeared on the winner/finalist lists year after year, both in the 1950s and 1980s (the two decades I looked at because that's when Wright Morris won), and it reinforced, for me, the seeming fact that in each decade, certain authors continuously put out books that get nominated and occasionally win, and that's a pattern we probably should expect to see repeated now. I get a sense the awards are more liberal now, not as focused only on a small set of authors, but still, most of the folks I've mentioned seem likley to keep writing books that appear on prize lists.
brak
May 8, 2010, 11:56 am
I would like to see Thomas Berger win, honestly. "The Feud", of which I recently found a first edition in perfect condition, was selected by the Pulitzer jury unanimously as the Pulitzer prize winner--and yet, the comittee (who, I believe, selects the three books from which the jury picks a winner), overturned the jury's decision, and awarded "Ironweed". Given, "Ironweed" is a stunning book, and is often cited as one of the great novels of the 20th century; however, Berger's book is so wonderful, so much fun. It reminded me strongly of "Confederacy of Dunces"--so while I have not really read any of his other books, I would like to see his Pulitzer day come.

I think Banks is a magnificent writer--but I would put him in the camp of Kingsolver: an ambitious writer who is deserving, but who has not (and, who knows, may never) win.

One final note--to my knowledge, Jones hasn't ever had his story collections up for the Pulitzer. I think "All Aunt Hagar's Children" was a finalist or winner of the Pen / Faulkner award, however. His first collection may have won something too...oh yes, here we go, the internet has informed me that his first book won the Pen / Hemingway award. In fact, every book he has ever published has won a pretty major award, and been a finalist in multiple others. I could see him winning a second Pulitzer for his short stories, certainly.

Eugenides is an interesting writer--the difference between he and Chabon is that Chabon is interested in transcending genre, elevating it to literature, and breaking down that distinction, whereas Eugenides has said that each of his books explores something different.

Eugenides said his first book was primarily about character, his second book was all about plot, was "over plotted", in fact, according to him, and I think he said that his next book is focusing heavily on theme. I don't have time to re-listen to the interview, but I think it is contained in the following link. Enjoy! =)

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/podcasts/2009/05/15/15bookreview.mp3

Mike
May 8, 2010, 3:53 pm
Oops, you're right about Jones... Aunt Hagar's Children was a PEN/Faulkner finalist, not a Pulitzer finalist, my bad. As you note, his first book, Lost in the City, which was also a collection of short stories, won the PEN/Hemingway award (awarded to an American Author who has not previously published a book of fiction) and was an NBA finalist. He also won the PEN/Malamud Award (along with Nam Le) this year, which is awarded for excellence in the art of the short story.

I agree with the fact that Chabon is interested in transcending genres ... His last two novels, Gentleman of the Road and The Yiddish Policeman's Union, are good examples of that. It'll be interesting to see what he does next.
Mr. Benchly
May 10, 2010, 11:28 am
Michael Chabon is actually the reason I started collecting Pulitzer Prize books. I bought a used copy of Wonder Boys (as luck would have it, it turned out to be a first printing) and liked it so much I ordered a hard cover copy of Kavalier & Clay on ebay (which also turned out to be a first printing, even though I wasn't looking for one). Three days after I finished Kavalier & Clay and declared it my new favorite novel, Chabon won the Pulitzer. I soon realized that the $10 I spent on the first printing had become a valuable investment and I was hooked. Ever since then, I've been collecting and reading past winners, and doing my best to figure out who will win next.

I've been reading Ferris's The Unnamed. It's a decent book and I'm certainly hooked, but I'd bet serious money that it won't win the Pulitzer. Then We Came to the End was a thousand times more entertaining and The Unnamed seems like a step down for Ferris in terms of plot, dialogue, and even his descriptions. It honestly has made me wonder if I should revisit Then We Came to the End to see if the premise and complex nature of that book blinded me from a lack of quality. Maybe I'm being too harsh but after thinking about Chabon's writing just now, I can't help but notice an obvious and large gap in talent between Chabon and Ferris.

Maybe I'll feel differently once I've finished The Unnamed, but I doubt it.
Mike
May 11, 2010, 8:11 am
I got into collecting Pulitzers in a similar manner. I've collected books in some way since I was out of college and could afford to buy them, but I'd run out of steam on two different collections I'd been pursuing for a while and had sold those books off and was sort of in a lull with book collecting. I still had some books from my earlier buying, though, such as most of Larry McMurtry's and John Irving's books, including a first edition of Lonesome Dove. I had discovered Cormac McCarthy with All the Pretty Horses, and went back and read all of his books after that, and while I purchased first editions of The Crossing and Cities of the Plain, the last two in the trilogy that began with All the Pretty Horses, I could never find a first of that book or any of his earlier books (which, of course, are nearly impossible to get hold of). In any case, I bought a copy of The Road out of what was basically a remainder bin and read it over Thanksgiving, then shelved it with the other McCarthy books I had. When it was announced as the Pulitzer winner, I went to check on the edition, and it was a first edition (happily with no remainder marks and since I'd read it gently, still in Fine condition). It struck me that I had two first edition Pulitzers, The Road and Lonesome Dove, and the old book collecting fire was rekindled and I was off again! I wish I'd started a decade ago, though, I have a feeling it might be more difficult now to do a complete run of the Pulitzer winners, but what the heck, half the fun is in the hunt. But, the annual run up to the Pulitzer announcement and identifying and collecting potential winners/finalists keeps the collecting from becoming stale ... there are new writers I learn about each year and some books I wouldn't have otherwise read, so I think I'm in it for the long haul.

Your opinion of The Unnamed seems to be on target with the reviews, and I agree with your assessment of its chances. I still need to read Then We Came to the End, so I'll start with that.

Marilynne Robinson comes to town (Kansas City area) Wednesday, and along with some copies of Gilead I'm going to take to have signed, I'm going to take a copy of Paul Harding's Tinkers to see if she'll sign it, since she has a blurb on the cover. I'm hoping (presuming) Harding will, himself, hit the author-tour-trail here soon and I could then get it signed by him as well.
brak
May 11, 2010, 1:09 pm
Keep us posted, if you don't mind, Mike, if you find out about a Paul Harding book tour. I have a pretty good--not perfect--first edition paperback (though, I'm still hoping maybe Kris might come across a first edition HC and ever-so-generously let me purchase it from her, hint hint, hahaha), and I'd love to get Harding to sign it.

My feeling on collecting is that I prefer to come upon books, a first edition for $10 somewhere, tucked away in a used book store, unrecognized by most for its value. I happen to have a knack for finding signed books--I once found an old paperback copy in good condition of William Styron's "The Confessions of Nat Turner" at a Goodwill Store. It cost me 50¢, and I don't even know why I picked it up, since I happened to already have a hardcover copy. But there it was. I had the same experience with a small paperback by Eudora Welty. And again, with a HC first ed. copy of Philip Roth's "Exit Ghost", for which I paid $4. Just a knack I have, it seems...so part of the fun, for me, is finding a used book, and just happening to find it signed. (I do occasionally buy things off of ebay, etc., that I pay full price for, but it's less fun that way.)

In fact, I just posted on the 2010 prediction forum that I ordered a hardcover of "In Other Rooms, Other Wonders" for $5 from half.com, and it came in very good condition, and as an added bonus, it was a first edition and signed! O_O
Mike
May 11, 2010, 5:29 pm
Heck, finding bargains is half the fun of collecting. My most recent bargain was a signed first edition of Michael Cunningham's The Hours for $3.00 from the Clearance shelf at a local Half Price Bookstore. The Fine Books Magazine website ran a contest to see who found the best antiquarian book bargain. The winner found a first edition, first issue of Catcher in the Rye, with original dust jacket, for 50 cents in a one box lot on eBay! Now that's a bargain!
Mike
May 12, 2010, 9:25 pm
From today's New York Observer:

"On June 7, The New Yorker will publish a double fiction issue in which it will name 20 individuals under the age of 40 whom they believe to be the most talented and important American writers of their generation. The authors who are being considered for the list have been told that they will be notified on Friday, or Monday at the latest, whether they have made the cut. Right now, they're waiting anxiously while the fiction editors at the magazine, led by Deborah Treisman, make their final decisions in congress with editor in chief David Remnick. The last and only other time the magazine issued a list like this was in 1999, when Bill Buford was the magazine's fiction editor and Mr. Remnick had just started as editor in chief. It was a hell of a thing. Jonathan Franzen, who had not yet published The Corrections, was on it, as was Jhumpa Lahiri, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning story collection Interpreter of Maladies had just come out. There was also Michael Chabon, pre-Kavalier and Clay, as well as pre-Oscar Wao Junot Diaz and pre-Middlesex Jeffrey Eugenides. Also David Foster Wallace."

Sounds like an issue worth picking up. Anyone want to guess who (under 40 years of age) will be on it? Some possibilities: Josua Ferris, Victor LaValle, Matthew Eck, Adam Haslett, Marlon James, Hillary Jordan, Emily St. John Mandel, and Fiona Maazel.
Mr. Benchly
May 13, 2010, 10:37 am
Jonathan Safran Foer should definitely be on there. And though she's more of a Jill of All Trades, I wonder if Miranda July will appear.
brak
May 13, 2010, 11:51 am
You all should subscribe to the new yorker if you don't already...it's a stunningly good magazine, and subscribing to it is so cheap--COST EFFECTIVE....
Mr. Benchly
May 14, 2010, 8:21 am
Does anyone know anything about Sam Lipsyte? His book The Ask is getting great reviews and considering how well his previous books have done, I was surprised that it took me this long to hear anything about him. Any opinions on whether or not he's got what it takes to win a Pulitzer? And is it possible for someone described as "the next Joseph Heller" to make the leap from "entertaining" to "award-winning"?
Mike
May 14, 2010, 8:18 pm
The Ask sounds like an entertaining read, if nothing else! Lipsyte hasn't ever won or been nominated for an award. That said, neither had Richard Russo, Geraldine Brookes, Michael Cunningham, or Michael Shaara when they won and each had published several books, so it's certainly not out of the question. Lydia Millet, whose Love in Infant Monkeys was a Pulitzer finalist this year, had a favorable review in the NY Times Book Review. Sounds like the bigger question is whether his genre, or at least this book's genre, of literary satire, is a strong Pulitzer contender. Heller himself didn't fare too well in the literary prize nomination area ... that I know of he wasn't nominated for any literary awards, even for Catch 22. Kurt Vonnegut is another literary satirist who didn't get much respect from the major literary awards panels and committees. Again, from what I can tell, Vonnegut was never nominated for a major literary award... though he was nominated for the major science fiction awards (Hugo, Nebulus) winning the Hugo once. The only Pulitzer winner I can identify that is identified as a satiriest (and there may be others, certainly) was Sinclair Lewis, though Arrowsmith, which was the winning novel, doesn't seem to me to be of that genre, and it's Main Street and Babbit that are usually identified as part of the literary satire genre. So, the genre doesn't seem to be one that garners Pultizer awards and authors writing in the genre seem not to be nominated, at least when they stay within the genre. Perhaps someone else can identify a novel that won the Pulitzer that is satiric. A Confederacy of Dunces could be classified as black humor, but not really satirical.

By the way, in checking online to see if Arrowsmith was a satiric novel (I've not read it yet), I learned that Sinclair Lewis refused his Pulitzer. Here (according to Wikipedia) is his reason:

"I wish to acknowledge your choice of my novel Arrowsmith for the Pulitzer Prize. That prize I must refuse, and my refusal would be meaningless unless I explained the reasons.

All prizes, like all titles, are dangerous. The seekers for prizes tend to labor not for inherent excellence but for alien rewards; they tend to write this, or timorously to avoid writing that, in order to tickle the prejudices of a haphazard committee. And the Pulitzer Prize for Novels is peculiarly objectionable because the terms of it have been constantly and grievously misrepresented.

Those terms are that the prize shall be given "for the American novel published during the year which shall best present the wholesome atmosphere of American life, and the highest standard of American manners and manhood." This phrase, if it means anything whatsoever, would appear to mean that the appraisal of the novels shall be made not according to their actual literary merit but in obedience to whatever code of Good Form may chance to be popular at the moment."

Sounds like a literary satirist!
brak
May 14, 2010, 9:37 pm
I think I would classify "Confederacy of Dunces" as a satirical novel--no? Same with "The Feud", but as I have pointed out in the past, the Pulitzer committee actually overruled that Pulitzer award and gave it to "Ironweed" (a decidedly serious book) instead.

I think it is just rarer to find novels that combine comedy with amazing writing. (The writing can be well done, but--for example--despite their hilarious and wonderful pieces, I cannot see David Sedaris or, say, Woody Allen taking home the Pulitzer. Not for fiction or non-fiction.) It also may be that the notion of LITERATURE connotes a serious, deserving tome, something weighty that will teach all of us something about ourselves--and it is tough (in all arts inc. film, etc.) for comedy to...for lack of a better phrase...be taken seriously. Even Gravity's Rainbow--which I have not tried my hand at yet--sounds satirical and possibly even hilarious...and, again, it was not given the Pulitzer that the Jury apparently felt it deserved.
brak
May 15, 2010, 5:07 pm
Philip Roth is also often considered a comic novelist--though I think he has shed that a bit in the second half of his career. His mentor Saul Bellow also called "Humboldt's Gift" a comic novel, though I found it a bit tedious, honestly.
Mr. Benchly
May 17, 2010, 6:23 pm
I'm not much of a book reviewer (book reports in school were my least favorite assignment) so consider yourselves warned:

I finished The Unnamed today and afterwards, I checked out the negative NY Times review I had heard about. The reviewer accuses Ferris of keeping the the plights of the main characters "too lightweight and fanciful to invite real empathy" and I think that's exactly the problem of the book. It was most certainly entertaining but I didn't feel anything at all toward any of the characters and I think this is because Ferris never really dove beneath their surface, which is saying something considering how much detail he gave. I just think he rushed through this book and consequently, as a reader, I emerged at the end feeling as though I had just watched a Jerry Bruckheimer film. I expect that from a Dan Brown or a Jodi Piccoult, not a Pulitzer winner.
brak
May 20, 2010, 9:45 am
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126972307 A possibility?
Mike
May 20, 2010, 2:55 pm
I finished Point Omega, and while I thought it was worth reading, I agree with brak that it felt like a slice out of a larger story. Truthfully, I expected more of the plot to be about defense-strategist Richard Elster's involvement in or thoughts about the war. I don't usually agree with Michiko Kakutani (okay, perhaps that's not accurate, I'm probably just not a sophisticated enough reader to think about novels at the levels she does, so I typically feel she is overly critical), but I do agree with her major criticisms of this book (noted above). Kris more ably captured the plot and themes then can I, so I'll just refer to that review for content, but although I'm sure Point Omega will end up in the top 15 in the regression model, I don't think it's a Pulitzer-caliber book. Part of me wishes that Delillo would quite putzing around with novellas like this, Body Artist, and Cosmopolis and give us one more fat, layered novel!

I'm reading Matterhorn by Karl Marlentes currently (huge debut novel, set in Vietnam, lots of buzz), then on to Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett.
Mike
May 20, 2010, 3:11 pm
Certainly, though I wonder if Jane Smiley isn't another writer who has already won the one Pulitzer she'll receive. That said, Private Life seems like a very different kind of book to me than she sometimes writes, and is quite different from A Thousand Acres. It received a positive review from the NY Times, among others. In looking at reviews, the only real complaint aired by a minority of reviewers is that the main character, who narrates most of the story, isn't a strong enough protagonist. On the other hand, the Washington Post reviewer concluded: "In a fair world, it will get all the readers it deserves. It's not often that a work as exceptional as this comes along in contemporary American letters." The reviews are, on the whole, stronger than the reviews for Anne Tyler's "Noah's Compass", so probably worth a read.

Another new book that might be worth watching is M. Glenn Taylor's "The Marrowbone Marble Company." Taylor was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist in 2009 for "The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart" (one of those paperback originals issued in small numbers that made it hard to find!). Marrowbone has reviews from Jayne Anne Phillips (not surprising, both are WV authors), John Casey (National Book Award winner for Spartina), and Ron Rash, so pretty strong endorsements. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review, and Kirkus Reviews concluded: "A big, ambitious book that falls somewhere between the sweeping epics of Richard Russo and the masculine bravado of Ken Kesey’s best work." Another "to read" book!
Mike
May 20, 2010, 3:13 pm
Thanks, that's helpful, and seems consistent with what I've read about it ... sort of the sophomore jinz problem. Ferris is clearly worth keeping an eye on, but this book doesn't seem to be one that will get much notice.
Mike
May 20, 2010, 3:45 pm
I finished Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes, and, frankly, it's worth all the buzz it's been getting. It's a Vietnam novel, as per the subtitle, and is the author's first novel (the back story about the life of the manuscript is almost as interesting as the book... suffice it to say it's been in manuscript form, in one version or another, for 30 years!). This is a straight-forward, no-holds barred story of what it was like to be a "grunt" in the Marines during the Vietnam War, and it is riveting. Sabastian Junger reviewed it for the NY Times and pointed out that the "blizzard of names, ranks and military terms" tripped up the story sometimes (I agree), but it also brings a tone of authenticity to the story. I saw Marlantes when he came through Kansas City and the bookstore owner who sponsored the talk kept saying that this wasn't just a war story circa James Jones. That's true in that the major theme in the book, other than the experiences in battle and the bureaucratic nature of the war, is the racial tension between soldiers who are white and soldiers who are black. It reminds you that the Vietnam War was on the heels of the civil rights movement, and there were still a lot of problems. The Washington Post reviewer noted that: "Ironically, the best parts of "Matterhorn" aren't the battle scenes, which are at times rendered with a literal precision that borders on mechanical. Rather it is Marlantes's treatment of pre-combat tension and rear-echelon politics. It's these in-between spaces that create the real terror of "Matterhorn …" I think this hits the nail on the head.

Predictably, someone at the reading that Marlantes did asked him how the book compared to other Vietnam novels, including Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson, which won the National Book Award. Marlantes indicated he hadn't read Tree of Smoke, but he understood that it was trying to explain or interpret the American experience in Vietnam, while he was just trying to tell a story that would show that the young men (and women) who went to Vietnam and fought were just like those young men and women who protested the war. He (Marlantes) served in the Marines in Vietnam, and decided to write the book based upon the reception he received upon returning to the US after his tour of duty.

Will it be a Pulitzer candidate? Maybe, though it seems to me that war novels fare better with the National Book Awards (Tree of Smoke, From Here to Eternity, Dog Soldiers, The Great Fire, Europe Central ...), so I wouldn't be surprised to see it as a NBA finalist. Tree of Smoke was a Pulitzer finalist, and of course some war books do get the Pulitzer (A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain is sort of a war book... the stories are from the perspectives of South Vietnamese citizens and soldiers in America after the war; The Killer Angels, Andersonville, etc.), though they don't seem to me to be as common as they are in the NBA winners.
Kris
May 21, 2010, 9:25 am
Brak, here's an irritating story for you: Apparently, the manager of the Borders at which I found several first edition copies of 'Tinkers' learned of their increasing value and pulled them off the shelf, accounting for my inability to find them when I went back. Instead of selling them to regular customers, he gave them to the store's employees as gifts. While I love Borders employees (have a small crush on one, at the moment), I find this practice to be questionable, at best. If you, as a big box bookstore, have obtained something via distributorship, shouldn't you be obligated to make it available to the general public? Seems like this practice is the exact opposite of the "lucky find" stories mentioned above. Having said that, there are still smaller stores that I haven't checked yet, meaning there's still hope. Hawaii's literary scene isn't very big (we're the anti-Seattle), leaving a lot left to be found.
brak
May 21, 2010, 12:10 pm
hey kris,

that's definitely frustrating! i know stores do this all the time...i guess it's a small consolation for retail employees, who sometimes are not paid much. i know that, when i worked for a brief time at a retail store (to make money for college), the most they would pay me was $6 an hour. that being said, it definitely feels like a deception.

oh well, part of the fun is the hunt--and i really do appreciate you taking the time to look. maybe we will luck out and you will hit the motherload! you're awesome for checking, regardless of the outcome--have you had a chance to read tinkers yet? i just finished it the other day--i could have finished it in a weekend, but i chose to stretch it out over the course of a couple of weeks, reading just a few sections a day, because the writing was so fantastic...didn't want it to end.
brak
May 21, 2010, 12:19 pm
That book sounds interesting, Mike! I'll have to check it out.
Yeah, Jane Smiley is an uncertain one to me. I remember thinking "A Thousand Acres" was quite good. If I'm not mistaken, she said once that she realized in college that many classics were written primarily from the male point of view....so she decided to rewrite the classics from a female perspective. So, for example, "A Thousand Acres" was based on King Lear, I believe. And "Ten Days in the Hills" is based on the Decameron. And yet it is not heavy-handed or done in an obvious way... so I think that goal is an ambitious one that could lend her future work a depth, a strength, that would not be inherent in something by, say, Anne Tyler.
Finished Tinkers. Just stunning.
Mike
May 22, 2010, 3:38 pm
I also finished Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett. As, I think, Kris pointed out, his first book of short stories was a Pulitzer finalist. The plot centers around the potential crash of the banking system, and its central character, Doug Fanning, is an archetypal greed-driven banker/lawyer. A strong secondary character, Fanning's adversary, is a retired (forcibly) history teacher set in the mold of Olive Kitteridge from Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer winning novel. Haslett's teacher, though, is more mentally unbalanced (hilarious dialogues with her dogs) and also, oddly, more approachable than I thought Olive Kitteridge was. As the NY Times reviewer noted, there are a few more coincidences in how the main characters relate than is really plausible. In some ways I thought that there were almost too many attempts to explain why Fanning may have acted in the ways he did, both in the bank and in personal relationships, and perhaps its better to make that type of character at least moderately accessible and not an all out villain, but in the end I thought it took some of the edge off of his obvious narcissism and greed. The Washington Post reviewer noted, about the Fanning character, that the "affable but expedient character seems, at first, as thin as a dollar bill, but gradually the signs of repressed anguish begin to accrue. He may not be running toward the prize so much as away from his past." His past, though, isn't all that awful ... and I wasn't really convinced that it had that much to do with making this character such a jerk. In any case, the book is very well written. Again, the Washington Post reviewer noted that "some will find the economic detail off-putting, others may consider Doug's act of sexual exploitation unbearable," and I tend to be in the camp that had a hard time getting through the pages devoted to the latter (I'm not sure it advanced the character that much, and in the end seemed implausible as well as skirting on sexual exploitation of a minor). But, the themes of moral bankruptcy and the "flat currency of self-interest and empty promises" are done well and without too much preachy-ness or without resorting to too many stock characterizations. I'm sure it will make a lot of "Best of the Year lists." Not so sure it will be a finalist for anything, although the writing is very well done. I'm about halfway through Jonathan Dee's "The Privileges", which addresses similar themes of self-centeredness, and it strikes me as a stronger award book than Union Atlantic. That said, the critics seemed universally enamored with Union Atlantic, and it is a very well written book, so perhaps I won't write it off the awards lists just yet!
Kris
May 23, 2010, 8:16 pm
Alright, so, like Mike, I've finally completed Marlantes' 'Matterhorn'. Great read, no doubt. I don't have time to post a comprehensive reflection, at the moment, but I will say that comments in various reviews about the author's indebtedness to James Jones, Tim O'Brien and Norman Mailer ring true, though Marlantes' narrative more than holds its own in a canon of war- and, more specifically, Vietnam War - novels. As Mike indicated, though, therein resides the question: Can a new novel on a subject that's been tackled ad nauseum win the Pulitzer, given the quality of what's come before? The answer, I think, depends upon whether or not the author adds to the ongoing conversation and/or crafts a story that provides lessons for the current era. To the former question, I'd say "a bit," owing to Marlantes' representation of Vietnam-era racial politics, which are vividly depicted as entangled within the larger moral scrim through which the novel's battles are seen. To the latter, however, I'd say "not much," insofar as the absurdities of the Vietnam War, or War in general, have been rendered and retouched, complete with parallels to the failing moral compasses of America's modern military messes. Then again, Marlantes revives and argument I've heard from some Vietnam veterans: Comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan are fallacious, at best, and trivialize the casualties that resulted from the conflicts of the late-1960s and early-1970s.

I agree with Mike's assertion that 'Matterhorn' is ripe for the National Book Award. It's a fine novel, a classic perhaps, and the time Marlantes spent wringing his drafts (over 30 years) deserves to be recognized. But with Denis Johnson's 'Tree of Smoke' having won so recently, I'm not certain it will garner anything more than a nomination (as if that weren't a high honor, itself). While I agree that war novels do better with the NBA's, I think this is because NBA nominees are not, in theory, selected for "dealing with American life." Thus, NBA-nominated works often depict more external plot-lines and aesthetics, dealing with the impact of literary, historical and contemporary mundialization. Brings up another question I've been pondering for a bit: We often say that such-and-such work "feels" like a Pulitzer or NBA-winner, but what, to your mind, does a Pulitzer actually "feel" like? Just curious.
Mike
May 25, 2010, 7:47 am
An interesting entry into the 2011 Pulitzer mix ... a posthumous novel by Henry Roth. The link is to a review in the NY Times, but that "review" is really more of a description of the process used to produce a novel out of 2000 pages of raw material from Roth.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/24/books/24type.html
brak
May 25, 2010, 11:16 am
You made my heart jump into my throat, Mike! I was skim-reading, and at first I thought you wrote "Philip Roth", who is aging, and will of course pass on at some point, but of whom I am a huge fan!
Henry Roth never won a Pulitzer, I don't think--he is not a novelist that I am terribly familiar with (though I do see his books next to Philip's whenever at the store).
Mike
May 25, 2010, 1:18 pm
Same here (e.g., don't know much about him but see his books next to Philip Roth's on the used bookstore shelves!). When I saw the NY Times piece, I looked up a few more things on him... interesting history, first book published to some criticism when he was 27 then he had a 40 or 50 year period of writer's block, during which the first book was reissued, this time to wide acclaim as a "classic". Toward the end of his life, he started writing again, publishing three or four books in a series with one character as the lead in all, all which seemed to be well received. The posthumous book involves the same character. Just seems like an interesting set of circumstances. I've not read anything by him, though, and we'll see how the book is actually reviewed.

Speaking of that other Roth, looks like he's got a new book coming out in October ... Nemesis. Here's the amazon.com description:

In the "stifling heat of equatorial Newark," a terrifying epidemic is raging, threatening the children of the New Jersey city with maiming, paralysis, life-long disability, and even death. This is the startling and surprising theme of Roth's wrenching new book: a wartime polio epidemic in the summer of 1944 and the effect it has on a closely knit, family-oriented Newark community and its children.

At the center of NEMISIS is a vigorous, dutiful, twenty-three year old playground director, Bucky Cantor, a javelin thrower and weightlifter, who is devoted to his charges and disappointed with himself because his weak eyes have excluded him from serving in the war alongside his contemporaries. Focusing on Cantor's dilemmas as polio begins to ravage his playground--and on the everday realities he faces--Roth leads us through every inch of emotion such a pestilence can breed: the fear, the panic, the anger, the bewilderment, the suffering, and the pain.

Moving between the smoldering, malodorous streets of besieged Newark and Indian Hill, a pristine children's summer camp high in the Poconos --whose "mountain air was purified of all contaminants"--Roth depics a decent, energetic man with the best intentions struggling in his own private war against the epidemic. Roth is tenderly exact at every point about Cantor's passage into personal disaster and no less exact about the condition of childhood.

Through this story runs the dark question that haunts all four of Roth's late short novels, EVERYMAN, INDIGNATION, THE HUMBLING, and now, NEMESIS: what kind of accidental choices fatally shape a life? How powerless is each of us up against the force of circumstance

Sounds pretty good.
Mike
May 25, 2010, 1:51 pm
I finished "The Privileges" by Jonathan Dee. First let me say that this is a very well written book... I've not read anything by him before, but I will read more. Roxana Robinson, who wrote Cost, calls the writing "intelligent" several times in her review of this book for the NY Times, as well as describing the writing as lively. Though the topic of the book, like Adam Haslett's Union Atlantic, revolves around moral issues pertaining to the current economic/financial world (the father in this book, Adam, is a financial analyst/invester who, without giving out too much of the plot, follows the money in his decisions about how he behaves). According to Robinson, Dee's premise is that at the root of the type of behavior that led to the financial collapse of the last couple of years is the severing of family ties: "At the core of this intelligent and ambitious book are questions about values. Dee’s primary message — that the family is essential to society, that we abandon it at our peril — is persuasive. Less so is the notion that uxorious idealism, not greed, might lie behind insider trading."

I hadn't really considered that angle as much, I was sort of expecting an examination of more personal motives ... greed, self-centeredness etc. as at the root of the collapse. The book ends prior to the actual collapse though, and in thinking about the book in this light, I find it a bit more satisfying, story-wise. To be clear, the book was a great read because it was so well written, but I felt somewhat unsatisfied by the treatment of the characters ... as one reviewer said, the book is about the rise and the rise of this family (versus the rise and fall!). The family is not without morals or ethics, but these ethics are pretty loose... it's okay to do something if someone else isn't hurt; which, of course, never really happens. The characters become, in my opinion, less likeable as the story progresses--or at least the parents do--and that seems the right tone to take.

I wouldn't be surprised to see this book nominated for some awards, it's that well written and addresses timely issues. I thought it was stronger than Union Atlantic, though the latter was well written as well. I've seen The Privileges compared with Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. The Washington Post reviewer noted this, observing that: "The Privileges" will inevitably be compared to "The Corrections," but Jonathan Franzen's novel is more ambitious and, finally, more successful, taking on as it does the complex dynamic of a family and its bruising power struggles. "The Privileges" lacks that amplitude and richness. The dazzlements of Dee's prose give way in the end to a disappointing insubstantiality: too many privileges, too few consequences." I agree with that wholeheartedly.

Mike
May 27, 2010, 5:14 pm
Some more thoughts about who will be on the New Yorker "20 under 40 most talented and important American writers of their generation" list when it's published in the June 7 issue (and Mr. Benchly, I smacked my head when I read your response... of coruse I should have mentioned Jonathan Safran Foer). A blogger at http://blogs.creativeloafing.com suggested the following:
Jonathan Safran Foer, Wells Tower, Chimamamanda Ngozi Adichie, Joshua Ferris, ZZ Packer, Gary Shteyngart, Zadie Smith, John Wray, Josh Weil, and Karen Russell. The latter two were named by the National Book Foundation "5 under 35" list this year (or last, not sure). I'm familiar with Shteyngart (Absurdistan, his last book, got lots of raves) and, of course, Ferris. I heard ZZ Packer speak (along with Colson Whitehead--who, by the way, is over 40 so not eligible) at the Texas Book festival, and she seems like a good pick.

Another blogger (Bookfox at http://www.thejohnfox.com/) suggested the following list:
1.Daniel Alarcon
2.Jonathan Safran Foer
3.Joshua Ferris
4.Maile Meloy
5.Miranda July
6.Wells Tower
7.Gary Shteyngart
8.Josh Weil
9.Curtis Sittenfeld
10.Nicole Krauss
11.Nell Freudenberger
12.ZZ Packer
13.Karen Russell
14.Rivka Galchen
15.Kirstin Valdez Quade
16.Heather Clay
17.Andrew Sean Greer
18.Yiyun Li
19.Said Sayrafiezadeh
20.Akhil Sharma
Mike
May 27, 2010, 5:47 pm
A couple of books to keep an eye on based on the Editor's Buzz session at BookExpo America this past week.

West of Here by Jonathan Evison from Algonquin Books. The author's website says coming this Fall, galley's were handed out at BEA, and the agent says that ARC's will be out in August, but Amazon's listing it as a February 15 publication date, so not 100% it will be out in time for this year's Pulitzer awards.

From the author's website: An epic western adventure wrapped in the history of one small town, from the rugged mudflats of the northwestern frontier, to a rusting strip mall cornucopia, West of Here is a conversation between two epochs, one rushing blindly toward the future, and the other struggling to undo the damage of the past.

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, a debut novel by Benjamin Hale to be published by Twelve Press. Amazon lists it as a February 2, 2011 publication date, so again, not so sure it will be out in time for this year's Pulitzers. Hale is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop (as was Paul Harding and about half the literary world!).

Here's the description from amazon.com: Bruno Littlemore is quite unlike any chimpanzee in the world. Precocious, self-conscious and preternaturally gifted, young Bruno, born and raised in a habitat at the local zoo, falls under the care of a university primatologist named Lydia Littlemore. Learning of Bruno's ability to speak, Lydia takes Bruno into her home to oversee his education and nurture his passion for painting. But for all of his gifts, the chimpanzee has a rough time caging his more primal urges. His untimely outbursts ultimately cost Lydia her job, and send the unlikely pair on the road in what proves to be one of the most unforgettable journeys -- and most affecting love stories -- in recent literature. Like its protagonist, this novel is big, loud, abrasive, witty, perverse, earnest and amazingly accomplished. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore goes beyond satire by showing us not what it means, but what it feels like be human -- to love and lose, learn, aspire, grasp, and, in the end, to fail.
Mike
May 27, 2010, 6:38 pm
And from libraryjournal.com, National Book Award Winner Julia Glass has a new one out in September titled The Widower's Tale (For decades after his wife’s death, Percy Darling has lived a solitary life on his farm outside of Boston. Then, to help his daughter, he lets a progressive preschool move into his barn—even as he worries about his grandson’s increasingly aggressive environmental activism.). Joyce Carol Oates has another short story collection, titled Sourland: Stories due out in September, and Charles Yu, who was a National Book Foundation "5 under 35" award winner two years ago, publishes his first novel, How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction University in September (At Minor Universe 31, a massive story-space on the margins of fiction, people get into their time machines daily and try to change the past. But the results are (predictably) a mess, and a time traveler technician named Charles Yu must step in to right things—with the help of a guidebook called How To Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe). The latter may be a bit too science-fictiony for the Pultizers, though since Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay won, who knows! Out in October is a new novel by John Casey, titled Compass Rose (Rose lives with her single mom, who does battle with Rose’s married fisherman father just down the street, and though Rose is none too happy at her elite school, she feels well loved in the town). Casey won the National Book Award for Spartina. Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham also hits the bookshelves in October with By Nightfall (Peter is an art dealer leading a happily accomplished life in New York, with his editor wife, Rebecca; smart college-age daughter; and bright-as-a-penny SoHo loft. Then Rebecca’s wayward younger brother arrives and forces Peter to rethink everything.) Roth's Nemesis (mentioned in a previous post) is an October release as well.

Wow, the Fall looks loaded ... adding in, of course, Jonathan Franzen's new novel, Freedom, which is a September book. I found an Advance Readers Copy at a local book store of that for $7.00 (along with an ARC for Brady Udall's "The Lonely Polygamist")!
brak
May 28, 2010, 2:54 pm
I'm looking forward to Franzen and Roth a lot--I really enjoyed The Corrections (although there is one section about anthropomorphized fecal matter that went on for too long and which I could have done without), as I recall. If you have the ARC, let me know what you think about it!
Charles Yu's book sounds like Hitchhiker's Guide....
And I think Cunningham is one of those who has his Pulitzer; but the Fall definitely sounds like it has a big lineup.
Mike
May 29, 2010, 5:55 pm
I generally agree about Cunningham having won his Pulitzer, though he's young enough that he could conceivably write a different type of book and win again. I read Speciman Days not too long ago and actually liked it better than The Hours, though the third novella in Specimen Days was pretty weak. But, as all the reviews of Specimen Days pointed out, Specimen Days was much like The Hours in structure (three distinct novellas/sections) and with "literary ghosts" (from the NY Times review of Specimen Days) hovering, Virginia Woolf in The Hours and Walt Whitman in Specimen Days. At least his new one sounds like a very different book from the previous two.
brak
May 29, 2010, 6:52 pm
P. Roth is great--and yet, I am hoping he really builds on those recent themes to write another stunning tome. I bought "The Humbling", because I usually like Roth anyway, and the cover is beautiful (I am an artist), but ultimately, it is not his best book. I actually did not like Indignation very much--it ends suddenly and feels incomplete--the conceit feels a bit like a gimmick. "Everyman" and "Exit Ghost" are both quite good--but he has not written anything that matches the masterpieces he wrote in the 90s. To some degree, I'm hoping this book will be a big one, if only because he seems better able to explore the stories of his characters when he uses a bigger canvas...but we'll see!
Pretty interesting about Henry Roth--I didn't realize he went so long in his life without writing.
Mike
May 29, 2010, 9:42 pm
Well, no telling on whether it's as strong as his books from the 1990s--and really, if awards mean anything, he had an unparalleled run that decade with Operation Shylock a 1994 PEN Faulkner winner and 1994 Pulitzer finalist, Sabbath's Theater a 1995 NBA winner and 1996 Pulitzer finalist, American Pastoral a 1997 NBCC finalist and 1998 Pulitzer winner, and I Married a Communist a 1998 LA Times Fiction finalist--but it's at least not another skimpy novella ... Nemesis is listed at 304 pages. I haven't read The Humbling yet, but I agree about Indignation, which I found to be mainly annoying, though well written.
brak
May 30, 2010, 2:20 pm
The Humbling is a blend of his more sexual books and his more recent themes of death and fatalism. It is not his strongest, but it is solid--and feels more complete than Indignation, though not explored with the same depth of Everyman. Yeah, he had a great run in the 90s--and I would say that he wrote most of his best work during that time. Zuckerman Bound (a trilogy of books) are also among his best (though they were written in the 80s, I think. Sabbath's Theater is a stunningly good and controversial book--one of the most sexual (depraved might be an apt word) books I've ever read, but also one of my favorite books. (It should be noted that it does not speak highly of sexual depravity, but instead uses it as both a catalyst for and a manifestation of Sabbath's downfall.) A great novel.

I was thinking last night about Roth's recent short novels and how Tinkers packs so much more into 200 pages than Roth's recent work. Let's hope it's a solid 304 pages.

(By the way, BLP has reprinted hardcovers of Tinkers, it appears...so, if you're like me, you still pine for a first edition HC...but in lieu of that, the book is one that I want to re-read, to loan out, to have on my shelves for a long time, so I bought a reprinting of the HC. It does not say what printing it is, but it has the Pulitzer Stamp printed into the cover, so it has to be at least a second run.)
Mike
May 30, 2010, 2:47 pm
I need to read Sabbath's Theater ... so many books, so little time!

I ordered one of the hardcovers of Tinkers from Amazon ... just in case! It has the Pulitzer Stamp on the cover, but it's clearly indicated as a 4th printing. Perhaps your version was a print on demand... did you order it from BLP or somewhere else?
brak
May 30, 2010, 7:45 pm
I ordered mine from alibris books.
Mike
June 3, 2010, 5:26 pm
Good point about the potential effect of Tree of Smoke having won the NBA on another Vietnam novel winning it any time soon, though having read both Tree of Smoke and Matterhorn, I thought the latter was the better book. I think I indicated that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Matterhorn as an NBA finalist, but I actually would be surprised to see it win the NBA, not so much because it was a Vietnam book, though the proximity to Tree of Smoke’s win probably does hurt it, but also because my sense is that first novels don’t win the NBA as much as, even, the Pulitzer. I went back and checked, and while I could be wrong, I think only three books that were first books/novels have won the NBA in the last 40 years: The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck (2004); Three Junes by Julia Glass (2002), and Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier (1997). Perhaps the fact that two of the three were in the last decade suggests that it might happen more often, but still, 3 in the last 40 years doesn’t bode well for first novelists and the NBA!

Good question about what a Pulitzer feels like. That’s a little easier to answer when thinking about Pulitzer winners versus NBA winners [and of course, any such comparison needs to acknowledge that there is some overlap between the two awards, since three novels, Rabbit is Rich by John Updike (1982), The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1983) and The Shipping News by Annie Proulx (1994) have won both). That acknowledge, by and large NBA books seem edgier to me … you have postmodernists winning the NBA like John Barth, Thomas Pynchon, and William Gaddis (twice), and sort of post-modernists like William Vollman and Richard Powers, plus books like the World According to Garp and Dog Soldiers that just seem edgier in some way. Look at this year… Colm McCann’s Let the Great World Spin vs. Paul Harding’s Tinker; or, in 2005, William Vollman’s Europe Central versus March by Geraldine Brooks. That’s not to say that there aren’t edgy Pulitzer winners, it’s just that it seems that Pulitzer books do tend toward novels that focus more on characters and those characters interactions in everyday life, even when that every day life is during the Civil War, like March. I think of Richard Ford’s Independence Day as the quintessential character-driven-in-daily-life type of Pulitzer book, though Empire Falls also stands out to me. Some Pulitzers are almost character studies exclusively… Peter Taylor’s Summons to Memphis comes to mind. Again, though, for every example I have given, I’m sure others could find examples that countered that. I’d be interested in what other people think a Pulitzer book is like.
Mike
June 3, 2010, 5:32 pm
The New York Times broke the New Yorker's "20 under 40" list of fiction writers worth watching story today (seems unfairm, maybe they're owned by the same company or something), and the list is:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 32; Chris Adrian, 39; Daniel Alarcón, 33; David Bezmozgis, 37; Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, 38; Joshua Ferris, 35; Jonathan Safran Foer, 33; Nell Freudenberger, 35; Rivka Galchen, 34; Nicole Krauss, 35; Yiyun Li, 37; Dinaw Mengestu, 31; Philipp Meyer, 36; C. E. Morgan, 33; Téa Obreht, 24; Z Z Packer, 37; Karen Russell, 28; Salvatore Scibona, 35; Gary Shteyngart, 37; and Wells Tower, 37.

Ferris, Foer, Scibona, Shteyngart and Packer all got mentioned here before. A number are not US citizens, but I think I'm going to read up on some of them so I can keep track!
brak
June 5, 2010, 5:04 pm
I could see Yiyun Li taking home the big prize some day--her short story collection is fantastic. I haven't read her novel yet, but I intend to.
Mike
June 13, 2010, 11:01 am
It's been quiet around here lately! Anyone else reading anything worth mentioning? I finished two books that have received some buzz, "Walking to Gatlinburg" by Howard Frank Mosher, and "The Lonely Polygamist" by Brady Udall. From the title and skimming the blurb about the story, I expected Gatlinburg to be a straight-forward Civil War story, something along the line of Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier (which, by the way, I found a bit tedious). I should have read the blurb more closely, because Gatlinburg is anything but a conventional story! The setting is toward the end of the Civil War, and the lead character, Morgan Kinneson, is in search of his older brother who was last seen at Gettysburg. Suffice it to say that it involves the Underground Railroad; a mysterious stone with runic letters on it, an elephant; a "feral" little girl whom the Washington Post reviewer compares with a similar character in Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove; a set of bad guys that are equal to those created by McMurtry or Cormac McCarthy, including a doctor who is a vivisectionist and a zither-playing madman who wears the not-too-clean hide of a bear, head and all, as a cape; an escaped slave who becomes a love interest for Morgan; President Lincoln; and a whole cast of rural peoples. One reviewer put the book in the category of "fantastical fictions" and that seems about right. It is a quest novel, a coming-of-age novel, and an "exploration of violence in the American character" (as per the review in the Kansas City Star), and it's well written enough that, as a reader, one is willing to suspend reality and just go with the story. The Lonely Polygamist has one of the best first lines I've read in a long time--"To put it as simply as possible, this is the story of a polygamist who has an affair." The central character in Polygamist is Golden Richards, the patriarch of a family with four wives and 28 children, who reminded me of Duane Jackson of the Last Picture Show series of novels by Larry McMurtry; a man who is pretty much confused by life, overrun by women and children, and perpetually sad. Polygamist is, at times, very funny and never veers into criticism or satire ... Udall manages, by and large, to create the dissonance of family life (and, of course, in this case a huge family!) and still make most of the character's sympathetic. As noted in the Washington Post review, one of the most compelling characters is one of Golden's sons, an 11 year old named Rusty, who is overweight, unhappy, and a little off-center.

I think both books will end up on several "best of the year" lists, though my sense is that neither will make many of the awards lists. Of the two, Gatlinburg might have the better chance, though it's a long-shot, in my opinion. They're both, however, well worth reading. Mosher has written numerous novels involving the Kinneson family of northern Vermont set in different eras, and I plan to go back and read some of those as well.
Mr. Benchly
June 22, 2010, 10:04 am
I just finished Union Atlantic and though I enjoyed it, I thought it was a little more lightweight and a lot less complex than I had hoped it would be. I think the reader would have benefited from the author spending as much time on Henry Graves, Jeffrey Howard, Evelyn Jones, and Vrieger as he spent on Charlotte, Doug, and Nate. This novel should have been 500 pages, not 300. Considering her back story and her role in the plot, Evelyn's character could have been jam-packed with material and in the process may have ended up being the only character in the book with whom the average reader could identify. As it was, I didn't feel connected to Charlotte, Doug, or Nate, which made me less invested in the book than I should have been, considering how relevant the plot is to the world around me. Haslett either needs to stick to short stories or he needs to be patient with the long-form writing process enough to be able to thoroughly develop a story. That's what I think anyway.
July 6, 2010, 8:07 pm
This was a much-anticipated book...I haven't yet read it, but many of the reviewers seemed to feel it an uneven book...I'll let you know when I read it, but I don't get the impression that it is a strong contender for this year's Pulitzer.
Mr. Benchly
July 16, 2010, 9:54 am
For pure entertainment purposes, I whole-heartily recommend Sam Lipsyte's The Ask. He's a great writer and there wasn't a dull moment in this book. If I had to describe it, I'd call it Then We Came to the End-esque but much more polished. It speaks volumes about the book that I breezed through it in a matter of days even though the main character is an extremely pathetic and dislikable person. So I would say that it's equal parts high-quality-fiction and summer-reading-material.
As for how it will do come awards season, it will most definitely strike out. It's just not what the Pulitzer committee looks for in a book.
brak
July 19, 2010, 7:32 pm
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/18/books/review/Handler-t.html?_r=1&hp
Perhaps it's time for McSweeneys to add a Pulitzer to their belt? I've got a copy of this--haven't read it yet, but it's on the list. Brandon's last (first) book was panned by the reviewer, but this is quite a positive review...just thought I'd mention it, so we have considered as many options as possible!
brak
July 19, 2010, 7:41 pm
I should clarify that it wasn't this reviewer necessarily that did not like Brandon's first book--but rather it was another reviewer writing for the Nytimes review of books. (Could have been the same person, but I doubt it.)
Mike
July 20, 2010, 8:20 am
I've finished a couple of novels by new writers that are getting some buzz. The first was The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse. Think Oscar Wao meets Olive Kittridge! This debut book is written as a novel in stories (thus the reference to Olive) set in the Echo Park area of LA. The chapters detail the intertwined stories of a few families, over several generations, around a seminal event (the murder of a young girl), but is really a study of the lives of Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants--and social injustices visited upon them-- in an area of LA, part of which was razed to build Dodger Stadium. There was a paragraph note on the book in the NY Times that was more of a summary than a review. One review I read mentioned that the writing was textured, detailed, and humane. It's one of the best books I've read this year and I wouldn't be surprised to see it show up during the award season. The second is The Marrowbone Marble Company by Glenn Taylor, whose first book, The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart was a NBCC finalist last year. Marrowbone Marble tells the story of Loyal Ledford, a WW II vet suffering from PTSD who turns around his slide into alcoholism by starting up a marble factory. Set in West Virginia, the Marrowbone Marble factory becomes a socialist commune, of sorts, and the book is really a novel of social protest (Washington Post) set in the civil rights era. The Injustices and civil rights abuses are highlighted more than those in The Madonnas of Echo Park, and Taylor's book comes off preachier. The Washington Post reviewer labeled the characters as stereotyped and said that Taylor "beats them (readers) over the head with his message: Racism is bad, and good people will fight against it". That said, the Denver Post reviewer called it "nuanced," "with characters and conflicts emerging as three-dimensional creations." I thought it was somewhere in between. I liked it, not as much as Madonnas of Echo Park, but well worth the read, though I'd be surprised if it makes any of the award lists
Mr. Benchly
July 28, 2010, 2:36 pm
Any idea how to identify a McSweeney's first printing? Does it say "first printing" or is it sometimes unclear? And specifically, any idea what a first printing of Citrus County looks like? Thanks!
brak
July 29, 2010, 1:34 am
Hm...well, I'm not sure actually when it comes to McSweeneys...I don't even know if they do multiple imprints of a book, or if they just do a run of what they expect to sell, and then do paperbacks....anyone else have thoughts on this?
Kris
August 6, 2010, 3:40 pm
Sorry I've been M.I.A. Here are some quick thoughts.

"The Imperfectionists" (Tom Rachman): After reading Chris Buckley's review in the NYT, you'd think Rachman's first novel is an instant classic. That it may be, but the not-so-hidden virtue of Rachman's novel is its coterminous eulogizing and lampooning of the journalistic profession. Set amid the newsroom of a American rag based in Rome, the story revolves around the trials and triumphs of various staffers, from a long-in-the-tooth writer to a lowly copy editor. Rachman continues the "concatenated short stories" trend appearing in modern novels, with each story involving a specific staffer whose life is about to take a tumultuous turn. Normally, I wouldn't give a novel set in Rome much chance at winning the Pulitzer, which usually rewards American narratives. Because the writing is so tight, if at times overwrought, and the central issue - the demise of the modern newsroom - so topical, I wouldn't be surprised to see this on a few "best books" lists at the end of the year.

"A Visit From the Goon Squad" (Jennifer Egan): If I had to pick a PEN Faulkner winner right now, this would be it. Authors unafraid to experiment with their prose are often prime candidates for PEN awards (see Sherman Alexie's "War Dances," last year's winner, which inserts poetic verse between short stories). My favorite book of the year so far, Egan's work is a heteroglossial look at the impact of technology on our identities writ small and large. Egan is, perhaps, the consummate postmodern writer - "Goon Squad" includes a 70-page PowerPoint presentation. What sets Egan apart from her contemporaries, however, is the way in which she, like post-structuralist authors Alexie and Erdrich, suborn theoretical novelties to her novel's purpose, here concluding in a vision of a future society reshaped by the War on Terror. Like cuts on an album - this is a novel set against a soundtrack of sorts - Egan's chapters speak to the existential salvation waiting to be rediscovered beneath synthesized dropbeats and, to borrow a phrase from WaPo, "glossy avatars." As for the Pulitzer metric, it helps that Egan's 2001 novel "Look At Me" was a finalist for the NBA, while "The Keep," released in 2006, was named a best or notable book by the NYT and Chicago Tribune, among others.
Kris
August 6, 2010, 3:41 pm
A little more...

"Private Life" (Jane Smiley): Smiley's latest offering received mixed reviews, mostly, so I don't think it stands much chance of being nominated to, well, any award. "Private Life," though a good read, falls short of the standard set by "A Thousand Acres" or "Moo." The book follows the life of Margaret Mayfield. We meet her in 1883, betrothed to an astronomer named Captain Andrew Jackson Jefferson Early. Early's personality thoroughly dominates his wife's; he perceives her a less an independent woman than a vehicle for extending his astrophysical suppositions. As Early becomes increasingly delusional, Mayfield finds solace in her relations with her sister, Dora, and a Japanese family, the Kimuras. Smiley is at her best, this time around, when she paints the internment of Japanese citizens during WWII as a parallel tragedy to Mayfield's stumbling marriage. Her theme, that of women trapped by the bonds of marriage, makes you appreciate the emancipation of the sexual revolution, particularly in a year celebrating the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill. Nonetheless, the novel fails to clear the bar set by Smiley's previous novels, while taking few of the literary risks for which the author has become famous.

I had a thought: This year's NBA and NBCC will be interesting to watch. Some of the better-reviewed books of the year, from American authors, aren't about American life ("The Invisible Bridge" by Julie Orringer, for example). Granted, Daniel Mueenuddin's "In Other Rooms, Other Wonders" was a Pulitzer finalist, last year, but the NBA doesn't have the narrow focus of the Pulitzer. The NBCC, for what it's worth, could go to an international author for the third year in a row. There are a number of previous Booker winners/nominees publishing this year - Ian McEwan ("Solar"), Martin Amis ("The Pregnant Widow"), Yann Martel ("Beatrice and Virgil"), Peter Carey ("Parrot and Oliver in America" - loved it!), David Mitchell ("The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet") and John Banville ('The Infinities"). Almost as long as the list of award-winning American authors (still waiting on Franzen, Roth, Glass, Cunningham and Ford).

If I had to name my top ten candidates for the Pulitzer, halfway through 2010, they'd be the following, in no certain order: "Shadow Tag" (Louise Erdrich), "A Visit From the Goon Squad" (Jennifer Egan), "Burning Bright" (Ron Rash), "Union Atlantic" (Adam Haslett), "The Marrowbone Marble Company" (Glenn Taylor), "Matterhorn" (Karl Marlantes), "The Imperfectionists" (Tom Rachman), "Walking to Gatlinburg" (Howard Frank Mosher), "The Surrendered" (Chang Rae-Lee), "Kings of the Earth" (Jon Clinch).
Mike
August 7, 2010, 8:32 pm
Just finished Jane Smiley's Private Life ... it's about the life of Margaret Mayfield from 1883 onward. tt received one favorable review in NY Times, but Michiko Kakutani calls it “evenmore of a misfire than her cartoonish last novel (Ten Days in the Hills),” and “encumbered by a plodding and repetitious plot, stereotyped characters and flat-footed prose.” The reviewers who don't care for it all comment on the fact that the lead character is someone to whom things happen, and she just lets them happen, an assessment I generally agree with. Having just read both Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons and Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, I've had my fill of period pieces, and Private Life is as much a period piece as those two books, but lacking the authenticity (though, of course, Tarkington and Wharton were writing at a time much closer to the late 1800s and early 1900s, so that's probably to be expected). Not all the reviews for Private Life were bad. A Washington Post reviewer calls it “brilliantly imagined” and “carefully chisled”. The USA Today noted that “as for Capt. Early [Margaret Mayfield's husband], Smiley refuses to make him a simple villain. Her increasingly nuanced portrait reveals a man who suffers as much for his dreams as his wife does for her lack of them.” I will say that I liked the last half of the book better than the first half, in part because the USA Today reviewer hit on a good point... the demise of Capt. Early makes him a more sympathetic character. That said, I doubt we'll see this book in any of the award announcements.

Just started Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story. It's brilliantly written and a satiric commentary on American life in the near future. It seems too ironic/comical/satirical to be a Pulitzer book (we've had the discussion about whether satiric novels stand much of a chance with the Pulitzer ... I don't think they do, given past history), but it's very well written. I'll update more when I've finished it.
Mike
August 15, 2010, 2:42 pm
The only copies I can find have no indication of printing. I know that the book went back for a second printing, and the copies I've seen seem to have been out for a while, so I'm guessing (hoping, since I bought one!) that no printing statement equals first printing. Anyone seen any copies out there with any printing indication?
Mike
August 15, 2010, 2:46 pm
Welcome back Kris! Thanks for the reviews... impressive as always. I eyed the Rachman book, but decided that the setting wouldn't play well in the Pulitzer competition. Jennifer Egan does seem one to watch, and your observation about PEN/Faulkner winners is excellent. Might be worth picking up a copy of that while it's still relatively inexpensive.
Mike
August 15, 2010, 3:00 pm
Your observations about Smiley's Private Life mirror my own opinion, I don't expect to see it nominated for anything. You're right about the NBA/NBCC being wide open ... and for the NBCC, which doesn't require American Citizenship, I think Mitchell's "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet" has a decent chance.

I like your "at the half way point of the year" list for the Pulitzer, it's similar to what mine would be. I think I'd drop "The Imperfectionists" and add Brando Skyhorse's "The Madonna's of Echo Park" instead, and swap The Privileges for Union Atlantic. I haven't read Goon Squad, Burning Bright, or The Surrendered yet, though have the latter on my Kindle to read next. I think, though, I'd put Gary Shteyngart's "Super Sad True Love Story" on the list, probably instead of Rash's book. I just finished it (will write a review of it for pprize.com soon) and thought it was great. I don't think it will win... the literary satire issue, but it was one of the best books I've read this year. I am currently reading Clinch's "Kings of the Earth" and really like it... sort of reminds me of Taylor's Marrowbone in a way.

I heard or read that Franzen will be on the cover of Time, the first living writer since Stephen King (2000) to do so. The expectations for his book are so high, I wonder if he can really live up to them, not to mention that he has feuded with Michiko Kakutani--all in all it seems like the kind of book that reviewers will pick apart just because its so highly regarded at the onset. We'll see.
Mike
August 15, 2010, 7:26 pm
Well, so much for my earlier (two posts up) speculation about how Jonathan Franzen's new novel, Freedom, might be received by critics, particulalry Michiko Kakutani. Turns out, her review was in the NY Times today, and for her, I'd say its "glowing." She starts off calling it "galvanic" and "showcasing his impressive literary toolkit", and concluding: "In the past, Mr. Franzen tended to impose a seemingly cynical, mechanistic view of the world on his characters, threatening to turn them into authorial pawns subject to simple Freudian-Darwinian imperatives. This time, in creating conflicted, contrarian individuals capable of choosing their own fates, Mr. Franzen has written his most deeply felt novel yet — a novel that turns out to be both a compelling biography of a dysfunctional family and an indelible portrait of our times." The New York Magazine reviewer said that the book is "a work of total genius." So far, so good!
Mr. Benchly
August 16, 2010, 1:59 pm
Update: I contacted Customer Service at McSweeney's and this is what they had to say: "any and all copies of Citrus County that are out there in the world are first printings, because the second printing has not yet left the printer. There won't be much of a difference between the first and second printings, but the materials are going to be slightly different." This was on August 3. So at the very least, if you purchased your book on or before August 3, you own a first printing. I have no clue as to how the "materials" will differ between the two printings, however.
Kris
August 17, 2010, 7:21 pm
Couple of quickies, today. First, "The Madonnas of Echo Park," is a dazzling collection of stories by Brando Skyhorse that, as Mike mentioned, invites comparisons to Junot Diaz and Louise Erdrich. Firmly grasping the sense of place conceived of and constructed by his characters, Skyhorse illuminates the psychological barbarism of gentrification through a re-telling of the lives of Mexican immigrants displaced by the erection of Dodger Stadium. The murder that these interconnected stories revolve around occurs outside of a mercado featured in a Madonna's "Borderline" video; each Friday, young women would don Madonna-style outfits and, with the applause-filled encouragement of their mothers, dance in an attempt to temporarily take back a violent corner of their neighborhood. What Skyhorse ultimately composes is a panoramic view of the plight and discrimination endured by Mexican-Americans and, yes, illegal immigrants. Here's a question: To what extent are Pulitzer judges influenced by current events? If they are, the current debate over immigration boosts this book's already solid chances of making award lists. After all, "Tinkers," a story about a man struggling to conquer the "imps of disorder" on his deathbed, won this year's prize in the midst of a heated health care discussion.

Second, Tiphanie Yanique, a professor of English at Drew University, has released a wonderful book called "How to Escape from a Leper Colony." A novella and several short stories comprise the work (year of the short story, maybe?), which explores the legacy of colonialism in the Caribbean. In characters like Deepa, a 14-year-old girl sent to a Trinidadian leper colony by her Christian mother, Yanique gives voice to the cultural creolization that results from global flows of people, religion, races and, of course, capital. Deepa, for example, befriends a boy named Lazaro and cannot tell if he is "African or Indian - there was talk there might be French in him, too." After telling Lazaro of her fears that her father, who died of leprosy, will be cremated despite his Hindu beliefs, Lazaro responds, "Here we all Indian, no matter how much African we have in us." The stories are well crafted (who doesn't love a lollipop-shaped coffin) and, at times, revelatory in their vernacular detail. The book has received a nice bit of positive press and largely takes place at the periphery of the United States - the Virgin Islands - along with Trinidad, London and Houston. Given that Yanique was born in a U.S. territory and now teaches in Texas, I'd assume her citizenship qualifies. Have to check. Also, NPR didn't give it quite the glistening review that Publisher's Weekly and the Boston Globe did. Still, might be worth checking out.

"The Madonnas of Echo Park" definitely makes my to-date top 10, replacing "The Surrendered" by Chang-Rae Lee.
Mike
August 17, 2010, 8:41 pm
That's helpful, thanks. Hopefully they'll identify later printings as such somehow. I'll keep checking copies as I see them in bookstores just to see if I can tell.
Mike
August 17, 2010, 8:44 pm
Interesting thought about the current events connection with Madonnas. I think Madonnas seemed like the most "pulitzer-like" book I've read this year... along with Shadow Tag, perhaps. It's well written and paints a picture of a part of America not often seen. I'm betting it gets nominated for something this award season.

Thanks for the heads up on the Yanique book, perhaps it is this year's "American Salvage" or "Homicide Survivors Picnic".
Mike
September 3, 2010, 5:29 pm
Okay, I finished Shteyngart's "Super Sad True Love Story" and it's a hoot. It's a "dstopian future" cautionary tale set in NYC (well, most of the time, it starts in Italy and ends somewhere else, though to tell that gives away some of the story, so I won't) in which the USA has toppled as a world leader, overtaken by China, among others, now ruled by a despotic party (the Bipartisan Party) as a puppet state. The book is written as a series of texts, blog postings, and diary entries. The protagonist, Lenny Abramov, is of Russian Jewish parentage who works for "Post-Human Services" as a selling "life extension" and "dechronification" treatments that are supposed to enable clients to live forever. People spend all their time using their "apparati", that are future versions of cell phones and PDAs, which both emit and collect data about oneself and others ... from cholesteral and stress levels, to credit rankings, and relationship history. And yet, the book is mainly about family and relationships, though certainly satiric and ironical in nature. It's certainly one of the best books I've read this year. Machiko Kakutani of the NYTimes said this: "Gary Shteyngart's wonderful new novel ... is a supersad, superfunny, supperaffecting performance--a book that not only showcases the ebullient satiric gifts he demonstrated [in previous books] but that also uncovers his abilities to write deeply and movingly about love and loss and mortality." I'm betting it shows up on "best of the year lists" and wouldn't at all be surprised to see it nominated for one or more of the awards this award season. As I've said before, I think it's gonna be tough for satiric/ironic/black comedy to win a Pulitzer, so I don't see it being a Pulitzer book, but he's certainly someone to watch for future Pulitzers, in my mind.
Mike
September 3, 2010, 5:30 pm
I'm 3/4 through Freedom. It's every bit as good as the reviews have been, in my opinion. I'll post more when I finish it, but I've already put it at the top of my personal Pulitzer prediction list!
Mike
September 3, 2010, 5:44 pm
I finished "King's of the Earth" by Jon Clinch and it will make my top 10 for the year, I suspect. Kind of funny that there seem to be a slew of novels dealing with characters in rural areas... Mosher's "Walking to Gatlinberg" is set predominantly in rural areas, begining in Northern Vermont, "The Marrowbone Marble Company" by Glen Taylor is set in West Virginia, and "Kings of the Earth" is set in Rural northern New York. Kings of the Earth chronicles the lives of three eccentric, uneducated brothers/farmers, the Ward brothers ... almost literally dirt farmers... and the death of one of them. It's not a romantic treatment of rural life or of these men, but it also doesn't make fun of them or their lives. The book is about brotherly love, neighborliness, insularity, abuse, endurance ... all wrapped into a mystery/moral tale. One reviewer called it "largehearted" and that seems right to me. The Washington Post reviewer said this "This is the kind of fiction we should be reading. "Kings of the Earth" is eloquent and moving, written with precision and clarity to stave off loss -- the loss of history, of art, of humanity. True feeling seems to be out of fashion in contemporary fiction, and fiction is the poorer for it. Disaffection and irony may be the tenor of the times, but too much of it can leave you feeling estranged and lonely. Then along comes Clinch, and we feel that we are once again safe at home, in the hands of a master." It will make lots of 'best of' lists, I'm sure, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it nominated for one of the major awards. I don't think it will win, and particularly not the Pulitzer, though in other years it might be nominated, since it tells a story about an America not often enough chronicled with the respect and dignity and yet clarity and honesty Clinch brings to the novel.
Kris
September 5, 2010, 8:11 am
Don't know if it was mentioned here, but the long list for the 2010 Booker was announced at the end of July. While we're not following the Booker Prize, it's interesting to note the selected works, which may reappear as candidates for the NBCC, an award that we all take note of in our predictions. So, the Booker is...two steps removed. And it's also a list of good reads. The major works I took note of from the list were Peter Carey's "Parrot and Olivier in America," Emma Donoghue's "Room," Tom McCarthy's "C," David Mitchell's "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet," and Andrea Levy's "The Long Song." Wouldn't be surprised to see a couple of those on the NBCC list, thereby frustrating our own models!
Kris
September 5, 2010, 8:17 am
I also liked "Super Sad," which I read on a recent flight from Seattle to Honolulu. Very, very funny. Having read "Absurdistan," I was curious to see what Steyngart could do with prognosticative dystopianism, and I wasn't disappointed. As you said, though, satire and the Pulitzers don't mix well, for some reason. Moreover, recent winners have rarely dabbled with extra-American settings, with the exception of immigrant tales and Jhumpa Lahiri's "Interpreter of Maladies." The Pulitizer judges take that "american experience" thing very seriously. While "Super Sad" finds portent in contemporary issues of identity and foreign policy, I'm not sure that it evokes a sense of the American experience so much as foreshadows the delimitations of American exceptionalism run amok.
brak
September 7, 2010, 6:24 pm
I bet Mitchell wins this time around.
Kris
September 8, 2010, 8:56 pm
Booker shortlist was announced yesterday - guess who is missing? That's right, David Mitchell. The shortlist includes two-time winner Peter Carey (see above), Emma Donoghue (see above), Andrea Levy (see above), Tom McCarthy ("c" above), Damon Galgut ("In a Strange Room") and Howard Jacobson ("The Finkler Question"). See if any of these names - or Mitchell's - appear on the NBCC shortlist when it's announced.
Mike
September 8, 2010, 9:13 pm
Interesting. I missed the announcement of the short list, but I was with brak, my money was on Mitchell. Seems a bit like last year when Joseph O'Neill's book Netherland was a presumptive favorite and then didn't make the short list (though went on to win the PEN/Faulkner).
Mike
September 8, 2010, 9:27 pm
The book reviewer for my home town paper, the Kansas City Star, concluded his review of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom with the statement that "For the second time in a decade, Franzen has written the year's best novel." Having finished it, I must say that I agree wholeheartedly. I loved The Corrections, and in some ways liked it better, but as an overall reading experience, Freedom is stronger in many ways. I'm not going to try to review it, there are already too many good reviews out there ... I'd recommend Machiko Kakutani's review in the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/16/books/16book.html) and Jess Walter's (who was a National Book Award finalist for his novel, The Zero) review in the San Francisco Chronicle (http://articles.sfgate.com/2010-08-29/books/22372156_1_walter-and-patty-freedom-familiar-breed). I was at a reading by Jess Walter for his new book Financial Lives of the Poets this week and asked him who he thought was the front runner for the NBA (not only was a finalist in 2006, he was on the fiction committee that made the award in 2008). He said he thought it would be impossible to ignore Freedom, and that's where he'd put his money. I still wonder if overhype might hurt the book's chances for the Pultizer, but I'm getting a few signed copies while he's out on the road touring just in case!
Mike
September 8, 2010, 9:41 pm
10/13/2010
Pat Conroy to Announce 2010 National Book Award Finalists at the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home in Savannah, Georgia.
(from the National Book Foundation website).

So, the NBA finalists announcement kicks off the award season and we're about a month away from that. The NBA would be much more difficult to predict from other indicators because the announcements happen prior to any of the other awards are given and before the various "best of the year lists" are published. I'm always amazed how few of the books I'm aware of when the finalists are announced! That said, anyone want to tempt fate and predict the five finalists? Here's my list (similar to the pre-Pulitzer list Kris and I discussed earlier). In no particular order:

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich
Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

I've read all of these and from among the books I've read to this point, these are my five favorites. That said, there are still several books to be released that I haven't read (A Widower's Tale by Julia Glass, By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham, Compass Rose by John Casey, Nemesis by Philip Roth, among others) and there are a few that have been released that I've not been able to read yet (The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee among them). Plus, two of the New Yorker's 20 best writers under 40 still have books coming out this year (Shteyngart was on that list), Great House by Nicole Krauss and How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu. Seems to me that the NBA likes to include first books and novels among it's finalists, even if they won't win (recently, for example, Salvatore Scibona's The End and Rachel Kushner's A Telex to Cuba).

Anyone else? Keep in mind that the NBA requires U.S. Citizenship.
Kris
September 11, 2010, 6:26 am
Here are my five NBA picks:

"Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen
"Matterhorn" by Karl Marlantes
"The Invisible Bridge" by Julie Orringer
"The Madonnas of Echo Park" by Brando Skyhorse
"Kings of the Earth" by John Clinch

If I had to add a sixth, I'd be hard pressed to leave out "The Imperfectionists" by Tom Rachman. That, and Orringer's book, have more of a chance at the NBA than the Pulitzer because the former doesn't focus so heavily on American life, as evidenced by previous winners like "Waiting" by Ha Jin and "Europe Central" by by William Vollmann.
Mike
September 11, 2010, 10:34 am
I had "Kings of the Earth" by Jon Clinch on my list and at the last minute, substituted Super Sad True Love Story, though I think Kings of the Earth could very well be a finalist. It seemed to me that a "dystopian epistolary romantic satire" (that's how Jess Walter, reviewing the book for the San Francisco Chronicle categorized it!) would stand a better chance in the NBA competition (which has selected books by John Barth, Thomas Pynchon, and Richard Powers as winners) than other competitions, and Shteyngart seems to be a darling of the literary world, most recently ending up on the New Yorker's 20 best writers under 40 list.
Kris
September 11, 2010, 5:59 pm
I think this is Galgut's award to lose, to be honest. Donaghue's "Room" is the only work I think could beat "In a Strange Room," unless the panel gets sentimental about Carey breaking the record. Also, for what it's worth, "Netherland" was shortlisted for this year's IMPAC prize. Didn't win, but something to add to O'neill's CV.
Mike
September 21, 2010, 10:32 am
Worth noting with regard to the upcoming award season:

From the Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/sep/20/frank-o-connor-award-ron-rash):

Frank O'Connor award goes to Ron Rash'Incredibly well-wrought' short-story collection, Burning Bright, takes €35,000 prize
Ron Rash's "bleak" collection of short stories set in Appalachia, Burning Bright, has won the American author the world's richest prize for the short story form, the Frank O'Connor award.

Ranging from the American civil war to the present day, and from the story of a pawnshop owner who intervenes when his nephew throws his parents out of their house to fund his meth addiction, to the portrait of the wife of a Lincoln sympathiser in Confederate territory, Rash's collection Burning Bright was named winner of the €35,000 (£29,000) award in Cork last night. He beat a line-up of five other authors – including the acclaimed writer TC Boyle and three debut authors – to take the prize, which honours renowned short story writer Frank O'Connor.

The shortlist included, in addition to Rash and Boyle (for Wild Child), Robin Black, Belle Boggs, and Laura van den Berg. All US authors (there was one British author, David Constantine).
Ben
September 25, 2010, 8:20 pm
What about The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer? I really liked that book. Has she gotten any mention?
Mike
September 29, 2010, 8:34 am
Seems to me Julie Orringer's name has come up at some point in our discussions, though looking back I don't see it. She has great credentials ... Iowa Writers Workshop and a Stegner Fellow at Stanford. The Invisible Bridge got good reviews in the NY Times and the LA Times. I haven't read it, though it sounds like one to read... the topic (set in Hungary) probably makes it a non-starter for the Pulitzer, but sounds like a possibility for the NBA or NBCC competitions. I'll put it on my "to read" list. Thanks.
brak
September 29, 2010, 8:28 pm
I just started "Freedom"--I'll let you know what I think, but it is rare to see so damn much buzz surrounding a work of literary fiction. (So much buzz, in fact, that I broke down--despite recognizing that such buzz suggests that, as with "The Corrections", there will be within a few months of its publication thousands of hardcover and paperback copies available for a few dollars at used bookstores--and bought a first edition off of Amazon.) (As awards go, I will be very surprised if David Mitchell doesn't take home this year's booker prize.)

Roth's book "Nemesis" is getting some early reviews--more will come in the next couple weeks, of course--and apparently it is "underwhelming"...but we'll see...I enjoyed "The Humbling" but felt it a somewhat half-hearted attempt. I thought "Everyman" was masterful, but thought "Indignation" was an fragment of a book, far too short to really transcend the gimmick of the narrator being in a state of near-death. Soooo...as this is another small (albeit 300 page) novel, I am prepared for the worst (which means I will likely do with it what I did with "Indignation": sit in a bookstore and read the whole thing in a 2-hour sitting).

Michael Cunningham has a new book coming out that the publisher is touting as brilliant, apparently.

Any other big things due out? (I keep expecting a new round of Updike books--if nothing else, a followup to the "Early Stories", but alas, no such thing at this point.)
Mike
September 30, 2010, 8:44 am
Hi Brak! Two weeks until the National Book Award finalists are announced and the awards season officially kicks off! I don't think you'll regret having bought and read Freedom ... I'll be interested in your take on it. I ended up seeing Franzen on his current tour three times (!), so have my stash of signed books from him. It was interesting seeing him more than once ... he read the same selection from Freedom each time, but the Q&A session was always interesting. I also saw Michael Cunningham last week ... he didn't read from "By Nightfall" and I haven't read it yet, so can't comment on it. Hopefully someone will read it and share their comments here.

So, what other big releases, other than Roth's (I'm counting on you to read Nemesis and give us a report!)? Well, nothing like Freedom, that's for sure! But ... John Casey (won NBA for Spartina) has a new book, titled Compass Rose, due out October 19; Julia Glass's (won NBA for Three Junes) new book, A Widower's Tale, came out in early September; Joyce Carol Oates' new book of short stories (Sourland Stories) came out mid September; Paul Auster has a new novel, Sunset Park, coming out November 9; Nicole Krauss, one of the 20 under 40 authors named by the New Yorker, has a new book, "Great House" coming out October 5; Ann Beattie has a book of short stories coming out in November; and Thomas McGuane's first novel in almost a decade, Driving on the Rim, is a November release.

And, to look at the early competition for 2011, Charles Baxter has a new collection of short stories coming out in January 2011, T.C. Boyle has a new novel, When the Killing's Done, due out in February, 2011; Benjamin Hale's "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore", which had a lot of buzz at BookExpo this year, is out in February; and E.L. Doctorow has a short story collection coming out in March, 2011.
brak
October 2, 2010, 1:39 am
The Doctorow short story collection is interesting to me, because although he's been nominated many times, it has always been for his novels. And while his novels are very engaging and well-written, in my humble opinion, they pale in comparison to his mastery over the short form. So if (and when?) he wins, I'd love if it was for a collection of short stories.

Charles Baxter seems like someone who is far too often overlooked. Be interesting to see how he fares.

I will definitely read Nemesis and report back--but don't be surprised if this Roth-fan-to-a-fault finds it underwhelming. I am willing to hold him accountable--he's a bold writer, which accounts for both his incredible success and his (typically well-written) failures.

Has anyone read the finalist last year: "Love in Infant Monkeys"? I really appreciate that the Pulitzer committee is willing to recognize writers who try unique things sometimes (Milet's collection smacks of Barthelme to me)--and that they seem, in recent years, to be leaning so hard (intentionally, coincidentally, or otherwise) toward short stories--but I can't believe that "Lark and Termite" was snubbed for "Infant Monkeys"...I know we're on the 2011 speculation forum here, but I just wonder if anyone has any thoughts about that particular 2010 finalist.
Mike
October 3, 2010, 11:19 am
I haven't read Milet's books... once the Pulitzer was announced I had to (1) read Tinkers and (2) begin reading the books that had already been published in 2010 and seemed viable for the 2011 award! I like your thoughts about Doctorow's 2011 release, though, and I'm not sure how many "big" books will be relaesed in 2011, but from what I can tell, it won't be as big of a year as 2010 has been (at least this year seems like it's loaded with books with lots of "award potential"!). The one blockbuster, high profile book that is on the horizon seems to be Jeffrey Eugenides next book, which just might be a late 2011 release:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/jul/16/jeffrey-eugenides-middlesex-follow-up

Hard to tell, though, if that book will really make a 2011 release.
Mike
October 3, 2010, 11:27 am
Just a note to the collectors out there ... you might want to try to get your hands on a British first edition of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. Turns out, the publisher, Fourth Edition, sent the wrong galley to the printer, so the first British Edition was printed from a nearly-final-but-not-really-final proof and contains up to 50 errors... typos, etc. There were 80,000 British first edition's printed and at the time this news broke this weekend, 8,000 had sold. The publisher now says they will pulp the remaining copies they have and will replace copies for people who have purchased the already-released version. Here's the story from the Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/oct/01/jonathan-franzen-book-pulped

Now, if the book goes on to garner any major awards, it may well be the British first (with errors) that becomes the rarity. I read at the time of the Oprah announcement that the first edition of the American version, which of course is the true first edition, had a printing of 355,000 and since Franzen has been on an extensive speaking tour, signed copies of the American first edition are plentiful. I presume that Fourth Estate will number the reprinting as a 2nd printing and not release it as another 1st printing.
Mike
October 4, 2010, 1:39 pm
Brak ... interview with Roth covering his new book and writing....

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/10/03/sunday/main6923076.shtml

Mike
October 4, 2010, 4:27 pm
Well, in declaring the NBA finalists announcement on October 13 as the opening gun for the literary awards season, I overlooked the fact, apparently, that the Nobel Prize for Literature weill be announced Thursday, October 7. The British betting agency Ladbrokes is handicapping the odds of authors winning the prize, and the American Author with the highest odds is .... Cormac McCarthy at 6 to 1! Here's the link to the story:

http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/cormac-mccarthy-nobel-priz_b13028

The Ladbrokes site itself gives the list of odds:

http://www.ladbrokes.com/lbr_sports?action=go_generic_link&level=EVENT&key=214493738&category=SPECIALS&subtypes=&default_sort=&tab=undefined
and as of noon today, McCarthy was second at 6/1. Here's the list is of today:

Ngugi wa Thiong'o 7/2
Cormac McCarthy 6/1
Tomas Transtromer 7/1
Haruki Murakami 7/1
Adonis 11/1
Ko Un 12/1
Gerald Murnane 14/1
Les Murray 15/1
Adam Zagajewski 16/1
Alice Munro 16/1
Joyce Carol Oates 18/1
Thomas Pynchon 20/1
Philip Roth 20/1
Claudio Magris 22/1
E.L Doctorow 22/1
Amos Oz 25/1
Assia Djebar 25/1
Mario Vargas Llosa 25/1
Nestor Amarilla 25/1
Antonio Tabucchi 30/1
Gitta Sereny 30/1
A.S. Byatt 33/1
Carlos Fuentes 33/1
Don DeLillo 33/1
Maya Angelou 33/1
Michel Tournier 35/1
Vaclav Havel 35/1
Arnošt Lustig 40/1
Javier Marias 40/1
Ulrich Holbein 40/1
Yves Bonnefoy 40/1
Bei Dao 45/1
Cees Nooteboom 45/1
Chinua Achebe 45/1
Ernesto Cardinal 45/1
Juan Marse 45/1
Margaret Atwood 45/1
Milan Kundera 45/1
Peter Handke 45/1
Shlomo Kalo 45/1
A.B. Yehoshua 50/1
Anne Carson 50/1
David Malouf 50/1
Antonio Lobo Antunes 55/1
Eeva Kilpi 55/1
Elias Khoury 55/1
Ian McEwan 55/1
Umberto Eco 55/1
William Trevor 55/1
Bella Akhmadulina 66/1
Eduardo Galeano 66/1
Ismail Kadare 66/1
Jonathan Littell 66/1
Luis Goytisolo 66/1
Michael Ondaatje 66/1
Patrick Modiano 66/1
Salman Rushdie 66/1
Atiq Rahimi 75/1
Harry Mulisch 75/1
Jon Fosse 75/1
Paul Auster 75/1
Per Petterson 75/1
F. Sionil Jose 100/1
Julian Barnes 100/1
Mahasweta Devi 100/1
Marge Piercy 100/1
Mary Gordon 100/1
John Banville 125/1
Kjell Askildsen 125/1
Peter Carey 125/1
Vassilis Aleksaskis 125/1
William H. Gass 125/1
Yevgeny Yevtushenko 150/1
Bob Dylan 150/1

Bob Dylan?
Logan
October 6, 2010, 3:41 am
I was so intrigued by the win for "Tinkers" that I've been looking all year for 2011 small-press candidates, or else for books neglected by their own (major) publishers as the fiction biz adjusts, not that well, to a changing literary ecology. Take a look at the category-crossing "Deep Creek" by Dana Hand (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Feb 2010), which received 3 1/2 stars in the current issue of Bookmarks, right up there with David Mitchell, Ann Beattie and Oscar Hijuelos. A quietly ferocious novel of American race relations, coming out of nowhere (well, actually out of Princeton, NJ, where the co-authors, a female/male team writing under a pen name, have taught for years.)
Helene
October 6, 2010, 11:14 am
I think Marlantes or Chang-rae Lee might well win in 2011; I found both novels overblown and overwritten, but probably it's time for a sweeping epic, since the last two Fiction picks were intensely felt, small-scale and domestic. However, I agree that "Deep Creek" is a definite dark horse. Got no reviews at all in NY or LA, but raves in San Fran, Seattle and Washington--the latter a stellar Post review by the reliable and perceptive Carolyn See. A fine, fine novel, unfashionable in every imaginable way: it's a historical (set in the Pacific Northwest ca. 1890), the lovers are middle-aged, the heroine is a mixed-race Catholic, and the victims are nameless Chinese. Also, it has a plot. What makes it especially collectible? The author, "Dana Hand," is really a pseudonym for two long-time Princeton faculty members, Will Howarth and Anne Matthews. Howarth is a leading authority on American literature (he was editor-in-chief of the Papers of Henry David Thoreau for years.) But Matthews was a Pulitzer jury finalist in General Nonfiction for her first book, Where The Buffalo Roam (Grove Weidenfeld, 1991) on the restoration of the Great Plains. If "Deep Creek" were to win, or even be a finalist, she would be the first American author to win, place or show in both the Pulitzer Fiction and Nonfiction categories.
Mike
October 6, 2010, 12:49 pm
An updated list on the odds of an author winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, as of noon (Central) time today:

Cormac McCarthy 5/2
Ngugi wa Thiong'o 7/2
Haruki Murakami 6/1
Gerald Murnane 12/1
Ko Un 12/1
Adonis 13/1
Tomas Transtromer 13/1
Juan Gelman 15/1
Les Murray 15/1
Joyce Carol Oates 16/1
Peter Nadas 15/1
Alice Munro 16/1
E.L Doctorow 22/1
Thomas Pynchon 22/1
Amos Oz 25/1
Claudio Magris 25/1
John Ashbery 25/1
Mario Vargas Llosa 25/1
Ulrich Holbein 25/1
Adam Zagajewski 33/1
Assia Djebar 33/1
Carlos Fuentes 33/1
Maya Angelou 33/1
Philip Roth 33/1
Vaclav Havel 35/1
Arnošt Lustig 40/1
Don DeLillo 40/1
Javier Marias 40/1
Yves Bonnefoy 40/1
Chinua Achebe 45/1
Juan Marse 45/1
Margaret Atwood 45/1
Peter Handke 45/1
Shlomo Kalo 45/1
A.B. Yehoshua 50/1
Antonio Tabucchi 50/1
David Malouf 50/1
Milan Kundera 50/1
Anne Carson 55/1
Antonio Lobo Antunes 55/1
Cees Nooteboom 55/1
Eeva Kilpi 55/1
Elias Khoury 55/1
Ian McEwan 55/1
Bella Akhmadulina 66/1
Eduardo Galeano 66/1
Ernesto Cardinal 66/1
Gitta Sereny 66/1
Ismail Kadare 66/1
Jonathan Littell 66/1
Luis Goytisolo 66/1
Michael Ondaatje 66/1
Patrick Modiano 66/1
Salman Rushdie 66/1
A.S. Byatt 75/1
Atiq Rahimi 75/1
Bei Dao 75/1
Harry Mulisch 75/1
Jon Fosse 75/1
Michel Tournier 75/1
Paul Auster 75/1
Per Petterson 75/1
Bob Dylan 100/1
F. Sionil Jose 100/1
John le Carre 100/1
Julian Barnes 100/1
Mahasweta Devi 100/1
Marge Piercy 100/1
Mary Gordon 100/1
Umberto Eco 100/1
William Trevor 100/1
John Banville 125/1
Kjell Askildsen 125/1
Peter Carey 125/1
Vassilis Aleksaskis 125/1
William H. Gass 125/1
Nestor Amarilla 150/1
Yevgeny Yevtushenko 150/1

This probably just meanst that British gamblers like Cormac McCarthy! Bob Dylan's moved up to 100/1!
Mike
October 7, 2010, 8:44 am
Vargas Llosa Is Awarded Nobel Prize in Literature

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/08/books/08nobel.html

He had 25/1 odds on Ladbrokes!
Mike
October 7, 2010, 9:01 am
And, just to observe, the seven dual Pulitzer Prize for Fiction/Nobel Prize winners are Sinclair Lewis, Pearl Buck, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, and Toni Morrison. I believe there have been 10 Americans win the Nobel, and just eyeballing the dates, it looks like most of them won their Pulitzer first. The three non-Pultizer Prize for Fiction winning American Nobel winners were I.B. Singer (who did win a National Book Award), Joseph Brodskey (Russian born, but became a U.S. Citizen), and Eugene O'Neill (who won three Pulitzer Prizes for Drama).
brak
October 11, 2010, 1:13 am
just fyi--i started "by nightfall", the new michael cunningham book. i'm 60 pages into this book (about 25% through, i think?) and so far it's really good. so far, i'd put this up there as a possibility--but i'm a sucker for great literature that features the new york art scene as its subject or milieu. reading "freedom" simultaneously--i am starting to get the impression that, unlike last year, this year's pulitzer may feature more mainstream, large authors.

the most obscure author--and he's not obscure at all, though he is also not a household name--i can think of at this point who might stand a chance is robert stone, whose collection of short stories "fun with problems" i am reading currently (albeit intermittently, a story at a time).

i will be receiving the new roth book by the end of the month (from the library), but if anyone was an "early adopter" and bought nemesis the day it came out, i'd love to hear your thoughts. the nytimes book review reviewer began her review by talking about how little she used to like roth, but how, upon being assigned "nemesis" (an odd-coupling, her and a roth book, by her own admission) she began catching up on a lot of roth's work, and seemed to reevaluate him. the review culminated in what struck me as surprised satisfaction, the notion that roth had written a novel less ironic than was typical, had in fact written something of a love story.

anyway...i'll return soon with that--but most reviews of that book have been so-so, if not an outright plea that roth write another brilliant large tome, the likes of which we have not seen since "the plot against america" and, of course, his brilliant work throughout the 90s. (and while we're on the subject, i can't think of any other writer--except anne tyler in the 80s, actually--whose every book was a finalist, and then a winner, in succession, for the pulitzer prize).
Mike
October 12, 2010, 6:40 pm
Hot off the press:

London author and columnist named winner
12 October 2010
Howard Jacobson is tonight (Tuesday 12 October) named the winner of the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for The Finkler Question, published by Bloomsbury.

London author and columnist Howard Jacobson has been longlisted twice for the prize, in 2006 for Kalooki Nights and in 2002 for Who's Sorry Now, but has never before been shortlisted.

The Finkler Question is a novel about love, loss and male friendship, and explores what it means to be Jewish today.

From http://www.themanbookerprize.com/news/stories/1459

And, tomorrow night, Wednesday, October 13, the NBA finalists will be announced:

THE 20 FINALISTS FOR THE
2010 NBAS TO BE ANNOUNCED AT
THE FLANNERY O'CONNOR CHILDHOOD HOME
IN SAVANNAH, GEORGIA

ANNOUNCEMENT WILL TAKE PLACE ON OCTOBER 13, 2010

New York, NY (June 16, 2010) - The 20 Finalists in Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People's Literature for the 2010 National Book Awards will be announced for the first time at the Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home in Savannah, Georgia on October 13, 2010.

http://www.nationalbook.org/nba2010_savannah.html

The names of the finalists will be posted at noon (Eastern Time, I presume) Wednesday on the NBA website.
Mike
October 12, 2010, 6:44 pm
brak, did you finish Freedom? What did you think? I saw the review of Roth's Nemesis you mention, I'm gonna have to read it myself, I guess, sounds too good to pass up. I did finally ready Joshua Ferris's The Unnamed... I liked it fine, but there were a half dozen books I've read this year that I liked better. I saw an early review of Cunningham's "By Nightfall" that was very complimentary... another one I need to read, I suspect. I saw him a few weeks back at an author reading event, and he was a very engaging speaker.
Mike
October 13, 2010, 9:22 am
Kris, I just noted that Tiphanie Yanique was named as one of the "5 under 35" award winners from the National Book Foundation, which awards the National Book Award. Sounds like one worth picking up now.

http://www.nationalbook.org/5under35.html#ty
Skipjack
October 13, 2010, 11:43 am
What about "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett?
Mike
October 13, 2010, 5:29 pm
Well, the NBA finalists for fiction were announced and, once again, I'm dumbfounded how little I know about them! The only finalist I would have put anywhere near my list was Nicole Krauss (The Great House), but that book has just been released, so haven't had a chance to read it. Then we have an expatriate Orange Prize-winning American living in London (Lionel Shriver, So Much for That) writing about the American Health Care crisis/system; an expatriate Booker and Commonwealth Prize-winning Australian living in New York City (Peter Carey, Parrot and Olivier in America) writing about de Tocqueville; a novelist identified as a “magical realism/science fiction maven” by the LA Times (Karen Tei Yamashita for I Hotel), and “darkly realistic novel about a young woman living through a year of horse racing while everyone's best laid plans go brutally wrong” (Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon) that won’t be released until November 2010.

Who knew that Peter Carey had obtained U.S. Citizenship! Shades of Colum McCann from last year (and Joseph O’Neill, for that matter).

Of course, the first headline I saw after the announcement proclaimed that Franzen had been left of the list entirely. He’s in a sort of “Have you quit beating your dog yet?” kind of situation, I think.

Just to note, with regard to predicting the Pulitzer (statistically), being a NBA finalist is a significant variable, but not all that strong… 7 out of 16 significant predictor variables from a set of 36 total variables entered into the equation, and winning the NBA is even further down the line … 16th out of 16 significant predictor variables. Being a previous NBA finalist is not a significant predictor in the regression model.

Well, I guess I have five books to add to my “must read by April” list.
Kris
October 15, 2010, 8:05 pm
I mentioned Orringer as a potential NBA nominee. Not so much, though.
Kris
October 15, 2010, 8:09 pm
Jacobson is a comedic author, so maybe that signals something positive for humor/satire in the coming years...?
Kris
October 15, 2010, 8:13 pm
I didn't have a CLUE about Carey's citizenship. I've read "Parrot and Olivier," so I'll post my thoughts tomorrow, when I have more time. Also finished Franzen's "Freedom," Roth's "Nemesis," Cunningham's "By Nightfall," and Glass's "The Widow's Tale." Needless to say, my top-10 list for the Pulitzer needs some updating!
Mike
October 17, 2010, 9:21 pm
Looking forward to hearin gyour comments on all of those Kris! I'm working my way through Franzen's second novel, Strong Motion, and when done with that, plan to read Nemesis and By Nightfall and, probably, Nicole Krauss's Great House.
brak
October 18, 2010, 5:22 pm
"By Nightfall" is quite good so far--I'm half way through. Very internal--not sure how it stacks up to "The Hours" (it has been a long while since I have read that).
eric b
October 26, 2010, 7:44 pm
Paperback originals seems to be a awards trend, because publishers are reluctant to take chances on unknown authors. It seems like the people on the committees are looking specifically for such unknowns, which I thought would make it more difficult to track them down. However, locally in Los Angeles I have found a lot more copies of paperback first printings of the NBA finalists such as Karen Tei Yamashita's I Hotel and also the 5 under 35 out there then I expected. I wonder if anyone else is having this experience.
brak
November 8, 2010, 2:06 pm
I finished Nemesis. It is stronger than Roth's past two (and a solid book), but nowhere near as good as "Everyman". Roth is so good at juggling plot, making you feel like he knows the complexities of his plots from the outset (even though he likely doesn't, but simply goes back and reworks things)...and Everyman is the only book that really displays that. This book moves forward on a single trajectory toward its conclusion, so while it is engaging, and it is good, I will be endlessly surprised if it wins anything, because I'm not sure it deserves to win anything. It is a simple, well-told, long short story, told as a novel (sold as a novel) that could well have been pared down by 100 pages, that moves like a bullet toward an obvious conclusion.

Roth is an interesting author, because he wrote a strong first book, then had a series of what one might consider more-or-less throw away novels (plus the iconic portnoy's complaint), but then, in the 80s, wrote some amazing work, and then in the 90s transformed into the stunning potential-nobel-prize-winning, pulitzer-winning author that frames our perception of him today, and then, since 2000, has written sort of...half-and-half...nothing terrible, but half great novels, half weak novels....I thought plot against america was quite good--and i really liked everyman. exit ghost is a wonderful conclusion to zuckerman, in my opinion (and i found an inscribed copy of it at the strand for $5, which is rad).

I think everyone is ready for him to get off his Nemeses binge and start with a new series of wonderful books that put our history and our present into a perspective that we had not yet before obtained. pulitzer for this novel, though? it'll have to be a weak weak year.

by nightfall has a much better chance--it is beautiful--but, while i paused to read nemesis and by nightfall (and thus have not finished freedom), i still think franzen, whose writing is tightly constructed and well-considered (as it suggests that he, as a writer, is not exploring these characters but is instead familiar with them and has been for a long time, has a fair chance at winning or placing.
November 10, 2010, 2:57 pm
Brak, I decided I'd read Nemesis and so far it's true to form with your review... I like it better than his last two, but it does seem sort of like a wordy novella. I plan to read By Nightfall after that. But, I decided I'd make a run at some of the NBA nominated books. For anyone who hasn't read them (or who has), the Washington Post fiction critic posted a humorous 5 minute review of all five books:
http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/ron-charles-reviews-5-fiction-books-in-5-minutes_b16484

After finding a copy of Karen Tei Yamashita, I confess that I abandoned all thoughts about reading it; over 600 pages of what experimental fiction. I suppose if it wins, I'll shoulder my way through it, but that's the only way I'll probalby have the time and patience. I'm a slow reader! Jaimy Gordon's Lords of Misrule was just released and I knew I wasn't going to be able to finish it prior to the announcements, so that will have to wait. From among the remaining 3, I thought that Peter Carey and Nicole Krauss had the inside track, so I read Great House by Krauss and am 1/3 of the way through Parrot and Olivier in America by Carey. The Krauss book was well written, but rather depressing. The NY Times reviewer described the structure as exploring "shattered characters, with pasts blasted by the sort of loss that makes even the pretense of normal life impossible." The reviewr also noted that the characters "lack all trace of exuberance ... normal life does not beckon them ... they inhabit their sorry with a lover's ardor." Sounds uplifting, eh? Also, Krauss's narrative jumps between characters, times, and places and you have to figure out a lot as you go along. That said, I enjoyed reading it, though I thought Franzen's Freedom was much, much better. As for Parrot and Olivier, it's funny, exceedingly well written ... and written by an Australian:-) This nomination feels less "right" than, say, Colum McCann's last year. At least McCann went to college in the US and has been a long time resident. I think the true first edition of Parrot is, in fact, the Australian edition. It was published in 2009. The first British Edition lists the first Australian Edition published in 2009 and the first British edition as published in 2010 and the first US edition as published in 2010. The US edition is copyright 2009 but identified as the First US Edition. The back of the Australian Edition (the true first edition) DJ says ... "From one of Australia's greatest writers..." Nuff said. With that diatribe out of the way, I like the book a lot. I'd heard one source identify Great House as the favorite, but the Washington Post reveiwer picked the final book, Lionel Shriver's "So Much for That" as his predicted winner. So, we'll see. I'm going to try to finish Parrot and Olivier before next week's announcement.

Kris, I'm still interested in your assessment of all the books you've read!
November 10, 2010, 2:57 pm
Brak, I decided I'd read Nemesis and so far it's true to form with your review... I like it better than his last two, but it does seem sort of like a wordy novella. I plan to read By Nightfall after that. But, I decided I'd make a run at some of the NBA nominated books. For anyone who hasn't read them (or who has), the Washington Post fiction critic posted a humorous 5 minute review of all five books:
http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/ron-charles-reviews-5-fiction-books-in-5-minutes_b16484

After finding a copy of Karen Tei Yamashita, I confess that I abandoned all thoughts about reading it; over 600 pages of what experimental fiction. I suppose if it wins, I'll shoulder my way through it, but that's the only way I'll probalby have the time and patience. I'm a slow reader! Jaimy Gordon's Lords of Misrule was just released and I knew I wasn't going to be able to finish it prior to the announcements, so that will have to wait. From among the remaining 3, I thought that Peter Carey and Nicole Krauss had the inside track, so I read Great House by Krauss and am 1/3 of the way through Parrot and Olivier in America by Carey. The Krauss book was well written, but rather depressing. The NY Times reviewer described the structure as exploring "shattered characters, with pasts blasted by the sort of loss that makes even the pretense of normal life impossible." The reviewr also noted that the characters "lack all trace of exuberance ... normal life does not beckon them ... they inhabit their sorry with a lover's ardor." Sounds uplifting, eh? Also, Krauss's narrative jumps between characters, times, and places and you have to figure out a lot as you go along. That said, I enjoyed reading it, though I thought Franzen's Freedom was much, much better. As for Parrot and Olivier, it's funny, exceedingly well written ... and written by an Australian:-) This nomination feels less "right" than, say, Colum McCann's last year. At least McCann went to college in the US and has been a long time resident. I think the true first edition of Parrot is, in fact, the Australian edition. It was published in 2009. The first British Edition lists the first Australian Edition published in 2009 and the first British edition as published in 2010 and the first US edition as published in 2010. The US edition is copyright 2009 but identified as the First US Edition. The back of the Australian Edition (the true first edition) DJ says ... "From one of Australia's greatest writers..." Nuff said. With that diatribe out of the way, I like the book a lot. I'd heard one source identify Great House as the favorite, but the Washington Post reveiwer picked the final book, Lionel Shriver's "So Much for That" as his predicted winner. So, we'll see. I'm going to try to finish Parrot and Olivier before next week's announcement.

Kris, I'm still interested in your assessment of all the books you've read!
Mike
November 10, 2010, 2:59 pm
Brak, I decided I'd read Nemesis and so far it's true to form with your review... I like it better than his last two, but it does seem sort of like a wordy novella. I plan to read By Nightfall after that. But, I decided I'd make a run at some of the NBA nominated books. For anyone who hasn't read them (or who has), the Washington Post fiction critic posted a humorous 5 minute review of all five books:
http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/ron-charles-reviews-5-fiction-books-in-5-minutes_b16484

After finding a copy of Karen Tei Yamashita, I confess that I abandoned all thoughts about reading it; over 600 pages of what experimental fiction. I suppose if it wins, I'll shoulder my way through it, but that's the only way I'll probalby have the time and patience. I'm a slow reader! Jaimy Gordon's Lords of Misrule was just released and I knew I wasn't going to be able to finish it prior to the announcements, so that will have to wait. From among the remaining 3, I thought that Peter Carey and Nicole Krauss had the inside track, so I read Great House by Krauss and am 1/3 of the way through Parrot and Olivier in America by Carey. The Krauss book was well written, but rather depressing. The NY Times reviewer described the structure as exploring "shattered characters, with pasts blasted by the sort of loss that makes even the pretense of normal life impossible." The reviewr also noted that the characters "lack all trace of exuberance ... normal life does not beckon them ... they inhabit their sorry with a lover's ardor." Sounds uplifting, eh? Also, Krauss's narrative jumps between characters, times, and places and you have to figure out a lot as you go along. That said, I enjoyed reading it, though I thought Franzen's Freedom was much, much better. As for Parrot and Olivier, it's funny, exceedingly well written ... and written by an Australian:-) This nomination feels less "right" than, say, Colum McCann's last year. At least McCann went to college in the US and has been a long time resident. I think the true first edition of Parrot is, in fact, the Australian edition. It was published in 2009. The first British Edition lists the first Australian Edition published in 2009 and the first British edition as published in 2010 and the first US edition as published in 2010. The US edition is copyright 2009 but identified as the First US Edition. The back of the Australian Edition (the true first edition) DJ says ... "From one of Australia's greatest writers..." Nuff said. With that diatribe out of the way, I like the book a lot. I'd heard one source identify Great House as the favorite, but the Washington Post reveiwer picked the final book, Lionel Shriver's "So Much for That" as his predicted winner. So, we'll see. I'm going to try to finish Parrot and Olivier before next week's announcement.

Kris, I'm still interested in your assessment of all the books you've read!
Mike
November 15, 2010, 4:47 pm
Predictions for Wednesday's National Book Award ceremony from the Barne's and Noble website:

http://bnreview.barnesandnoble.com/t5/Reviews-Essays/Judgment-Day/ba-p/3613

Here's the final paragraph, if you don't want to read the entire article:

So Much for That is a very good mainstream novel with important topical concerns and engaging realistic characters but is rather pedestrian in its handyman style. Lord of Misrule is a very good indie press novel with no topical concerns and somewhat stereotyped characters but contains award-worthy sentences. Although a comic novel recently broke through to win the Booker Prize, Parrot and Olivier in America is not as amusing as other Carey novels, and it doesn't penetrate America as perceptively as a European buddy book it resembles, Pynchon's Mason and Dixon. The extensively voiced sufferings of the graduate student, lawyer, novelists, and professor in Great House actively solicit one's sympathies but are given only an oblique connection to the Holocaust. Although Krauss is possibly more profound than the first three, Great House seems "needy" to me, artfully contrived to elicit the admiration of other writers. Of the five, I Hotel is the most ambitious in its cultural range, the most diverse in character, the most ingenious in form, and the most idiosyncratic in style. It also has by far the most longueurs. I still think I Hotel should win—as a similar book by a West Coast writer, William Vollmann's Europe Central, did the year I was a judge. But Yamashita may be too anarchic or too declamatory or too alien—too off-putting in one way or another—to get the votes she needs. Krauss and Great House will probably receive the award. In this space last year, I picked the winner, Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin. But don't bet on Great House—unless you get great odds.
Mr. Benchly
November 18, 2010, 12:01 pm
For the collectors out there: according to this article, Lord of Misrule had an initial print run of 8000 copies (http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2010/11/jaimy_gordons_lord_of_misrule.html). I'm kind of astounded that this novel was an afterthought for the author until August of this year; the article says it sat in her desk from 2001 until then.

Also, according to Mcpherson's website, the first 200 orders of the book will receive an autographed copy, though when you order, there's no indication of whether or not you're one of the first 200.

Are this award and the award for Tinkers signs of a trend that the big awards are focusing more and more on small and independent publishers? I wonder how that might play out next spring.
November 18, 2010, 6:00 pm
I collect PP fiction ... but on a whim last night decided to take a chance on this book as it is by a local author. Went to Abebooks a few minutes after the announcement. Was able to get a 1st/1st hc unread for $40. Probably a fair price. There were only 4-5 available (ranging to over $200) and were gone an hour after the announcement. None are listed today.

I don't know if two awards constitutes a trend but it sure does make me want to buy any small run "finalists" early. I don't want to go through the Tinkers goldrush again.
Mr. Benchly
November 20, 2010, 11:42 am
According to Mcpherson's website, as of today there are still a handful of autographed first editions of Lord of Misrule available at regular price ($25 plus shipping), which, in my humble opinion, beats the $177 it's currently going for on ebay. Act fast!
Mike
November 20, 2010, 5:31 pm
I really appreciate the head's up on the McPherson website signed editions. I rolled the dice yesterday, before the update on signed copies left, and ordered my quota of two.

Once again, though, I read all the wrong finalists leading up to the annoucement, spending my time reading Krauss's Great House and Carey's Parrot and Olivier in America. Of course, I guess I couldn't have read Lord of Misrule prior to the announcement anyway, since it was such a late release and it's not available in an ebook format yet.

Just because there's nobody else to tell who might care... my local Borders announced this a.m. that it was going out of business (which is too bad, no other bookstores very close), but they were selling everything... fixtures and all, and I purchased several 84" by 36" and 54" by 36" shelves ... these are very, very sturdy, and the 84" versions were only $60 each and the shorter ones were $40 each! I'm going to put them in my basement. I'm running out of room for books in my collection. Anyone else have that probelm? I'll admit to being a bit obseessive about being a completist... my objective is to collect each book from each Pulitzer author (e.g., each book he/she has written), each of the Pulitzer nominated books, and a copy of each NBA winner. Plus, I buy books that look like they're going to stand a decent chance. How do others handle book storage issues?
Paul Gummerson
November 22, 2010, 3:20 pm
Hi. I wanted to order this book as I've heard that there a signed editions that I can buy for $25 from the publisher. I saw the link you had put up, but I tried it and it doesn't bring me to anyplace that will allow me to purchase this book. If you know of a site, could you please post it up on a response? Thank you very much for any help that you could provide with this.
Paul
December 4, 2010, 10:21 pm
Time Will Tell by Eddie Upnick has a great chance to win the 2011 award for fiction. This book blew me away! It covered so many topics; had threads of historical truths throughout; and was the fastest most enjoyable read I have had in years.
brak
December 5, 2010, 12:56 am
http://gizmodo.com/358636/stairs-bookcase-actually-makes-me-want-to-move-to-london Just for you, Mike. =)
brak
December 5, 2010, 1:11 am
Also, I'm still someone who would not be surprised to see Franzen take the pulitzer this year--while he did not win (or get nominated for) an nba, his absence caused a pretty huge uproar, actually. Not that the pulitzer prize will or should be awarded to avoid such controversies, however the uproar in the literary world may be as good an indication as a nomination would be. Additionally, Krauss was the favorite to win that award; so that may be worth taking note of as well. If there's no serious darkhorse contender, you may see 3 big name people.

By Nightfall is exquisitely well-written. It received less fan-fare than Franzen...but it wouldn't surprise me to see 2 major novels and possibly an indie novel (or short stories) this year, as opposed to last year, which had 2 small publishers and 1 major.

Also worth noting, "I Hotel" is a bit experimental--it's almost like many long-form short stories or linked novellas used to explain a particular time, but it also uses graphic art and drawings. I haven't read it yet, because it's a big book, and the library does not lend itself to reading such things. (So I will probably buy it off half.com at some point and read it then. Not to mention, I just started reading the novel "Carry Me Down", which was up for the Booker Prize, and I don't know why, but I have finished half the novel in 4 hours...which isn't like me--I'm actually a slow reader--but it's a tough one to put down, despite the fact that it's kind of weird...socially...sexually...and told from the viewpoint of a 12 year old.)

And finally (look at me! already looking forward to next year!), Paul Harding's novel "Tinkers" took 3 years, if I recall correctly, to find a publisher. In that time, he began writing a new novel based on the next generation of characters in Tinkers (some of whom are seen in that book). He said he is over half-way done, and it's almost just at a point of deciding when in the next year to publish it. Now, I think it's probably going to be 2012 before that gets published, so perhaps I'm looking two years ahead...but hell, you can't get a better endorsement for a first edition than that! Heads up, folks! Between that and Eugenides' next novel, 2011-2012 could have some cool things on the list.
Mr. Benchly
December 5, 2010, 12:02 pm
Here's a link to Mcpherson, the publisher for Lord of Misrule: https://www.mcphersonco.com/cs.php?f[0]=shh&pdID=177

There's no mention of the autographed copies anymore and after 3 weeks, I'm guessing the 200 that were available have been sold. But it's worth asking the publisher.
Mike
December 5, 2010, 12:21 pm
Just saw your post Logan (I signed up for the notification email when new posts are added to the discussion, but the system periodically logs me off for some reason and I didn't receive the notification of your post). I'll check out Dana Hand's book.

Speaking of Ann Beattie, her new book "The New Yorker Stories" was listed as one of the 10 best books of the year by the NY Times.
Mike
December 5, 2010, 12:28 pm
That's really interesting! I don't think anyone has won a major US prize for a pseudonymously authored book (fiction, that is), have they? It would also be the first time to my knowledge that an author team won!

Being a midwesterner, I often think that the major literary awards have a New York bias... I can't even count the number of books nominated in the past several years (or highly touted) that were set in NY City. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of the big apple and I do understand that it's the home of the publishing industry, but I sometimes think that reviewers from the east coast tend to be biased toward books about NYC and the east coast. I'm thinking of a line from Michael Cunningham's new book, By Nightfall, in which the wife, Rebecca, mentions a potential buyer for her NYC-based magazine as purportedly a "love of art", a fact that seems contradicted by the fact that he lives in Billings, Montana! I think one of the reasons I liked Freedom so much was because it was set, for much of the time, in St. Paul, MN!
Mike
December 5, 2010, 12:33 pm
Got a lot of good reviews and good word of mouth, though didn't make the NY Times 100 best books list... though neither did Tinkers!
Mike
December 5, 2010, 12:45 pm
I think the print run for I Hotel must have been fairly substantial, I found multiple copies available right after the announcement. Paperback originals are becoming more and more common in award nominations... for the obvious economic reason you rightly note. Lahiri's Maladies was the first PB original to win, and Tinkers was, for all intent and purposes a PB original with only a few HB versions printed up for some "first edition clubs". But, in addition to I Hotel and Tinkers, recent PB original nominations included Lydia Millet's Love in Infant Monkeys (Pulitzer nomination last year), The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggert by Glenn Taylor (NBCC nomination last year), American Salvage by Bonnie Campbell (NBA and NBCC nominated book last year), and Homicide Survivors Picnic by Lorraine Lopez (PEN/Faulkner nominee last year). Seems like a lot of PB publications! It will be interesting to see if that many show up this year... I Hotel is the first, obviously. Campbell's American Salvage was the hardest of that lot to find in a first edition, followed by Taylor's Trenchmouth. The others seemed pretty available. As you note Eric, a lot of the 5 under 35 authors' first books are PB original. Makes it important to identify authors early when you can get collectable condition copies.
Mike
December 5, 2010, 12:47 pm
Sorry for the duplicate post. As I noted in a previous message, the system logs me off periodically and I didn't notice I was posting as Guest. Thought I'd deleted the "Guest" post, but guess not. Tom, you want to delete that one?
Mike
December 5, 2010, 12:50 pm
Agreed. I had ordered my copy from Amazon.com at the time that the announcement was made and it was a bargain ($13.99). I've seen a couple in bookstores, so I know they're still out there, but since there were only 8,000 in the first printing, I don't think they'll last.
Mike
December 5, 2010, 1:09 pm
I finished Nemesis and agree completely with brak. I think it's interesting that it didn't even make the NY Times 100 best books list. I'm 2/3 of the way through By Nightfall (listening to it on CD) and it is very well written. I saw Michael Cunningham at an event in September and he was a very entertaining speaker. It didn't make the NY Times 100 best list either, though, which I thought was interesting since it's a NY City kind of book! And, half way through reading The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee. I like this more than I anticipated, though an earlier observation on this site that it was overwritten or overwraught strikes me as on target. Every character has a tragic past!

Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad made the NY Times 10 Notable books list, as did Franzen's Freedom, William Trevor's Selected Stories, The New Yorker Stories by Ann Beattie, and Room by Emma Donoghue (which isn't eligible for the Pulitzer due to citizenship). Machiko Kakutani's top 10 books of 2010 included Franzen's Freedom, Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story, and Mitchell's Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet.

Some of the books that made the NY Times 100 Notable books list that we haven't discussed much include Bound by Antonya Nelson, Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick, Fun with Problems by Robert Stone, Julie Orringer's Invisible Bridge (which Kris mentioned as a possible NBA nominee), and T.C. Boyle's Wild Child. Anyone read any of these? The setting for the Ozick and Orringer books don't seem to lend themselves to Pulitzer consideration IMHO, though maybe I'm off on Ozick's book, which is identified as an homage to Henry James' The Ambassadors.

A number of books we have discussed showed up as well, in addition to Freedom, Goon Squad, and Super Sad, Erdrich's Shadow Tag made the list, as did The Surrendered, The Privileges by Jonathan Dee (though not Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett), Matterhorn, Great House by Nicole Krauss, and The Ask by Sam Lipsyte.
Mike
December 5, 2010, 1:13 pm
Very cool (on the stairs-bookcase link!). Freedom is still on the top of my personal list for the Pultizer. It's the best book I have read this year, IMHO. I'll bet money it shows up on the NBCC nomination list... the critics were almost universally bowled over by it. Great news about the Harding book. I do hope Eugenidies new book is a 2011 publication, I thought Middlesex was brilliant and am looking forward to his next one.
Tom
December 9, 2010, 9:45 am
have you received your order yet? I haven't.
Mr. Benchly
December 9, 2010, 11:23 pm
I got my signed copy of Lord of Misrule from Mcpherson last week. I honestly think it's a one-person operation so I wouldn't be surprised if delivery is delayed.
Joyce Norman
December 9, 2010, 11:37 pm
Who do I think will win the 2011 Pulitzer Prize. I have no idea -- HOWEVER, I know a nominated book that SHOULD win. It is a beautiful, touching slice of Americana set in the rolling hills of Alabama -- "Sweet Music On Moonlight Ridge" by Ramey Channell is a voice that hasn't been heard in many literary years. It is artfully written and deserves the Pulitzer!
Carole
December 10, 2010, 1:58 pm
I predict "Sweet Music on Moonlight Ridge', by Ramey Channell will win. It's funny and sweet, and a look back at small town Alabama,when things were simpler, and more fun. it reminds me of another story about small town Alabama, which, i believe won the prize some years ago. I love this book and can't wait for another by the author!
Joy Collins
December 10, 2010, 9:21 pm
Sweet Music on Moonlight Ridge transports you back in time. It has a lilt to it that just sweeps you away. Ramey Channell is a bright new voice who deserves recognition. Both touching and poignant, Sweet Music stays with you long after the last page.
Mike
December 11, 2010, 11:25 am
No, mine hasn't arrived, though I'm glad to hear someone's has. I heard from someone who called them about their order that they are just swamped and books are going out and should be arriving soon. As an FYI, a signed copy of Lord of Misrule was also the book of the month from the Book Passage Signed First Edition Club. If you'll recall, that was one of two signed book clubs (the other being Powell's bookstore's Indiespensible signed book club) that also issued the hardcover signed firsts of Tinkers.
eric b
December 11, 2010, 12:22 pm
I had the same experience with Mcpherson, when I excitedly noticed the blurb on the website about signed copies--how cool of them! i thought.

So I called the guy to ask about the website (whether I had to specify a signed copy by clicking somewhere or not) and he asked me to call back because he was doing something important. It was then that i realized how small an operation we're dealing with. Then after sending a few emails, weeks later I finally received an email saying in fact a signed copy was on the way. Unfortunately in the meantime, I panicked and bought one for $80 from a reputable dealer. So the Mcpherson thing went from being a great moment in book collecting history to a pretty good moment. If I ever actually get the book, I will return to sing their praises.

One minor note, I have two unsigned first prints of Lord of Misrule, both literally out of the box at two of my local indie bookstores, one with a NBA medallion and one without. So according to my gut (!), they are both first states dj and the sticker doesn't matter. But what do people think...should I bother to peal the sticker off? :)

I hope this posts--i follow these discussions with great interest but my posts often don't go through or appear much later. Otherwise I would have tried to tip you all off on the Mcpherson myself.
Pavel
December 15, 2010, 2:00 pm
I am somewhat suspicious of "Sweet Music on Moonlight Ridge" postings.
Tom
December 16, 2010, 6:32 pm
Mine copy arrived yesterday.
Mr. Benchly
December 17, 2010, 12:14 pm
What a coincidence that these three "Sweet Music" postings all happened within 24 hours of each other, and that two of them (Norman, Collins) came from the founders of the publishing house that published the book. I guess this is what it takes nowadays to drum up interest in your book; posting fake interest on sites like these. Shameless.
Mike
December 17, 2010, 12:56 pm
I must say, though, that it would be easier to predict the pulitzer if we could get all publishers to identify just which books they've nominated! That said, if I recall correctly, Tinkers was not nominated originally, but the Pulitzer committee contacted Belleview Press and asked them to nominate it, post hoc. So, perhaps what we need to know is not only what is nominated, but what the committee has read!
Mike
December 17, 2010, 12:59 pm
http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-12-10/best-books-of-2010-the-best-of-the-best-list/

The Daily Beast's "best of the best of 2010" list... they tallied the results of all the Top 10 best book lists for 2010 they could find and the following 5 were the "best of the best":

1. Room by Emma Donoghue
2. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
3. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
4. To the End of the Land by David Grossman
5. Parrott and Olivier in America by Peter Carey

Grossman and Donoghue are not eligible for the pulitzer because of citizenship issues.
Mr. Benchly
December 17, 2010, 2:33 pm
What are the rules for nomination? Can anyone nominate anyone? Can a publisher nominate only one book? Is there a limit? I wrote a 32-page picture book about my dog for my nieces' Christmas present this year...can I nominate myself for a Pulitzer? :)
Mike
December 17, 2010, 3:59 pm
From the Pulitzer.org site:

What books are eligible for consideration? Books first published in the United States during 2010. All entries must be made available for purchase by the general public in either hardcover or bound paperback book form. In the Fiction, Biography and General Nonfiction categories, authors must be United States citizens.

Must the publisher make the entry? No, anyone (including the author) may submit a book that is eligible.

Beyond these requirements (citizenship, published in 2010), the fact that the award is preferably given to a book dealing with American life, and the specific deadlines for submission, there's not much else stipulated in the Plan of Awards document. I believe publishers (and for that matter, authors) can nominate as many books as they want to. It costs them $50 plus four copies of the book. Some awards (the NBCC, for one) do not accept self-published books, but I don't see that specified on the Pulitzer entrants site.

As for your almost-certainly-award-level-book about your dog... there's not a category for children's literature :-) That said, of course, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Pulitzer-winning "The Yearling" is often classified as a YA novel!
Mike
December 19, 2010, 4:37 pm
Eric, I doubt you'll regret your purchase of the signed Lord of Misrule, I think this is going to be a tough book to find in the first edition after a year or so, and since it won the NBA, the value will go nowhere but up!

As for the sticker ... good question. I tend to remove any sticker I can unless there's a chance it will damage the DJ. I don't think it will matter much, though, if you do it or not... as long as the DJ is protected by a mylar cover.

I got my email from Bruce McPherson on Friday saying my copy was in the mail! In the meantime, I too purchased a couple of extra copies... all from amazon.com for $13.95 each!
My Site (click to edit)
December 26, 2010, 2:57 pm
I guess it's time to put together our group list ahead of the regression analysis list.
Based on everything I read in our group conversations, here is my suggestion for our group top 20 list:
Freedom (Jonathan Franzen)
The Madonnas of Echo Park (Brando Skyhorse)
Super Sad True Love Story (Gary Shteyngart)
Shadow Tag (Louise Erdrich)
Matterhorn (Karl Marlantes)
A Visit From the Goon Squad (Jennifer Egan)
Super Sad True Love Story (Gary Shteyngart)
The Privileges (Jonathan Dee)
The Marrowbone Marble Company (Glenn Taylor)
Walking to Gatlinburg (Howard Frank Mosher)
The Surrendered (Chang Rae-Lee)
Kings of the Earth (Jon Clinch)
How to Escape from a Leper Colony (Tiphanie Yanique)
The Invisible Bridge (Julie Orringer)
I Hotel (Karen Tei Yamashita)
Parrott and Olivier in America (Peter Carey)
Union Atlantic (Adam Haslett)
The Unnamed (Joshua Ferris)
Wild Child (T.C. Boyle)
Point Omega (Don Delillo)

Anyone want to edit or comment?
Mike
December 28, 2010, 6:37 pm
Looks like all the books we've nattered about. I personally think you can pull The Unnamed, Union Atlantic, and The Marrowbone Marble Company from the list... I read them all and though generally liked them, don't think they'll make it onto the award lists. Kings of the Earth would be a long shot as well, but maybe leave it up there for now.
Pavel
December 28, 2010, 7:00 pm
Could probably add Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon to the list ))
Mr. Benchly
December 29, 2010, 9:42 am
I haven't heard much about this book and I honestly don't know a whole lot about the writer, but what about Ann Beattie's The New Yorker Stories? Or maybe I'm thinking thiss simply because she chose a similar book cover color to John Cheever's.

I also think The Unnamed can be pulled from this list.
Mike
December 29, 2010, 11:46 am
Beattie's New Yorker Stories has made a number of "top 10 books" lists, so I wouldn't be surprised to see it up in the running. I haven't read it, however. I hadn't noticed the similarity to Cheever's cover... but now that you mention it..!

Actually, I think Point Omega can be pulled from the list if we're trying to limit that list to, generally, books we've read that we think are the top contenders for the Pulitzer. Same, I suspect, with Walking to Gatlinberg. I haven't read I Hotel, and as mentioned in a previous post, won't any time soon... too long, too experimental for my tastes. I'm reading Lionel Shriver's "So Much for That" currently, which was a NBA finalist, and while I'm just getting into it, my guess is we should add that as well. Anyone read Cynthia Ozick's Foreign Bodies?
Mike
December 29, 2010, 11:48 am
Good point! Has anyone read this yet? I keep waiting for it to come out in an ebook format.
Mike
December 30, 2010, 4:26 pm
USAToday reports on another 'best of the best' list compiled by PublishersMarketplace.com by aggregating selections from 30 lists, including major retailers, top publications and individual critics. The books are in descending order of popularity:

Fiction
1. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
2. Room by Emma Donoghue
3. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
4. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
5. Faithful Place by Tana French
6. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
7. (tie) Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey; The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
9. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
10. (tie) To the End of the Land by David Grossman; The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

Looks similar to the list I posted from the Daily Beast, with Franzen and Donoghue switching places. For Pultizer purpses, Donoghue, Murray, Rachman, Grossman and Mitchell are ineligible because of citizenship issues. Don't be surprised, though, to see five or six of these announced as finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award on January 22. The NBCC award includes international authors. The only book on this list that I don't see making any of the awards lists is Tana French's Faithful Place.

Kris
December 31, 2010, 3:33 am
Geez, took forever to get my computer fixed. Anyway, looks like a good list, though I concur with what others have said about Marrowbone, Point Omega and the Unnamed. Even Union Atlantic, though I enjoyed it. I would replace one of those with "The Widower's Tale" by Julia Glass, a novel about the interplay of familial relationships and social standing. Haven't seen it on many top-10 lists, but it got solid reviews and Glass won the '02 NBA for "Three Junes," so there's pedigree.
Sci-Fi alex
December 31, 2010, 12:54 pm
I agree. Time Will Tell by Eddie Upnick is totally under the radar. Small publisher, unknown author, but this book had more in it than five books from some of the other candidates to win the 2010 Pulizer. Best read of 2010 for me, it just needs more exposure.
Joyce Norman
December 31, 2010, 3:33 pm
I am an author, a publisher and a lover of books of every genre! I know of a book that has been nominated for 2011 Pulitzer Prize and I think it is the best representation of Americana I've seen since "To Kill A Mockingbird". It is so simply written that it is profound.
It most assuredly deserves the Pulitzer Prize for literature.
Tom
January 1, 2011, 10:45 am
Joyce,

The term "nominated" is a bit confusing when it comes to Pulitzer's. Any book written in 2010 is eligible to apply, and an application is essentially a nomination. So anyone who has applied could technically say that they have been nominated. But the Pulitzer organization discourages this use, and reserves the term "nominated" to mean an entry that has become a finalist. And since finalists are announced on the same day that the winners are announced, none of us know who the official nominees are yet.

Here is some more information about this at the Pulitzer.org site:

http://www.pulitzer.org/faq#q20

Here is a specific quote from that page that discusses this subject:
"Since 1980, when we began to announce nominated finalists, we have used the term "nominee" for entrants who became finalists. We discourage someone saying he or she was "nominated" for a Pulitzer simply because an entry was sent to us."
marthawood5@earthlink.net
January 1, 2011, 1:09 pm
I'd like to see Matterhorn move up. It was a terrific novel brimming with both cynicism and integrity, a hard combination.
Mike
January 1, 2011, 2:39 pm
I agree with you, I put Matterhorn among the top 5 books I've read this year. I saw Karl Marlantes twice during his book tour and he was an engaging, gracious person. I had Matterhorn pegged as a perfect National Book Award nominee, though of course, that didn't happen. It did win the 2010 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize (http://centerforfiction.org/awards/firstnovel.php). Interestingly enough, among last year's finalists for that award was Paul Harding for Tinkers and the 2007 winner was Junot Diaz for Oscar Wao! (Unfortunately, that award has only been around since 2006, so it doesn't go back far enough to include among the predictor variables). The PEN Hemingway award, which is given to an author for his or her first work of fiction, novel or short story collection, has been around long enough to be included as a variable, but if I recall correctly, it's actually announced after the Pulitzer, so doesn't help much in predicting this year's winner. The reason that Matterhorn doesn't show up at this point on the prediction list is because Matterhorn is Marlantes first book, so he has no previous award nominations or wins, and it wasn't nominated for the NBA, as noted. It was, however, identified as a NY Times best book, so Matterhorn is among a second tier of books in the statistical ranking that all got points for appearing on the NY Times, and several books from that group are bound to make their way into the top 15 as the National Book Critics Circle Award finalists and winner, the PEN Faulkner finalists and winner and the American Library Association best books are announced.
Kris
January 2, 2011, 4:12 pm
I think "Great House" by Nicole Krauss has a shot. In it, Krauss interweaves the story of several characters with each other through their connection to an old Chilean writing desk. Amazon's Mari Malcolm put it best, I think - "In each of the short stories that nest like rooms in Nicole Krauss's Great House looms a tremendous desk. It may have belonged to Federico García Lorca, the great poet and dramatist who was one of thousands executed by Fascists in 1936, when the Spanish Civil War began. We know that the desk stood in Weisz's father's study in Budapest on a night in 1944, when the first stone shattered their window. After the war, Weisz hunts furniture looted from Jewish homes by the Nazis. He scours the world for the fragments to reassemble that study's every element, but the desk eludes him, and he and his children live at the edges of its absence. Meanwhile, it spends a few decades in an attic in England, where a woman exhumes the memories she can't speak except through violent stories. She gives the desk to the young Chilean-Jewish poet Daniel Varsky, who takes it to New York and passes it on (before he returns to Chile and disappears under Pinochet) to Nadia, who writes seven novels on it before Varsky's daughter calls to claim it. Crossing decades and continents, the stories of Great House narrate feeling more than fact. Krauss's characters inhabit "a state of perpetual regret and longing for a place we only know existed because we remember a keyhole, a tile, the way the threshold was worn under an open door," and a desk whose multitude of drawers becomes a mausoleum of memory." Krauss has been short listed for the Orange Prize (2006), won the L.A. Times Book Award (2002), and been named to a couple of "best-under-40" lists, and her latest offering was nominated for this year's NBA. Slightly international flavor, but that's true of a lot of this year's best books.
Kris
January 2, 2011, 4:18 pm
Off topic, but if anyone still needs a first edition of "The Known World," I have an extra copy. I bought it for a quarter at a used bookstore, so it's not in the greatest condition. Not in the worst, either. Happy to take a picture, if you'd like. Anyway, it's taking up space on my shelf, and space is a precious commodity in my library. So, if you want it, let me know. My e-mail is originalaccident@gmail.com.
Mike
January 2, 2011, 6:06 pm
I put Great House in the same category as Louise Erdrich's Shadow Tag... both by authors with outstanding credentials, both very well written, both probably strong contenders for the prize season, and both depressing as all get out! I thought Great House was the favorite for the NBA. The unrelenting "perpetual regret" in Great House wore me out after a while, truthfully, just like the unremitting anger and violence in Shadow Tag wore me out. Chang-rae Lee's The Surrendered is another book with themes around regret (and the lack thereof, to some degree). One thing that I thought as I read Great House is that there is so little about "American life" in it, that I think it's stronger for competitions like the NBA and NBCC. Since the NBCC includes international publications, though, the field is tougher. I'll bet that we see Great House as a finalist for the NBCC later this month, though.

Speaking of NBA nominees, I'm reading Lionel Shriver's "So Much for That..". It's well written, but striking me as a bit of a skreed ... rants about the American Education system; rants about the American Health system; rants about American culture... all legitimate topics for a novel (and I don't really disagree with the underlying positions or issues raised), but to some degree it seems to me that it's coming off as too much rant and not enough story. I'll stick with it, though, and see how I feel at the end. I think I mentioned that I liked Peter Carey's Parrott and Olivier, but don' think it will really be in play much... Great House is much stronger.
Kris
January 2, 2011, 7:45 pm
Since you mention the NBCC, I'm going to have some fun and toss out my predicted finalists: "Great House" by Nicole Krauss, "Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen, "Room" by Emma Donoghue, "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet" by David Mitchell, and "A Visit From the Goon Squad," by Jennifer Egan, with "Parrot and Olivier in America" by Peter Carey as my honorable mention. It will be very interesting to see what books by American authors receive a nomination, since, as you indicate, the NBCC can be extremely cosmopolitan.
Leo
January 3, 2011, 6:40 am
The last Pulitzer prizes for fiction have shown that the winners are not the big names everybody is shouting. After Junot Diaz, who was on top of everybody's list, the prizes seemed to go to the less well established authors and the smaller publishers. I mean it was very difficult to find an Olive Kitteridge that was not remaindered as booksellers were removing them from the shelves just before it was announced that it won the Pulitzer. I 'bought' three copies on-line to seem them all vaporize as the sellers were unable to get them. There's one further list I can recommend to spot possible winners: the Indiespensable list at Powells.com. I mean look up volume 8, they had Tinkers in a limited signed hardcover edition for their subscribers. Indiespensable is all about small limited series of unique books from smaller publishers. So indeed I think their choice for Matterhorn and for Shadow Tag supports what I am reading here.

I collect prize winners, Edgar, Booker, Pulitzer, Nobel so I do actively follow all the predictions, betting odds etc. and also used to buy the shortlisted books. But now I wait for the prize to be announced, than quickly purchase a signed copy. After several hours prices are hyped and if one misses the boat in the first 24 hours, it is better to wait a couple of weeks when prices have again reached normal values.

Last, but perhaps silly, question is would David Mitchell's The Thousands Autumns of Jacob de Zoet not qualify? The book had winner written all over it but sofar it didn't get any of the important prices. As did most of Mitchell's books which are first choice for the Booker longlist, but never make it to win.
Mike
January 3, 2011, 7:38 pm
That's probably a good list, my predictions for the NBCC are similar: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen; Room by Emma Donoghue; A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart; and, just for the heck of it, Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. My 'honorable mention" would be The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse.
Mike
January 4, 2011, 1:14 pm
You raise some interesting points. With regard to winners not being the bign names, I tend to think it's cyclical, if there's a trend at all. Clearly Tinkers was small publishing house/unknown author. Elizabeth Strout was a bit of a surprise, although it was her third novel, with the first two well received, and it had performed well enough in the other awards that it was on the radar screen. Certainly not a small press, though. I still think Erdrich's Plague of Doves should have won, personally. Then, as you note, Junot Diaz's Brief Wondrous Life swept everything. First novel, but a well received short story collection published prior and, again, not a small publishing house. Just like Edward P. Jones' The Known World in 2004... collected a bunch of awards and nominations, including the NBCC, first novel after well received book of short stories. You have to go back to 1999 and Jhumpa Lahiri's win to find anything quite like Tinkers... paperback original, unpublished author, etc. Russo's Empire Falls as a first win and didn't garner any other nominations for anything, but he was already well established. Some of the bigger names have not fared well, that's true, and I do wonder what the impact of a lot of publicity (aka Franzen for Freedom) has on the Pultizer decision. His previous book, The Corrections, won about everything except the Pulitzer (though it was a finalist), but lost out to Middlesex. About as often as the unknown author from a small press wins, however, the blockbuster from a large house wins... Philip Roth for American Pastoral, Marilyn Robinson for Gilead, Richard Ford for Independence Day, John Updike for Rabbit is Rich, Jane Smiley for A Thousand Acres. Perhaps Cormac McCarthy's win for the Road illustrates the power of a big name.

I thought last year was ripe for an unknown to win ... and I did post that during last year's discussion :-) There really weren't any huge names in the pool (well, Marilyn Robinson, but Home didn't do much in the awards (until the Orange Prize)) and it had been a while... since Russo or Lahiri, since something like that had happened. Personally, I'd bet this year it will be one of the established authors. Just a hunch, obviously.

Your observation about just purchasing a signed copy once the award is announced strikes a note with me as well. By the time a ring up all the purchases of the various award finalists and contenders, I find that had I just waited and paid higher dollar for a signed first after the award is announced that I'd be better off, financially. Still, I like the hunt and occasionally it does pay off... I purchased a signed 1st and signed ARC of Olive Kitteridge when it showed up on the NBCC Finalist list for, basically, cover price, and that's been a hard one to find subsequent to the award!

I haven't read Mitchell's book, so will defer on that to someone else!
Tom
January 5, 2011, 7:03 pm
From what I have read, the Pulitzer jury and board had a difficult time selecting Gone With the Wind in 1937. It was a already a run-away bestseller by the time it won, and I think there was a sense that it had too much mass appeal.

There is obviously a different jury and board in place now. But I suspect there still might be a sense internally that the award is above the the popular mindset. I think of this every time someone brings up Freedom as a possible winner.
Mike
January 5, 2011, 7:59 pm
I can't imagine any Pulitzer Jury/Board felt any more pressure than when Beloved was selected. If I recall, there was a very public letter writing campaign when the book didn't win the NBA (Paco's Story by Larry Henemann beat it out, somewhat unbelievebly in IMHO) or the NBCC (Roth's "The Counterlife" won that). And, although I don't know for certain, it seems likely that Rabbit is Rich was already a huge commercial success, as well as having already won the NBA and the NBCC, when it was selected. I'm just observing that several Pulitzer Juries/Boards seem to have been willing to select the big book that was popular. That said, I do wonder about the effect of the Time Magazine cover, the Oprah selection and appearance, and all the hoopla around Freedom if it isn't, to some degree, damaged property in the eyes of award judges. I hope not, personally, it is still far-and-away the best book I read this year. I'm about half way through Lionel Shriver's "So Much for That..." and frankly I have no idea why that was selected as a NBA finalist. It's probably my least favorite book from among those I've read this year... just vituperative and one rant after another, at least in my opinion. Freedom was so well received by critics (a few recently have received their 15 minutes of fame by bashing it, but by and large, the major critics reviewed it very strongly) that I would be very surprised if it doesn't show up on the National Book Critics Circle finalist list. and for what it's worth, year after year the strongest single predictor of which book will win the Pulitzer is that it was a NBCC finalist (not winner, mind you, just finalist). It's not a perfect predictor, obviously, but it's the best predictor. The second has emerged as showing up on the ALA Notable books list.
Kris
January 6, 2011, 6:13 am
Mitchell can't win the Pulitzer because he's British. To win the Pulitzer, you have to be an American author. "Zoet" was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, though, and garnered wonderful reviews. It's a strong candidate for the NBCC, in my opinion.

I'm a neophyte collector, but, like Mike, enjoy purchasing and reading contenders throughout the year. Predicting the Pulitzer is as much about reading the year's great literature, for me, as finding something valuable to gather dust on a bookshelf. I agree that smaller houses ruin the standard predictor variables - that's why this wonderful site went to a dual model, this year. Unfortunately, a statistical regression analysis is weighted toward those who've already won, who've established themselves in the literary scene. Hard to avoid that paradox, though I find it interesting to compare what the model says with what contributors say. If I'm not mistaken, some intrepid reader did mention "Tinkers" on this board, last year. Kudos to them.

As for Franzen, I think this gets back to the question of what the Pulitzer means in the 21st century. In modern times, there has been an explosion in publishing. There's simply much, much more material out there. Interestingly, as Mike mentioned, a lot of Pulitzer winners first authored notable short story collections. A lot of "best of" short story editors (those who edit Best American Short Stories, for example) say that they pride themselves on selecting writers whose work hasn't received much attention, thereby giving their careers a boost. I'm not saying this has led to Pulitzer Prizes, but I do think it points toward the lucidity of Mike's comment about finding the needle in the haystack. On a more philosophical plane, if the award is about recognizing a quintessentially American tale, what does that mean? What defines an American narrative beyond "story about America?" Immigration tales pointing toward the cultural complexity of the country, like "Oscar Wao" and "Madonnas of Echo Park (or Dinaw Mengetsu's "How to Read the Air," which I think has received too little attention on this site)? Is it something more generic, like "Freedom"...? Hard to say, and probably different for each new set of judges.
Mike
January 6, 2011, 11:08 am
Yes, Dinaw Megestu's How to Read the Air garnered a lot of good reviews. He was one of the New Yorker 20 under 40 writers. Have you read it yet Kris? I'm in the middle of both Lionel Shriver's "So Much for That..." and Jennifer Egan's "A Visit From the Goon Squad", but will probably read How to Read the Air next.
Mike
January 7, 2011, 8:56 am
Just a side note to those Pulitzer collectors who are completists (as, I'm afraid, I tend to try to be, though only for more recent award winners... trying to begin a complete collection of everything John Updike or Philip Roth published would both bankrupt me and lead, I suspect, to futility!) and what to own a first edition of each book written by a Pulitzer-award winning author, The most recent issue (#36) of McSweeney's Quarterly Concern (www.mcsweeneys.net) includes four chapters from Michael Chabon's aborted second book, Fountain City. If you're not familiar with the story, you can read a recent interview with Chabon in The Atlantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2010/12/michael-chabon-how-to-salvage-a-wrecked-novel/68665/).

And, speaking of McSweeney's, earlier in the year there was some buzz about a McSweeney's book, Citrus County by John Brandon; I don't believe, though, that a more recent McSweeney's book that's getting quite a bit of attention has been mentioned... The Instructions by Adam Levin. It's a 1000 page novel that has been compared to, not surprisingly, David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest (because, I suspect, of the bulk as much as anything). My son has read both books (Infinite Jest, The Instructions), and says that while The Instructions is no Infinite Jest, it is well done and entertaining. For collectors, there might be a bit of a challenge... McSweeney's issued it in three cover colors (no DJ) and some variations on other color aspects even among same-color covers... so far, I've identified at least 5 variants. It's one I'm waiting to see if it wins anything before trying to find all the variants!

And, speaking of David Foster Wallace, perhaps the biggest book of 2011 will be The Pale King, which was unfinished at the time of his death, but has been edited down into a final form. The Pulitzer is awarded posthumously, most famously for A Confederacy of Dunces (and also for Nelson Algren's A Death in the Family and, I think, Faulkner's The Reivers, which was published just before he died, but the Pulitzer was awarded after his death).
Mr. Benchly
January 7, 2011, 10:24 am
Awesome news about DFW's book coming out, though I'm skeptical about unfinished projects finished posthumously. I suppose, as long as nothing is added to the text and that it's just edited down, it might be fine, but still, you run the risk of publishing something the author didn't intend and/or removing content the author would have kept. A slippery slope, indeed.

Also, awesome news about Chabon's lost book. I vaguely remember that he was inspired to write Wonder Boys after his experience with his neverending Fountain city. For some reason, I was under the impression that he threw the book in the trash.

Regarding The Instructions by Adam Levin, I was afraid that I'd purchase a copy and end up not liking the book but then I found online a copy of the first chapter (http://store.mcsweeneys.net/index.cfm/fuseaction/catalog.detail/object_id/3a4ef067-dc96-410a-9556-03834d164a30/TheInstructions.cfm) and was hooked. I ended up signing up for Powell's Indiespensable series in order to get a signed copy of the book, and then canceled my subscription after the book arrived. I'm not sure if the book is still available through Powell's but it's worth a shot. I'm both disappointed and thankful that I don't live in Portland. I would probably live in Powell's and end up bankrupting myself.

And speaking of Powell's, I just noticed that they have autographed copies of Mengestu's How to Read the Air if you're interested. Hurry while supplies last!
Mike
January 7, 2011, 11:16 am
It's my understanding that the new DFW book, The Pale King, was complete and not just a partial, at the time of his tragic death, but that he had been engaged in editing it for several years. He obviously wasn't happy with it as it was, since he hadn't moved it into production. But, perhaps a good edit will polish it up. It will be interesting... I think it could go either way, either a polished novel or something that maybe still wasn't ready for prime time. The person who is doing the edits is DFW's long-time editor and friend, and my sense is that he isn't willing to let something out that he thinks DFW would be dissatisfied with.

Just a note that in addition to a few chapters from Chabon's lost novel, there is also a printing of the first chapter of The Instructions in the McSweeney's issue (which, by the way, comes in a box decorated as a head!).

I belong to Powell's Indiespesible book club, though joined after the Tinkers release (drat). In addition to The Instructions, they did a special edition of Franzen's Freedom, Karl Marlantes Matterhorn, and Louise Erdrich's Shadow Tag during 2010. In the Shadow Tag mailing, there was also an uncorrected proof of Lionel Shriver's So Much for That, which of course was a NBA finalist, so I feel like I've got my money's worth out of the club this year. Powell's is a good place to order signed first editions from... they have a lot of authors come through their store. Another store that I frequently order signed firsts from, including Nicole Krauss's Great House and Michael Cunningham's By Midnight this year is the Joseph Fox Bookstore in Philadelphia, which hosts a lot of visible author events. Also, Odyssey Bookstore in South Hadley, MA and Book Passage in the San Francisco area.
Tom
January 8, 2011, 10:07 pm
Should we add How to Read the Air on the community list? If so, what placement?
Kris
January 9, 2011, 2:25 am
I would put it there. I'll post a review, tomorrow. I'd put it above "Wild Child" for now, though it's probably in my personal top-10.
Mike
January 9, 2011, 9:46 am
I didn't think we were trying to rank the PPrize readers' list... not sure how we'd do that. I agree Air ought to be added, but maybe just posting the list alphabetically by title or author?
Kris
January 9, 2011, 9:56 pm
Mike makes a good point. If I were ranking the readers' choices, I'd suggest major revisions to the current list. So, I think an alphabetical ranking works best - unless you'd like us to post our personal top-10's...?
Kris
January 9, 2011, 9:59 pm
Did "Nemesis" by Philip Roth make any "best of" lists? Just curious if got this year's top metric because of his previous awards alone or more recent accolades. Haven't read it, but it's on my desk.
Mike
January 9, 2011, 10:57 pm
As for Nemesis, there are only 2 "best books of the year" lists entered into the regression model because only those two (New York Times best fiction of the year and the American Library Association notable books) have been around since 1982 and have that information accessible for each year from 1982 to the current year. Since there's only 1 pulitzer winner per year, you need data from at least 1982 onward to have enough examples of what predicts a win to run the regression analysis. The ALA list comes out later... February I think, but Nemesis did not make the NY Times best books list this year, so it's perched up top for now because of Roth's past award/nomination record. Same is true for the Anne Tyler, Jane Smiley, and Louise Erdrich books, none of which made the NY Times list this year. The most heavily weighted predictor variables are yet to be announced, and if those books don't get listed or nominated for something, they'll fall down in the list and, in some cases, off the final list. I would expect Erdrich's Shadow Tag to get some nomination. I personally don't think either Nemesis or Noah's Compass will get any nominations. The reviewers seem to be of two minds with regard to Smiley's Private Life. Seems like half disliked it, but the other half thought it was her best book ever and sang its praises, so it might show up in a later list or nomination, though I didn't think it was that strong. If I recall, Kris, you felt likewise.
Mike
January 9, 2011, 10:58 pm
Maybe we just list them for now and then have folks post their top 10 in March or so and see if we can do a composite PPrize Readers Top 10.
Tom
January 9, 2011, 11:59 pm
Sounds good. I put them in alphabetical order.
Mike
January 10, 2011, 4:59 pm
FYI:

The Story Prize Announces Its 2010 Finalists

The Story Prize is pleased to honor three outstanding short story collections chosen from among eighty-five 2010 books that fifty-seven different publishers or imprints entered for the award. The three finalists are:

•Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr (Scribner)
•Gold Boy, Emerald Girl by Yiyun Li (Random House)
•Death Is Not an Option by Suzanne Rivecca (W.W. Norton)

Given that it seems like the Pulitzer committee likes to include at least one short story collection among their winner/finalists, might be worth paying attention to these. Doerr's book was on the NY Times notable books list for the year. If I'm not mistaken, this is Rivecca's first book. Yiyun Li was one of the New Yorker's 20 under 40 young writers to watch.

The winner will be announced at an event in NYC in early March.
Kris
January 10, 2011, 10:39 pm
"Memory Wall" is pretty international in scope, though it's an excellent collection. Li's "Gold Boy, Emerald Girl" focuses on both China and America and is equally well-written, so I'd give it more of a chance. "Death Is Not An Option" received mixed reviews, if I recall. More positive than negative, but, for example, the NY Times called it a "gripping collection," while the Sacramento Book Review said "too many of the main characters resemble one another."
Tom
January 11, 2011, 8:39 am
Ann Beattie's New Yorker Stories is a short story collection. Has anyone read it?
Mike
January 12, 2011, 8:38 pm
That helps Kriss, thanks.
Mike
January 12, 2011, 8:43 pm
The American Library Association released its notable adult fiction books for the year on Monday. They are:

Bass, Rick “Nashville Chrome”
Donoghue, Emma “Room”
Egan, Jennifer “A Visit from the Goon Squad”
Franklin, Tom “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter”
Franzen, Jonathan “Freedom”
Hynes, James “Next”
Lee, Chang Rae “The Surrendered”
Marlantes, Karl “Matterhorn”
Mitchell, David “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet”
Murray, Paul, “Skippy Dies”
Soli, Tatjana “The Lotus Eaters”
Udall, Brady “The Lonely Polygamist”

Donoghue, Mitchell, and Murray are not eligible for the Pulitzer due to citizenship issues. Most of these names have shown up at some time in our discussion... with the exception of the Bass, Franklin, Hynes, and Soli books. Anyone read those? I was glad to see Udall's book listed, as I thought it was a great book ... but I don't think it's really Pulitzer material. In addition to Franzen, my sense is that Lee's Surrendered, Egan's Goon Squad and, perhaps somewhat less so, Marlante's Matterhorn are books to watch.

Keep in mind that the ALA list was the only variable on which Tinkers showed up last year!
January 14, 2011, 4:10 am
It's interesting that both "The Lotus Eaters" and "Matterhorn" were selected, since they're both books about the Vietnam War. Different perspectives, but both were lauded for their visceral descriptions of the horrors of warfare.
Kris
January 14, 2011, 4:11 am
It's interesting that both "The Lotus Eaters" and "Matterhorn" were selected, since they're both books about the Vietnam War. Different perspectives, but both were lauded for their visceral descriptions of the horrors of warfare.
Kris
January 14, 2011, 5:47 am
Mike, what do you think of "The Madonnas of Echo Park" getting no love, so far, during the award season? You and I were both sold on that book from the first read, I believe.
Mike
January 14, 2011, 2:59 pm
I need to hunt down Lotus Eaters, not seeing it around much. Similarly, the first part of The Surrendered follows the same (visceral descriptions of the horror of warfare), albeit a different war! I was, though, really pleased that Matterhorn made the list. I was also pleased, and a bit surprised, that Brady Udall's Lonely Polygamist was on the ALA list. As I mentioned in my post reviewing this a while back, it has the best first line for a novel that I read this year: "To put it as simply as possible: This is the story of a polygamist who has an affair." :-) It was also a Powell's Indiespencible book this year. I really don't think it will go any further, but good to see it recognized, since I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Mike
January 14, 2011, 3:02 pm
Given that the NBA finalists seem to favor first books by promising authors, I half anticipated it would show up there. I was surprised it wasn't listed on the NY Times best books list. I still think it could show up on the NBCC finalist list... and it's definitely one of the best 5 books I read this past year.
Kris
January 15, 2011, 3:46 am
Here's a question one of you wonderful readers (with more experience tracking awards than me) might be able to answer: What is the earliest publication date, according to the calendar, for a Pulitzer winner? Completely trivial, I know, but I'm curious!
Kris
January 15, 2011, 6:24 am
Well, I answered my own question: "Tinkers," published on January 1, 2009. Not sure if any other winners were published on New Year's.
Mike
January 15, 2011, 11:15 am
The British and Canadian editions of Carol Shilds' Stone Diaries were published a full year before it was published in the U.S. Since all three versions are the same, content-wise, and because Shields had dual US/Canadian citizenship, its hard not to consider the UK/Canadian editions as the true firsts. I'm betting that's the 'earliest' publication of an eventual Pulitzer winner.
Kris
January 15, 2011, 7:31 pm
So, the Pulitzers only refer to the U.S. publication date, then? That's a little odd.
Mike
January 15, 2011, 7:54 pm
Yep ... citizenship and year of U.S. publication. Anne Tyler's book, Noah's Compass, is the odd duck, date-wise, of this year's Pultizer group. Perhaps you'll recall that we were uncertain last year as to whether the book would be considered for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. It has a 2009 copyright date, even in the U.S. First Edition. I was in Europe in the summer of 2009 and saw a first British printing out then. But, it apparently was not released (e.g., published) in the U.S. until early 2010, and thus not eligible for the 2010 award, but it is eligible for the 2011 award. Tom even called the publisher just to be sure, and they confirmed that it's a 2010 book.
Kris
January 16, 2011, 4:16 am
Ah, yes, I do remember now. The point of the inquiry was to determine if books published in the early, middle or late part of the year perform better during the awards season. Completely trivial, but a passing curiosity. By the way, the bookstore by my house has a few first editions of the 2006 winner "March" by Geraldine Brooks, if anyone needs a copy. Good condition. If needed, let me know and I'll grab a copy for you.
Yet Another Mike
January 16, 2011, 6:32 pm
After the National Book Award winner was announced, Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the NY Times Book Review, spoke about the recent fashion for choosing small press/little-known books (Tinkers, Lord of Misrule) and "punishing" the acknowledged masters of the era for being successful and mainstream. I think many people feel the same way and hopefully we will see the pendulum swing back at some point soon. It’s hard to ignore Franzen this year. Freedom proves that popularity and high art can co-exist peacefully. It would be nice to the see the PP committee acknowledge this. I like Matterhorn and Goon Squad as darker horses.
Mike
January 18, 2011, 7:39 pm
Well said. You don't happen to have the URL for that column, do you? I've googled all combinations of Tanenhaus and Review and Freedom and there are too many hits! Given that he's a NBA finalist (in non-fiction), perhaps his opinion carries more weight with the National Book Foundation folks. Probably not, though! Of course, sometimes the small press/little known book is actually the best book... and I still haven't read Lord of Misrule (it's on my get to list... I'm still reading Goon Squad), but I just have a hard time believing it was better than Freedom. Four days until the NBCC finalists are announced, and I think we'll see Freedom, Goon Squad and, possibley, Matterhorn on that list.
Yet Another Mike
January 19, 2011, 12:50 pm
Tannenhaus made these comments on the NY Times Book Review podcast 1-2 weeks after the NBA announcement. It is nested between segments in one of these casts.nWell worth a listen.
Kris
January 21, 2011, 5:49 am
So. Tomorrow. 7 p.m. NBCC finalists. Can't wait!
Mike
January 21, 2011, 9:04 am
Yep, announcement supposedly shortly after 6:00 p.m. Eastern time. And, in case anyone forgot, being nominated for the NBCC is the strongest single predictor of winning the Pulitzer (not as strong as a combination of predictors, but the strongest predictor from among those that do predict the outcome). The following eventual Pulitzer winners were nominated for the NBCC:
1982-Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike
1984-Ironweed by William Kennedy
1985-Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie
1986-Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
1987-A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor
1988-Beloved by Toni Morrison
1991-Rabbit at Rest by John Updike
1992-A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
1994-The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
1995-The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
1996-Independence Day by Richard Ford
1998-American Pastoral by Philip Roth
1999-The Hours by Michael Cunningham
2001-The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
2003-Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
2004-The Known World by Edward P. Jones
2005-Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson
2007-The Road by Cormac McCarthy
2008-The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
2009-Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

So, 6 of the 10 Pulitzer winners from the 1980s were NBCC nominees, 7 of 10 from the 1990s were NBCC nominees, and 7 of 10 Pulitzer winners from the 2000s were NBCC nominees. Only one NBA nominee (The Known World by Edward P. Jones) also won the Pulitzer in the 2000s (and it was also a NBCC nominee). Only 3 NBA nominees in the 1990s went on to win the Pulitzer (Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser, Shipping News by Annie Proulx, and Mambo Kings by Oscar Hijuelos), while six of the NBA nominees in the 1980s also won the Pultizer. So, over three decades, the eventual Pulitzer winner was a NBCC nominee 67% of the time. That's even more impressive if you remember that the NBCC list can include foreign authors, unlike the NBA list.

From among NBCC nominees, the following eventual Pulitzer winners were also NBCC winners:
1982-Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike
1984-Ironweed by William Kennedy
1991-Rabbit at Rest by John Updike
1992-A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
1995-The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
2004-The Known World by Edward P. Jones
2005-Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson
2008-The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Only three NBA winners have won the Pulitzer (Rabbit is Rich by Updike, Color Purple by Walker, and Shipping News by Proulx).

Finally, last year Tinkers joined the list of four other books that were neither nominated for the NBCC or NBA but won the Pulitzer:

1993-A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
2000-Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
2002-Empire Falls by Richard Russo
2006-March by Geraldine Brooks
2010-Tinkers by Paul Harding

It's interesting that four of those came after 2000.
Kris
January 21, 2011, 7:27 pm
"Empire Falls" is still one of my favorite books. Anyway, what do you think accounts for the parallel between NBCC and Pulitzer winners?
Mike
January 21, 2011, 9:29 pm
Ditto (Empire Falls!). I think its got to be the selection process.. the NBAs are selected by a small group of writers, while the NBCC is selected by any member of the NBCC who wants to vote. The Pulitzer process is somewhere in between, obviously, but perhaps has broader input?
Mike
January 22, 2011, 7:42 pm
So, here are the finalists in fiction for the NBCC:

Jennifer Egan. A Visit From The Goon Squad, Knopf
Jonathan Franzen. Freedom, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
David Grossman. To The End Of The Land. Knopf.
Hans Keilson. Comedy In A Minor Key, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
Paul Murray. Skippy Dies, Faber & Faber.


This is interesting for Pulitzer prediction purposes because only Franzen and Egan are eligible... Grossman is Israeli, Keilson is Dutch/German, and Murray is Irish. (Keilson, by the way, is 101 years old!).
Kris
January 22, 2011, 9:20 pm
Yeah, I was going to make the same comment about this being tricky for predicting purposes, though Egan and Franzen have made the "best of" rounds, this year. Both would appear in my top-5 candidates for the Pulitzer. I'm more surprised that not a single NBA nominee made the list. Just goes to show that the divide between artists and critics still exists, I guess.
Kris
January 23, 2011, 8:38 am
Alas, I am now ready to post my final rankings. If there be more regression variables to come, let them speak now or forever hold their peace. Anyone? No? Okay, then here's my list:

1. "Freedom" - Jonathan Franzen
2. "A Visit From the Good Squad" - Jennifer Egan
3. "Great House" - Nicole Krauss
4. "Parrot and Olivier in America" - Peter Carey
5. "The Surrendered" - Chang-Rae Lee
6. "Kings of the Earth" - John Clinch
7. "Nashville Chrome" - Rick Bass
8. "Next" - James Hynes
9. "How to Read the Air" - Dinaw Megetsu
10. "The Widower's Tale" - Karl Marlantes

Yeah. Bet you weren't expecting that list, huh Mike? *grin* Also my dark horse candidate, "The Madonnas of Echo Park," By Brando Skyhorse. Why this book has eluded awards and "best of" lists is truly beyond me. Also, couldn't put "Matterhorn" up there because there are so many other war stories, like "The Lotus Eaters" and "The Surrendered," both of which, in my opinion, were more elegantly written.

Alright, someone else's turn to come up with a list that more accurately reflects reality, haha!
Mike
January 23, 2011, 3:43 pm
Kris, I just emailed the "end-of-January" version of the statistical analysis to Tom and you'll see lots of similarities between your list and that list. Have you read all 10 of these? I'm still trying to read all the contenders, so will withold final thoughts on my part! I am surprised that you abandoned Madonnas and Matterhorn :-) Truthfully, although I liked it a lot, I don't think Madonna's is going to win, place or show in anything. I'm not quite ready to throw Matterhorn out, though it's clearly a very dark horse at this point. I've read books 1-6 on your list.. liekd them all... but probably wouldn't rank Parrot or Kings as high. Of those two, though, I liked Kings a lot more (though I thought Parrot was amusing). I haven't read any of the last four... plan to read How to Read the Air next, though.
MichaelUCSB
January 23, 2011, 5:50 pm
At the risk of stating the obvious, it really is beginning to feel like the Pulitzer is Franzen's to lose. Is the NBCC awarded before or after the Pulitzer?
Kris
January 23, 2011, 8:52 pm
Yeah, I've read them all, though I had to secure a couple through the Kindle store. Before anyone points out my mistake, "The Widower's Tale" is by Julia Glass, who won an NBA, in 2002, for "Three Junes." Matterhorn, to me, is just...not up to par with many of the others. It's heavy book that narrates an aspect of the Vietnam Wat too seldom looked at (race), but it doesn't have the literary complexity of prior winners, in my opinion. "Nashville Chrome," a story about country music's legendary trio The Browns, strikes me as a quintessentially American tale in style, substance and subject matter. I was tempted to rank it higher, since the Pulitzer has gone to some relative unknowns, lately, as you and others have pointed out. You're probably right that "Parrot and Olivier" is too high on my list, though it's done well on the honors circuit. The book I WANT to win is "Goon Squad" - I'm postmodern literary/political theorist and Egan is consummately postmodern, as evidenced by the giant PowerPoint presentation included in the book. As for the NBCC, I think it's a contest between "Freedom" and "Skippy Dies," both of which have been almost universally lauded.
Mike
January 23, 2011, 10:55 pm
Well, I for one have appreciated the leads you've provided... you pegged Goon Squad as a book to watch very early, and as a result, I knew to look out for Egan at a book festival I was at this summer and sat in on a session she provided, then got to have her sign a number of my books, including Goon Squad. In her presentation, she described her writing process, which is, by any standard, arduous to say the least! She begins by writing a full first draft in longhand. She then types it into her computer, and uses that draft to create an extensive outline. She then rewrites the book, a chapter at a time, writing in long hand and entering it back in the computer. She indicated that Goon Squad had 70 to 80 drafts! The only more "difficult"writing process I've read about is John Irving's... he writes the last line of the novel first and works backward from there!

You're probably right about Matterhorn. I was interested to see that you'd included the Clinch book on your list... as I said, I really did like it quite a bit. I also, though, really liked Brady Udall's Lonely Polygamist. I agree with your take on the NBCC.... I haven't ready Skippy Dies yet, but at an author reading by Jess Walter (his "The Zero" was an NBA finalist a few years back), he said it was the best book he'd read all year.

Now I'm motivated to get back to finish Goon Squad. I do most of my reading when I'm traveling, and the holiday break brought a lull in my travel, but that starts up again at the end of this week, so I can get back with the program! (On an aside, I will be in Dallas on Friday and am going to hear Annie Proulx speak! I have my copies of Shipping News, Postcards, and Heart Songs for her to sign!)
Mike
January 23, 2011, 10:59 pm
Just another observation, Louise Erdrich's Shadow Tag has really dropped off the radar. I thought it had the kind of gravitas that critics liked, but it's really not showing up on any of the award lists. I can tell you its 19th on the new list, but ony because of Erdrich's past credentials. I think it deserves reading... it was pretty intense, but it was hard to like any of the characters, IMHO.
Tom
January 25, 2011, 7:18 pm
All,

I'm prepping the new list, and there are some novels that will move from the community list up to the analysis list. But there are also some novels that will fall off the analysis list. I'm wondering which ones we should add to the community list. Here are the fallen:

The Spot by David Means
The Three Weissmans of Westport by Cathleen Schine
Private Life by Jane Smiley
Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich
Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick
Great House by Nicole Krauss

What do you think?
Mike
January 25, 2011, 7:31 pm
I haven't read The Spot, The Three Weissmans, or Foreign Bodies, so can't speak to those (Kris?), but have read Private Life, Shadow Tag and Great House, and from among those, the only one I'd put on the community list is Great House by Nicole Krauss. Neither Private Life nor Shadow Tag seem to be getting any love from the awards/best of lists and I just don't see either showing up on the Pulitzer list.
Mike
January 25, 2011, 7:46 pm
Michael, if UCSB is University of California Santa Barbara, I'm jealous! One of the most beautiful campuses and campus settings I've ever seen, and I'm betting you don't have 10 inches of snow on the ground! The NBCC is awarded on March 10, so well before the Pulitzer announcement. For New Yorkers, the Finalists Reading is on the 9th at The New School. If Freedom wins the NBCC, I'd find it hard to bet against it. From what I can tell, three of the last four books that won the NBCC that were eligible for the Pulitzer (keep in mind that the NBCC awards include books published outside the U.S.) won it (Known World, Gilead, Oscar Wao). The exception was The March by EL Doctorow, which won the NBCC in 2005 (along with the PEN/Faulkner award and LA Times Fiction Award and National Book Award Nominations), but lost out to March by Geraldine Brooks for the Pulitzer. Doctorow's The March was, however, a Pulitzer finalist. The PEN Faulkner award and finalists (they announce all at the same time, like the Pulitzers), should be next to look out for, usually announced sometime in mid to late February. The LA Times Fiction Award finalists will be announced in early April, before the Pulitzer (I actually haven't seen a date for the Pulitzer announcement yet... it's not on their website), but the actual winner isn't announced until early May, after the Pulitzer, so not much help in predicting the Pulitzer for any given year.
Mike
January 25, 2011, 8:11 pm
And, to finish a thought I left unstated... the lesson from Doctorow's The March, I suppose, which was as highly lauded and nominated as about any book in the past decade yet didn't win the Pulitzer, is ... you never know!
Kris
January 25, 2011, 8:18 pm
Eh, The Three Weissmans is a warm retelling of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility. "The Spot" is a short story collection that got some really good reviews, and whose author has been compared to Flannery O'Connor, Ray Carver and O. Henry, at various times. Ozick's "Foreign Bodies" is another war novel, this time exploring the impact of WWII on individual pursuits of happiness in both the U.S. and France. Of the three, I'd pick "The Spot" is the most likely Pultizer contender, since Means has a way of, as Publisher's Weekly put it, "locating the sublime in the unseemly," something Pulitzer juries seem to appreciate. They're all good reads.

As for the others, I think "Great House" should stick arouns, especially since it got an NBA nod. Private Life has been on a couple of "best of" lists that I've read, but it splits reviewers - like someone (Mike?) said before, either they think it's Smiley's best or worst book. "Shadow Tag" has gotten no love, so I guess it's not going to be a contender. Feels weird dropping Erdrich, though, given her critical history, talent and authorial audacity. I'd...keep "The Spot" and "Great House," for sure. Food for thought: "Foreign Bodies" explores the trauma of the Holocaust and antisemitism, the same subject matter of Howard Jacobson's "The Finkler Question," which won last year's Booker Prize.
Kris
January 28, 2011, 11:19 am
What are the five remaining predictor variables?
Mike
January 28, 2011, 11:33 am
I actually switched analytic methods, I wasn't happy with the weighting process with the regression analysis, so switched to a discriminant function analysis. The DFA provides a function value for every variable entered into the equation, insted of just those that are significant, as is the case with the regression analysis. It's a subtle difference, but it allows me to use all the predictor variables and not just a few, and in so doing, seems to provide a better balance between an author's past award history and the book's performance on other awards for the year. So, the remaining variables that are yet to be entered into the final prediction model are the NBCC Winner, the PEN/Faulkner Finalists, the PEN/Faulkner winner, the PEN/Hemingway winner, and the LA Times Award finalists (the LA Times award is announced after the Pulitzer, so not a vaild predictor variable). Of those five, I should note, only the NBCC winner variable and the PEN/Faulkner Finalists variable have a "function value" large enough to change much of anything in the list, so those are the big ones. And, of course, only Franzen and Egan are eligible to win the NBCC, so its come down to a race between them. If, however, both Franzen and Egan are shut out of the PEN/Faulkner nominations and Surrendered or Misrule are nominated and win, it could be close at the top. Also, about any book from Matterhorn down could drop off a final list if they're shut out from any of the remaining variables and some of the books in the 15-20 range, which include books such as Great House and New Yorker stories, hit on all of them.
Karla
January 29, 2011, 7:31 am
If you look back at the full sweep of PP picks, I think we are in an era similar to 1930-45; books that receive rapturous, over-the-top contemporary reviews and are utterly (and deservedly) forgotten over time. I mean, The Store? Lamb in his Bosom? Journey in the Dark? I've tried something radical this crowded year, and read new novels without looking at reviews first, to get the full impact of the talent minus the hype. A remarkable experience. On that basis, I would pick these American novels as a top five, in no special order: Gail Godwin, UNFINISHED DESIRES; Karen Yamashita, I HOTEL; Dana Hand, DEEP CREEK; John Grisham, THE CONFESSION; Lily King, FATHER OF THE RAIN. (Note: all these are on the Washington Post 'Best Novels of 2010' list, which is my hands-down favorite for crisp, adventurous, perceptive reviewing. DEEP CREEK is a particular standout, not handled well by its publisher but a surefooted, intelligent novel of American racial violence all the same. A first effort, too, apparently. Downside: it is co-written by a female/male partnership, which will never do, prize-wise; too novel, if you'll pardon the expression.)
Mike
January 29, 2011, 5:05 pm
You're the second person to mention Deep Creek, perhaps that should be added to the Pprize.com community list?
Kris
January 30, 2011, 8:23 am
I agree with about half of your comment, Karla. The 1930s and early 1940s also brought what are considered perennial classics, like "The Good Earth" by Pearl Buck," "The Yearling," by Marjorie Rawlings and, of course, "The Grapes of Wrath," by John Steinbeck. Every era brings winners who are, within a few years, marginalized, and it's interesting to ask why certain books continue to be read, while others lose traction. After all, most of the great works of the 20th century didn't win the Pulitzer. Nonetheless, I do think the literary zeitgeist trends toward what's fashionable, trendy and profitable for the arts sections of newspapers, rather than what's timeless in theme or tone. I'd go further, suggesting that there's simply an excess of criticism to accompany an excess of books and ebooks - isn't there an excess of everything in a modern industrial state?

That said, the books you picked are good choices, though I think they all received glowing reviews from the same critics with whom you rightly take issue. "I Hotel" was nominated for the National Book Award. "Unfinished Desires" was called "powerful" by the NYT and "masterly" by the Dallas Morning News, among others. "Deep Creek" was hailed as a brilliant mix of history, mystery and Westerns by both the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Seattle Times. And "Father of the Rain," was acclaimed as "original and deftly drawn" by Punlisher's Weekly, just before being named an Amazon Best Book of the Month in August.

"Deep Creek" probably should be added to the community list. Maybe "Father of the Rain," too. I considered writing about it before, but my computer died around that time and I couldn't log in from my netbook.
Karla
January 30, 2011, 9:28 am
I think it wouldn't hurt to add DEEP CREEK, FATHER OF THE RAIN and I HOTEL to the running. I confess that I have a small personal stake in DEEP CREEK, since I got a signed first from the authors when they spoke (very well) at Yale. Besides, it's probably time for a Western, or at least a novel set in the left half of the nation, to win; possible good news for DEEP CREEK and I HOTEL. I only started taking DC seriously when I saw that the curmudgeonly master historian Donald Worster (who got the Bancroft for "Dust Bowl") gave a rare blurb to DEEP CREEK, calling it the best fiction of the Old West he's read since Stegner's ANGLE OF REPOSE (the somewhat dark-horse PP winner, as you know, in 1972). The fiction critic for the Daily Beast/Wall Street Journal includes DC in his recent list of the handful of important serious narratives of the American West since 1965, right along with Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry. So my reasoning is: in the year of "True Grit," who knows?
Karla
January 30, 2011, 10:11 am
Sorry: you already have I HOTEL. So much depends, as always, on the makeup (and tenacity) of the fiction jury...
Kris
January 30, 2011, 10:28 am
Year of True Grit! You mean year of Black Swan? ;)
Kris
January 30, 2011, 10:40 am
Isn't that the truth. I wish there was some way of know that in advance. I've been wondering if common themes emerge across the winners from different "letters" categories, despite the juries being different. For example, have there been years when specific historical eras have done well in the history and bio categories, while a novel from the same or a similar era has won the fiction prize? Oh, wandering curiosity.
Mike
January 30, 2011, 2:54 pm
Found it, I think. If other's want to listen, it's the November 19 podcast after the Keith Richards interview (is that right Mike?), but the version online ended abuptly, so part of that report was cut off and I didn't get to hear all of what Tanenhaus said. Jennifer Schuessler from the NY Times said she was at the NBA award ceremony and said that one theory as to why Freedom wasn't included as a finalist was because one of the fiction panelists is a good friend with Franzen and made that disclosure. I can't find the list of panelists for this past year, so not sure who that might be. Seems odd, though, since the panelists are always authors and are nominated by past NBA winners and finalists, it would seem that it would not be unusual to be friends with an author whose book is being considered. In looking back at previous podcasts, there was one from immediately after the NBA finalists were announced, and in it Schuessler speculated that Freedom wasn't nominated because, essentially, it was already popular and didn't need any "help" or publicity. She suggested that one of the things the panelists might do is to try to identify books that deserve more visibility. What Tannenhaus was pointing out in the more recent podcast was that back in the day, you could count on the big writers... Bellow, Roth, Updike, etc., getting nominated and winning, which is of course the opposite of nominating books that "needed help," visibility-wise. If, though, there is an intent for NBA panelists to identify only books that deserve more publicity, it sort of begs the question as to whether the award is intended to select a "best" work of fiction.
Mike
January 30, 2011, 3:00 pm
Ah, found the NBA Fiction panelist's names: Andrei Codrescu, Samuel R. Delany, Sabina Murray, Joanna Scott, and Carolyn See.

Mr. Benchly
January 31, 2011, 9:39 am
Does anyone know for sure if a novel written by two people is eligible for the prize? Pulitzer's website says it will award the prize "for distinguished fiction by an American author." That qualification implies one author, but it's not specifically stated. And even if the Deep Creek authors are eligible, I wonder if the judges would seriously consider them. The award to Tinkers showed that they want to be different, but the lack of award to Gravity's Rainbow showed they don't want to be TOO different. Something tells me they'd balk at the idea of two authors winning for fiction.
Jake
January 31, 2011, 12:16 pm
Two people can win a single Pulitzer for General Nonfiction, certainly: see AND THEIR CHILDREN AFTER THEM by Dale Maharidge and Michael Williamson in 1990, for example, just as the 1991 nonfiction PP winner, THE ANTS, was also co-authored, by E.O. Wilson and Bert Holldobler. Larry McMurtry did not acknowledge his long-time co-author DIana Ossana for years, but now they share credits, as in the Oscar-winning screenplay of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN.
Mr. Benchly
January 31, 2011, 1:18 pm
Specifically, I'm asking about the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. McMurtry's collaboration with Ossana didn't happen until after Lonesome Dove won the Pulitzer. And in the nearly 100-year history of the prize (including when it was the Pulitzer Prize for Novels), a co-authored fiction book has never won. I'm just curious if it's a rule, stated or unspoken.
Mike
January 31, 2011, 2:12 pm
I think it's interesting that there have been multiple-author winners in the non-fiction category. It seems clear that the Pulitzer rules do not state a specific criteria other than, as you've pointed out, "an American author" implies one person. I think multi-authored books are much more common in non-fiction. and that they are rather unusual in literary fiction, as evidenced by the fact that Deep Creek is the first time we've seen this situation in the several years we've been looking at predictions and, more recently, discussing them. I could be a very pertinent question next year with David Foster Wallace's book comes out. It was not complete at the time of his death, and exists only because his long time editor went in and edited it into a book. Editing happnes all the time, of course, but this seems different to me. Every word is DFW's, as I understand it, but it wouldnt exist as a book if the editor hadn't shaped it and made decisions about what to cut and not to cut. In the other posthumously-awarded Pulitzer prizes, I believe the books existed and were published as completed by the author, and not finalized by an editor.
brak
February 3, 2011, 8:18 pm
for nonfiction, i am betting the emperor of all maladies will have a good shot
brak
February 3, 2011, 8:22 pm
why do you think "by nightfall" made neither the commenters' list nor the analysis list?
Brad
February 7, 2011, 10:44 pm
Noah's compass was terrible.
Brad
February 7, 2011, 10:45 pm
Noah's compass was terrible.
Mike
February 8, 2011, 7:18 pm
Kris, I finished Egan's Goon Squad, and agree it deserves the accolades it is getting. I wondered how the PowerPoint presentation imbedded in the book would work, and it was actually pretty effective in telling an interesting aspect of the story! I also thought it was interesting that, after the PowerPoint, the book took on a futuristic quality that felt much like Shteyngart's "Super Sad True Love Story."
Kris
February 9, 2011, 1:12 pm
Not to get off topic, but has anything been released in the first few weeks of this year that merits watching for next year's award? I vaguely recall someone mentioning "West of Here" at one point. I haven't been keeping up.
Mike
February 9, 2011, 1:54 pm
Actually, there are several books that we need to pay attention to coming out early this year. Jonathan Evison's novel, West of Here, is out now, so if he comes through nearby, it's worth getting a signed first. This book was one of two novels by young writers to get a lot of buzz at the NY BookExpo in 2010. The other was Benjamin Hale's novel, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, also out now. Another book to look out for (and get signed copies of if you can) is Karen Russell's novel Swamplandia!, out now. She was one of the New Yorker 20 under 40 folks, and this book is getting a lot of hype. Tea Obreht's novel "The Tiger's Wife" is a March publication. She was one of the 20 under 40 selections as well, and on the strength of only a few stories... this is her first novel and book. Later, May, another 20 under 40 author, Chris Adrian, will publish "The Great Night". Also this Spring, Sarah Braunstein, who was one of the National Book Foundation's 5 under 35 picks for 2011, will publish The Sweet Relief of Missing Children. Also, Adam Levin, who published The Instructions last year, may have a new book of short stories out (Hot Pink), though I've not seen a definite publication date on that.

Those are the books that are likley to fly under the radar if you're not looking for them. Of course, there are others coming out that will likely merit watching. Charles Baxter's collection of short stories titled Gryphon was a January release. TC Boyle's next novel, When the Killing's Done, looks like one of his better books lately and is an early Spring release. Pulitzer winners Geraldine Brooks (Caleb's Crossing, May), Robert Olen Butler (A Small Hotel, July), and Steven Millhauser (We Others, August) all have new books out. Oscar Hijuelos has a memoir coming out in June and Richard Ford is editing a short story collection titled Blue Collar, White Collar, No Collar: Stories of Work to be published in May. Other bigger names to watch are Ann Patchett (State of Wonder, June), Bobbie Ann Mason (The Girl in the Blue Beret, July), E.L Doctorow (All the Time in the World, short stories, haven't seen a date), Kate Christensen (The Astral, June), Bonnie Jo Campbell (Once upon a river, July) and one of my favorites (though not likely an award contender) Clyde Edgerton (The Night Train, July).

In the rumor category, Jeffrey Eugenides has a new novel in progress... possibly 2011, probably 2012, as does Michael Chabon (tentatively titled Telegraph Avenue) with a possible 2011 probably 2012 publication date.

And, the book everyone is waiting for that we've discussed is David Foster Wallace's The Pale King, sometime this year.

I'm still reading 2010 books, though! Started Dinaw Mengestu's How to Read the Air and like it quite a bit.
Jake
February 10, 2011, 10:22 am
The Eugenides novel is called "The Marriage Plot" and it's out from FSG in October 2011:
http://www.bookpage.com/the-book-case/?s=eugenides
Mike
February 10, 2011, 11:24 am
Very cool. I'm looking forward to reading that, I thought Middlesex was great.
Mike
February 10, 2011, 11:29 am
I read a post on The Millions website (http://www.themillions.com/2011/02/the-big-show-franzen-goodman-and-the-great-american-novel.html) comparing Franzen's Freedom to Allegra Goodman's The Cookbook Collector, and it makes me wonder why the latter hasn't been brought up (to my memory) in our discussion. Anyone read it? Opinions? She's a former NBA fiction finalist and The Cookbook Collector got good reviews. I'm wondering if we're overlooking it.
brak
February 12, 2011, 1:38 pm
I still am curious as to why "By Nightfall" fell by the wayside (even on the community list)....I'm just as curious as to why it has not gotten more press (though it has gotten some fine reviews) or been up for any awards.
brak
February 12, 2011, 1:39 pm
I've been waiting for this book for a long time--Eugenides hasn't ever written a word or story I haven't enjoyed.
Kris
February 14, 2011, 11:53 pm
Hey, the site is back up! Anyone else have trouble loading it over the past few days? When I tried, my browser began downloading a nonexistent file. Glad things are running smoothly, again!
Kris
February 15, 2011, 1:43 am
One I haven't read. I'll check it out this week, though, if I can locate a copy. Did it make any end-of-the-year lists?
Kris
February 15, 2011, 1:47 am
That is very helpful! I've been busy, lately, so I haven't been keeping up with 2011's crop. Guess I'll have a lot of summer reading to do.
Mike
February 15, 2011, 8:59 am
It didn't make the NY Times best of the year list, though I'm sure it made others.
Mike
February 15, 2011, 9:00 am
Two more recent publications getting attention... first novels for both... "You Know When the Men are Gone" by Siobhan Fallon and "The Fates Will Find Their Way" by Hannah Pittard.
Kris
February 15, 2011, 9:04 pm
One day, I'm going to create an iPhone app called "Mike," where you can get the latest information on pending literary releases. Geez, you're certainly up to date! Picked up "Swamplandia" and "You Know When the Men are Gone," so I'll have something with which to begin the new board. Also bought and read "The Cookbook Collector." Post something longer later, but to answer your question, we COULD be overlooking it. The Austen parallel is pretty vivid, and more organic than "The Three Weissmanns of Wesport," in my opinion, though the latter was a NYT Notable Book. Could be a spoiler, though I wouldn't revise my top-10 to include it.
Mike
February 16, 2011, 8:21 pm
One day, I'm going to create an iPhone app called "Kris," which reads a book at lightening speed then provides a cogent, thoughtful review of said book! Good thing you're able to read quickly and report out, I'm still (slowly) making my way through a couple of books, notably Dinaw Mengestu's How to Read the Air, which I like quite a bit. I finished Shriver's "So Much for That." It ended well, at least, but I just never liked any of the characters and was put off by the seemingly never-ending diatribes. I actually agreed with the point of most of the rants, just didn't think it worked as black humor or satire. But, to each his own, it was certainly reviewed well in several papers. I've been wondering if the means by which I "read" a book (print book, Kindle, listen on CD) impacts how much I like it. I suspect it's easier to like a book one reads versus listens to, although I've certainly listened to a number of books I've liked quite a bit. Speaking of which, at the moment I'm listening to Philip Meyer's American Rust, and am very impressed. Thanks for the info on Cookbook Collector. I should note that it is in the regression (well, discriminant function) anlaysis, and is tied for 56th or something, so it's certainly not going to float anywhere near the top 15.
Kris
February 18, 2011, 1:39 pm
What will be the next released predictor variable? Nothing to watch for, right now?
Gregg
February 19, 2011, 1:36 pm
A book that could merit contention for the 2011 Pulitzer in fiction is Ward Just's new novel, "Rodin's Debutante." I've not read it yet, but he is a favorite author whose books have been shortlisted for various prizes. "Jack Gance" is a sublime, brilliant book. I hope this new one is great, too; Just should not be overlooked.
Mike
February 19, 2011, 6:10 pm
A couple of things to look for. The LA Times announces the finalists for its Fiction Award on February 22. Also to come in late February (don't have a date, just assuming since this has been when they've announced in the past few years), the PEN/Faulkner finalist list. The winner is announced in early March, I think, although it's not impossible that the winner and finalists are announced at the same time. March 10 is the NBCC winner announcement and sometime in early to Mid March will be the PEN Hemingway award (1st novel) announcement, and those 5 will wrap up the variables.
Kris
February 20, 2011, 3:31 am
Yeah, I was kind of hinting at the Pen/Faulkner. I remember the nominees being announced in February, too, but the award is being given in May, this year. Last year, as you said, it was announced in March. I'm hoping they don't announce the nominees in April, though, having said that, I recall you saying that the Pen/Faulkner isn't the best indicator...?
Kris
February 20, 2011, 3:34 am
2012 prize, actually, but thanks for the info. Love Ward Just. Have to pick that up. He was a finalist for the Pultizer, in 2005, for "An Unfinished Season" and the NBA, in 1997, for "Echo House."
Gregg
February 20, 2011, 9:37 am
Right you are, Kris, 2012. "An Unfinished Season" and "Echo House" are superb as well. And thanks for all of the interesting ideas and information -- you and your co-contributors, both -- on this string. Have you all considered Scott Spencer's latest, "Man in the Woods," or Michael Cunningham's "By Nightfall"? Not the best offerings by those writers, but worthy contenders -- if I have my year of eligibility correct. (Both were published last fall, so 2011 Pulitzer is correct, I think.)
Gregg
February 20, 2011, 9:38 am
Right you are, Kris, 2012. "An Unfinished Season" and "Echo House" are superb as well. And thanks for all of the interesting ideas and information -- you and your co-contributors, both -- on this string. Have you all considered Scott Spencer's latest, "Man in the Woods," or Michael Cunningham's "By Nightfall"? Not the best offerings by those writers, but worthy contenders -- if I have my year of eligibility correct. (Both were published last fall, so 2011 Pulitzer is correct, I think.)
Mike
February 20, 2011, 11:46 am
I couldn't remember the sequence for the PEN/Faulkner, so went back to last year's announcement... the five finalists were announced on Feb. 23, the winner was announced on March 23, and the Award Ceremony (which is distinct from the announcement of the winner) was May 8. So, expect the same sequence... finalists in late Feb., winner in late March, and awards ceremony on May 7 (that's already posted on the website). All five finalists will read at the ceremony. It's $100 per ticket, but it's at the Folger Shakespeare Library theater, which is a cool venue, and there's a meal afterwords. I'm betting we see Franzen and Egan among the finalists. The PEN/Faulkner is not a great predictor... only Richard Ford's Independence Day and Michael Cunningham's The Hours won both the PEN/Faulkner and the Pulitzer. Chabon's Amazing Adventures, William Kennedy's Ironweed, and John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces are the three Pultizer award books that were PEN/Faulkner finalists, but not winners. But, even with that, being a PEN/Faulkner finalist has the 7th highest predictor value among the predictor variables and winning it has the 10th highest value. The NBCC winner, as a variable, is second, after being an NBCC finalist, and being an LA Times finalist is 8th.
Mike
February 20, 2011, 11:50 am
Agreed. I hadn't seen that Just had a new novel coming out in 2011. Looks like it's a March 1 publication date. I was a little surprised his last book, Exiles in the Garden (published in 2009) didn't get more attention, though I didn't read it. Thanks for the heads up!
Mike
February 20, 2011, 12:10 pm
Easily forgettable, that's for sure! I mentioned way back on page 3 or 4 of this discussion that I thought the lead characters were both too typically Tyler-like characters and, compared to her best work, overblown in those roles. It's on the prediction list strictly becasue of Anne Tyler's past record in the awards circut. That's true as well for Roth and DeLillo on this list... Nemesis and Point Omega have not received any points for the actual performance of the book (e.g., best of lists, award nominations, etc.), with points only from their author's previous record. Stone (Fun with Problems) and Oates (Sourland) both were on the NY Times 100 best book list, so got some points for that book, though they're only on the top 15 because of past awards history. I've mentioned several times that variables related ot the performance of a book (e.g., NBCC finalist, PEN/Faulkner finalist, etc.), rather than the past performance of the author independent of their current book, are the strongest predictors. The strongest "past performance" predictors is whether the author has won a PEN/Faulkner in the last 5 years (9th best predictor), followed by whether the author is a previous PEN/Hemingway winner (awarded for best first work of fiction, 11th best predictor), followed by whether the author is a Previous PEN/Faulkner winnner (12th best predictor), a Previous NBCC finalist (14th), and a Previous PEN/Faulkner finalist (15th). I think those kinds of "past performance" indicators are more important in predicting folks like Franzen or Egan as potential winners of the Pulitzer then they are for folks like Tyler or Roth, who have already won.
Mike
February 20, 2011, 12:19 pm
It's at 25th on the statistical list at the moment... one behind Jane Smiley's Private Life and one in front of T.C. Boyle's Wild Child. It hasn't received any nominations or made any of the lists that are included in the discriminant function analysis (and by way of reminder, since only one book per year wins the Pulitzer, I need to have data from variables that go back at least to 1982 in order to have enough to predict a winner. The NY Times 'best of' list is archived online back that far, as is the ALA best of, but other potential "best of" lists, such as the Washington Post or LA Times, don't go back far enough to include). Further, Cunningham's previous award history isn't as glowing as, say Oates or Roth... he's a former Pulitzer winner (a very poor predictor of future winners, given that only Updike has won more than one in the modern era), and a PEN/Faulkner nominee.

I liked By Nightfall, but I don't think it makes it to my top 15 books of 2010 list, truthfully. That it was very, very well written was its best feature, IMHO. But, it was very well written!
Mike
February 20, 2011, 12:20 pm
See my reply above. I'm wondering what Kris and others think.
Mike
February 20, 2011, 12:25 pm
Okay, looking ahead again to the 2012 Pulitzer field and to David Foster Wallace's posthomously released "The Pale King," I was at the PEN/Faulkner lecture given by Jonathan Franzen on Friday night and when getting some books signed, I asked him if he had read The Pale King and what he thought of it. (Franzen and Wallace were good friends.) He said he had a galley of it, but hadn't had time to read it yet. He did say, though, that he had talked with Mr. Wallace's wife with regard to the concern that it is being published when it shouldn't be (remember, it was unfinished at the time of his death and is being edited to final format by his long time editor), and she said that she thought it was publication-ready and worthy.
Gregg
February 20, 2011, 2:47 pm
Note that the main page of this site has at number 14 "Next" by James Hynes as a contender for the '11 Pulitzer. But that title has a publication date of March 9, 2011, later than the new Ward Just (though an excerpt of the Hynes is available on Kindle now, and maybe the whole book). So it really ought to be a possibility for '12, yes? Also, "Wild Child" by "T.C. Boil" [sic], listed at # 15 on the additional list, is an '11 publication.

The official Pulitzer application for "letters," i.e., books, says: "Book entries must be submitted on or before June 15 of the year of publication in the case of books published between January 1 and June 14, and on or before October 1 in the case of books published between June 15 and December 31. Competition for prizes is limited to workdone during the calendar year ending December 31." http://www.pulitzer.org/files/entryforms/lentform11.pdf Elsewhere: "The competition for prizes is limited to work done during the calendar year, ending December 31." http://www.pulitzer.org/files/entryforms/2011planofaward.pdf So, nothing with an '11 publication date is eligible, if I'm understanding the rules.
Gregg
February 20, 2011, 6:45 pm
"Exiles in the Garden" was a lyrical novel that felt unfinished in some sense. Not slight, but elliptical. Soo, too, was the one that came before, "Forgetfulness."
Kris
February 20, 2011, 10:23 pm
Well, then. You've thought this out. Yeah, I realized my mistake, this morning. If precedent holds, both the LA and PENkner finalists will be announced this week, which would be awesome. I've always thought the PENkner awarded creativity and literary ingenuity, more so than the other awards. Wouldn't be surprised to see Egan and Franzen make an appearance. But that would've been true for every award, this year. Maybe Roth, too, since he's a perennial favorite. He's won three PENkners, for goodness sake. A lot of the authors who win it have celebrated careers - Updike, Roth, Cunningham, Ford, Proulx, Delillo, Doctorow, Alexie, Patchett, O'Neill, et al. - so if a new writer takes the prize, it's likely a sign of good things to come. Wonder if 'Kings of the Earth' will be nominated, since it's a pointilist homage to Faulkner's 'As I Lay Dying'.
Mike
February 21, 2011, 6:48 pm
I think you're right about the nature of the PEN/Faulkner. Of the two major awards decided by writers (National Book Award, PEN/Faulkner), the PEN/Faulkner is a better predictor than the NBA, either finalist or winner. I think the process may account for that... the NBA is chosen by a small number (half a dozen) of authors that change each year. The PEN/Faulkner award is selected by the board of directors, which is larger and stays similar from year to year. The current board includes:

Robert Stone, Co-Chairman
Susan Richards Shreve, Co-Chairman
Lisa Page, President
Willee Lewis, Executive Vice President
Molly Elkin, Vice President
Yolanda Young, Secretary
Conrad Cafritz, Treasurer
Deborah Taylor Ashford, Counsel
Jackson Bryer
H.G. Carrillo
William F. Causey
Alan Cheuse
Richard Ford
Stephen Goodwin
Janet Griffin, Ex-Officio
Patricia Griffith
Mary Haft
Marian Smith Holmes
Matt Klam
Joanne Leedom-Ackerman
Beverly Lowry
Carol Ludwig
Richard McCann
Tracy McGillivary
Azar Nafisi
Frazier O’Leary
George Pelecanos
Katherine Field Stephen
Lou Stovall
Margaret Talbot
Deborah Tannen
Andrea Weiswasser
Mary Kay Zuravleff

I think that accounts, as well, for your observation that the PEN/Faulkner recognizes creativity and literary ingenuity, which I think is correct. If you look at PEN/Faulkner winners and finalists over the years, it's a literary whose-who.. many fewer first time and relatively unknown authors (e.g. NBA). I hesitated to suggest finalists this year other than Franzen and Egan, but I think this is the one award that Roth's Nemesis might show up. I suspect the fact that Stone is an officer of PEN/Faulkner makes it unlikely his Fun with Problems will be nominated. I'd love to see Clinch nominated... I wasn't aware of the Faulkner homage... I'll need to read the Faulkner now. Delillo's Point Omega might be there as well. I'm still betting on Franzen for the NBCC win and Egan for the PEN/Faulkner win.
Mike
February 22, 2011, 9:01 am
LA Times book award finalists were announced today. They are:

Rick Bass, Nashville Chrome (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Richard Bausch, Something is Out There: Stories (Knopf)
Jennifer Egan, A Visit From the Goon Squad (Knopf)
Jonathan Franzen, Freedom (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Frederick Reiken, Day for Night (Reagan Arthur Books/Hachette Book Group)

Franzen and Egan again. Bass and Bausch have gotten some visibility. I'm not familiar with Reiken.
Kris
February 22, 2011, 4:16 pm
About what we expected. And to respond to your earlier comment, I would agree with Franzen winning the NBCC and Egan winning the PENkner, though I will wait until the nominees are announced. Having read 'Nashville Chrome', though, and seeing it nominated for the LA Times Prize, I'd say it's a very, very serious Pulitzer contender. As I've said before it's a quintessentially American story, thematically and in terms of its content. If I was picking my final three now, Egan, Franzen and Bass would be the three.
Mike
February 22, 2011, 7:03 pm
I was a little surprised, actually. The LA Times list is often pretty different from the others. For example, last year's winner was A Happy Marriage by Rafael Yglesias, and finalists were Blame by Michelle Huneven, Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment, The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam, and A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert. The only one of that lot that was nominated for anything else was Blame, which was also a NBCC finalist. Seems like Reiken's book is the only one this year that is rather unknown (though it was already in my data analysis, so it made somebody's "best of the year" list).

It's gonna be hard not to pick Franzen and Egan for two of the three Pulitzer options, so that third slot will be one that will be interesting to see how folks fill it. I've not read Nashville Chrome (though I do have a signed first), so I'd probably better try to read it after I finish How to Read the Air. FYI, although I'll wait until the PEN/Faulkner announcement to finalize the February version fo the statistical analysis, being nominated for the LA Times Awards moves Nashville Chrome up to 5th, behind (in order) Franzen, Egan, Roth, and Chang-rae Lee.
Gregg
February 22, 2011, 9:15 pm
All of the comments here are thoughtful, informative, and written beautifully. I'm so glad that I found the site. I'm frankly amazed by your depth of knowledge and passion for reading. And the amount of literature you read and analyze so cogently is staggering. (Some of you even got around to two somewhat obscure novels flagged here last year, which I greatly enjoyed -- Adam Haslett's "Union Atlantic" and Jonathan Dees "The Privileges.") So, thank you for the edifying conversations, which provoked many interesting ideas and made me want to participate in your discussions on a number of topics. For what it's worth, I found "Freedom" to be the superlative read of the year -- the superior novel, yes, in many ways, to "The Corrections," one of my all-time favorites. "Freedom" may be the best novel I've read in the last three to five years. For the NBA to have overlooked it undermines my faith in the seriousness of that award. It merits a major American award this year, be it the Pulitzer, NBCC, or Pen/Faulkner. Or more than one of those.
Kris
February 23, 2011, 4:08 am
You have a signed first of 'Nashville Chome'? I hate you and you are the devil. Well, I have a first at least, so that's something...
Mike
February 23, 2011, 8:52 am
It was one of the monthly signed first editions I received from the Book Passage signed first edition club, otherwise it would never have been on my radar. If you'll recall, that'sone of two signed first edition clubs that gave their members the signed hardcover editions of Paul Harding's Tinkers. Here were the books they sent for 2010:

January: The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris
February: One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni
March: Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett
April: Eddie Signwriter by Adam Schwartzman
May: The Singer's Gun by Emily St. John Mandel
June: If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This: Stories by Robin Black
July: The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse
August: Kings of the Earth by Jon Clinch
September: Room by Emma Donoghue
October: Fame by Daniel Kehlmann
November: Nashville Chrome by Rick Bass
December: Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon

Obviously, I was most pleased with Lord of Misrule since it won the NBA. But, with Kings of the Earth, Nashville Chrome, Room, The Madonnas of Echo Park, Union Atlantic, and The Unnamed in the mix, I am pretty pleased with the selections. In 2009, in addition to a hardcover signed 1st of Tinkers, another signed 1st selection was In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin, so members received signed 1sts of 2 of the 3 Pulitzer winners/finalists. Since Franzen and Egan weren't among the selections from Book Passage this year (though Franzen was a selection of Powell's Indiespensible signed 1st edition club), I don't see that happening again, but maybe they'll hit with Chrome, Kings, or Madonnas. As I said, I still need to read Chrome, but I think Kings or Madonnas would be my third choice for the Pulitzer this year (along with Franzen and Egan). No committment to any three yet, though!


Kris
February 23, 2011, 2:59 pm
How much do those clubs cost, out of curiosity?
Mike
February 23, 2011, 8:55 pm
The cost of the book each month, basically. With Book passage, you agree to receive one book per month at the cover price plus shipping costs... a few dollars, basically. If you really, really don't want a book, I believe there's a clause that allows you to return one or two per year, though I've never done that. The Powell's Indiespensible club is a bit more expensive.. something like $35 per month because they issue a version that, at the least, has a nice slipcase, often has a limitations page with the indiespensivle logo, and so forth. They also send something else along with the book each month... book bags, coffee cups, as well as some print materials about the author and the book and, often, an advanced reading copy of another book.
Aaron
February 23, 2011, 11:45 pm
I'll put in a second good word for Indiespensable. The extras are hit and miss for me, but I really like what I've seen (especially the signed, numbered, slipcased edition of Matterhorn).
brak
February 27, 2011, 5:55 pm
anyone read / liked "the girl who fell from the sky"? not sure if it's eligible, but i think it might be...? i'm about to read it...
brak
February 27, 2011, 5:56 pm
i've thought of joining "indispensible"
Mike
February 27, 2011, 6:29 pm
Haven't read it, but it got a lot of buzz and is, I'm pretty sure, eligible. I have an ARC that is copyright 2009, but the hardcover is copyright 2010, and it was published in February 2010. The author, Heidi Durrow, is going to be out on tour here soon since the paperback release is coming up. It won the Bellwether Prize, which is awarded in even-numbered years to a previously unpublished novel representing excellence in "serious literary fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships." The prize is $25,000 and the guarantee of publication by a major publisher. The Girl Who Fell From the Sky won the prize in 2008. Interestingly, the Bellwether Prize was founded and is fully funded by novelist Barbara Kingsolver.

The 2010 Bellwether Prize was awarded to Naomi BEnaron for a novel titled Running the Rift, which will be published at a to-be-determined date by Algonquin Press.
Mike
February 27, 2011, 6:48 pm
The Powell's Indiespensable club is unique and, in some ways, more fun. The books are sent every six weeks instead of monthly. Here was the 2010 lineup:

December: The Instructions by Adam Levin-- a signed first edition of The Instructions, bound in a custom cover exclusive to Indiespensable subscribers. The Powells.com interview with Adam Levin on collectible author cards. A Powell's bag and a box of chocolates from a Portland business.

October: The Wilding by Benjamin Percy--A signed first edition of The Wilding in a slipcase custom designed for Indiespensable. The Powells.com interview with Benjamin Percy on collectible author cards. An Indespensible Klean Kanteen.

September: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. A signed first edition of Freedom in a slipcase custom designed for Indiespensable. An exclusive printing of part 1 of Paul Murray's novel Skippy Dies. A bag of fresh roasted coffee beans from a Portland coffee company, Stumptown Coffee.

August: I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson. A signed first edition of I Curse the River of Time in a custom slipcase, designed exclusively for Indiespensable. A special edition chapbook, excerpted from an upcoming novel, The Report.

July: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. A signed first edition of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake in a custom slipcase, designed exclusively for Indiespensable. An advance readers copy of Myla Goldberg’s The False Friend. A limited edition set of coasters inspired by Bernard DeVoto’s The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto.

May: The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall. A signed first edition of The Lonely Polygamist in a custom slipcase, designed exclusively for Indiespensable. A set of author cards with an interview of Udall. Wash Away Your Sins Industrial Strength cleansing soap.

April: Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. A signed first edition of Matterhorn in a custom slipcase, designed exclusively for Indiespensable. Author cards and a Powell’s rucksack.

February: Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich. A signed first edition of Shadow Tag, in a custom slipcase, designed exclusively for Indiespensable subscribers. An advance readers copy of Lionel Shriver’s So Much for That.

So, signed copies of Freedom, The Lonely Polygamist, Matterhorn, and Shadow Tag in custom slipcases, an ARC of a NBA finalist (Shriver’s So Much for That), a rucksack, a coffee mug, and custom coasters. What’s not to like!
Mike
February 27, 2011, 6:52 pm
The other first edition club that I'd point out is the Odyssey Bookshop First Editions Club in South Hadley, MA. In the past, selections from that club have included Empire Falls, Middlesex, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. The 2010 selections were:

January Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem
February Shadow Tag by Louis Erdrich
March The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow
April Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
May The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall
June Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
July What is Left the Daughter by Howard Norman
August Kings of the Earth by Jon Clinch
September Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay
October Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
November All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang
December How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu
Kris
March 1, 2011, 3:45 am
Since we have some "down time," at the moment, I thought I'd ask a question that's intrigued me for some time: What do you think the impact of e-readers will be on the book collection hobby, especially with regard to first editions. Obviously, as books become more scarce, the value of a first edition will rise - get your copy of 'Tinkers' now. I find that most collectors I know don't buy first editions primarily because of the value, however, but because they love literature and the hunt of finding one of the initial copies of a great work. So, with that in mind, is the affectual joy of collecting going to become a thing of the past, as the market for ebooks continues to expand? I'm absolutely certain that many of you have thought about this at length, haha!
Mr. Benchly
March 1, 2011, 9:27 am
I work in publishing and can't go a day without thinking (and stressing) about the impact of e-books on our industry. For now, I'm able to find solace in the fact that e-books are still books that need to be edited and published and if an author wants to get noticed, they still need to go through a publisher, rather than publish the book themselves. As a collector, though, I can't help but notice the gradual affect in the number of new and used bookstores I've seen close in the last year, as well as the decreasing number of books I've seen on the shelves.

I know print runs will be reduced because the cost of publishing a book vs. an e-book is identical only up until it's actually printed and shipped. But the cost difference isn't so much so that publishers will stop printing hard copies altogether, so how much they are reduced will depend on demand from the readers themselves, which I think means that books will be safe for as long as the generations who grew up on books are still living. (We're not all going to switch to e-readers.) But after that, all bets are off! In the mean time, though, I predict that publishers will attempt to make up for the cost of printing by publishing smaller and exclusive (read: more expensive) first printings and special signed editions. And those copies will only be purchased by folks who want them on their shelves or who want to resell them at twice the retail price. So I think within the next five years, it will gradually become next to impossible to find first printings of recent books on used bookstore shelves and in sale bins. You'll either have to fork over the big dollars online (on ebay or abebooks or powells, etc) or join one of the many first edition clubs. I don't know about you guys, but, for me, a big part of my enjoyment of collecting comes from the thrill of the chase. These first edition clubs are nice, but they remind me of the turn the baseball card collecting world took in the 90s when card manufacturers realized they could control which cards were valuable and then charge more money for them.

In summary, I'm now depressed!
Mike
March 1, 2011, 8:28 pm
I appreciate your insight, you bring up a lot of valid points. I have no particular knowledge or expertise that would lend me to weigh in, other than the fact that I have read quite a bit about this issue (and that I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night :-). I'd recommend Robert Darnton's "A Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future" for a series of editorials on the topic and, perhaps, some reassurance! I think virtually everyone I know with an ereader (myself included) were avid readers already, and tend to purchase/consume books in all forms... print, electronic, and audio. I must confess that having my Kindle for airplane flights is great, but I end up buying ebooks of books I already own in hard copy, so I'm not a typical purchaser, I realize. In any case, it's my sense that many people who have ereaders also continue to buy books in print, and as you say, someone still has to edit and publish the book. I think it's probably true that we're going to see smaller print runs for literary first editions and/or paperback originals. The decline of brick and mortor used bookstores is worrying, but on the other hand, the Half Price Books chain where I live is flourishing and I don't see it going away soon. Also, the digitization of the publishing process has, it seems to me, made it more viable for small presses to publish books. We've seen that in the awards categories the last few years. I have a feeling that if the major trade houses publish fewer literary books (and I think that's an issue), the smaller presses will fill in the void. I do think that publishers and authors are having to work harder to sell books now, thus folks like Jonathan Franzen, whose book likely didn't need to be hyped by an author tour, hit the road for an extensive tour. Publishers realize that some people value that connection with the author and getting an autograph. That's good for collectors, certainly. You raise an interesting point with the baseball card comparison. What happend then, though, was an overproliferation of sets--focused around the pull cards, of course--and it sort of got more like buying a lottery card. I don't see the first edition clubs ending up the same way... in part because most of them (and there aren't that many, really) charge cover price, so its sort of like the increase in author tours. I do enjoy the chase, so want to see used bookstores thrive, but I have to say that the Internet has brought prices down on collectable books.
Mike
March 1, 2011, 8:59 pm
Just some thoughts on the thrill of the chase. My perfect vacation involves going to someplace I haven't been, seeing the sights and, importantly, hitting all the used bookstores I can find. My brother and I are both bibliophiles (he lives in the Dallas area, I live in the Kansas City area) and we often spend whole days going from used bookstore to used bookstore. Recently we drove up to Archer City, TX, home of Larry McMurtry and his "Booked Up" bookstores. If you've never been there and are ever anywhere near Archer City (about 2 1/2 hours from the DFW metro area), you should definitely go... not only is it the location in which the Last Picture Show series of books were set, but also was the location for the movie. There are four whole buildings of books! In any case, I love the chase. On the other hand, before eBay and abebooks.com, I would go through long stretches during which I really didn't find anything to add to my collection. I recall that in the early 1990s I read and was awestruck by Cormac McCarthy's "All the Pretty Horses" and decided I wanted to add an author collection of his books. The best I could do, until The Crossing (next book in the Border Triology) was published was a 19th printing of All the Pretty Horses. I searched used bookstore after used bookstore, to no avail. I enjoy the chase, but I also enjoy the pride of ownership! I was able to purchase a mint 1st edition of All the Pretty Horses for $69.99 on eBay in 2007. I still have yet to run into a first edition in a bookstore. Also, from what I can tell, the successful used bookstores now bring in as much money from their online sales as they do from their in house sales. It's worrying that some of these stores opt to close the brick and mortor store and just go all online, but ultimately, seems to me that for stores that want to stay open, the online sales are a critical feature in enabling them to do so.

I do long for the days when you could walk into a used bookstore where the owner knew nothing about first editions. I recall purchasing a first edition of Stephen King's second book, Salem's Lot (I had a Stephen King collection way back in the day, that I eventually sold and reinvested into my Pulitzer collection!) for $2.00. Those days are long gone. Now you're likely to see book club editions or true firsts in ratty condition priced in the "collectible" section at whatever price seems highest when the dealer looked it up on abebooks.com!
Mike
March 1, 2011, 11:58 pm
Welcome to the conversation Gregg, the more the merrier. I'm with you 100% on Freedom. It's been interesting to me to see that a number of critical reviews have come out the past several months... almost, I think, as much in backlash to the popularity of the novel. I personally hope that does't influence the Pulitzer committee and that they assess Freedom's worthiness independent of both the admittedly somewhat-over-the-top positive response (though is it ever bad when a literary novel becomes a cultural phenomenon?) and the somewhat (in my estimation) critical-because-its-trendy reviews!
Mike
March 2, 2011, 12:09 am
Wild Child had a hardcover publiction of January 2010 (I'm looking at the advance reading copy for that date) and the Next hardcover publication was March of 2010, so both are eligible for the 2011 Pulitzer. The paperback release of Wild Child was February 2011 and for Next it's March 2011, so perhaps that's what you saw? You're spot on, though, on the rules and there are some oddities. One that's been brought up before was that Carol Shields' Stone Diaries was published a full year earlier in England and Canada before the US publication, but it is the U.S. Publication date that matters. The confusing one from this year was Jane Smiley's Private Lives, which was published in 2009 in Europe and, if I recall, even had a 2009 copyright on the US first edition, but wasn't actually published until early 2010.

Boyle has a new one out this year (2011) "When the Killing's Done" that seems to be getting a lot of good press. Not sure if it seems like a very Pulitzer-like book, but pretty well received.

I've been keeping my eyes out for an ARC of the new Ward Just book, haven't run into one so far, but hope to do so.
Mr. Benchly
March 2, 2011, 10:50 am
Here's a random but fun question:

Hypothetically, if you were recently married and, for the first time in your life, found yourself on a monthly book-buying budget, and you could only buy one of the following signed, first printings at face value, which one would you choose:

Something is Out There by Richard Bausch (2010)
West of Here by Jonathan Evison (2011)
You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon (2011)
The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman (2010)
The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale (2011)
Day for Night by Frederick Reiken (2010)
Swamplandia by Karen Russell (2011)

Would you buy one of the 2010 books in the hopes that it would win the Pulitzer this year or would you hedge your bets and go for a 2011 book that could get pricey in the coming months? A newlywed needs your help!
Mike
March 2, 2011, 11:28 am
Been there (book budget), may have to go back there if the economy doesn't improve! Re: buying one of the 2010 books... I think copies of Franzen's Freedom will be plentiful for a while to come. I've seen 1st edition, pre-Oprah plug dustjackets for as little as $2.99 on eBay. Egan's Goon squad seems harder to find in the first edition and at this point, I'm guessing the best option is to see if you can find it at a used book store at a reduced price... the copies available online are pretty pricy, due I suppose to the lower first edition printing. It may still be at some independent bookstores. If you have a chance at a signed first edition of Swamplandia,West of Here, or Bruno Littlemore, one of those might be a better option in my opinion. Of those three, I'd go with Karen Russell's Swamplandia. She was a 20 under 40 selection and her first book of short stories got rave reviews. Evison would be my next choice... but I think West of here will be easy to find in the first edition used and he's on an extensive book tour (Russell did one, but not as extensive), so you might be able to pick up a copy of West of Here cheap and get it signed when he comes through somewhere close. I'm actually at the Dallas Ft. Worth airport on my way to Austin to visit my son, who's in college there, and we're going to the local indie bookstore (BookPeople) to hear Evison and get my copy of West of Here signed!
Kris
March 2, 2011, 6:34 pm
If I'm going just by your list, I'd go with 'Swamplandia', for the reasons cited by Mike. I don't think Bausch or Goodman are going to be Pulitzer contenders, this year, given the hype and quality of other contenders. Ruseell was named a "5 under 35" honoree, in 2009, by the National Book Foundation. After that, I'd pick Evison's book - in 2012, he actually has another novel coming out, just FYI - or Fallon's, which, through sparse prose, captures some of the domestic tragedy of modern warfare. Prize committees seem to like that sort of thing.
Kris
March 2, 2011, 11:24 pm
PENkner finalists just announced! And they are...

1. 'A Visit From the Good Squad' - Jennifer Egan
2. 'The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg' - Deborah Eisenberg
3. 'Lord of Misrule' - Jaimy Gordon
4. 'Model Home' - Eric Puchner
5. 'Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives' - Brad Watson

I have not read the last two. Puchner's book is a first novel, which centers on "the downfall of a family that moves from Wisconsin to the outskirts of L.A." Watson's is a collections of 12 stories. Egan was an expected nominee. Perhaps the most intriguing nominee is Gordon, whom we'd basically written off as a Pulitzer contender. He's in the metric, I know, and this will keep him there. That said, I don't think anyone who has read offering have found it Pulitzer-esque in its narrativity, though it is very well written. Thoughts, everyone?
Mike
March 3, 2011, 9:44 am
Well, again, kudos to you Kris, you pegged Goon Squad as a PEN/Faulkner book shortly after it was released, and it clearly looks like the book to beat here. I noted Eisenberg's book as something to watch shortly after it was released, but this was its first apearance in any of the awards. Interesting to see Lord of Misule show up again. The author (just FYI, it's she, not he :-) should be ecstatic... talk about small book makes good.. NBA award and PEN/Faulkner finalist. If Egan wins the NBCC award (announced March 10) and wins the PEN/Faulkner, she may well overtake Franzen on the statisical list. Interesting. Did I mention I did finish Goon Squad? I liked it... had a bit of a hard time remembering characters, but that was in part because I had some time between times I was reading it. All in all, a worthy PEN/Faulkner book, and the PowerPoint presentation toward the end of the book worked surprisingly well.
Mike
March 3, 2011, 9:50 am
As I mentioned, I went to Evison's reading last night at BookPeople in Austin, TX. He'd been at the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver and at the Boulder Bookstore the two nights before, and apparently had 70 people at the Denver reading. The turnout in Austin was small... maybe a dozen to 15 people, but he was really social and that made the small turnout more comfortable. He actually brought two six packs of a locally-brewed ale and handed bottles out to anyone in the audience who wanted one (while drinking one himself through the reading :-) As I said, very, very social... the book looks promising... he spent some time talking about his research on Bigfoot, a theme which apparently runs through the book! He did talk about his writing process and as Kris mentions, already has his next book under producation for a 2012 release and is half way through another novel. He says he has three books going at any one time! He also inscribed each of the books I brought in detail. I'd recommend catching one of his readings if he comes near you.
Kris
March 3, 2011, 5:49 pm
She! Yes, thank you! Er, I hate making silly mistakes. Have you read Puchner or Watson? Apparently, Puchner's book got some good press when it came out - starred review in Publisher's Weekly and all that. Plan to check them out, today, once I get done downtown. By the way, there are first edition copies of 'Goon Squad' available at my local Borders still, so if you're having trouble finding one, let me know.
Mike
March 4, 2011, 4:46 pm
I haven't read either Puchner or Watson, will await your report! I still haven't read Gordon's Lord of Misrule because I couldn't get my hands on a reading copy. But, it's coming out in Amazon.com's Kindle version on March 7, so I'll read it after that. I'll have to check our Borders... well, the one nearest to us closed, but there's another one not too far away. I finished Dinaw Mingestu's "How to Read the Air" and it was very well written but I thought it had a hard time sustaining itself, and it became a bit confusing, I thought. Have you read it Kris... I seem to recall that you have, and wonder what you thought. I also finished William Faulkner's The Reivers. I'm reading my way through all the Pulitzer winners. I thought The Reivers was, frankly, pretty awful. The languaage was, of course, exquisite, but for a book about a wild romp, I thought not much happened and it took too many confusing pages to descirbe each event.
Kris
March 4, 2011, 6:33 pm
Just throwing this out there, in case you didn't know: PPrize has a Twitter page. And two followers. More activity is needed, I think. Twitter fosters uprisings = PPrize revolution? Just saying.
Mike
March 4, 2011, 8:00 pm
Now three!
Mike
March 4, 2011, 8:05 pm
Just posted (well, fairly recently, at least) on the Pulitzer Prizes website:

2011 Pulitzer Winners and Finalists will be announced April 18
The 2011 Pulitzer Prizewinners and Nominated Finalists will be announced on April 18, 2011. Nominated Finalists are not announced in advance.

The announcement will take place at Columbia University in New York City at 3:00 pm eastern time. Information on all winners will be posted on www.pulitzer.org shortly after the announcement.

The Prizes will be awarded at a luncheon in May.


Kris
March 5, 2011, 2:51 pm
Yes, I liked 'How to Read the Air', though I'm biased by my postcolonial studies. I think immigrants' stories speak to the plurality of the American Dream, or how it's reconceptualized by successive generations and across different communities. I liked 'The Madonnas of Echo Park' for similar reasons. One of the strongest points of Mengestu's work, I think, is its blurring/problematizing of the line between freedom and security, as seen not only in Jonas's parents escape from violence-riddled Ethiopia, but the immigrants Jonas tends to at his day job. The portrait Megestu paints is complicated; his characters feel simultaneously alienated and more secure, liberated and listless. So, the author captures the complexity of the immigrant experiences not in a nutshell, but in a bombshell, whereby America is both perpetrator and purveyor, and each character assimilates the country's iconography within his or her own social imagination. As for its prize worthiness, I think immigrant stories do well on the awards circuit because they speak to fundamental ideals. It hasn't made the rounds, though, so I think it's an extended longshot, at this point.
Kris
March 5, 2011, 2:54 pm
Nice. Now, we have to get him to tweet more frequently.
Mike
March 5, 2011, 3:59 pm
And something other than birthdays :-) Tom?
Mike
March 5, 2011, 4:04 pm
Well put. I agree with the points you've made with regard to "How to Read the Air." I thought the differing narratives about Jonas's father's escape were overly confusing, though... the story, which is mainly fiction, as I understood it, that Jonas tells his class was the more interesting of the narratives. I did enjoy the way Echo Park pulled off some of the same themes more... personally. I agree, though, that Read the Air would be a huge surprise for the Pulitzer... I really just don't see that happening.
Mike
March 8, 2011, 7:49 pm
Well, Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse finally got some love from one of the award committees:

"Writer Brando Skyhorse's "The Madonnas of Echo Park" has won the Hemingway/PEN Award for first fiction, it was announced Tuesday. The book is a short-story collection with intersecting tales of Echo Park, a neighborhood northwest of downtown Los Angeles." (from the LA Times).

Thursday (March 10) is the NBCC winner announcement. Tuesday, March 15 is the PEN/Faulkner winner announcement, and that will wrap up all the predictor variables for the Pulitzer analysis, so a final prediction will be posted sometime toward the end of March.

Gregg
March 9, 2011, 8:36 am
Thanks, Mike. A while back I think you said that you had or were going to read Strong Motion and The 27th City. Those are on my to-do lists, too, even though years ago I'd started The 27th City and put it aside, pre-Corrections. They are written in very different styles than the later two novels, as Franzen concedes, but I'd be interested to hear what you and others here make of them. Now I'm reading his first collection of nonfiction, How to Be Alone -- long, New Yorkeresque articles (which is where many of the chapters first appeared). They are savvy and entertaining, but a bit dated. As in when he is lamenting what "images" on TV and the Internet are doing to our reading minds, explaining why his Sony "Trinitron" (kid you not) is unplugged and in the closet. Wonder what the poor guy makes of today's cell phones and Ipads!
Kris
March 9, 2011, 9:04 am
Phew! I was beginning to wonder how you and I had strayed so far from our fellow man. It's my understanding the the PENingway Award isn't the greatest predictor of a Pulitzer finalists, but that the winning author merits watching in the future. Is that correct? I know Jhumpa Lahiri won both awards for 'Interpreter of Maladies', though a cursory glance through the list of winners seems to indicate that she's the only one.

As for the NBCC, my money is on Franzen, while I'd pick Egan for the PENkner. My second choice for the NBCC would be Egan, with my PENkner runner-up being Puchner's 'Model Home'.
Mike
March 9, 2011, 12:10 pm
You're right, a book winning the PEN/Hemingway award isn't a great predictor of winning the Pulitzer... Lahiri's Maladies is the only book to have won both. The author being a past PEN/Hemingway winner is a little better predictor... both Marilynne Robinson's first book (Housekeeping) and Edward P. Jones' first book "Lost in the City" won the PEN/Hemingway.

I agree with your analysis... Franzen for the PEN/Faulkner, Egan for the NBCC. We'll know tomorrow!
Kris
March 9, 2011, 8:00 pm
Teehee! Other way around. Franzen wasn't nominated for the PENkner. ;) I think 'Skippy Dies' could very well take the NBCC, if neither Franzen nor Egan win. That was a beast of a book.
Mike
March 9, 2011, 8:24 pm
Oops, yes, Franzen NBCC, Egan PEN/Faulkner. I do wonder, though, if either Room or Skippy Dies might win. That said, the critics were very positive about Freedom, so I think it will take it.
Kris
March 9, 2011, 11:44 pm
Was 'Room' nominated for the NBCC? I thought it was Franzen, Egan, Murray ('Skippy Dies'), Grossman ('To the End of the Land'), and Keilson ('Comedy in a Minor Key'), though I could very well be wrong. 'Room' received outstanding reviews and, in my opinion, should have won the Booker Prize.
Mike
March 10, 2011, 10:42 am
I'm doing real well on this particular thread, aren't I... mess up the NBCC and PEN/Faulkner winner predictions and then nominate a book for the NBCC myself :-) My only excuse is that I've been juggling too many award and best of the year lists over the last month or two and they're blurring together! Ah well.
Kris
March 10, 2011, 8:15 pm
Just announced: Jennifer Egan's 'A Visit from the Goon Squad' has won the NBCC, beating out the heavily favored Franzen offering 'Freedom', along with a host of other notable contenders. I know this forum is a place for edifying literary discussion, so forgive me for saying: SSSSWWWWEEEETTTTTT. I like Franzen's book, I do, just not as much as Egan's - and a host of other works released this year. Okay, putting the soda down, now.
Kris
March 10, 2011, 8:16 pm
You're awesomely up to date on everything bibliophilic, so I think you're allowed to hiccup once or twice. ;)
Mike
March 11, 2011, 5:54 pm
That pretty much seals the deal for Goon Squad to come out on top of the prediction analysis... I'll wait until after the PEN/Faulkner announcement just because how that ends up may effect the placement of other books, but with the NBCC win, Egan's Goon Squad moves past Franzen's Freedom in the ranking! Although I favored Franzen's book, I must say that Jennifer Egan was such a nice person when I met her at a book signing last summer, that one can't help but be glad for her. I'm sure she's a lock for the PEN/Faulkner, so Goon Squad is clearly one of the most succssful books of the year. Time to start finalizing one's predictions for the Pulitzer! I have yet to read Nashville Chrome or Lord of Misrule, but have both of them ready to read, so am going to try to finish them before making my personal predictions!
Kris
March 12, 2011, 5:48 am
If it does win the PENkner, it'll be one of a relatively few books to have won at least two of the nation's four major literary prizes. Here's an incomplete list, off the top of my head. Feel free to add to it.

Junot Diaz, 'Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao' - Pulitzer (2008), NBCC (2007)
Marilynne Robinson, 'Gilead' - NBCC (2005), Pulitzer (2005)
Edward P. Jones, 'The Known World' - Pulitzer (2004), NBCC (2003)
E.L. Doctorow, 'The March' - PENkner (2006), NBCC (2005)
Michael Cunningham, 'The Hours' - PENkner, Pulitzer (1999)
Richard Ford, 'Independence Day' - PENkner, Pulitzer (1996)
Carold Shields, 'The Stone Diaries' - NBCC (1994), Pulitzer (1995)
Annie Proulx, 'The Shipping News' - NBA (1993), Pulitzer (1994)
Cormac McCarthy, 'All the Pretty Horses' - NBCC, NBA (1992)
John Updike, 'Rabbit at Rest' - NBCC (1990), Pulitzer (1991)
E.L. Doctorow, 'Billy Bathgate' - NBCC (1989), PENkner (1990)
William Kennedy, 'Ironweed' - NBCC (1983), Pulitzer (1984)
Alice Walker, 'The Color Purple' - NBA, Pulitzer (1993)
John Updike, 'Rabbit Is Rich' - NBCC (1981), NBA, Pulitzer (1982)
John Cheever, 'The Stories of John Cheever' - NBCC (1978), Pulitzer (1979)
Bernard Malamud, 'The Fixer' - NBA, Pulitzer (1967)
Katherine Anne Porter, 'The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter' - NBA, Pulitzer (1966)
William Faulkner, 'A Fable' - NBA, Pulitzer (1955)

Am I missing anyone?
Jake D.
March 12, 2011, 11:14 am
One more I can think of - Ha Jin, 'Waiting' - NBA (1999), PEN/Faulkner (2000)
Jake D.
March 12, 2011, 9:15 pm
Oh, and Jane Smiley for 'A Thousand Acres' - NBCC (1991), Pulitzer (1992)
Mike
March 15, 2011, 12:57 pm
Just posted on the PEN/Faulkner website:

Deborah Eisenberg Wins 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction!

Interesting.
Kris
March 16, 2011, 12:24 am
Heinous. Honestly, I hate it when "collections" consisting largely of previously published works - especially previously published books - win. It's that whole "reward the author" thing someone mentioned before. I know it happens, but it goes against the purpose of the awards, in my opinion. Not that the collection isn't great. Eisenberg is a fantastic writer; I love her stories.
brak
March 19, 2011, 4:35 pm
I'm not sure I entirely agree--I have had the sense before that, well, if they were really THAT good, why didn't they win for their individual collections. However, it is worth noting that contests are not just about the quality of the writer, but also about the quality of the competition. Her work may be strong, but past work may have simply been stronger (in whatever given year the individual collections--now collected in one volume--may have been published). That's not always true (or, at least, not always evident: i.e., love in infant monkeys somehow beating lark and termite to the pulitzer lineup last year); but it is a consideration that shouldn't be overlooked.
brak
March 19, 2011, 4:36 pm
Clarification: Her work may be strong, but past COMPETITION may have simply been stronger (in whatever given year the individual collections--now collected in one volume--may have been published).
Kris
March 19, 2011, 11:06 pm
You make a compelling case, but I respectfully disagree, at least with regard to Eisenberg's book. Sticking to the PENkner, the awards' site says that they honor "the best published works of fiction by an American citizen in a calendar year." While you can understand that to mean any work of fiction, even those incorporating previously published books, I think the implication, as with the NBA and Pulitzer, is that the work must be original within the calendar year being adjudicated. Obviously that's not the case, though, and any work of fiction counts. That said, would we be content if Roth published his short novel quartet - 'Everyman', 'Indignation', 'The Humbling' and 'Nemesis' - as a single book, then won one of the major awards for it, particularly given that only one of those book, 'Everyman', has been honored with a major literary award, thus far? Reasonable people can disagree in this area; I think we're both making good points.

As for weaker competition, I can't honestly say that 'The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg' benefited from that. After all, two other candidates, 'A Visit From the Good Squad' and 'Lord of Misrule', had already received major prizes, and that's living out the list of (what I consider to be) stronger books, including Franzen's 'Freedom' (heralded by some as a great American novel), 'The Surrendered by Chang Rae-Lee, 'Matterhorn' by Karl Marlantes, etc. I think this has been an exceptionally strong year for literature. Taking a look at the publication date of the four novels included in the collection, we find that that she lost to the following:

2007 ('Twilight of the Superheroes'): 'The Echo Maker'' (NBA), 'The Road' (Pulitzer), 'Everyman' (PENkner), and 'The Inheritance of Loss (NBCC);
1997: ('All Around Atlantis'): 'Cold Mountain' (NBA), 'American Pastoral' (Pulitzer), 'The Bear Comes Home' (PENkner), and 'The Blue Flower' (NBCC);
1992 (Under the 82nd Airborne): 'All the Pretty Horses' (NBA, NBCC), 'A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain (Pulitzer), 'Postcards' (PENkner);
1986 (Transactions in a Foreign Currency): 'World's Fair' (NBA), 'A Summons to Memphis' (Pulitzer), 'Soldiers In Hiding' (PENkner), and 'Kate Vaiden' (NBCC).

Those are just the winners, of course. Even on that list, however, I'd say they are some "anomalies," some books that we might not have selected as our top candidate, if our tabulations had been around back then. To me, when you take a closer look at the nominees for each year, it becomes clear that Eisenberg's book had as fair a shake as any. Yet none of her books were even shortlisted, despite her reception Guggenheim Fellowship and O. Henry Awards. If you combine them into one, they somehow beat out Egan, Franzen, Roth, Gordon, Marlantes, Krauss, etc....? I just don't buy that. Just my opinion, though, and I fully respect yours.

Where's Mike? Paging the expert!

Kris
March 19, 2011, 11:26 pm
On a related note, is the paperback version of Eisenberg's book the true first? There wasn't, like, some random hardcover printing issued via one of the book services?
Mike
March 20, 2011, 10:53 am
Yes, the Picador paperback is the first. I have a copy of the advance reading copy, and it states "A Picador Paperback Original", with publication in April 2010.
Mike
March 20, 2011, 11:09 am
As for the discussion concerning previously published stories winning awards in a "the complete stories of" or "the collected stories of" format, I will defer to you and brak, as you are much more informed on short fiction (well, for that matter, on long fiction as well!) than am I. Thinking, though, about the chances of Eisenberg's collection (or, for that matter, Beatties New Yorker Stories collection) for the pulitzer this year, it does seem to me that recently the committee has preferred to have short story collections in the mix. Last year, as brak mentioned, both finalists were original collections (Mueenuddin, Millet). The previous year, Strout won with a "novel via short stories format." The year before that (2008), Lore Segal's SHakespeare's Kitchen, described as interlocking stories, was a finalist. But, from 2004 to 2007, all winners/finalists were novels. In 2003, both finalists were short story collections (Barrett, Haslett). 2001-2002 were all novels. Lahiri won for her short story collection in 2000 and Proulx was a finalist for Close Range. But, one has to go back to 1989 to find a "collected stories" finalist (Carver, Where I'm Calling From) and back to 1978 and the Stories of John Cheever to find a compilation of previous published stories that won. So, my sense is that "collected stories" types of anthologies aren't all that successful in the Pulitzer, so I'm not counting on either Eisenberg or Beattie to appear as a winner or finalist (although, of course, anything is possible!).
brak
March 20, 2011, 7:15 pm
Actually, I believe The Collected Stories of Grace Paley was a finalist in 1995. (As we all continue to fact-check each other. =) )

Also, let's not pretend any longer...we're all just using this Pulitzer business to stave off the excitement of Eugenides' novel. You can't fool me! I'm onto you! ;)
Mike
March 20, 2011, 7:42 pm
Good catch on the Paley collected stories. And I am pumped about the new Eugenides novel. I hope he does an extensive author tour. Going to an event with Adam Haslett Tuesday of this week. he new David Foster Wallace book is now set for April 15.
Ellen
March 20, 2011, 9:55 pm
One thing I don't understand about this fascinating system: how does it jibe with the Pulitzer rules, which say: American author, for a book preferably about American life? That would seem to rule out a lot of your picks--i.e. The Surrendered, which takes place mostly abroad, and ditto The Lotus Eaters, just as Parrott and Olivier is by an overseas author...
Mike
March 20, 2011, 10:46 pm
Fair question Ellen! The devil is in the details, as they say. First, there are a couple of reasons to include books like The Surrendered... much of which does take place abroad. Over the years, the Pulitzer has, in fact, gone to books that are set mainly abroad... Shipping News comes to mind, it takes place primarily in Halifax, Canada. The Pulitzer rules do state "preferably" about American life... but not absolutely. A fair number of early Pulitzers were set almost exclusively overseas--sometimes about Americans at war (A Bell for Adono), but other times not (The Good Earth). The Surrendered is about a woman who was born in Korea and came to age in an orphanage in the Korean War, itself an American experience, who moved to NYC and returns to find her son. (Denis Johnson's pulitzer finalist Tree of Smoke was also set almost entirely in Vietnam... again, an American experience). The immigrant experience is a theme that seems to resonate with the Pulitzer committee... aka, Interpreter of Maladies, many stories from which are set only in India, others of which are of immigrants from India in America. So, it's a judgement call as to whether to leave a book like The Surrendered in the mix, but it has enough "American life" elements, in my judgment, to stay in, particularly given the "preferably" caveat. I've read Surrendered, but not Lotus Eaters, so quite honestly, it (Lotus Eaters) may cross the line between what is "American life" enough or not. With 90+ books in the analysis, I read about 20 - 30 myself, rely on pprize.com discussants to learn about others, then make judgment calls on others based upon reviews and descriptions in the best of list I'm not betting much on Lotus Eaters showing up (but then again, I don't think Daniel Mueenuddin's short story collection that was a finalist last year was really set much in America at all either, but the judges loved the writing... thus the wriggle room provided by the preferably caveat... perhaps the same could be true for Lotus). As for Peter Carey (Parrott and Olivier), it was a surprise to many of us when he was announced a National Book Award finalist, which also requires American citizenship. He has apparently lived in the US (NYC) for a decade and is a naturalized US Citizen!
Kris
March 21, 2011, 2:50 am
Yeah, the "American experience" stipulation is largely subjective. It's an obvious theme of recent winners, such as 'The Known World', 'Empire Falls', 'American Pastoral', 'Martin Dressler', and 'Independence Day'. What constitutes "American," however, is a subject of great debate. For this year, I'd say 'Freedom', 'Nashville Chrome', 'Parrot and Olivier', and to some extent 'A Visit From the Good Squad' are the most putatively American, but other candidates on the list, as Mike said, speak to aspects of American history and culture, even if extended overseas (Matterhorn, for example, is partially about the connections between Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Era). All of this begs a question I've asked before: What does the Pulitzer, or a winner thereof, say about the way we understand the nation in which we live, in any given year?
Mr. Benchly
March 22, 2011, 9:11 am
Anyone else waiting for Tara to make her prediction this year? If she could predict Tinkers last year, I'm thinking her prediction alone should be one of the predictors in the formula this site uses. And speaking of Tinkers, because it was ranked so low in the final list (33rd I think), would it be possible for you to list the next 15 books on that list? Apologies if you've already done that; 24 pages of comments is too many for me to sift through while at work.

One more thing I've been thinking about ... does anyone else think of the Pulitzer committee as having something comparable to a youngest child syndrome in that you can't tell him/her what to do? I have this feeling that this imagined trait of theirs will affect Goon Squad's chances because it has already won an award, and Freedom's chances because it was so popular. Because of this, in my predictions, I'm more inclined to go for a book that everyone loved but hardly anyone is talking about. I'm going to be bold this year (if you can consider choosing from previously discussed books as bold!):

Winner: The Privileges by Jonathan Dee
Finalist: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Finalist: The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

This allows the committee to pick as its winner a fresh but critically-acclaimed book with a timely topic (wealth in America), a popular book in Freedom to show that they're not out-of-the-loop, and a new writer in Soli to show that they're cutting edge. I have completely over-analyzed this, but nevertheless, these are my predictions.
Kris
March 22, 2011, 9:59 pm
Nice, I like it. :)

Er, I think the Pulitzer committees are unpredictable, yes, but I also think there is a wealth of material to sift through. 'Tinkers' is a great example - it didn't get much play, but most of us thought the book was exceptional, once we read it, and deserving of the award. Kind of how Mike and I feel (I think) about 'Madonnas of Echo Park', which I maintain as my dark horse candidate. I agree with you that Freedom's popularity - especially the Oprah label - hurts its chances, since mass produced literature is often seen as being in conflict with "serious" literature. That said, Freedom received outstanding reviews and hasn't WON an award, so maybe the committee will take that into consideration...? Pure speculation.

I don't think the committee will rule out Egan's novel because it's already won the NBCC. A list of books that have won multiple prizes appears on the preceding page; a surprising number of titles from the last decade or two appear on that list. Nonetheless, there have been surprises, and this is a year ripe with possibilities. I'm choosing a sort-of-surprise as my winner, actually:

Winner: 'Nashville Chrome' by Rick Bass
Finalist: 'A Visit From the Good Squad' by Jennifer Egan
Finalist: 'Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter' by Tom Franklin
Dark horses: 'Lord of Misrule' by Jaimy Gordon and 'The Madonnas of Echo Park' by Bruno Skyhorse

Yeah, I dropped 'Freedom' from my list. I actually think it has a better shot at the IMPAC Prize.
Mike
March 23, 2011, 6:22 pm
Sure, glad to provide the next 15, but first... a defense of the statistical model with regard to its performance in predicting Tinkers, which was, as mentioned, 32nd in the list last year. Although reliable numbers are hard to come by, there are an estimated 62,000 English-language works of long-form prose fiction (these terms from the publishers of Books in Print) published in the U.S. annually. Among those, of course, will be books published by non-US citizen authors, books in genres that aren't likely to win the Pulitzer, reprints... so let's say the actual number of new works of fiction that might meet the rather minimal Pulitzer requirements is 5,000.... or even 3,000 or 4,000... I'd say any model that consistenly picks the winner (in the top 15 two of three of the last years) and many of the finalists and had Tinkers as 33rd (out of the 3 or 4 or 5 thousand) is doing pretty darn well! I am, of course, only lodging a mild complaint... the model itself really only accounts for about 40% of the variance in what predicts the winner, the remaining 60% of the variance is unaccounted for (and due to things such as the actual quality of the book and writing, plot, story, etc., all of which are not quantifiable), so we'll have to live with quite a bit of uncertainty.

Okay, now that my rant is done... here are the next 15 (note that the final list, above, went through 16 because 13-16 were tied), but keep in mind that most of these end up on the list by virtue of having only met one predictor variable... appeared on one best of list, author had been nominated for something once, etc. Tinkers was 33rd last year because it was on the ALA best of the year list:

The New Yorker Stories by Ann Beattie
A Fair Maiden by Joyce Carol Oates
Great House by Nicole Krauss
Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich
Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick
So Much for That by Lionel Shriver
I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita
Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey
Private LIfe by Jane Smiley
By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham
Something is Out There by Richard Bausch
Wild Child by T.C. Boyle
The Spot by David Means
Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives by Brad Watson
Model Home by Eric Puchner
Mike
March 23, 2011, 6:39 pm
Interesting predictions! I liked "The Privileges", though it hasn't seen much love from the "best of" lists or awards (Mr. B, it's 40th on the prediction list, just FYI, by virtue of having been one of the NY Times 100 Best books). Kris, you've mentioned you liked Nashville Chrome a lot a couple of times... I'm holding off on naming my winner and finalist until I finish reading Lord of Misrule (I'm 1/2 way through it) and Nashville Chrome, at which time I'll give up on reading any more and list my predictions. I doubt I'll be as bold as either one of you, though :-)
Trey
March 23, 2011, 9:37 pm
Mike, really appreciate the site and the community you have fostered. In regards to Matterhorn, what is the actual true first? There is almost always a paperback version with a different cover and publisher listed for sale on eBay...is this the true? Although I do not think it will win this years prize, it would make for an interesting, almost Tinkers-esque situation. Why can't I pick it? It....just....dragged....on....and....on....on. Which I suppose might have been Marlantes point in illustrating the futility of modern warfare. Anyway, great site and keep up the good work. Love hearing about new works of fiction.
Ellen
March 23, 2011, 10:33 pm
Cool. What are the 15 after that?
brak
March 24, 2011, 1:07 am
Ah, there is By Nightfall--one of the best books I've read from this year. I was wondering where on the list that fell...just a beautiful, elegantly simple internal novel. (I picked up Lord of Misrule and am going to start it shortly.)
Mike
March 24, 2011, 3:14 pm
Another accolade for Brando Skyhorse's "The Madonnas of Echo Park":

The American Academy of Arts and Letters announced that the 2011 Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction ($5000) for the best work of first fiction (novel or short stories) published in 2010 will go to Brando Skyhorse, The Madonnas of Echo Park.

Karen Russell (2011 book Swamplandia) received the $20,000 Benjamin H. Danks award recognizing a talented young writer.

The inaugural John Updike Award for a writter in mid-career who has demonstrated consistent excellence ($20,000) went to Tom Sleigh. The Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award for a writer whose work merits recognition for the quality of its prose style was awarded to Thomas Mallon. I'm not familiar with Sleigh or Mallon, anyone out there read them?
Kris
March 24, 2011, 11:39 pm
HA! We TOTALLY called this. No one understood that our celebration of "Echo Park" referred to the PENingway and Sue Kaufman Prize, not the Pulitzer...right? ;)
Mike
March 25, 2011, 7:44 am
Absolutely! And it might even win some other prize I've never heard of :-) Actually, I am betting on Echo Park to win the LA TImes 1st Fiction prize this year. Speaking of the PEN/Hemingway, I know it's early for discussions about 2011 novels, but I just finished Teju Cole's "Open City," and I would not be surprised to see it show up in awards next year, particulalry the PEN/Hemingway. Tea Obereht's "The Tiger's Wife" is clearly the most talked about debut novel so far (and probably for the year) and I haven't read it yet, but Cole's is the most intelligently written book I've read in a long time (I would note that I think it overtly tries to be too intelligent sometimes). In any case, seems like a viable PEN/Hemingway contender.
Mike
March 25, 2011, 7:46 am
Absolutely! And it might even win some other prize I've never heard of :-) Actually, I am betting on Echo Park to win the LA TImes 1st Fiction prize this year. Speaking of the PEN/Hemingway, I know it's early for discussions about 2011 novels, but I just finished Teju Cole's "Open City," and I would not be surprised to see it show up in awards next year, particulalry the PEN/Hemingway. Tea Obereht's "The Tiger's Wife" is clearly the most talked about debut novel so far (and probably for the year) and I haven't read it yet, but Cole's is the most intelligently written book I've read in a long time (I would note that I think it overtly tries to be too intelligent sometimes). In any case, seems like a viable PEN/Hemingway contender.
Mr. Benchly
March 25, 2011, 11:55 am
FYI, on a whim, I just contacted Book Passage in San Francisco to see if they had any signed firsts of Nashville Chrome left on their shelves and received this response:

Yes, we do have a few signed first edition hardcover copies of "Nashville Chrome" still remaining. If you would like to order a copy, please follow this link and note "signed 1st" in the comments field: http://www.bookpassage.com/book/9780547317267

I know Kris was looking for one. I'm sure others might want it as well. $24 plus $8 shipping sure beats $50 on ebay! I ordered mine. Act now before it's too late!
brak
March 26, 2011, 11:33 am
just bought nashville chrome and the lonely polygamist! looking forward to them--got the madonnas of eco park from the library! thanks for the recommendations, kris!
March 27, 2011, 11:52 am
I need to amend my prediction that Echo Park will win the LA Times First Fiction award... I'd forgotten that the finalists were already announced and Echo Park is not among them. Surprises me, really, since the book got a lot of buzz on the West coast and is set in LA. I would have thought that it would be a strong contender for that award. Ah well.
Mike
March 27, 2011, 5:49 pm
I need to amend my prediction that Echo Park will win the LA Times First Fiction award... I'd forgotten that the finalists were already announced and Echo Park is not among them. Surprises me, really, since the book got a lot of buzz on the West coast and is set in LA. I would have thought that it would be a strong contender for that award. Ah well.
Mike
March 29, 2011, 1:06 pm
Five Young Writers Chosen as Finalists for The New York Public Library’s 2011 Young Lions Fiction Award

(from http://www.nypl.org/press/press-release/2011/03/29/five-young-writers-chosen-finalists-new-york-public-library’s-2011-yo)

The New York Public Library has announced the finalists for the eleventh annual Young Lions Fiction Award. The award honors the works of young authors carving deep first impressions in the literary world. The winning writer will be awarded a $10,000 prize on May 9, 2011 at a ceremony hosted by actor Ethan Hawke held in the Celeste Bartos Forum of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.

The finalists for 2011 Young Lions Fiction Award are:

Citrus County by John Brandon (McSweeney’s)
Vida by Patricia Engel (Grove Press)
The Instructions by Adam Levin (McSweeney’s)
Death Is Not an Option by Suzanne Rivecca (W.W. Norton & Company)
Kapitoil by Teddy Wayne (Harper Perennial)

The Young Lions Fiction Award is given annually to an American writer age 35 or younger for either a novel or collection of short stories. Each year five young fiction writers are selected as finalists by a reading committee of Young Lions members, writers, editors, and librarians. A panel of award judges, including Maile Chapman, Andrew Sean Greer, and Kelly Link will select the winner of the $10,000 prize.
brak
March 30, 2011, 11:42 am
Anyone read "The Instructions" yet? I'm a big mcswys fan--but that debut novel is over 1000 pages, I believe...so I haven't dived in yet.
brak
March 30, 2011, 11:44 am
Anyone have thoughts on a non-fiction finalist / winner? I think "Age of Wonder" and "Emperor of Maladies" seem to stand a good chance.
Kris
April 1, 2011, 7:11 am
You mean general nonfiction? Very hard to tell, I think. "Age of Wonder" isn't eligible, though, since it was published in 2009. It won the 2009 NBCC for general nonfiction, and deservedly so. I think "Cultures of War" by John Dower and "Every Man in This Village is a Liar" by Megan Stack have a shot, as does "Empire of the Summer Moon" by S.C. Gwynne. All of these have were nominated for either the NBA or NBCC. "War" by Sebastian Junger got good reviews - what's with the proliferation of war books? You'd think we were fighting three of them or something. Books on foreign history do well in the general nonfiction category, too, which might give an edge to "Nothing to Envy" by Barbara Demick. And, of course, there's "Just Kids" by Patti Smith, the NBA winner and an NBCC nominee.
Ed
April 1, 2011, 2:19 pm
I am late to the discussion, however I purchased "Tinkers" after seeing it mentioned here last year. I didn't much care for the book, however I now own first edition copies for the past 23 years. I own 12 of the first group of 16. And while I would love to see either Rick Bass or Tom Franklin win, their current books are really not worthy as I feel neither measure up to their previous work. "Freedom", "The Surrendered" and "The Lonely Polygamist" each have a legitimate, valid shot and I couldn't argue if any one of the three wins. But my real picks come from the second grouping. I wouldn't be surprised and I would be rather pleased to see either "Kings of the Earth" or "Next" win this years prize. In my opinion "A Visit From the Goon Squad" and "The Madonna's of Echo Park" shouldn't even be in the discussion for the Pulitzer Prize.

All of the current noise is for Tea Obreht's "The Tiger's Wife", which I found extremely overrated, it doesn't hold a candle to T.C. Boyle's "When the Killings Done", Stewart O'Nan's "Emily, Alone" or Ann Patchett's new novel "State of Wonder". The latter two are masterful works of fiction. All three, however, will be in the discussion for next year Pulitzer Prize.
brak
April 2, 2011, 2:46 pm
You don't think The Emperor of All Maladies stands a chance?
Kris
April 3, 2011, 3:22 am
Oh, I'm sure it goes! Haven't read it yet, but it got good reviews. I was trying to add to your list, that's all. :)
Mike
April 4, 2011, 10:35 am
The Morning News, an online magazine and Powell's Books have, over the last couple of years, co-sponsored a "Tournament of Books" that begins, roughly, when NCAA "March Madness" bball tourney begins and pairs books against one another in a bracket-style format. The final round this year was between Freedom and Goon Squad. I'll not reveal the winner, but you can find out at this link:

http://themorningnews.org/tob/#
Mike
April 4, 2011, 8:31 pm
And a Wall Street Journal Blog on the above-mentioned Tournament of Books:

http://blogs.wsj.com/ideas-market/2011/04/04/cage-match-franzen-versus-egan/

Quoting (for the duration of the post) from the blog: "The Morning News has been running a Tournament of Books, and the last two books standing won’t surprise anyone who followed literary news last year: “Freedom,” by Jonathan Franzen and “A Visit From the Goon* Squad,” by Jennifer Egan.

Moderator C. Max Magee is well aware of the pitfalls of this matchup:

I’m already imagining the headlines if Freedom wins this thing: “Hip Online Book Tourney Spills More Ink For Time Coverboy—Cranky White-Guy Novelist Re-Re-Ratified As No. 1.”

But the contest wasn’t all about the high-art literary community, as Franzen might put it (and then, later, apologize for his word choice while proceeding to annoy someone else). The hip website recruited Jennifer Weiner as one of the judges, the same Jennifer Weiner who ginned up the “Franzenfreude” debate last year.

The gist of that debate, recall, was whether Franzen was getting undue attention because of his white-maleness and whether popular fiction (like Weiner’s) should be getting more love from book-review sections.

Here’s Weiner’s comment on the two finalists:

Oh, man. Pun intended. Jonathan Franzen and the boys’ club that backed him, on one side; Jennifer Egan, who published part of Goon Squad in an “anti-chick lit” anthology, on the other. It’s like Sophie’s Choice, if Sophie hated both her kids.

Naturally, most of the other judges loved both books. Best critical metaphor goes to Andrew Womack, a founding editor of the Morning News:

For me, this decision comes down to pacing, and Franzen is the Pink Floyd to Egan’s Sex Pistols; by the end of Freedom I couldn’t take another meandering guitar solo, while I was dazzled by how much Goon Squad packed into such a compact space.

You’ll have to click the link, above, to see who won."

Mike
April 4, 2011, 8:40 pm
And, a bit off topic from the Pulitzer discussion, from http://www.booktrade.info/index.php/showarticle/32961

"The Center For Fiction Announces 2011 Clifton Fadiman Medal Winner
Posted at 1:59PM Monday 04 Apr 2011

DENNIS LEHANE SELECTS DANIEL WOODRELL'S "THE DEATH OF SWEET MISTER" AS WINNER OF THE CENTER FOR FICTION 2011 CLIFTON FADIMAN MEDAL
New York, April 3, 2011 — The Center for Fiction (www.centerforfiction.org) is pleased to announce that acclaimed author Dennis Lehane has chosen Daniel Woodrell's novel The Death of Sweet Mister to receive the 2011 Clifton Fadiman Medal. The Fadiman Medal, named for one of America's foremost men of letters in the twentieth century, is awarded to a living American author in recognition of a work of fiction published more than ten years ago that deserves renewed notice and introduction to a new generation of readers. The Clifton Fadiman Medal is generously sponsored by Reba and Dave Williams, and the recipient receives $5000."

I post this simply to have the chance to point out that Daniel Woodrell is a great writer, and that if you haven't read any of his "Ozark Noir" books, you should do so... start with Winter's Bone. The film of the same name is true to the book, and they're both great, but even if you saw the movie, it's worth reading the book.

Brings to mind a question I've been meaning to ask... what are your favorite authors (beyond genre authors) who probably won't win any major awards, but should be at least recognized. For me, that's Daniel Woodrell, Clyde Edgerton (I liked In Memory of Junior and Killer Diller best), and Joe Coomer (The Decatur Road, A Flatland Fable, and, particularly, The Loop are my favorites).
Mike
April 4, 2011, 10:33 pm
Okay, I'm ready to make my prediction for the winner and one finalist. I'm going to hold off on my prediction for a second finalist since I still hope to finish "Lord of Misrule" and "Nashville Chrome." But, since I'm not making much headway on that front, I'm going to go ahead and state my predictions for the winner and one finalist. I'm sticking very close to the statistical prediction, but reversing them:
Winner: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Finalist: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Here are a list of reasons I'm going with Freedom:
1. Freedom was the book I liked most this year. I should note that this is subjective (I liked it best) and not objective (e.g., best book written this year). The remaining 4 of the 5 books I liked best this year (published in 2010) were Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, Kings of the Earth by Jon Clinch, The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall, and Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. Sixth was Walking to Gatlinburg by Howard Frank Mosher, followed by The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse, and Goon Squad.
2. IMHO, Freedom was better than The Corrections, which won the National Book Award and was a Pultizer finalist.
3. Freedom has been nominated for the NBCC and the LA Times Fiction, but hasn't won. It is, in my opinion, too good of a book to be shut out completely from the major awards. The Oprah pick can't be the only "win" that Freedom has.
4. IMHO, Freedom hits the "about American Life" aspect of the Pulitzer better than Goon Squad.
5. It would annoy Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult. (Note, please, that I don't minimize the issue of gender discrimination in publishing. That industry is like every other industry in America, and I'm sure women are under-represented and under-paid. I've seen statistics that suggest the problem is in the percentage of books by women accepted by publishers. I just don't think attacking Franzen is really much of a solution. At one signing I was at, he was asked how he felt about this issue, and he was frankly befuddled and seemed truly stumped, since he pointed out he's been an advocate of this issue (equity) in the past. Franzen readily admits he thinks that Alice Munro is the best writer on the planet. Really, who made Picoult and Weiner the spokespersons for women in literary fiction?
6. Even though he didn't need to, Franzen went out on an extensive reading tour, speaking all over the country. He has signed literally tens of thousands of books in that time. I've seen him twice. He's a gracious signer and and interesting speaker. He really does seem to enjoy meeting the people who read his books.
7. Can you think of any book that "popularized" literary fiction more than Freedom this past year? Franzen didn't chose to be on the cover of time or be selected by Oprah, but when these things happened, it brought a lot of attention to literary There's no such thing as bad publicity, they say.
Mike
April 4, 2011, 10:33 pm
I should note that if Egan's Goon Squad wins, I'll consider it well deserved. I enjoyed the book, even though I didn't really think the connected-short-stories thing worked that well (again, my opinion based upon my subjective experience of reading the book!), but like some reviewer's comments I've read, I thought the first 1/3 and last 1/4 of the book were very good indeed. Plus, there's that PowerPoint chapter!
Kris
April 5, 2011, 4:09 am
Here's a random tidbit to add to this discussion: Franzen hasn't been faring very well in the academic circles through which I flow. Through which I flow? Can one flow through circles? Float, that's the word I meant. And the preposition should be changed to "in." I could change that mistake, or I could spend more time discussing it, then leave it. Like a trademark. Or a birthmark. Or Hallmark. Anyway, the general consensus seems to be that he oversells his hysterical realism. Yes, the plot is supposed to hover on the edge of unbelievable. Yes, the characters are supposed to be overwrought, almost caricatures. Yes, the situations are absurdist. Yes, emotions are excessive, as are the prosody and diction. For me, that works in his favor, since the book is about the nation's most recent era of excess. He links it together nicely. Some academics don't buy it, though, and think that, in places, it becomes so overt as to border on pop fiction. I would be cool with Franzen winning, though he's not in my top three...I don't think (have to go back and check).

That said, I was about to start a "predict Mike's predictions thread," but you've ruined it. Now, it's "predict Mike's FINAL prediction." Not quite as fun. Given your talk of short stories through this year, however, I'm guessing it'll be either "The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg" or "The Madonnas of Echo Park." :)
brak
April 5, 2011, 8:57 am
i'm not offended, of course--that's just my prediction for what i think will be at least a finalist this year....we're so close! i can't wait!

i don't know if i'm alone in this, but while the writing in "lord of misrule" is fantastic, i find myself confused as to what is going on. i know nothing about horse racing, so when one character claims the horse of another character, or one horse seems to win, but then it sounds like another horse won (based on the gleeful response of the opposing character), i'm confused.... i'm only a fourth of the way through, though....i'm a brilliant person, of course, as we all are on this forum (not to mention how beautiful, suave, and, ahem, modest we all are), so i will likely re-read the novel....but does it get clearer?

just based on the writing, i think it stands a good chance at a pulitzer nod.

bought aliens in the prime of their lives and model home the other day--has anyone read those yet? thoughts? (i have read one story from aliens in the prime of their lives and thought it lovely, albeit disturbing).
Mike
April 5, 2011, 9:01 am
First, re: flow vs. float... Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's psychological theory of "flow" (roughly, a state of optimal experience, being in the "zone") certainly applies to those of us in academic circumstances, so flow works fine! I don't think I've heard the term "hysterical realism" (I flow in different academic circles, obviously), though it is pretty accurate. I recall that Michiko Kakutani said, in her review of Freedom for the NY Times, that Franzen had "completed his own transformation from a sharp-elbowed, apocalyptic satirist focused on sending up the socio-economic-political plight of this country into a kind of 19th-century realist concerned with the public and private lives of his characters," so my sense was that his style had been evolving. I've not read his first book yet, but Strong Motion, The Corrections, and Freedom seemed to me (an admittedly amateur critic) to have, at least, similar foundations or structures. The Corrections struck me as a bit more 'hysterical,' one of the reasons I liked Freedom more was that it didn't seem to be quite as overwraught and the situations weren't quite as absurdist as The Corrections. In any case, Franzen sure seems to be a polarizing author... probably the inevitable consequence of his spat with Oprah, the Time cover, and the Oprah selection, as well as the episode in England where someone snatched his glasses from his face!

WIth regard to my third pick, you've pegged it... unless Lord of Misrule or Nashville Chrome convince me to select one of them, it will be Madonnas. I would not have gone that direction until it won the PEN/Hemingway, but I think that raised its visibility at the right time! We'll see. I have several long plane rides before the 18th and hope to make it through both books so I can make that choice based on having read all of them.
Mike
April 5, 2011, 9:33 am
You nailed it brak, I feel exactly the same way about Lord of Misrule... I'm having a hard time sorting out what's going on and am at about the same part of the book you are, apparently. I read an interview with Jaimy Gordon that indicated (and perhaps it was the interviewer saying this, not her) that she purposefully made the first part of the book difficult for the reader because she was writing about what is a difficult life. Sort of like the reviews of David Foster Wallaces new book, Pale King, that point out that it's boring in points becaues it's writing about dullness and boring lives... the reader has to experience the same emotions. The reviews I've seen indicate that the book picks up speed mid-way, so I'll stick with it.

I'm going to a reading by Gordon tonight (in Kansas City), will be interested in hearing what she has to say.
May
April 5, 2011, 11:45 am
As a female reader (and college English instructor) I say: think like a Pulitzer jury...and then think like the Pulitzer board. PB members receive three unranked fiction choices from the jury, read 'em, and accept or reject. Remember, this is not a literary-fiction-ony contest. That's for the NBCC and the NBA. I predict that because the usual suspects this year are flawed (Freedom), controversial/gimmicky (Goon Squad) or just too inside-baseball (the badly-overwritten Lord of Misrule), the jury and/or board may do a repeat of last year's Drama drama, reject the jury recommendations, and dip back into the nominee pool, looking either for a fresh new voice (a la Diaz) or something well-crafted, uplifting and accessible, as is the Pulitzer fiction tradition. Look at the makeup of the Pulitzer Board if you want clues: journalists, policy people, pragmatic, some politically conservative, many of them from the flyover states. Not particularly interested in the fanboy/tragically hip literary politics of Franzen/Egan, too young for a Vietnam novel to resonate, respectful toward minority voices but possibly not willing to crown Skyhorse just yet. Look deep, deep in the Best of 2010 lists. That's where our winner lurks, IMHO.
Kris
April 5, 2011, 6:37 pm
Wait, Franzen had a spat with Oprah? I didn't know that. Do tell? And kudos to her for setting it aside in her boob club selection.
brak
April 5, 2011, 11:23 pm
I'm enjoying Madonnas too, but Misrule features far better writing. (Then again, that first sentence of Madonnas is so so good.) I seem to curse any books I predict, but...I think, given what little I have read of this year's novels--I tend to read whatever I'm interested in and don't predicate my reading list upon a given year--my list is:

Freedom
The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg
Lord of Misrule

and dammit, i'm throwing in By Nightfall, because it was damn good and deserves more acclaim than it has gotten (other than reviews, which have been positive).
brak
April 6, 2011, 10:44 am
as i understand it, back during the publication of "the corrections", franzen stated that he worried about oprah's endorsement, because he didn't want men to think it was a book for women (and thus dismiss it)...that pissed oprah off, apparently...this time around, he hasn't said anything to piss her off. haha...

franzen is sort of known for having his controversies (here and there) in the literary world.
brak
April 8, 2011, 12:59 pm
hey, kris--just curious...what makes you so confident in nashville chrome? (i haven't read it, but i did purchase it! so i was just curious!)
Kris
April 10, 2011, 2:02 pm
It's a well-written, quintessentially "American" tale - a lyrical meditation on celebrity, family, and the impact of the former on the latter. It was also on the ALA's list, which is a strong Pulitzer indicator.
Kris
April 12, 2011, 8:35 am
Ah, having finished "The Emperor of All Maladies," I would now place it at the forefront of my general nonfiction list, ahead of the others I mentioned. Speaking of books dealing with illness, Lionel Shriver's "So Much for That" might be another dark horse contender for our beloved fiction award. It's a smartly written indictment of living vicariously though one's financial position, one that actively contemplates current ethical questions regarding the "value" of prolonging terminal illness and the extent to which wealth predicates pejorative attitudes and exploitative actions toward the underprivileged. It was nominated for the 2010 NBA and Shriver won the Orange Prize in '05, so there's some precedent. Last minute thoughts, I suppose. Only a few more days!
Kris
April 12, 2011, 6:41 pm
Can we get a 2012 prediction page rolling, since this year's discussion has almost reached its conclusion?
Tom
April 12, 2011, 8:49 pm
I put up the 2012 page. Who wants to go first?
Mike
April 13, 2011, 5:57 pm
I finished Lord of Misrule. Very well written, though I was often confused about the horse racing slang/language. I had to Google what it meant for a horse to be claimed. I've now finished all of the NBA finalists from this year except for I Hotel, and while I enjoyed Peter Carey's Parrot and Olivier in America more, I'd have to say that Lord of Misrule was a good choice for the award from amongst the nominees. I'm still not elevating it over Madonnas of Echo Park on my finalist list, though... not that Lord isn't better written (it probably is), but just because I enjoyed Madonna's so much and I need an outlier for my finalists list and having a list that is Freedom (winner), Goon Squad (finalist), Lord of Misrule (finalist) doesn't seem like it's gonna happen... I need to throw a debut book or short story collection in, and Madonna's is both (novel in short stories with repeating characters, first novel). Kris, I'm almost done with Nashville Chrome. I really like it, and think it does meet the "American Life" criteria, but as much as I liked it, liked Kings of the Earth better, so while Nashville Chrome will make the list of the 10 best books I read from this year, I'll probably still stick with Madonna's as the third book in my prediction!
brak
April 14, 2011, 1:17 pm
haha, man oh man
Joel
April 14, 2011, 7:06 pm
I would probably faint if "Union Atlantic" won. It's not out of disrespect for the book, I found it very interesting, but rather because I was fortunate enough to receive an advance reading copy when Random House gave them away via Twitter.

I think "Great House" by Nicole Strauss will win. It was a great read, very descriptive, thought provoking and interesting.

Just my opinion.
Bradley
April 14, 2011, 7:32 pm
My Predictions:
Fiction: "A Visit from the Goon Squad" (Finalists: "Great House" & "Freedom")
History: "The Warmth of Other Suns"
Non-Fiction: "The Emperor of All Maladies"
Kris
April 14, 2011, 8:53 pm
Honestly, I'd be pretty stoked if "King of the Earth" was a Pulitzer finalist. I was surprised that it didn't get nominated for the PENkner, since it's practically an homage to Faulkner's style. A late award would be well deserved, in my opinion.
brak
April 15, 2011, 11:55 am
there is always a part of me that hopes we're all just completely wrong, so that we can find out about some previously-unnoticed author (tinkers) who really deserves to win...though why franzen and cunningham have been so oft-snubbed this season is peculiar to me. perhaps they will get some nod from the p-prize--THAT's validation for ya!
Mr. Benchly
April 15, 2011, 1:08 pm
Maybe "Sweet Music On Moonlight Ridge" by Ramey Channell will win and we'll kick ourselves for not listening to Joyce, Joy, and Carol.
Tom
April 15, 2011, 11:38 pm
After watching all these posts. Here's what I think:

When you look at past Pulitzer winners, there are always the obscure titles that the average person has never heard of. Then in between, there are the titles that are household names, and these are typically the great books that everyone knows like the Grapes of Wrath, Gone With the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, ect. You don't see these every year, but just enough to keep the list relevant. So I'm thinking that the Pulitzer list needs one of those great books this year. It needs a slam dunk great book. That's why I think it will be Franzen's Freedom. Franzen is a great writer, the book is great, and I think the list needs his name among the winners.
May
April 16, 2011, 7:27 am
My last-minute finalist pool:
For safe winners, none which quite suit the Pulitzer vibe--Matterhorn; The Surrendered; Freedom.
For p.c. value: How To Read the Air; Madonnas of Echo Park.
For tasteful literary credit: Memory Wall; The New Yorker Stories.
For total long shots: Deep Creek; A Doonesbury Retrospective.
Mike
April 16, 2011, 9:38 am
I went to an author reading/signing by Adam Haslett and he's a really nice person, so although I don't think Union Atlantic will win (and I have my ARC as well!), it would be nice for him. It will be interesting to read his next novel. Perhaps his ouvre is really short stories, given how well received his first short story collection was. (Is ouvre really a word? I don't think I'll bother to Google it, it sounds right, but might be an option for how your egg is cooked.)

Great House got a roaring start out of the gates with the NBA nomination, then sort of didn't do that much in the awards circuit, but I wouldn't be surprised by an apperance as a Pulitzer finalist or winner, though I really don't think that will happen (again, though, just opinion!). I liked the book and it's grown on me over time. Clearly, though, she's someone to watch.
Joel
April 16, 2011, 9:39 am
I just finished reading "The Imperfectionists" and was wondering if this book was eligible. I couldn't find anything about the author being a naturalized US citizen or not so I was curious. If it IS eligible, that would be a good contender for the spot in my opinion.
Mike
April 16, 2011, 9:45 am
I wonder if Freedom's strongest point is just the impact it had over the year. The Pulitzer guidelines never say anything about "best" book or such, the award is for (from last year's press release for Tinkers): For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000). So, "distinguished" leaves something open for interpretation beyond just well written, and does seem to invite the panel to consider the importance of the book. Love him or hate him, Franzen draws publicity and I can't see any other book, last year or in recent years, that has drawn attention to literary fiction as has Freedom.
Mike
April 16, 2011, 9:54 am
Brak, I agree with your thought (hope we're wrong so we discover a new author) as a reader, but not so much as a collector :-) I got lucky last year and found a couple of first edition paperbacks of Tinkers still at bookstores immediately after the win, but I could easily see having ended up with no copies, which given the market price of them now (not to mention the cost of the signed hard copies) would be frustrating. As a collector, I'm hoping for Freedom because I already have several copies signed by Franzen and was lucky enough to find an ARC that I also got signed. Goon Squad would be okay, I got to see Egan at the Texas Book Festival and had her sign my first edition copy, but I've searched for months for an ARC of Goon Squad to no success, so would be a bit of a downer (again, as as collector, not so much as a reader) if it wins. I've nabbed ARCs and Firsts of most of the others... even managed to pick up a signed copy of Nemesis for not that much. I've not been able to locate a first of Lotus Eaters, though. I mentioned earlier in the discussion that if Parrott and Olivier wins, it will be a difficult chase, as the true first is Australian, followed by the English edition, then the U.S. Edition. Also, back to Franzen's Freedom, the 1st edition is plentiful, even without the Oprah plug on the cover, but the more difficult copy to get will be the true British 1st, since they pulped most of them after discovering printing errors.
Mike
April 16, 2011, 9:56 am
There's Deep Creek again! I admit that I just have run out of time and didn't read it, though it was next on my list (I'm probalby barely going to finish Nashville Chrome before Monday's announcement!), but I did purchase a first edition and an ARC of it, just in case!
Mike
April 16, 2011, 10:02 am
Ed, I'm impressed you've already finished Tiger's Wife, Emily Alone, When the Killing's Done, and State of Wonder! I've always liked Boyle, but since Drop City, he hasn't done that much in the awards/nominations. Killing's Done sounded like a good book, so I'm looking forward to reading it. I do like O'Nan as well, and the first Emily book was so well received that Emily Alone does sound like a contender. If I recall the blurb for State of Wonder, it didn't seem to be much about "american life", correct, or am I misremembering? But, Patchett's one to watch. I am with you on Kings of the Earth and would be surprised but not displeased if it won.
Mike
April 16, 2011, 10:13 am
Trey, thanks for the nice words, and of course Tom K. (who developed Pprize.com) deserves most of the credit, as do others who contribut. As an admittedly compulsive collector of Pulitzer Prize novels, it's great to have a place to 'talk' with others with similar compulsions. With regard to the true first of Matterhorn, it will be tough to find if it does win. You've probably heard the story... published by a small literary press called El Leon Literary Arts in a paperback original, it was read by an editor at Grove Atlantic who wanted it for their portfolio. So, Grove Atlantic bought up all the remaining copies of the original El Leon version and either pulped them or have them stored somewhere. So, there seem to be very few copies of the true Paperback Original first edition out there, and I've never seen an ARC of the El Leon version offered, so not sure one exists, but if it does, it's bound to be rare. I talked with Marlantes at a signing and he said that he had a few copies of the El Leon version and had been contacted by a book dealer to whom he'd sold one for $500! The Grove Atlantic version is identified as published by El Leon Literary Arts/Atlantic Monthly Press, but the cover for the original is simlar, but different from the Atlantic Monthly version. To complicate matters even more, Grove Atlantic changed the title from Matterhorn to something else (I can't remember what it was) and printed a small number of ARCs under that title befer deciding to go back to the original title, so those ARCs with different titles would be a sought after variant as well.
Mike
April 16, 2011, 10:14 am
I still argue that Lonely Polygamist had the best first line of the year... "This is the story of a polygamist who had an affair." (or something like that)!
Mike
April 16, 2011, 10:20 am
I'll go one better Ellen, here are the remaining books, in order after the top 30, that got any points in the analysis:

Day for Night by Frederick Reiken
The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris
The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine
Beautiful Maria of My Soul by Oscar Hijuelos
Gold Boy, Emerald Girl by Yiyun Li
The Passage by Justin Cronin
Compass Rose by John Casey
The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass
The Privileges by Jonathan Dee
How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction World by Charles Yu
How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
The Ask by Sam Lisyte
American Subversive by Davide Goodwillie
Bound by Antonya Nelson
Double Happiness by Mary Beth Hughes
Girl by the Road at Night by David Rabe
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr
Something Red by Jennifer Gilmore
Unfinished Desires by Gail Godwin
The Marrowbone Marble Company by Glenn Taylor
Safe from the Neighbers by Steve Yarbrough
Burning Bright by Ron Rash
My Hollywood by Mona Simpson
Sunset Park by Paul Auster
The Madonaas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse
Alone with You by Marisa Silver
What is Left the Daughter by Howard Norman
The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman
Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett
Mike
April 16, 2011, 10:25 am
Interesting thoughts! I'm always interested in hearing the perspectives of folks who are trained to read in a more critical manner than am I. I know from your latter post that Deep Creek is your way-outside prediction, and that would be very deep in the list indeed!
Mike
April 16, 2011, 10:33 am
I did read Strong Motion this year, and although it was different (style-wise) than Corrections and Freedom, I didn't think it was that different, structurally, from, say, Freedom. Now that I know something about hysterical realism as a literary movement, thank to Kris, I can see the differences between Strong Motion and Freedom, though dealing with similar issues. I've heard, though, that 27th City is very different, and it's on my "to-read" list. I read The Discomfort Zone, but haven't done much more than skim How to Be Alone. I'm not sure it's fair to classify Franzen as a luddite, but its clear he's not all that enamored with technology :-)
Mike
April 17, 2011, 5:04 pm
Nope, Rachman is English, might have dual UK/Canadian citizenship, and currently lives in Rome, so The Imperfectionists, which was very well received, is not eligible for the Pulitzer.
Mike
April 18, 2011, 7:41 am
I think one of the things about the Pulitzer that's rather amusing is that the author finds out she or he has won the award at the same time and in the same way the rest of us do! Recall that last year Paul Harding learned he'd won by checking the website. I've told this story before, but its apropos to the moment, so I'll repeat it... Geraldine Brooks relates that she was at home with her then six or seven year old son, just puttering about, clearning, playing with him, etc., when a reporter or a friend called to inform her. She then had a deluge of phone calls and even people coming to the door. At one point, she was answering the front door, so her son answered the phone, informing the caller that she couldn't come to the phone right now because she had just learned that she had won the Pultizer Surprise!
Mr. Benchly
April 18, 2011, 2:10 pm
A Visit from the Goon Squad wins! (The Privileges by Jonathan Dee and The Surrendered by Chang Rae-Lee are finalists). In a related story, pprize.com wins, too, for picking the winner!
Mike
April 18, 2011, 2:24 pm
Good for Jennifer Egan. And, as you noted, the model did pretty well this year, picking Goon Squad as the #1 predictor and The Surrendered as #5. The Privileges, which is the pick I'm most surprised about, was down the list at about #35 and hadn't gotten much visibility among other awards.
Tom
April 18, 2011, 3:29 pm
Nice job Mike. You nailed it. Nice job for the community too. Many of you predicted Goon Squad as well.
Kris
April 18, 2011, 4:03 pm
Ah, so happy about Egan winning! Interesting, though, since we'd previously discussed how the Pulitzer doesn't usually dwell on literary innovation as much as other awards. Well deserved, in my opinion. As is praise for the this year's statistical model. Another dual winner, since Egan also took home this year's NBCC.

On a different note, "The Privileges" surprised me, too, but I remember Mike mentioning it waaaayyyyy back in the year, when we were discussing "Union Atlantic," and saying that it was a finely crafted tale on a similar, and highly poignant, topic.
Mike
April 18, 2011, 6:13 pm
I probably didn't say it as elegantly, but I did like The Privileges more than Union Atlantic. If you'll recall, they were similar enough, content-wise, to be reviewed together in the NY Times Book review section.

Egan was nominated for the LA Times Book Awards as well, and that hasn't been announced, so she may have one more award to put on her shelf!
Mike
April 18, 2011, 6:19 pm
I posted earlier in the day about how Pulitzer Award authors find out. Here's part of an interview with Jennifer Egan shortly after the announcement today (from the Wall Street Journal online page at http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2011/04/18/jennifer-egan-on-winning-the-2011-pulitzer-prize-for-fiction/?mod=WSJBlog&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter):

The Wall Street Journal: Congratulations! How does it feel? When did you find out?

Jennifer Egan: It’s absolutely nutty to win something like this. I feel weird. I wish I had something more articulate to say. It seems so fantastical, like I’ve exited from real life. I found out 20 minutes ago. I was just sitting down to lunch in a restaurant and my phone rang. I burst into tears and told the waitress I had received a piece of news and that I had to leave. She told me she was sorry and I said “no, it’s good!” I went straight home. It’s unreal.



Tom
April 18, 2011, 10:32 pm
Unless she had a late lunch, it sounds like she found out before the 3:00 announcement. ???
Kris
April 19, 2011, 1:15 am
The two books were also compared in "The New Yorker," if you're interested in a similar article. By the way, are you still looking for a first edition of "The Lotus Eaters," by Soli? I found one at one of my neighborhood bookstores, Mike? Can pick it up for you and send it, if you'd like.
Mike
April 19, 2011, 8:06 am
The story was posted online at 4:30 p.m. and in the interview she says she'd found out "20 minutes" ago, so knowing that the Pulitzer process, I'm guessing it was just a late lunch. A New York City lunch. Which allows me to vent my "east coast bias in literary fiction awards" complaint again. Jennifer Egan lives in Brooklyn and, according to the Wikipedia description of the book, "Many of the stories take place in or around NYC" (though some are set in CA and overseas). Chang-rae Lee lives and teaches in New Jersey (Princeton), raised in Westchester County NY, and The Surrendered takes place in NYC (when the narrative is not overseas). Jonathan Dee is a staff writer for the NY Times Magazine and teaches in the graduate writing program at Columbia in NYC. The Priveleges takes place in NYC. The fact that NYC is the hub of commercial publishing makes it inevitable that many books will be set there and that the major writers will live there. Of course, the offices/locations of the major awards are also east coast (PEN is in DC, NBF in NYC, NBCC in NYC, Pulitzer awarded by Columbia University in NYC). In any case, it sure feels like books set in NYC win a disproportionate number of the literary awards. There are plenty of award winners set elsewhere, of course--Lord of Misrule this year for one, but still...

Not to impugn The Privileges any, but though it was a good book, I have a hard time swallowing that it was one of the three most distinguished works of fiction this year. Does Dee's link with Columbia seem like a slight conflict of interest to anyone else? Just mentioning it, not really making a case for it. Dee's an excellent writer and hopefully this portends great things for him. Time to stock up on his early books before they get priced out of reach!

Maybe I just need another cup of coffee this morning :-)
Mike
April 19, 2011, 8:20 am
I think it was the New Yorker review I was thinking about in the first place! Thanks for the nice offer of The Lotus Eaters. Now that the award season is over and Lotus Eaters didn't win anything big, I'll just keep an eye out for it at my used bookstore circuit, I'm sure I'll run into it at some point.

In addition to collecting firsts/ARCs of Pultizer winners, I try to pick up the firsts/ARCs of Pultizer finalists as well. I had a signed first of The Privileges and an uncorrected proof of it (the uncorrected proof is one of the Random House proofs with the blue and white cover design). I don't think there's an ARC for The Privileges with wrappers that look like the dustjacket of the hardcover. I also had a signed first of The Surrendered as well as a signed tipped-in page version of The Surrendered, and ARCs (with the wrapper the same as the DJ of the hardcovers) still pretty easy to find online now. I don't know if there's a true Uncorrected Proof (e.g., cardstock instead of illustrated wrappers), though I doubt it because the ARC states Uncorrected Proof. Interestingly, I didn't locate a first edition of the Privileges anywhere online currenlty, so that one may be hard to find. I think there will be an adequate supply of firsts of Goon Squad, though Borders and Barnes and Nobles stores around here ran out of the first editions quite a while ago and what's on the shelf are later printings. But, I saw a couple of firsts of Goon Squad on the shelves at a Borders in Indianapolis last week, so they appear to still be out there, though there aren't that many being offered online and right now they're fetching a pretty penny, as might be suspected the day after the announcement. But, as I mentioned before, I've been looking for an ARC or uncorrected proof of Goon Squad since it was published, to no avail. There are none listed online now either, even at inflated prices. Seems odd for a major publisher release not to be able to find an ARC at all. I'd be interested if anyone else has seen one.

Speaking of ARCs, I picked up an ARC for Lord of Misrule recently. I wasn't sure any would surface. Interestingly enough, the ARC is identified as being published November 19, which was very close to the publication date for the hardcover, and states that the book has been nominated by McPherson for the National Book Award (nominated by McPherson, not nominated as a finalist).
Mike
April 19, 2011, 8:36 am
And, just an observation to those Pulitzer collectors like myself who collect not only the award-winning book but all of a Pulitzer author's books, the true first of Egan's first book, Emerald City (a short story collection), is the British first edition, which was published in 1993. The first US edition was published in 1996, after the publication of her first novel, The Invisible Circus, which came out in 1995.
Kris
April 19, 2011, 4:05 pm
Well, if it makes you feel better, none of this year's judges are from the Northeast. Alan Cheuse teaches at George Mason University in Virginia, Elizabeth Taylor is the literary editor for the Chicago Tribune, and Nicholas Delbanco is a professor at the University of Michigan.
Mike
April 19, 2011, 9:04 pm
I don't really feel all that strongly about that, truthfully, perhaps it was more of an observation. Probably just needed caffeine :-)
Mike
May 1, 2011, 10:01 am
And, just to wrap up the award season for books published in 2010, the LA Times Book Prizes were given out last Friday (it's the only major award to be given after the Pulitzers are announced), and it had a familiar ring to it... Egan's Visit From the Goon Squad won. By way of reminder, the finalists for this year were:

Nashville Chrome by Rick Bass
Something is Out There: Stories by Richard Bausch
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Day for Night by Frederick Reiken

All in all, Goon Squad won the Pulitzer, the LA Times Fiction Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and was a finalist for the PEN Faulkner.

Franzen's Freedom was also beat out in a slightly less prestigious award competition recently... the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. That award is given out by the British Literary magazine Literary Review, and the finalists for this year were:

"A Life Apart" by Neel Mukherjee
"Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen
"The Golden Mean" by Annabel Lyon
"Heartbreak" by Craig Raine
"Maya" by Alastair Campbell
"Mr. Peanut" by Adam Ross
"The Slap" by Christos Tsiolkas
"The Shape of Her" by Rowan Somerville

Somerville "won" for "The Shape of Her".

On to the 2012 Pulitzer awards!
brak
May 7, 2011, 11:35 pm
i have to say--i'm reading a visit from the goon squad now (finally gotten around to it)...the writing is solid, not inspiringly good (like paul harding's was), but dammit if this book isn't hitting me in just the right spot.

and some of these stories (chapters?) are pretty perfect. her ear for character and story is what won her all these prizes.

i intend to read chang ra lee's book next. it's nice to see him get a little more acclaim. he's a good writer.

i'm still surprised that freedom didn't manage to garner much of anything this year--though i'm starting to think that, while i must be forgiven the narcissistic implications of such a claim, if i predict a book of fiction to win something, it will not win a thing. hahahhaha...perhaps i should keep my speculations to myself from here on out. (though i did predict the non fiction winner, ahem.) ˘—˘
brak
May 7, 2011, 11:56 pm
While the Pulitzer does not dwell, Kris, on literary innovation too often--the award seems to have a soft spot for short stories...and recently we have seen a fair amount of "linked stories." While Egan's book feels more like a novel than it does linked stories, each chapter does feel like a short story that could stand on its own (even while it is far more powerful in the context of its fellow chapters). Had I read this novel prior to the pulitzer announcement, I think I would have given it my endorsement as a likely winner--because, while it is a very solid book (so far--still reading it), I could see the Pulitzer trend favoring it. =D
brak
May 7, 2011, 11:58 pm
http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/14/book-review-podcast-jennifer-egan-and-siddhartha-mukherjee/

This is an interview with both Jennifer Egan and Siddartha Mukherjee in the same forum. =) Enjoy, people.
Mike
May 8, 2011, 7:03 pm
I liked The Surrendered and was glad for Chang-rae Lee as well. I think I need to reread Goon Squad. I didn't understand that it was linked (somewhat) stories when I started reading it, and I read about 1/3 of it and then didn't pick it up again for around a month, so my response to it was that it felt disjointed... probably because I was thinking that I missed the plot line. I did like the writing, and, as I'd mentioned, Jennifer Egan was really interesting to listen to about her writing process and was a really nice person to chat with at the signing that followed, so I'm pleased for her. Perhaps with fresh eyes I'll appreciate Goon Squad more than I did the first time.

Well done on the non-fiction pick!