Who will be the 2012 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Fiction?


The Final Prediction List - March 29, 2012

The Pulitzer Prize for 2012 will be announced in April, 2012, and as we have done for the past four years, we will once again attempt to predict the winner for fiction. We are fortunate that for a fifth year, our research scientist and Modern Firsts/Pulitzer Prize Award Books Collector will conduct the same regression analysis and model that successfully predicted The 2011 Pulitzer Prize Winner.

Here is the Final Pulitzer Prize Prediction list, comprising 15 books that, according to our early regression model, are most likely to win the Pulitzer Prize for 2012. Please keep in mind that this is in no way intended to suggest that one of the listed books will absolutely win the Pulitzer. 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!

While this years analysis is using last years successful 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, be forewarned. No model can predict every possibility. Earlier models did not predict Paul Harding's Tinkers in 2010, and would certainly not have predicted the award to Jhumpa Lahiri for Interpreter of Maladies in 2000 or Richard Russo for Empire Falls in 2002. So there is always a chance that a winner will be a complete surprise.

So while we cannot guarantee the prize outcome, we can always count on insightful community discussions. As the saying goes - the journey is its own reward, and over our five-year history this has certainly been the case for this prediction area. The discussions about the books leading up to the announcement are always engaging and interesting.

Here is a our Final Pulitzer Prize Prediction List for 2012:
1.Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman
2.The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
3.The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
4.Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta
5.The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
6.Open City by Teju Cole
7.The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
7.Swamplandia by Karen Russell
9.The Angel Esmeralda by Don Delillo
9.The Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks
11.Say her Name by Francisco Goldman
12.Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson
13.The Tragedy of Author by Arthur Phillips
14.Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
15.Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

Note: There are two books tied for the 7th and 9th positions. Also, 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 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction:

Kris
April 12, 2011, 8:59 pm
So, let's start with a list of books to read/watch, perhaps? "Swamplandia" by Karen Russell, "The Tiger's Wife" by Tea Obreht, "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore" by Benjamin Hale, "When the Killing's Done" by T.C. Boyle, "West of Here" by Joanathan Evison, and "You Know When the Men are Gone" by Siobahn Fallon - those are my first five. Please add to the list!
Also, "The Pale King" by David Foster Wallace is being released on Friday, in case anyone forgot.
Mr. Benchly
April 13, 2011, 9:06 am
The Fates will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard
And in the Books Yet to be Published Department, there's also
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
For the 20 under 40 New Yorker fans, there's also The Free World, the first novel by Canadian author (and Pulitzer Prize ineligible) David Bezmozgis.
Mike
April 13, 2011, 6:08 pm
And ... Open City by Teju Cole, The Great Night by Chris Adrian (New Yorker 20 under 40), The Sweet Relief of Missing Children by Sarah Braunstein (NBA 5 under 35 winner) Rodin's Debutante by Ward Just The Astral by Kate Christensen (won the PEN Faulkner) State of Wonder by Ann Patchett A Small Hotel by Robert Olen Butler The Girl in a Green Beret by Bobbie Ann Mason We Others by STeven Millhauser Train Dreams by Denis Johnson I Married you for Happiness by Lily Tuck Nightwoods by Charles Fraizer Ed King by David Guterson Ghost Lights by Lydia Millet Zone One by Colson Whitehead (though this looks rather science-fictiony, so maybe not). ALl the Time in the World by E.L. Doctorow
I read Teju Cole's book (Open City). It's a debut novel and is very well written. It reminds me of Denaw Mengestu's How to Read the Air. Oddly enough, I usually like books that are more plot driven and between Open City and How to Read the Air, the latter had more of a plot. Open City, though, is just so well written that I ended up liking it more. One blurb on the cover talks about how intelligent the book was, and it was at that... and maybe too much so... it almost seemed obscure facts about music, art, or science were inserted just to show how intelligently written it was. But, I'd recommend the read and wouldn't be surprised to see it on "best of" lists at the end of the year.
paul
April 13, 2011, 11:53 pm
Does anybody know anything about the upcoming book "Nightwoods" by Charles Frazier? He's one of my favorite authors.
Kris
April 14, 2011, 4:43 am
What do you make of Denis Johnson's "Train Dreams," which is being published later this year? It's a novella that has already been published internationally (Paris Review) and won an O. Henry Prize (2003). Should we take it off the list, then?
Jake D.
April 14, 2011, 10:07 am
Russell Banks also has a new novel coming out in September: "Lost Memory of Skin."
paul
April 14, 2011, 11:21 am
Does anyone know anything about the Charles Frazier book that's supposed to come out later this year?
Mike
April 14, 2011, 2:57 pm
I didn't realize that! The fact that it's been published internationally before obviously doesn't eliminate it from the Pulitzer (think Stone Diaries), but the fact that its a novella would seem to make it unlikley, though I don't think there are any limits with regard to length, are there? But, doesn't sound like a very strong candidate.
Joel
April 14, 2011, 7:13 pm
The novella part doesn't matter due to "The Old Man and the Sea" winning, which is barely 125 pages long. I'm not sure, though, how it will fair but I wouldn't rule it out just yet.
Bradley
April 14, 2011, 7:37 pm
Good mentions. I think "The Tiger's Wife" is the early front-runner. The dream-like structure, voice, and tone are incredible. "Swamplandia" is good, too, but I don't think it's as good as Obreht's novel.
Bradley
April 14, 2011, 7:40 pm
I think Whitehead's "Zone One" is the one to watch. It's scheduled for mid-October.
Kris
April 14, 2011, 9:08 pm
See, that's the problem. It's a novella, yes, but one of decent length - 128 pages in the edition being published this year. Also, it's really, really good, a magical realist epitaph for the American values that were subsumed by westward expansion. Fits all of the typical Pulitzer criteria: Episodic prose, stark imagery, and encapsulation of conflicting American values that lingers into the present. That said, it was published in Paris Review (2002), then in book form internationally (2006, Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verla). More to the point, it won an O. Henry Prize in 2003 - and American literary award given to exceptional short stories published in American and Canadian magazines/journals. The Paris Review, it should be noted, is an American journal, published out of New York. The question, then, is this: Is a work that has previously been published internationally eligible for the Pulitzer, IF it has also been awarded an American literary prize PRIOR to the year in which it would normally be eligible?
Mr. Benchly
April 15, 2011, 8:33 am
Is it too soon to start a 2013 prediction page? :)
Kris
April 15, 2011, 3:51 pm
Did you have something in mind or are you contending that my request for an '12 page was premature, since it's only four months into the year?
Mr. Benchly
April 15, 2011, 9:21 pm
Neither. I was just teasing us all for acting like school kids who can't wait for Christmas morning to come. I'm so excited for Monday's announcement and I already can't wait for next year's announcement.
Mike
April 16, 2011, 9:13 am
Kris, as you know, the Pulitzer Prize Award Guidelines take a pretty minimalist approach and don't mention anything much other than published in the United States during the past year by an American Author, along with the preference for books about American life. I'm guessing that the fact that Dream Train won an O. Henry Prize itself isn't a disqualifier. It's interesting that it was given that award, which as you note is for short stories. I went to Harry Kloman's Pulitzer Prize Thumbnails Project website (http://www.pitt.edu/~kloman/pulitzerindex.html), which provides all sorts of interesting facts and tidbits about Pulitzer winners, to see what the shortest Pulitzer winner was, but Joel beat me to it--The Old Man and the Sea clocked in at 140 pages in the first edition. Amazon.com lists Train Dreams as 128 pages in the hardcover edition. Here's the description of Train Dreams:
"Robert Grainer is a day laborer in the American West at the start of the twentieth century—an ordinary man in extraordinary times. Buffeted by the loss of his family, Grainer struggles to make sense of this strange new world. As his story unfolds, we witness both his shocking personal defeats and the radical changes that transform America in his lifetime.
Suffused with the history and landscapes of the American West—its otherworldly flora and fauna, its rugged loggers and bridge builders—the new novella by the National Book Award-winning author of Tree of Smoke captures the disappearance of a distinctly American way of life."
Since the O.Henry nod suggests it is well written, and the content seems on target, Pulitzer-wise, sounds like it should stay in consideration. At least it will be an easy read!
Mike
April 16, 2011, 9:24 am
Paul, here's what little I know: "The Random House Publishing Group said Tuesday that "Nightwoods" will be released in October. The novel takes place in rural North Carolina in the 1950s and tells of a young woman who cares for her murdered sister's twins." And, from Frazier's agent's website "Charles Frazier puts his remarkable gifts in the service of a lean, taut narrative while at the same time losing none of the transcendent prose, virtuosic storytelling, and insights into human nature which have made him one of the most beloved and celebrated authors in the world. Now, he evokes the rich Appalachian landscape in this brilliant portrait of a solitary young woman who inherits her murdered sister's troubled twins. While Luce lives alone with the children in an abandoned lodge, struggling to understand their complex needs, a man named Stubblefield comes into her life. After years of isolation, Luce begins to awaken to him and the children. Meanwhile, her sister’s husband and murderer, Bud, begins a chilling search for the cache of stolen money he is convinced may be hidden with the twins. Frazier is known for his historical literary odysseys, and for making his figures from the past come vividly to life. His depictions of the self-protective Luce, rootless but intriguing Stubblefield, menacing and unpredictable Bud, and particularly the eerie, introverted twins will take their place among Frazier's previous timeless classics."
Sounds pretty different from Cold Mountain!
Mike
April 16, 2011, 9:28 am
I think this is the most interesting of the upcoming books! I am a big Colson Whitehead fan and thought John Henry Days was great. He's also an amusing person to follow on Twitter! Here's the description of Zone One from Amazon.com:
"In this wry take on the post-apocalyptic horror novel, a pandemic has devastated the planet. The plague has sorted humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead.
Now the plague is receding, and Americans are busy rebuild­ing civilization under orders from the provisional govern­ment based in Buffalo. Their top mission: the resettlement of Manhattan. Armed forces have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street—aka Zone One—but pockets of plague-ridden squatters remain. While the army has eliminated the most dangerous of the infected, teams of civilian volunteers are tasked with clearing out a more innocuous variety—the “malfunctioning” stragglers, who exist in a catatonic state, transfixed by their former lives.
Mark Spitz is a member of one of the civilian teams work­ing in lower Manhattan. Alternating between flashbacks of Spitz’s desperate fight for survival during the worst of the outbreak and his present narrative, the novel unfolds over three surreal days, as it depicts the mundane mission of straggler removal, the rigors of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, and the impossible job of coming to grips with the fallen world.
And then things start to go wrong.
Both spine chilling and playfully cerebral, Zone One bril­liantly subverts the genre’s conventions and deconstructs the zombie myth for the twenty-first century. "
Had The Road not won the Pulitzer, I might dismiss it as being off-kilter, content-wise, but heck, a genre bending literary novel isn't out of the question (e.g. Michael Chabon), so who knows! I'm looking forward to reading it as well.
Mike
April 16, 2011, 9:31 am
Mr. B., I know you were joking... but, there are at least three books that I know of that we should watch for the 2013 (published in 2012) Pulitzer... Michael Chabon's "Telegraph Avenue," Lionel Shriver's "The New Republic"," and Adam Levin's "Hot Pink." Any of these might be a late 2011 publication, but seem more likley for an early 2012 publication. But, I've got an awful lot of 2011 books to read first :-)
paul
April 16, 2011, 11:42 am
Thanks Mike! I've read Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons and I loved both of these books, especially Cold Mountain. I agree, this next book sounds quite a bit different from Cold Mountain. Thanks again for the information.
Mike
April 17, 2011, 9:07 am
Thanks, not sure how I missed that. I wonder if Banks still has it in him. He's been a Pulitzer finalist twice (Continental Drift, Cloudsplitter) and I thought Affliction and The Sweet Hereafter were great, but IMHO, the novels he's written since Cloudsplitter have been pretty run-of-the-mill (The Darling, The Reserve). It's sort of like he put it all on the line for Cloudsplitter. But, recent novels aside, a new book by Banks will be one to watch.
Mike
April 17, 2011, 9:15 am
Noticed in today's book section of the paper that Madison Smartt Bell has a new novel out, The Color of Night. Interestingly enough, from what I can tell, it's being released in trade paperback and not hardcover. That can't be very good news for Bell. Anyone have any thoughts on his chances? I've picked up firsts of his books over the years, but they never seem to be visible during the awards season (with the exception of 1996's All Souls Rising, which was both a PEN/Faulkner and a NBA finalist). I haven't read anything by him, but many of the reviews I've read of his books suggest he may suffer (award-worthiness-wise) a bit from JC Oates syndrome... not in the sense of being overly productive, but in the sense of dealing too often with the macabre and with dark subjects. Any thoughts from anyone? If I read one of his books, which should I start with? All Souls Rising?
Kris
April 18, 2011, 12:38 am
Does "published during the past year" refer to the work or the book? In this case, we're talking about two different things, since the work was published in 2003. If the book isn't substantially different, I wonder if it would still qualify. Ah, we'll both get signed firsts anyway, I'm sure, but it makes for an interesting discussion topic, no?
Mike
April 18, 2011, 7:34 am
The guidelines actually state "first published in the United States during YEAR". So, the question is, does that mean "FIRST published in the United States" or "first published in the UNITED STATES"! That is, is it the U.S. publication that matters? That was the case with Stone Diaries, which appeared a full year earlier in the UK and Canada before its US publication. With Katherine Anne Porter's Collected Stories, the book was published a year earlier in the UK, but the US edition had three additional stories, and so wasn't the same book, technically. But, of course, the rub in this case is that Train Dreams was first published as a short story. But, it will be first published as a "book" in the US in 2011, so my bet is that its eligible!
Mike
April 18, 2011, 9:34 am
October 2011 is shaping up to be a big month for Pulitzer-caliber releases. The aforementioned new book by Russel Banks is listed on the Library Journal PrePub Alert as being an October release. In addition, the following, which we've touched on already, are scheduled for October:
Eugenides, Jeffrey “The Marriage Plot”, October 2011 Farrar Frazier, Charles “Nightwoods” October 2011 Guterson, David “Ed King” October 2011 Millet, Lydia “Ghost Lights” Norton October 2011 Whitehead, Colson “Zone One” Doubleday October 11
Plus, William Kennedy has a new book out in October, titled “Chango’s Beads and Two-tone Shoes” to be published by Viking. Here's the PrePub alert description:
Here’s an unbeatable set-up. Pulitzer Prize winner and MacArthur Fellow Kennedy, who gave us Ironweed and the rest of the great “Albany Cycle,” puts journalist Daniel Quinn (not of his Quinn’s Book) in the Floridita bar in 1957 Havana, where he meets Ernest Hemingway. It’s the start of something good: a novel that runs riot from Cuba (with Castro on the rise) through good reporters, bad politicians, and drug-running gangsters, to race riots in Albany as Robert Kennedy’s assassination looms. Even Bing Crosby makes an appearance. Kennedy’s first in a decade should be pretty amazing; with a six-city tour.
Here's the same sources description of Banks' The Memory of Skin:
Out on probation after having had sex with an underage girl, a young man known only as the Kid ends up camping under a causeway with other sex offenders. There he meets the Professor, a university sociologist doing a little research. Since the author of The Sweet Hereafter never writes easy-answer novels, you can bet that the relationship between these two characters will be morally tough and ambiguous. Lots of in-house enthusiasm, as evidenced by the 50,000-copy first printing and a ten-city tour to Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC, and upon request.
Kris
April 19, 2011, 4:29 am
I tend to agree with your analysis of Bank - "Cloudsplitter" was amazing (and is taught in many colleges), but his post-Cloudsplitter work has been less satisfying. At least the premise sounds promising.
Eric B
April 19, 2011, 11:01 pm
wow i'm surprised that's his new book. I don't mean this in too negative a way, but that zombie stuff is pretty played out.
Mike
May 1, 2011, 10:09 am
Another book to add to the watch list for the 2012 Pulitzer, Ha Jin's new novel, Nanjing Requiem, to be published in October. Here's the Library Journal PrePub Alert description:
"In 1937, as the Japanese were preparing to invade Nanjing, American missionary Minnie Vautrin stuck to her post as dean of Jinling Women’s College, naively assuming that she could use her nationality to protect herself and her students and colleagues from harm. Now the college is a refugee camp swarming with 10,000 people, which Minnie tries to manage while mourning those she cannot save. Since Ha Jin won the National Book Award for Waiting, his writing keeps opening up like a big, beautiful fan; this book sounds as far-reaching as anything he has ever written. And even bolder about looking into last century’s heart of darkness."
Mike
May 2, 2011, 5:18 pm
I just read about a book that's being touted by the Book Passage book store in California, A Moment in the Sun by John Sayles:
About A Moment in the Sun:
"In 2009, the Los Angeles Times reported that Sayles, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker and award-winning novelist, was having a hard time getting a new book deal. No publisher wanted to touch Sayles' massive historical tome about racism and the dawn of U.S. imperialism. Sayle's agent had sent the book to a number of publishers who passed, in part, because of the gloomy state of the economy. But Dave Eggers, the writer and San Francisco publisher of McSweeney's books, purchased Sayle's book and has now published it in an exquisite edition (for which McSweeney's has become so well known). Weighing in at nearly 1,000 pages, this literary behemoth recalls E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime, Pynchon's Against the Day, and Dos Passos's USA trilogy, tracking mostly unconnected characters whose collective stories create a vast, kaleidoscopic panorama of the turn of the last century. One McSweeney's editor said the novel "felt like equal parts Doctorow and Deadwood."
Sayles was a NBA and NBCC finalist for Union Dues (1977).
Might be something to keep an eye on.
dc
May 6, 2011, 12:55 am
'the tragedy of arthur' by arthur phillips. that's my winning pick.
Mike
May 17, 2011, 12:12 pm
The Mann Booker International Prize nominees have been selected. Here's the AP report on that:
"NEW YORK (AP) — “Ragtime” novelist E.L. Doctorow and Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul were among the 14 finalists announced Wednesday for the Man Booker International Prize, given every two years for lifetime achievement by a fiction writer who writes in English or whose work is widely available in English translation.
The list included three Americans — Doctorow, Joyce Carol Oates and Evan. S. Connell, author of the novels “Mr. Bridge” and “Mrs. Bridge.” Naipaul is a native of Trinidad who lives in England.
The prize is worth around $85,000 and the winner will be announced in May.
Also cited were Australia’s Peter Carey, Mahasweta Devi of Bangladesh, Scottish author James Kelman, Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru, Arnost Lustig of Czech Republic, Canadian short story writer Alice Munro, Italy’s Antonio Tabucchi, Kenyan Ngugi Wa Thiong’O, Dubravka Ugresic of Croatia and Ludmila Ulitskaya of Russia.
Previous winners of the prize, founded in 2004, are Ismail Kadare of Albania and Nigerian author Chinua Achebe."
Technically, of course, as the PPrize.com discussants learned last year, there are four Americans on that list... Peter Carey apparently has US citizenship, as he was a finalist for the National Book Award this past year!
Mike
May 18, 2011, 12:11 pm
Okay, now I'm officially confused. Here is a report from the Guardian announcing that Philip Roth has been awarded the Mann Booker International Prize. He wasn't in the previous story I posted. I'm guessing I got the wrong year with the first posting. Here's the report on Roth's win:
Philip Roth wins Man Booker International prize Philip Roth, chronicler of 'the sexually liberated Jew in postwar America', beats stellar shortlist to take the fourth Man Booker International prize
Alison Flood guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 18 May 2011 08.01 BST Philip Roth, giant of American letters, has won the 2011 Man Booker International award.
The author, a perennial contender for the Nobel prize in literature, was named winner of the Man Booker International at the Sydney Writers' Festival today, beating a stellar, if eclectic, shortlist. Also in the running were the British children's author Philip Pullman, award-winning Chinese writer Su Tong, American authors Anne Tyler and Marilynne Robinson, Australia's David Malouf and a reluctant John le Carré, who had asked – unsuccessfully – for his name to be withdrawn from contention.
Announcing the winner, Rick Gekoski, chair of the judges, said that for 50 years, Roth's books have "stimulated, provoked and amused an enormous, and still expanding, audience".
"His imagination has not only recast our idea of Jewish identity, it has also reanimated fiction, and not just American fiction, generally," said Gekoski. "His career is remarkable in that he starts at such a high level, and keeps getting better. In his 50s and 60s, when most novelists are in decline, he wrote a string of novels of the highest, enduring quality. Indeed, his most recent, Nemesis (2010), is as fresh, memorable, and alive with feeling as anything he has written. His is an astonishing achievement."
Roth thanked the judges for awarding him "this esteemed prize". "One of the particular pleasures I've had as a writer is to have my work read internationally, despite all the heartaches of translation that that entails," he said. "I hope the prize will bring me to the attention of readers around the world who are not familiar with my work. This is a great honour and I'm delighted to receive it."
Full URL: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/may/18/philip-roth-wins-man-booker-international
Mike
May 18, 2011, 12:17 pm
Okay, my bad. The original post was in relation to the 2009 Mann Booker International Prize shortlist. This year's list (http://www.themanbookerprize.com/prize/mbi-thisyear/mbi-shortlist) included three American authors... Roth (who won it, though not without controversy... see http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/may/18/judge-quits-philip-roth-booker?CMP=twt_gu, Judge withdraws over Philip Roth's Booker winCarmen Callil retires from panel after decision to give award to writer whose work she considers a case of 'Emperor's clothes'), Marilynne Robinson, and Anne Tyler.
Gregg
May 20, 2011, 8:14 am
Oh, but Mike, you left out (perhaps intentionally?) the dissenting judge's soundbite heard 'round the (literary) world:
"[H]e goes on and on and on about the same subject in almost every single book. It's as though he's sitting on your face and you can't breathe."
And:
"I don't rate him as a writer at all. ... Roth goes to the core of their [the other judges'] beings. But he certainly doesn't go to the core of mine ... Emperor's clothes: in 20 years' time will anyone read him?"
Given that his works from the 60s are still in print and he is the only living writer to be published by a prestigious imprint, I'd say the answer is probably "yes," he will be read. All this sounds like the plot from a Philip Roth novel.
Gregg
May 20, 2011, 8:15 am
Oh, but Mike, you left out (perhaps intentionally?) the dissenting judge's soundbite heard 'round the (literary) world:
"[H]e goes on and on and on about the same subject in almost every single book. It's as though he's sitting on your face and you can't breathe."
And:
"I don't rate him as a writer at all. ... Roth goes to the core of their [the other judges'] beings. But he certainly doesn't go to the core of mine ... Emperor's clothes: in 20 years' time will anyone read him?"
Given that his works from the 60s are still in print and he is the only living writer to be published by a prestigious imprint, I'd say the answer is probably "yes," he will be read. All this sounds like the plot from a Philip Roth novel.
Gregg
May 20, 2011, 8:25 am
Oh, but Mike, you left out (perhaps intentionally?) the dissenting judge's soundbite heard 'round the (literary) world:
"[H]e goes on and on and on about the same subject in almost every single book. It's as though he's sitting on your face and you can't breathe."
And:
"I don't rate him as a writer at all. ... Roth goes to the core of their [the other judges'] beings. But he certainly doesn't go to the core of mine ... Emperor's clothes: in 20 years' time will anyone read him?"
Given that his works from the 60s are still in print and he is the only living writer to be published by a prestigious imprint, I'd say the answer is probably "yes," he will be read. All this sounds like the plot from a Philip Roth novel.
Mike
May 20, 2011, 11:09 am
I know, what a hoot! The "sitting on your face" comment in the context of Roth's themes of sex and Judaism (from a piece discussing this from The Economist at http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2011/05/literary_prizes) seems either intentionally insulting or hilariously ignorant! It does sound like a plot from one of his novels, maybe it will be his next book!
Mike
May 20, 2011, 12:41 pm
I know that there are mixed opinions about the quality of John Irving's writing, but he's been a favorite of mine for years, and A Prayer for Owen Meany and Ciderhouse Rules are two of my favorite novels, so I was interested in this announcement from Publisher's Weekly:
http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/industry-deals/article/47238-karp-poaches-john-irving-from-random-house.html
"In a major coup for Jonathan Karp at Simon & Schuster, the publisher has signed John Irving to a two-book deal, poaching the bestselling author from Random House. Karp has been reorganizing the flagship imprint since he took control of it in June, replacing David Rosenthal, and the deal with Irving marks one of his flashiest acquisitions since taking the reins.
Through the deal, which was brokered by Dean Cooke of the Canadaian-based Cooke Agency (handling on behalf of Irving's wife/agent, Janet Turnbull, at the Turnbull Agency), S&S will release Irving's next novel, In One Person, in June 2012 with a second book tentatively scheduled for 2015.
In One Person, which is narrated by a bisexual man, marks the author's first work done in first person since 1989's A Prayer for Owen Meany (which was originally published by William Morrow). S&S said the book marks a return to the sexual themes Irving famously explored in The World According to Garp and that the work is also the author's "most political" since his 1985 novel, which dealt with abortion, The Cider House Rules. Karp added that In One Person is "both timeless and deeply relevant to our times." Karp also noted that publishing Irving is "a privilege I have dreamed of since I was a young Random House editor and was introduced to John by his first editor, Joe Fox."
Mike
May 23, 2011, 5:00 pm
Okay, I finished David Foster Wallace's The Pale King. I had read DFW's book of essays, A Supposedly Funny Think I'll Never Do Again, and really liked a number of those. I've not read Infinite Jest (it and Don Delillo's Underworld haunt me as books that I want/need to read, but their bulk discourages me). I ended up liking Pale King quite a lot, but it's unlike any other work of fiction I've read, so I don't know how to evaluate it. At times, the writing is brilliant. At times, the "plot" is so non-existent as to create confusion. The best I can do with regard to reviewing it is to say that it felt like a series of riffs (some very long). I have no clue how it will do in the awards, but I'm now even more compelled to read Infinite Jest.
I'm 3/4 of my way through Geraldine Brooks' Caleb's Crossing and just started Jonathan Evison's West of Here, so more later. Anyone else reading anything that might make end-of-year-award appearances?
brak
May 24, 2011, 3:08 am
and eugenides' new book, ahem
Mike
May 24, 2011, 3:42 pm
It's BEA (Book Expo of America) time again. The "BookExpo Buzz" books from last year's BEA were West of Here by Jonathan Evison and The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale, both which are out this year and eligible for the upcoming awards season. I've just started reading West of Here, so more on that later. But, the Wall Street Journal has a report on the "BookExpo Buzz" books this year:
http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2011/05/23/six-books-look-to-build-buzz-at-bookexpo-america/
"These six books, which will all be released in the fall or winter, were introduced by their respective editors to a crowd of booksellers, agents, and librarians:
“The Art of Fielding,” by Chad Harbach. Introduced by Michael Pietsch, vice president and publisher of Little, Brown, who said the novel is about baseball, but also, “perfection, striving, and youth.” “The Art of Fielding” seemed the most in demand at the galley tables afterward – as soon as a pile was unloaded, the copies flew.
“The Night Circus,” by Erin Morgenstern. Alison Callahan, executive editor at Doubleday, was the next most effusive editor to sell her book, after Pietsch. Her descriptions of the book’s fanciful circus settings were delightful, and I found her pitch to be the most captivating.
“Running the Rift,” by Naomi Benaron. What caught my attention in this discussion was when Kathy Pories, senior editor at Algonquin, compared this novel to Rohinton Mistry’s masterpiece, “A Fine Balance” (a personal favorite). She said that in the same way Mistry uses the four characters living in the apartment to tell the broader story of India during Partition, Benaron uses her character, a Rwandan boy, to tell the story of the Rwandan genocide.
“We the Animals,” by Justin Torres. I had received an advanced reader copy of “We the Animals” a couple weeks prior to BEA, and am already halfway through. It is a slim novel with brief chapters, each a vignette. Aside from “The Art of Fielding,” this novel may be the most buzzed-about book of all the others on the panel. Jenna Johnson, senior editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, accurately described it as “visceral,” memorable for how it makes you feel rather than what happens.
“Birds of Paradise,” by Diana Abu-Jaber. Alane Salierno Mason, vice president and senior editor at W.W. Norton, gushed over the novel’s handling of “the three most important things: family, food, and real estate.” This story, about a multicultural family broken apart by a daughter’s decision to run away, takes place in contemporary Miami.
“The Underside of Joy,” by Sere Prince Halverson. Denise Roy, senior editor at Dutton, described the author’s process in writing the book, how she lived in a cabin on a Russian river and became immersed in the world of her characters. The novel is about step-motherhood and a family’s painful history.
Mike
May 31, 2011, 3:58 pm
I finished Geraldine Brooks' new book, Caleb's Crossing. The NY Times review compared the novel to Brooks' first venture into fiction, Year of Wonder, which was set in the 17th century in England, with the story (centered around how this village dealt with the coming of the plague) narrated by a young servant girl. Caleb's Crossing, too, is set in the 17th Century, though on Martha's Vineyard (where Brooks and her family live), and is narrated by a young girl/woman, Bethia, from whose POV the story of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauck, the first member of the Wampanoag tribe (from Martha's Vineyard) to graduate from Harvard. The Times review and every review I've read raves about Brooks' capacity to capture the voice/language of a 17th Century girl/young woman as what makes the book work, and I agree. Brooks nails the dialogue... or seems to, since I'm not an expert in 17th century English usage! The underlying story of the true-to-life Caleb (about whom only sketchy information is known) was interesting, and one stays with the novel in large measure to see what happens to Caleb. The reviews I've read that were critical noted that the themes were pretty predictable (The USA Today reviewr said "Instead of immersing the reader in the complexity of the past, it features predictable themes like gender inequality (bad), religious intolerance (bad), racism (bad), Native American wisdom (good) and evil white men (guess)" (http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/reviews/2011-05-05-calebs-crossing_N.htm). I liked Year of Wonder better, but enjoyed Caleb's Crossing. I think it will show up on some end-of-year best of lists, though I don't think it's original enough to make much of a dent in the various award circuits. If you have a chance to see Geraldine Brooks on her author tour, do so, she's an engaging speaker (and, I would add, a generous signer!)
Kris
June 15, 2011, 9:36 pm
In case anyone is curious, Colum McCann's 'Let the Great World Spin' has won the IMPAC award, the world's richest literary prize: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/06/15/ap/extras/main20071446.shtml.
Mike
June 16, 2011, 2:26 pm
I saw that, and my first thought was that was an awfully late award! Great World won the NBA for books published in 2009. Presuming the IMPAC is annual, why are they announcing the winner from books published in 2009 in mid 2011? So, I went to the IMPAC website and here's the criteria:
In summary form, in order to be eligible for consideration for the 2011 Award a novel must have been: first published in English between 1st January 2009 and 31st December 2009, both dates inclusive, or first published in a language other than English between 1st January 2005 and 31st December 2009 and first published in English translation between 1st January 2009 and 31st December 2009 (all dates inclusive). Nomination forms and the full rules and conditions for the 2011 Award are sent to all participating libraries and publishers.
So, that means that Freedom can still win a big prize :-)
brak
June 17, 2011, 2:17 pm
ten thousand saints by eleanor henderson sounds promising to me!
brak
June 18, 2011, 1:40 am
don't miss "underworld"...it's wonderful!
Gregg
June 19, 2011, 10:06 am
I just finished Franzen's two books of essays -- "How to Be Alone" and "The Discomfort Zone." There are several pieces that offer fascinating, autobiographical insights and that cast the central characters from "Freedom" and "The Corrections" in an illuminating, authorial light. Highly recommended for Franzen fans.
Gregg
June 19, 2011, 10:07 am
I just finished Franzen's two books of essays -- "How to Be Alone" and "The Discomfort Zone." There are several pieces that offer fascinating, autobiographical insights and that cast the central characters from "Freedom" and "The Corrections" in an illuminating, authorial light. Highly recommended for Franzen fans.
Gregg
June 19, 2011, 10:07 am
I just finished Franzen's two books of essays -- "How to Be Alone" and "The Discomfort Zone." There are several pieces that offer fascinating, autobiographical insights and that cast the central characters from "Freedom" and "The Corrections" in an illuminating, authorial light. Highly recommended for Franzen fans.
Paul
June 27, 2011, 5:12 pm
Has anyone read "Unsaid" by Neil Abramson. Debut novel it is, and might have a pretty good shot.
brak
July 5, 2011, 9:53 am
hey, kris and mike, i have found signed copies--not first editions--of tinkers...interested?
Mike
July 11, 2011, 6:40 pm
I plan to... I just need to buckle down and do it!
Mike
July 11, 2011, 6:46 pm
Front page of the NY Times Book Review says something. Certainly worth watching. Nice write up about it on The Millions website http://www.themillions.com/2011/07/the-millions-interview-eleanor-henderson.html.
Mike
July 11, 2011, 6:47 pm
I'm set for that, found a signed later printing at a library book store! Thanks much.
Mike
July 11, 2011, 6:53 pm
I've read, on and off, pieces from both of those, and I agree, pretty entertaining, particulalry the essay in How to Be Alone that explains why he responded in the way he did to the Oprah Book Club! There's a great video of Franzen at the PEN World Voices Festival talking about the dangers of using your own life in your writing: http://www.fsgworkinprogress.com/2011/05/jonathan-franzen-at-the-pen-world-voices-festival/. It's very funny and, I think, illustrates that his literary bad boy reputation to the contrary, Franzen is basically ill at ease with having to be a public figure... an issue that came out in the essay in Alone as well.
While you're there, there is a video of Jeffrey Eugenides talking about his new book, The Marriage Plot, at BookExpo in NYC: http://www.fsgworkinprogress.com/2011/06/jeffrey-eugenides-on-the-marriage-plot/
Mike
July 11, 2011, 6:55 pm
It's getting good ratings from the Goodreads crowd (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9628203-unsaid). Have you read it Paul? I'd be interested in your opinion.
Mike
July 11, 2011, 7:07 pm
Okay, I finished Jonathan Evison's West of Here, which got a lot of buzz at last year's BEA. I liked to book quite a bit, not the least because it can really be funny. The NY Times review wasn't all that kind to it, though, decrying its lack of focus on or committment to a particular plot issue. On the other hand, Ron Charles, the Washington Post reviewer, raved over it. There are a host of characters and the story jumps between the 1800s and current times and it can get confusing. The LA Times critic noted that some of the characters are overly sterotypical (goodhearted prostitute, wise Native American leader). I think it will make some end-of-year lists, but probably won't show up in any of the award nominations, but seems like Evison is someone to keep an eye on. I met him at a book signing in Austin Texas and he was very amusing... and he brought his own beer to the signing and handed it out!
I am reading Benjamin Hale's The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore (also got a lot of buzz at last year's BEA) and listening to Karen Russell's Swamplandia!, so will update that when I finish them.
Mike
July 21, 2011, 7:17 pm
Finished Swamplandia!. Briliiantly written, and gushing reviews. I liked it, but when the story turned dark toward the end ... no spoilers, but you'll know it when you get there, I thought it had taken a turn that was too dark and became annoyed with the narrator's father, particularly, for putting his daughter in, or letting his daughter, get into a risky situation. The story is driven too much by ghosts and their pursuit/discussion. Russell is someone to watch, certainly, and Swamplandia has its moments. I'm sure it will be on "best of the year" lists, and it strikes me as a NBA finalist kind of book... we'll see.
Mr. Benchly
July 22, 2011, 3:09 pm
I just snagged an ARC of The Marriage Plot by Eugenides off of ebay for cheaper than cheap. Still not sure if the seller knew what he had. Anyway, copies are officially out there so keep your eyes open!
Mike
July 26, 2011, 11:19 am
The longlist for the Mann Booker prize was announced today:
Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending (Jonathan Cape - Random House) Sebastian Barry On Canaan's Side (Faber) Carol Birch Jamrach's Menagerie (Canongate Books) Patrick deWitt The Sisters Brothers (Granta) Esi Edugyan Half Blood Blues (Serpent's Tail - Profile) Yvvette Edwards A Cupboard Full of Coats (Oneworld) Alan Hollinghurst The Stranger's Child (Picador - Pan Macmillan) Stephen Kelman Pigeon English (Bloomsbury) Patrick McGuinness The Last Hundred Days (Seren Books) A.D. Miller Snowdrops (Atlantic) Alison Pick Far to Go (Headline Review) Jane Rogers The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Sandstone Press) D.J. Taylor Derby Day (Chatto & Windus - Random House)
I don't see any that might also contend for the Pulitzer, since Booker nominees have to be residents of the Commonwealth. But, surprises occur periodically... not sure if there are other examples, but I believe that Carol Shields was a Booker nominee and a Pulitzer winner for Stone Diaries because of her dual citizenship (US & Canada).
Mike
July 26, 2011, 11:20 am
I'm envious! I've been looking for one, to no avail so far. Good for you!
Michael
July 28, 2011, 1:13 pm
Mike I was checking out the longlist titles at Amazon and saw that The Sisters Brothers is set in Oregon/California during the 1850s and deWitt lives in Oregon
Mike
August 8, 2011, 9:24 pm
Here's an interview with Harold Augenbraum, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, which awards the National Book Award:
http://www.inreads.com/blog/2011/08/08/inside-the-national-book-awards%E2%80%94a-qa-with-harold-augenbraum/
In the interview, he mentioned that there were 311 novels nominated this year (nominations were due in June).
Mike
Mike
August 18, 2011, 12:09 pm
The finalists for the Francis College Literary Prize (I know, I hadn't heard of it either, but it's got a $50,000 prize!) were announced today. They are:
Kevin Brockmeier, The Illumination (Pantheon); Joshua Cohen, Witz (Dalkey Archive Press); Jonathan Dee, The Privileges (Random House); Yiyun Li, Gold Boy Emerald Girl (Random House); Marlene van Niekerk, Agaat (Tin House Books); and Brad Watson, Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives (W. W. Norton & Company).
Not sure what the criteria are, but I know the books by Dee, Li, and Watson were 2010 publications, so not viable for the 2012 Pulitzer. I'm assuming that's true for the others.
The winner will be announced at the opening gala for the Brooklyn Book Festival in September.
Mike
August 21, 2011, 4:34 pm
Well, retract my previous statement! You're right, deWitt would be eligible. Sounds like an interesting book. I note that it was published by Granta, so probably published first in the UK, and thus the Booker nomination. Amazon.com lists a hardcover version published by Ecco, but identifies it as a "Reprint Edition", giving credence to the Granta/first published in Britain idea.
Mike
August 21, 2011, 4:36 pm
By the way, I finally found a copy of the ARC for The Marriage Plot. Since I hadn't seen any others, I took a chance on one that was listed as very good, but it's basically new, so I lucked out and didn't pay all that much. I thought there'd be more ARCs from this book floating around (Middlesex had as many ARCs as 1st Editions, seems like!), but either people are hanging on to them or they didn't produce that many.
Jonathan
August 29, 2011, 10:08 pm
The Tiger's Wife is my favorite book of the year. But it won't win the Pulitzer. More often than not the book deals with American themes. The Tiger's Wife is ruled out because of that. Also, the committee seems to prefer sweeping narratives that cross many years. This is a bit of a generalization, but Middlesex, Kavailer and Clay, The Known World, Goon Squad, American Pastoral, all have this quality. Here is an interesting note: I saw Tea Obrect speak and she said that someone mentioned that they thought the action of The Tiger's Wife, minus flashbacks, took place over a single day. She said she barely realized that, but felt that the observation was correct.
Jonathan
August 29, 2011, 10:13 pm
I LOVED The Fates Will Find Their Way, but it's not "big" enough, in size and scope to win. And let's be honest: The books by Eugenides and Brooks will have to be AMAZING or there will have to be a dearth of other competitive books for the authors to win again. After all, the will have won only 6 and 9 years ago. The committee likes to spread the wealth, and let's remember, there have only been three multiple winners ever.
Jonathan
August 29, 2011, 10:16 pm
Bummer, it looks like that Pitt website is no longer available! :(
Jonathan
August 30, 2011, 3:02 am
This was a great first novel, but not good enough to be in the running for the Pulitzer. She might have a shot at one of the new comer awards PEN/Hemingway, PEN/Bingham, but I think Tea Obreht sweeps any awards for first time authors. Then again the choices for some of those awards in recently years have shy away from "anointed" stars in favor of others.
Bradley
September 5, 2011, 8:04 pm
The Art of Fielding seems to be getting some good marks. It's next on my reading list, after I wrap up Once Upon a River by Campbell. I have hopes for both of them...
Mr. Benchly
September 8, 2011, 10:34 am
As I walked through the depressing aisles of my local Borders the other day, I came across a book I had never heard of: Touch by Alexi Zentner. I don't judge a book by its cover but I do have a tendency to judge it by its endorsements. This one boasts endorsements from Tea Obreht and Philip Meyer, which made me curious. I can find all sorts of reviews calling the book "eerie" and "elegiac" and "stunning" and "provocative," but nevertheless, it doesn't feel like it's on anyone's radar. Is it simply because no one pays attentions to the Z section? Anyone know anything about this book or the author? Zentner appears to have dual citizenship (Canada/US), and he has won a handful of short fiction prizes, and so I'm wondering if he's someone we should watch. I'd be curious to hear others' thoughts.
Mike
September 8, 2011, 12:04 pm
You've got a good eye, Mr. B. "Touch" was the monthly selection for both the Book Passage signed First Edition club (immortalized by being one of two such clubs, Powell's being the other, that published hardback copies of Harding's Tinkers) and the Odyssey Bookshop signed first editions club. I definitely think it's one worth watching... I haven't read it yet, but it's on my "to read" list.
Mike
September 8, 2011, 12:13 pm
I've finished a couple of books that are getting some buzz and might show up at award time. I can't recall if I reported here that I'd finished Benjamin Hale's The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, but I did and I thought it was a hoot. It probably needed to be edited with a heavier hand, some of the devices used (the narrator is a talking Chimpanzee) become somewhat redundant, but all in all, I give it a thumbs up. The author really illustrates the importance of language to our "humanness". I don't really think it'll be a Pultzer book, though, in large measure because of the content. I also read Justin Torre's We The Animals. It's very, very well written. I thought the transition from the main part of the narrative (about three brothers during their rather rough childhood) to the coming of age portion was rather abrupt and too abbreviated, but all in all, very well done. I think it will be among the books we'll see nominated for prizes or recognition (best of lists). I'm reading Amy Waldman's The Submission, which is getting a lot of buzz as the next great 9/11 book, but just started that. I also read Robert Olen Butler's A Small Hotel. I liked it, it's a character study about a crumbling marriage. I liked it better than Louise Erdrich's Shadow Tag, which dealt with the same topic in a much "angrier" manner. This book reminds me of Michael Cunningham's book from last year... By Nightfall. It is well written, and sort of feels like a master of the art flexing his muscles. The storyline is pretty predictible, but Butler pulls it off by his ability to write compellingly and to make each character approachable, if not always likeable. It'll be among the 'best of' lists, and maybe Butler is due a PEN Faulkner nomination again...
Jonathan
September 11, 2011, 12:36 pm
I am very excited to read Nightwoods. It sounds like the kind of book that will appeal to the committee.
I have yet to read a book this year that I think is a *serious* contender. My two favorite reads of the year -- The Tiger's Wife and The Cat's Table -- both will not win. Ondaajte can't win due to citizenship. Obreht won't win because the book takes place completely outside the US, with all non-American characters. I don’t think that such a book has ever won.
I enjoyed Swamplandia!, The Fates Will Find Their Way, When the Killing is Done, Ten Thousand Saints, The Art of Fielding, and Once Upon a River, but none of them struck me, in style or content, as appealing to the Pulitzer committee. The closest contender of the group might be When the Killing is Done, but despite enjoying it, I actually decided it was not something that I needed in my library (not enough space!) and I chose to sell it to Powells’ for online credit! So, I am hoping it doesn’t win. Ha!
I am excited to read Eugenides and may also make time for Brooks, but let’s remember there have only been three multiple winners ever. Books of previous winners will have to really impress the committee in order to win. If it’s a close call between two books, I think they’d prefer to reward someone new.
One book I enjoyed this year, Remember Ben Clayton (by Stephen Harrigan [Knopf]) has gotten almost no buzz and didn’t get many national reviews – the piece in the New York Times was more a story about the book than a review – but I really enjoyed it. Something tells me it is the kind of book that could appeal to the committee, but books without early buzz rarely seem to make it though, even as finalists.
Mike
September 14, 2011, 12:45 pm
From the National Book Foundation newsletter:
2011 National Book Award Finalists to be Announced on Oregon Public Radio The twenty Finalists for the 62nd National Book Awards will be announced on Oregon Public Broadcasting's morning radio program, Think Out Loud, in front of a live audience at the new Literary Arts Center in Portland, Oregon from 9:06 to 9:59 a.m. PST on Wednesday, October 12. The announcement will also be streamed live on Oregon Public Broadcasting's website, www.opb.org. Past NBA Winners, Finalists, and Judges will announce this year's Finalists by category:
Virginia Euwer Wolff, National Book Award Winner in 2001, will announce the Young People's Literature Finalists. Vern Rutsala, National Book Award Finalist in 2005, will announce the Poetry Finalists. Sallie Tisdale, National Book Award Judge in 2010, will announce the Nonfiction Finalists. Charles Johnson, National Book Award Winner in 1990 and Judge in 1999 and 2009, will announce the Fiction Finalists.
Think Out Loud host David Miller will interview each of the four guests, as well as National Book Foundation Executive Director Harold Augenbraum, about their own National Book Award experiences.
For more information about the 2011 National Book Award Finalists Announcement, visit www.nationalbook.org.
brak
September 18, 2011, 3:33 pm
I picked up The Submission by Amy Waldman--it's getting great reviews.
Mike
September 28, 2011, 8:20 am
Once again, the British bettting house Ladbrokes has released its list of betting odds for the Nobel Prize for Literature, to be announced "some Thursday in October". The full list is at:
http://sports.ladbrokes.com/en-gb/awards/nobel-literature-prize/nobel-prize-literature-award-2011-e215370438
Thomas Pynchon is the highest ranked American author, coming in third at 10/1. Roth, McCarthy, Oates, and DeLillo all come in at 25/1. E.L. Doctorow is at 33/1, Paul Auster is at 66/1, Peter Carey (who we now know has US Citizenship) is at 80/1, and bringing up the rear, at 100/1 is, once again, Bob Dylan!
And, just in case betting on who wins isn't enogh, the odds for dates on which the announcement will be made are: Thursday, October 6: 6/4 Thursday, October 13: 4/6 Thursday, October 20: 6/1 Thursday, October 27: 15/1
Mike
October 3, 2011, 7:47 pm
And, to continue my apparant monologue (anyone else out there in Pulitzer Collecting Land?), the NY Times is reporting today that the Swedish Academy that awards the Nobel Prize for Literature will announce the winner this Thursday, October 6. One of my favorite websites, The Millions, has published an open letter to the Academy to award Philip Roth the Nobel prize before he dies:
http://www.themillions.com/2011/09/an-open-letter-to-the-swedish-academy.html
And, not to tie too close to the "before he dies" sentiment, but it's been a banner year for book readings/signing sessions with Pulitzer winning authors: I had the opportunity to listen to and have books signed by Toni Morrison, the last American to win the Nobel Prize, of course, as well as Robert Olen Butler, Jennifer Egan, Steven Millhauser, Larry McMurtry, Oscar Hijuelos, and William Kennedy!
Jonathan
October 5, 2011, 2:15 am
I posted a few thoughts as replies interspersed with other postings from earlier in the year, but they have not appeared...Are they are still waiting for a moderator or something?
Has anyone gotten through Nightwoods yet? Somehow, I (shamefully) never read Cold Mountain, so I am tackling it this week and moving on to Nightwoods after.
I have yet to read a book this year that knocked my socks off, is eligible for the prize AND would appeal to the committee.
My favorite books of the year -- The Tiger's Wife and The Cat's Table both won't win. Obreht's book won't because it takes place entirely outside the US with non-US characters. That won't fly with the committee. And Ondaatje, of course, is not eligible.
Another book I enjoyed, The Art of Fielding, has an outside chance, but I am not sure it stands up to the quality of recent winners.
N.
October 5, 2011, 11:02 pm
I'm currently reading an ARC of Nightwoods right now and will post my thoughts here after I've finished.
I've yet to read a book from this year's crop which stands out as an obvious Pulitzer contender to me. My favorites of the ten or so eligible books I've read are The Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks and Teju Cole's Open City.
As a new poster, I just want to say that in the past this board has turned me on to many excellent books. I'll be interested to hear everyone's thoughts in the coming months as they've had a chance to read through more of the books that interest them, and to share their thoughts and favorites.
Guy Fartenhopper
October 7, 2011, 11:00 am
i follow this board quite regularly, but though i have tried signing in under a variety of email personas, but alas the commenting interface rarely works for me, which disappoints me no end.
I'd say looking at my shelf, that Swamplandia!, the Art of Fielding, and Tiger's Wife all seem to meet the quality criteria. The NYT review of the new Eugenides doesn't inspire me. Ha Jin has an upcoming release.
I don't know to what extent the "Americanness" of a story factors into the decisions. I guess most past winners have strongly reflected this imperative, but The Road, for instance was only recognizable as an American tale to we pessimists/realists/recent visitors to Detroit.
One of my recent favorites was John Brandon's Citrus County (2010), which led me to speculate about the chances of other McSweeney's titles; John Sayles gigantic A Moment in the Sun might get considered, if ginormous books aren't filtered out by the committee.
Guy Fartenhopper
October 7, 2011, 11:01 am
I'm reading it right now and so far so good. I have found that the true first is the Canadian in any event, followed by the US and then the UK.
Guy Fartenhopper
October 7, 2011, 11:03 am
Mike sounds like you scored at the Brooklyn book festival as I did. Still kicking myself for not believing McMurtry would actually sign!
Jonathan
October 7, 2011, 8:37 pm
I was pretty lukewarm about The Lost Memory of Skin. I read it as an ARC a month ago, but sometimes I like books more upon reflection, even a few months later. One that fits into that trend this year is The Art of Fielding. I read it as an ARC in July, enjoyed a lot, but didn't love it. Then, after its release, I read an in-depth literary review and had a long discussion with someone. I now think it is pretty brilliant. If it becomes a finalist for the NBCC (a good indicator for the Pulitzer) I may just re-read it!
Jonathan
October 7, 2011, 9:15 pm
This post is all about winning statistics.
I bet some of you know some of this. But maybe not... Regardless, it's too interesting not to share.
The NBCC (when finalists are included) is an *EXCELLENT* (possibly the best?) predictor for the Pulitzer.
I did a little study. Over the last 33 years, 10 NBCC winners went on to win the Pulitzer. Further, in 13 of the years when the NBCC winner did not go on to win, one of the 4 remaining finalists did!
Bottom line: in only 10 of the last 33 years did an NBCC winner or remaining finalist NOT go on to win the Pulitzer.
It is also interesting to note that the 10 "off" years are pretty well spread out ('80, '82, '86, '88, '92, '96, '99, '01, '05, '09) so it is not like the correlation is changing for the better or worse.
Compare the NBCC track record with the National Book Award, where only 3 NBA winners over the last 33 years went on to win the Pulitzer. I didn't have the patience to break out the finalists for the NBA, like I did for the NBCC. Still, after eyeballing the finalists, there was VERY LITTLE noticeable cross over -- certainly nothing approaching the 70% cross over of the NBCC.
The PEN/Faulkner has only had 2 books go on to win the Pulitzer. Interestingly, both were in one of the 13 years where the NBCC did NOT predict the Pulitzer. They were The Hours (1996) and Independence Day (1999).
This brings up another point. Although winning 2 major awards is common, from my research, only 1 book has ever won 3: Rabbit is Rich. (Pulitzer, NBA, NBCC)
If anyone has any questions, I can see if the spreadsheet I put together yields an easy answer!
Kris
October 8, 2011, 10:13 am
Here's a complete list of multiple prize winners, as updated from last year:
Jennifer Egan, 'A Visit From the Good Squad' - Pulitzer (2011), NBCC (2010) 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) Ha Jin, 'Waiting' - PENkner (2000), NBA (1999) 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) Jane Smiley, 'A Thousand Acres' - PENkner (2000), NBA (1999) 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)
Mike has previously mentioned the most valuable predictor variable. I can't recall what it was, but I think it's being nominated for something like the NBCC, rather than winning. Paging Mike? Sorry I haven't been around much this year. I'll try posting more frequently in the coming months, now that I have a little more time to spend on hobbies.
Mike
October 8, 2011, 12:54 pm
Right, as Jonathan noted, being nominated for the NBCC is the strongest predictor for the Pulitzer, year in and year out. In order of importance, here are the factors that were in the statistical model I used last year (I run a discriminant function analysis each year because the order of factors varies year-to-year based upon the previous year's outcomes): 1. Book NBCC Finalist from Same Year 2. Book NBCC Winner from Same Year 3. Book made ABA Notable list from Same Year (that's American Book Association) 4. Book Appeared on NY Times 10 Best Books list for Same Year 5. Book NBA Finalist from Same Year 6. Book NBA Winner from Same Year 7. Book PEN/Faulkner Finalist from Same Year 8. Book LA Times Finalist from Same Year 9. Author PEN/Faulkner Award Winner within previous 5 years 10. Book PEN/Faulkner Winner from Same Year.
The NBCC Finalist variable and the NBCC Winner variable, though, are much stronger predictors than any of the others... and the latter few predictors aren't all that strong, though do contribute to the model.
We had a discussion last year about why the NBCC predicts winners so much better than the NBA, and we came to some consensus, I think, that it must be in the judging process and that the critics who select the NBCC finalists are, in some way, more closely aligned with the Pulitzer committee members. Also, though, the NBA comes first and the NBCC has the benefit of seeing how books perform in other award nominations/best of lists.
Mike
October 8, 2011, 1:02 pm
That's helpful Jonathan. I'm woefully behind on my reading. I haven't read Lost Memory yet, but heard Russell Banks talk about it. I wondered whether it was the right topic for a Pulitzer, more or less whether it was that well written. I've had The Art of Fielding on my radar since the BookExpo, during which it received a lot of hype. I'm currently reading The Submission by Amy Waldman, but will definitely read Art of Fielding next based upon your thoughts.
Mike
October 8, 2011, 1:04 pm
How is Once Upon A River? It's another one on my "want to read" list...
Mike
October 8, 2011, 1:09 pm
I'm of sort of the same mind Jonathan, in that I haven't read a book yet this year that I think is a strong contender for the Pulitzer. I read Tiger's Wife, and agree with your assessment, in part, I think, because its not at all about American Life. I liked Swamplandia!, but just don't think it was that strong... I'd say look for it as a NBA nominee, perhaps. I've read the Brooks book, and liked it, but don't think it will win her a second Pulitzer. I thnk you mentioned Harrigan's book before... it will be interesting to see if it is mentioned. I'm looking forward to the Eugenides book as well!
I did read Justin Torres' "We the Animals". It's very well written and I loved the first 3/4 of the book, but the ending, despite being heartwrenching and compelling, just seemed to be rushed... the book spends most of its time on the childhood of the three boys in the family, and then we sort of fast-forward to adolescence and young adulthood. Still, I think it will show up in places.
Mike
October 8, 2011, 3:53 pm
I'm 2/3 of the way through The Submission, I like it, but not sure how much yet. The plot seems to be rather slow in development and I can't decide how I feel about some of the main characters. I'm interested in what direction the final 1/3 of the book will take.... what did you think brak?
Mike
October 8, 2011, 3:58 pm
I read Teju Cole's Open City... I think it stands a decent chance at being nominated for something... NBA finalist, maybe. Sort of a startling ending. I think I "reviewed" it on an earlier post, but it was similar to last year's book by Dinaw Mengestu, How to Read the Air, though I liked Open City better.
Mike
October 8, 2011, 6:18 pm
I just returned from a reading by one of my favorite authors, Daniel Woodrell, and it brought to mind a topic I raised last year pertaining to authors with strong "regional" reputations who, probably, would not surface in the national award lists. Most people first learned of Woodrell through the movie made from his novel Winter's Bone. Both the novel and the movie were outstanding. He's got a new collection of short stories, titled The Outlaw Album, just out. Due to the fact that Winter's Bone (the movie) was nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award, Woodrell may get a little more attention from the award groups this time through, though I suspect he won't be nominated for much. I think I mentioned two other writers with strong regional reputations I liked, Joe Coomer (writes about Texas and Maine), and Clyde Edgerton (North Carolina). Edgerton is probably the most visible from among these three, and he also has a new book out, titled The Night Train. The fact this this book is about race relationships, and friendship, in the South in the 60s might make it a candidate for Pulitzer consideration. I haven't read it yet, though will do so. But, just in case Woodrell or Edgerton are surprise winners... you heard it from me first :-)
Mike
October 9, 2011, 2:03 pm
Sorry if this is a duplicate post, the board seems to have some glitches... but, Gregg, I saw an item on Google News that Franzen will have a new book of essays, titled "Farther Away: Essays," published in May of 2012.
Mike
October 9, 2011, 2:16 pm
The National Book Foundation announced its "5 under 35" honorees for this year. They are (from www.nationalbook.org):
Shani Boianjiu, The People of Forever Are Not Afraid (Hogarth, an imprint of Crown Publishers, forthcoming in 2013) Selected by Nicole Krauss, National Book Award Fiction Finalist for Great House, 2010 Danielle Evans, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self (Riverhead Books, 2010) Selected by Robert Stone, Winner for Dog Soldiers, 1975, and Finalist for A Flag For Sunrise, 1982 and 1983, Outerbridge Reach, 1992, and Damascus Gate, 1998
Mary Beth Keane, The Walking People (Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009) Selected by Julia Glass, Fiction Winner for Three Junes, 2002
Melinda Moustakis, Bear Down, Bear North: Alaska Stories (The University of Georgia Press, 2011) Selected by Jaimy Gordon, Fiction Winner for Lord of Misrule, 2010
John Corey Whaley, Where Things Come Back (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011) Selected by Oscar Hijuelos, Fiction Finalist for The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, 1989 Boianjiu is an Israli, so not Pulitzer eligible, but the others are US citizens. I figure these are writers whose careers are worth watching... past "5 under 35 honorees" have included Karen Russell, C.E. Morgan, Tea Obreht, and Tiphanie Yanique.
Ed Parks
October 11, 2011, 2:43 pm
I tried to get involved last year, but it took forever for my input to be posted. I am somewhat of a Luddite and don't have all of the blogger profiles and accounts. Also, I am a pure book man and will start re-reading books before I will ever go to an electronic reader. Okay, enough of that. The two most worthy books, in my opinion, that I have read this year, which deserve major award consideration, are Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nam and The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson. Both books are exquistiely written American Panorama. Of the two I would give the edge to Ms. Thompson. I will be shocked and very disappointed if either The National Book Award or the Pulitzer Prize doesn't honor The Year We Left Home.
I read Nightwoods and found it very uneven. Sections were quite beautifully written, while others fell short of being considered even pedestrian.
But, what really prompted me to submit this entry is the reference to Daniel Woodrell and Joe Coomer. Both are first rate writers. More deserved of praise and accolades than 99% of writers working today. Both Woodrell and Coomer each deserve a much larger national audience. Joe Coomer has written eight beautiful and thoughtful novels. Each is worthy of high praise with Pocketful of Names and The Loop being my personal favorites. Although, Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God, may be my favorite title of all time. The Loop has been made into the film A Bird of the Air, currently out in limited release on both Coasts. Mr. Coomer co-wrote the screenplay which undoubtedly has kept him busy over the past few years. His last book was Pocketful of Names published in 2005. Daniel Woodrell, thanks to the film Winter's Bone is starting to attract a larger audience. His novels are getting better with each publication. I believe he has found his Yoknapatawpha in the Missouri Ozarks.
Another "regional" writer of great acclaim, but a bankrupt publisher, is William Gay.
I am going to the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville this weekend. Carting along with me 73 books to be signed by a very impressive list of author participants. I return home to Indiana and depart for St. Louis on October 21, to see Daniel Woodrell.
Has anyone read The Year We Left Home?
Ed Parks
October 11, 2011, 3:21 pm
I neglected to mention in my earlier post that The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach is certainly a worthy contender for all upcoming literary prizes. The novel is first rate and as good as anything that I have read this year.
Mike
October 11, 2011, 8:56 pm
Okay, so the National Book Award finalists will be announced tomorrow (I had it in my mind it was Thursday). Here's the info:
2011 National Book Award Finalists to be Announced on Oregon Public Radio
The twenty Finalists for the 62nd National Book Awards will be announced on Oregon Public Broadcasting's morning radio program, Think Out Loud, in front of a live audience at the new Literary Arts Center in Portland, Oregon from 9:06 to 9:59 a.m. PST on Wednesday, October 12. The announcement will also be streamed live on Oregon Public Broadcasting's website, www.opb.org/nationalbookawards. Past NBA Winners, Finalists, and Judges will announce this year's Finalists by category:
So, it's a little late for a "who will be nominated" discussion, and frankly, the NBA finalists are always a big surprise to me, but here are the books that I think might show up tomorrow, in no particular order:
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht State of Wonder by Ann Patchett The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach A Moment in the Sun by John Sayles The Submission by Amy Waldman The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
Okay, so that's 8 books, and I'm at a disadvantage that I've read only 2 1/2 of them. I really don't think anything else I've read to this point will actually show up on this list. I can see some of the books I've read end up on other lists.... I think Robert Olen Butler's Small Hotel might make a PEN/Faulkner list, and I could still see The Pale King making the Pultizer finalist list. Neither of those seem like NBA books to me. Given the relative unpredictability of the NBA, I'd feel vindicated if even one of those showed up on the finalist list!
Anyone else have any predictions?
Mike
October 11, 2011, 9:02 pm
Keep trying Guy, we need all the input we can get.
We've discussed how heavily the "Americanness" factor plays in past years' discussion... it does seem to be that recent winners have embodied this factor. I think you see it heavily in selections like Empire Falls and, of course, there are a number of books that have nothing to do with American Life... Pearl Buck's The Good Earth, for example. But, my sense is that the panel takes it seriously and that something like Tia Obreht's The Tiger's Wife won't fly.
I like Sayle's chances of showing up in some of the awards. I haven't read the tome yet, but my son has, and he liked it a lot. It seems sort of tailor made for the "about American Life" category.
Mike
October 11, 2011, 9:06 pm
Yes... Phil? By the way, folks have another chance at McMurtry, he's headlining the Tuscon Fesitival of Books in March of 2012. Might be a good time to get out of the cold Kansas City weather, so I'm thinking about it! Since I could only get two McMurtry books signed, I still have a bunch left to get signed!
Jonathan
October 11, 2011, 11:19 pm
Ok, I am going to make some predictions....
First, Mike, of your list I have read Swamplandia!; The Tiger's Wife; The Art of Fielding; The Submission. Although I haven’t read State of Wonder, I have heard good enough things about it to think that you are right to include it as a possibility. I am excited to read The Marriage Plot, but somehow, I just don't feel like it will be nominated.
It's fascinating that 4 of your 8 picks are first novels! I think it has been a bumper year for first novels. I have actually made a conscious attempt to read first novels this year in order to find writers I want to follow for years to come. That said, i think the strongest of the bunch were The Tiger's Wife and The Art of Fielding. Although, The Submission was also pretty damn good, also. Additionally, I liked Swamplandia! -- I will definitely read other things that Karen Russell writes – but I just don’t think it is award worthy.
I REALLY want The Tiger's Wife to make the list because I don’t think it will be standing for the Pulitzer due to its totally non-American themes.
So, here are some of my ideas:
I am going to agree with you with Mike when it comes to:
- The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht - The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach - State of Wonder by Ann Patchett* (Haven’t read it, but heard enough good things.)
I am going to add
- When the Killing’s Done by T.C. Boyle (I didn’t LOVE it but think it’s got a shot) - Open City by Teju Cole* (Didn’t read it, just going with a gut feeling) - Northwest Corner by John Burnham Schwartz* (Didn’t read it, but a friend loved it)
And two **EXTREME** LONG SHOTS
- The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman - Remember Ben Clayton by Stephen Harrigan
Because you always need some long shots in the running.
So, I’ve picked 8 also. And like Mike, I would be shocked if I got one.
Aaron
October 12, 2011, 1:21 am
I'll play.
I'd say The Art of Fielding is my front runner, and I'll include The Tiger's Wife and Swamplandia! as more of what I hope would be recognized instead of what I think will be.
I'll also include Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell, even though I've yet to get started on the copy I've had for a while.
Long shots - You Know When the Men are Gone, by Siobhan Fallon - When She Woke, by Hillary Jordan (haven't read enough to really know here... I loved Modbound and thought I would hazard a guess here... that's what long shots are for, right?)

In terms of nonfiction, I'd love to see Karl Marlantes' work get some recognition. I was very surprised to see Matterhorn left out of the major awards last year and to see another book from Marlantes (since the first was the summation of 30+ years of work).
Mike
October 12, 2011, 7:27 am
Hi Ed, glad you opted to post! I haven't read The Year we Left Home, but I'm putting it on my list. The O'Nan book got some buzz, and I've bought it, but haven't read it yet, though I've read quite a few of O'Nan's books and liked them.
Joe Coomer's The Loop is one of my favorite books, all time, as is Woodrell's Winter's Bone. I like the the Yoknapatwpha comparison! I'm envious you are going to the Southern book festival, have a great time! I know you'll like the Woodrell reading, he's a really nice guy as well as being a good writer!
Mike
October 12, 2011, 7:27 am
That seems to be the trend I'm hearing from folks who have read it...
Mike
October 12, 2011, 7:30 am
I would be very surprised if The Tiger's Wife doesn't make it, frankly. It also may be a strong contender for the NBCC.
I almost added Open City to my list. I read it and liked it quite a lot. I just figured I was stretching it by listing 8 already :-)
I'd like to see Boyle make the list, it's been a while since he's received any kudos, and he's someone I like to read and who consistently churns out good long and short fiction.
Mike
October 12, 2011, 7:35 am
I wonder if Campbell's success with American Salvage last year might limit the visibility of River this year in the awards lists... not sure.
Fallon's book was very well received, I have it but haven't read it. Hillary Jorda's new book is another good new entry... I liked Mudbound as well, and it won the Bellweather Prize (given by Barbara Kingsley's foundation for best first book with a social message, basically), so high expectations for When She Woke.
Two books I've read but didn't list were Jonathan Evison's West of Here and Benjamin Hale's The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore. Both got a lot of buzz at last year's BookExpo. I liked them both, they're among the books I've liked best this year, but I just don't think they'll edge out books like Swamplandia! and Tiger's Wife.
I agree wholeheartedly about Matterhorn. I thought it was a lock for a NBA nomination last year... very disappointing.
Mike
October 12, 2011, 7:36 am
I forgot to note that your observation about first books was right on target. we may see quite a few first books get recognized.
N.
October 12, 2011, 4:37 pm
The Year We Left Home looks interesting. Thanks for the suggestion Ed.
Jonathan
October 12, 2011, 6:14 pm
Well it looks like we got one NBA finalist right! Not so bad. I am *really* happy that The Tiger's Wife was honored. I met Téa twice in person and besides being disgustingly talented for a 26 year old, she is a really, really sweet person -- happy to meet readers; loves answering questions. She even recognized me from one reading to another four months apart.
Even though I have *so* many other books on my "fast track to-read list," I still picked up 3 of the 4 other finalists this afternoon...mostly because I had coupons to use at B&N (although I try and avoid them in favor of my local indie!) and also because 2 of the 3 are short. One -- The Buddha in the Attic -- is *very* short (+/- 120 pp). I finished almost 1/2 while having a coffee at the store. I am enjoying it, and will likely finish it later tonight or tomorrow.
Warning: If you aren't a fan of first person plural, then avoid it. The style can be gimmicky, but I think it is being pulled off pretty well.
So, another year of surprises from the NBA voters. Has anyone ever wondered if they make a conscious attempt to honor books that they think will be overlooked by the Pulitzer committee?
I sometimes don't stick to my reading plan, but I think I will tackle The Sojourn later this week or this weekend. I'll post thoughts then.
Given I have kind of a literary crush on Téa, it's going to be hard to sway me from hoping she wins, but I'll see if I can make a somewhat unbiased decision.
Has anyone read any of the other finalists?
Ed Parks
October 13, 2011, 7:29 am
I read Edith Pearlman's Binocular Vision, due largely to the recommendation of Ann Patchett. A good portion of the collection is quite strong, but they cannot stand "beside the stories of Alice Munro" as Ann claims. But whose can?
I have read Julie Otsuka's book When the Emperor Was Devine and liked it very much. I plan on reading The Buddha in the Attic, today.
And, Jonathan, yes I believe that conscious attempts are made by the selection committee to focus on books that wouldn't be considered for the Pulitzer Prize. Along, with a myriad of other agendas that exist when you get a group of mid/lower list novelists in a room to determine who is to receive a prestigious literary award. Nothing exemplifies this more than Rick Moody's "agenda" in 2004. It is a wonder that The National Book Award survived that debacle. Of the selection committee I admire Yiyun Li's work greatly, but had never heard of Jerome Charyn, John Crowley, Victor Lavalle and I have only read one book by the chair, Deirdre McNamer.
The most amazing thing to me, and I know I am in the minority here, is that The Tiger's Wife was even nominated. Several of you saw it as a foregone conclusion. Someone needs to "explain" that book to me. I didn't understand it, enjoy it, or see any quality in the writing. I thought it was dreadful. I deveoped such a habit of re-reading lines trying to understand what she was trying to say, that it took me weeks to get back into my normal, flowing, reading routine. I have read all of Faulkner, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and most of Joyce and never had such a difficult time understanding a novel. Do you suppose it could it be a generational misconnect?
Jonathan
October 13, 2011, 6:36 pm
Wow, Ed. I don't quite know what to say in response to your feelings about The Tiger's Wife. I sometimes have trouble reading, even seemingly easy works. I haven't tackled very many classics, certainly not Dostoevsky or Joyce; shamefully, not even Faulkner. I was a history major in college and took a brief diversion to law school (didn't complete), so it is only in the last 3 or so years that I have been indulging a love of fiction and plowing through (mostly very recent) novels. This is all to say, I had no trouble with the flow of The Tiger's Wife, at all. I am reading Cold Mountain right now, and having more trouble with reading flow than almost any other book recently. I am enjoying it, but it is reading *so* slowly.
You ask if it might be a generational thing. For the record, I am pretty squarely in Téa's generation at age 31, but as far as I am concerned, the book isn't generational at all, certainly not in its content. It's not as though it’s about 20-somethings acting like 20-somethings. Also, in my opinion, it doesn't read like other popular young writers, such as Jonathan Franzen or Jonathan Safran Foer with their post-modern (self) indulgence and long sentences. In my memory her prose was simple in comparison. Also, in subject and style, her novel has strains of Rushdie and García Márquez, and yet it is certainly more approachable than both of them. Indeed, I think that fact is the triumph of the novel. She is able to walk a line where she tells a story that borders on magical realism, without being impenetrable. I found it imaginative, and beautiful with a dose of fun.
I’m surprised that you not only didn’t enjoy it, but *really* didn’t enjoy it. Then again, literature can be an exceedingly personal thing. I hope my thoughts provided some “explanation.”
Mike
October 13, 2011, 8:04 pm
Thanks for the info on the Pearlman Book Ed. I'm encouraged to hear from Jonathan that several of these are short reads, that makes it easlier to add them to my already-long need-to-read list!
I can add info on one other NBA judge. Victor Lavalle is the author of a short story collection (Slapboxing with Jesus) and two novels (The Ecstatic and Big Machine). The Ecstatic was a PEN/Faulkner nominated book in 2002. It looks pretty interesting, but I haven't read it yet.
I'm trying to think about what appealed to me about The Tiger's Wife. I'm 54, so older than Jonathan, so maybe not as much a generational thing, though I think Jonathan loked it more than I did. I listened to it on CD, so that often changes my experience of a book... the pacing of the reading didn't really require me to reread (re-listen-to) any sections, so that wasn't my experience, though the Washington Post book reviewer described the book as demanding "a luxurios stretch of concentration", so sounds like he would agree about its density. (I will say that I have recently read Faulkner's The Reivers, and I could hardly make it through a paragraph without having to go back and re-read to figure who was saying what, who was acting, and what was going on).
Obreht's novel reminded me of Aleksander Hemon's The Lazarus Project in many ways, althogh that may just be the similarities in contexts. I can't say I fully understood Tiger's Wife... but I found the Deathless Man an intreaguing character, as well as the Tiger's Wife herself. Again, Ron Charles, the Post's reviewer (who I like a lot), mentions that at times Obreht "reaches more for affect than for coherence", so perhaps I'm not alone in not really understanding the book fully, but I did think that the themes of death and destruction (befitting the Balkans) that are layered in Natalia's dealing with her grandfather's death, in the death that follows the tiger itself, of the deathless man, the butcher and his death, of the search for the body... all created a sense that the book was reflecting on death and the dead and the complex relationships, particularly in that part of the world, with those issues.
I also must admit that I look at books in relation to the buzz it got, the reviews, and so forth and part of the reason I thought Tiger's Wife would show up on the NBA finalists had nothing to do with whether I liked it, but how it seemed to me to be received.
It never occurred to me that the NBA judges might actually chose books that most likley would not show up on the Pultizer selection.... but the fact that both you and Jonathan think that's potentially the case, makes me wonder why I didn't think of that sooner. It would explain why the NBA is a relatively weak predictor of the Pulitzer!
Mike
October 13, 2011, 8:09 pm
Yep, the NBA list is chock full of surprises again, although I must say that I didn't respond to these in the way I did last year's list... which I thought particulalry off the wall at the time it was announced (I ended up liking Peter Carey's Parrot and Olivier, though I would not have put it on the short list) and I admire Gordon's "Lord of Misrule" for the atmosphere it creates, the language it uses... though I thought the story was hard to follow sometimes). I'm interested in Salvage the Bones (Jesmyn Ward) and The Buddha in the Attic (Julie Otsuka) particularly, both of those look like books I'll like. I'm less sure about the Sojourn, but it's interesting that another book from Bellevue Literary Press got a major award/award nomination. I'll count on you to let me know if Sojourn is a must read!
Mike
October 13, 2011, 8:14 pm
By the way, I had hoped to see Tea Obreht at the Brooklyn Book festival, but she was at the same time that Larry McMurtry was reading and signing, and by the time I made my way over to where Obreht was, she'd gone. Nice to hear she's approaches the readings/signings with a good attitude... so many authors seem to see it as drudgery. Of course, McMurtry has a reputation as a bit of a curmudgeon (and I'm a big fan of his books), and he wasn't very actively engaged with readers during his signing, though he is getting up in years. Jhumpa Lahari was really detached from the signing process as well... of course, all authors are allowed an off day now and then. Jennfier Egan couldn't be kinder and more generous in her signing/interactions, and Michael Cunningham and Robert Olen Butler also are very nice and willing to sign and talk.
Ed Parks
October 14, 2011, 4:58 am
Thanks guys for the attempt in helping me understand my disdain for The Tiger's Wife. The Aleksandar Hemon reference doesn't hold water, for me, as I greatly admire, and have read all of his books. However, Jonathan mentionaing Garcia Marquez was "right on the money." While I liked One Hundred Years of Solitude much more than The Tiger's Wife, still I didn't perceive it as "the great masterpiece." I have read writers who said they felt foolish trying to write after reading One Hundred Years of Solitude and thinking that everything they wrote, in comparison, would be nothing but pure drivel. I felt more like the old Peggy Lee song, "Is That All There Is." Now that probably did date me, I am 62.
It is strange how some books capture the imagination of the reading public. Jonathan's reading Cold Mountain is an example of a book that "hit" for no apparent reason. I felt, while beautifully written, it was flawed by concepts of logic. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is another example of strangely capturing the public's imagaination. But books can do all sorts of things to you, they can inform, entertain, console, inspire and sometimes even bore you. In that case you can go and find another one. I started The Buddha in the Attic but only got to page 55. I like it, similar to When the Emperor Was Devine, yet different. I am headed out the door for a trip to Nashville and the Southern Festival of Books.
Mike
October 14, 2011, 7:50 am
You're probably right about the Hemon/Obreht comparison, as I said, The Lazarus Project came to mind because, most likely, of the similarities in the settings. I am another person who wasn't all that enamored with Cold Mountain... well written, but I thought it was a laborious read. I thought Sawtelle was okay, but the supernatural elements seemed forced and it was a bit overwraught. I've felt that way about several prize winners... Eudora Welty's The Optimist's Daughter was just boring, IMHO, and I didn't really care about any of the characters. The protagonists step-mother-in-law was so stereotyped that she was only annoying. I liked Peter Taylor's A Summons to Memphis slightly better, but it was pretty tedious reading and in the end I figured it was really about setting a mood and not telling a story. Finally, I thought Shirley Hazzard's NBA winning The Great Fire was, bluntly, just awful. Well written, but tedious and condescending. Of course, I'm always puzzled when someone else expresses distaste for a book I thought was great (seems to happen with Chabon's Kavalier and Clay and Eugenides Middlesex a lot), and just shows that reading is, ultimately, a personal action and one man's (or woman's) Gatsby is another man's (or woman's) Ulysses (whatever that might mean :-).
Mike
October 14, 2011, 7:51 am
And... have a great time at the Southern Festival of Books, let us know the high points.
Mike
October 15, 2011, 9:37 am
Each year we note the relative obscurity of many of the NBA finalists, and I think that with the exception of Obreht and, possibly, Otsuka, the NBA choices this year fit that trend. Laura Miller, Salon.com co-founder and columnist, wrote an interesting piece of that issue:
http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/laura-miller-calls-national-book-awards-irrelevant_b39975
Thoughts?
brak
October 16, 2011, 3:23 pm
so i picked up will in the world recently--since i somehow curse every fiction piece i guess, but have accurately predicted the non-fiction winner, i think "the swerve" stands a good chance this year of winning. cleopatra is a good book, but received somewhat less attention. cleopatra is an interesting book though, because so much of it is, by necessity, a deconstruction of the speculations and mythologies upon which we have based our understanding of cleopatra. to write a non-fiction book about cleopatra is a great challenge--then again, so is "the swerve", which seems to be premised on a little-known poem, poet, and how it and he changed the world, and did so by so much chance.
so far, is there any stand-out winner for the pulitzer for fiction? i'm actually 50 pages into game of thrones (as i am someone who indulges in popculture items--like harry potter or stieg larson's books--when they hits a tipping point, because frankly i would otherwise completely ignore pop-culture and, aside from jersey shore, i'm not sure it's entirely healthy to ignore all of pop-culture), and just received the new eugenides book and purchased "meta-maus". so, since i loved middlesex and am friends with art, i have my reading piled up. not sure i'm going to be able to get to any of the nba's finalists for awhile.
SO, any standouts? i ask, because despite all of our speculation, last year's winner had immense praise for her spectacular book--and it was, honestly, a book that i, a slow reader, devoured. i stayed up all night reading it, despite pressing deadlines. it is not a perfect book, but it has perfections, and i think that is what readers unanimously responded to....so, i guess i'm asking: is there anything that is obviously a strong contender this year, is there something that has had unanimous praise? (eugenides' book has largely been evaluated based on how different it is from middlesex and how readers will respond to it as a result.)
brak
October 16, 2011, 6:31 pm
my thought is: http://www.nationalbook.org/nba2011_f_krivak.html a national book award finalist by the bellevue literary press...remind you of anyone? haha
Yet Another Mike
October 16, 2011, 6:39 pm
Miller's remarks echo those of Sam Tanenhaus of the NY Times who argued last year that the major awards are becoming literary critic snob fests where it's not a battle of the best but a battle of the obscure. Being a major writer with a history and a following has become a handicap. As the Tanenhaus/Miller idea becomes more mainstream, I'm convinced the system will re-calibrate. This will start to happen as soon as critics and the public alike look back over a five-year span and ask, "are any of these book truly classics?"
brak
October 17, 2011, 12:47 am
actually, because bellevue publishes so few fiction and this won an award, i went out and bought a first edition tonight, haha, for $6. fool me once....
Mr. Benchly
October 17, 2011, 10:58 am
Has anyone else heard about this? (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/17/lauren-myracle-withdraws-national-book-awards_n_1015649.html) Ouch. A book about hate crimes against gay youth is mistakenly listed as a finalist only to be eventually bumped out by a book about a teen witch. Because apparently witches aren’t played out yet.
First, how do you announce the wrong book? Second, once you've done that, isn't the right move to say “we originally intended six nominees instead of our usual five but then we mistakenly left off the sixth” rather than to say “this book wasn’t supposed to be on our list, but then we decided to let it stay”? Third, once you’ve screwed up the explanation of your mistake, you have to let the book about gay youths stay, rather than pressure the author to withdraw, right? Wow. Who are their PR people?!
Mike
October 17, 2011, 4:06 pm
I ordered a copy from Amazon, presuming that it will be a first edition... at least hoping that's the case! I did luck out and find a coupy of the advance reading copy of The Sojourn at a local used book store!
Mike
October 17, 2011, 4:11 pm
IMHO, nothing has surfaced yet that I would identify as a standout. Obreht's "The Tiger's Wife" is the big book of the year to this point, winning the Orange Prize and being nominated for the NBA. Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding is getting a lot of positive reviews on this site as well as by critics. It's next on my "to be read" list.
Don DeLillo's book of short stories, The Angel Esmarelda, is out in November... one wonders if it might have some sentimental support, presuming the stories are good. I'll be interested to hear how people on this discussion evaluate Marriage Plot as more of them read it.
Mike
October 17, 2011, 4:13 pm
I agree, what a PR nightmare. I'm really surprised that they didn't just let the mistakenly announced book stay... not pressure the author to withdraw... that was a seriously bad plan, particulalry given the topic of the book.
brak
October 18, 2011, 12:30 am
until you said something, i had no idea delillo was going to release a short story book! i'm so happy about this! they span 30 years, so who knows what they are like, haha
October 18, 2011, 10:55 am
Back from The Southern Festival of Books. This year's festival had a laudable assemblage of writers and some had some interesting takes on literary awards. I took 71 books and came back with 73 (I'm not a dealer, merely a collector.) Two authors graciously agreed to send me copies of first edition books that I haven't been able to locate. The list of authors included Robert Olen Butler, Clyde Edgerton, Charles Frazier, William Gay, Chad Harbach, Walter Mosley, Stewart O'Nan, Ann Patchett, Tom Perrotta, Donald Ray Pollock, Jim Shepard, George Singleton, and on and on. Only two cancellations to my knowledge Sarah Bird and Erin Morgenstern. Unfortunately for me because I had three American trade editions, one ARC and one British edition of The Night Circus.
I saw Ann Patchett for the second time this year and fell deeper in love with her. She is as compelling and magically charming today as she was the first time I met her in 1993. No writer is better with her audience than Ann. State of Wonder, I believe had an initial print run of 300,000 copies. It is currently in, at least, it's eight printing. Ann made the statement thant 52% of copies sold have been electronic.
I told Stewart O'Nan that his book Emily, Alone is one of my two picks for this year's Pulitzer Prize. He thanked me, but then said, "it won't make the book one word better." I wished Edith Pearlman good luck in the securing the National Book Award. It must be very exciting I said to her, she responded "I so want that gold sticker on my book."
Perhaps my biggest surprise was Bonnie Jo Campbell. She was tremendously engaging. Somehow we got to talking about this web site and she was fascinated. She wrote down the web address and I bet she has already taken a look. Other high points were Kevin Wilson and Justin Torres. Both authors far exceeded my expectations in both their readings and their personal intelligence and charm
Overall a very good three days. I had too many books and the scheduling at times wasn't very accommodating-I missed more presentations that I would prefer, or was able to catch only a portion of them.
Jonathan
October 18, 2011, 9:59 pm
Brak, I am in agreement with Mike. Nothing has really moved me yet this year like Egan's book did last year. I *LOVE* The Tiger's Wife, but as I have stated here before, but will say again since you may have missed it among all the other posts, it is highly unlikely to win the Pulitzer since it takes place in a foreign country with non-American characters. I think that will be too much of a stretch for the committee who seeks to honor a book with "American themes." Americans living/working abroad? Maybe. A story about non-Americans outside of the US? No.
On the Americans living abroad note...I haven't read State of Wonder, but I know it's gotten praise. I think from people on this board even. Mike was that you? If so, how much of the book takes place in the Amazon? I wonder if it's the kind of book the committee could get behind. They did honor The Surrendered last year which took place mostly overseas but had American characters. I have a copy to read but I am working on other things right now....
Jonathan
October 18, 2011, 10:20 pm
For a short book, with relatively big type, The Sojourn took me a long time to get through. I found some scenes tedious and some sentences so long that I had to re-read. I also felt like I had to be an expert on WWI and Austria-Hungry to truly understand everything. I tried to follow the details of history and geography, but ended up reading right over most of such instances to get back to the action of the story.
In the end, I was not very impressed until I got to the final 1/3, and then I was in awe. It was gorgeous. For what it's worth, it was the part of the story that did not deal directly with the war and fighting, so maybe I am just not a fan of war fiction. Frankly, I haven't read that much.
Given that a faster reader than me could get through it in a few hours, I could definitely recommend it. But I don't think it will be the last book standing...
Jonathan
October 18, 2011, 11:54 pm
I posted this as a reply on p. 7, but because of the setup of the board, I was worried it might get overlooked.
Mike, I promised you a response about The Sojourn. For a short book, with relatively big type, it took me a long time to get through. I found some scenes tedious and some sentences so long that I had to re-read. I also felt like I had to be an expert on WWI and Austria-Hungry to truly understand everything. I wanted to follow the details of history and geography that were there, but ended up reading right over most of such instances to get back to the action of the story. In the end, I was not very impressed until I got to the final 1/3, and then I was in awe. It was gorgeous. For what it's worth, it was the part of the story that did not deal directly with the war and fighting, so maybe I am just not a fan of war fiction. Frankly, I haven't read that much. Given that a faster reader than me could get through it in a few hours, I could definitely recommend it. But I don't think it will be the last book standing...
Madhusree Chatterjee
October 19, 2011, 5:53 am
I think "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore" and "When the Killing's Done" tell very powerful and human stories. Compassion or perhaps the lack of it for the creatures that share the survival chain with us. They drive home a concern that confronts the planet- straight on its face- dwindling empathy and politics of ecology. Good leads for 2012 to start with
Mike
October 19, 2011, 7:47 am
I haven't read State of Wonder, though my wife has, and loved it. My impression is that its set primarily overseas... even The Surrendered had portions of the book in NYC... so theme-wise, State doesn't seem like a good fit. I'm in complete agreement that Tiger's Wife is not a good fit for the pulitzer in theme and setting.
Brak, I just read a very good review of DeLillo's The Angel Esmerelda (not sure about spelling, too lazy to Google it!). I dunno, we haven't had a short story collection win the Pulitzer since Lahiri's Maladies in 1999--well, Goon Squad and Olive Kitteridge were interconnected short stories, sort of, but I mean a true short story collection--maybe it's time for another one.
Mike
October 19, 2011, 9:33 pm
Thanks Jonathan, that helps me prioritize my reading. I think Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones looks good, will probably read it after I read Harbach's "The Art of Fielding."
Jonathan
October 20, 2011, 4:26 pm
I'd love to hear what you think about Savage the Bones, Mike. I own it, but have a few things lined up ahead of it. Still, I think I'd like to try and get through it before the NBA is announced. If I do, the only one I will not have read will be Binocular Vision. With my luck that will be the winner! ha.
Mr. Benchly
October 21, 2011, 7:29 am
For the collectors out there, I have no idea if there are anything but first printings of The Sojourn floating around out there but if you want actual confirmation from a bookseller before you purchase, try Powell's online. When you order a book, use the Notes field to ask if it's a first printing. If it is, they'll order it for you. If not, your credit card won't be charged.
Mike
October 25, 2011, 10:48 pm
Same here Brak, I found an ebay site selling them for about $2.50 each, so took a chance and sure enough they were 1sts! I'm having a hard time finding a 1st of Edith Pearlman's book and I ordered a 1st of Buddha in the Attic, but it hasn't shown yet, so I'm wondering.
Mike
October 25, 2011, 10:54 pm
A rebuttal to the Salon.com article on the NBA by Victor Lavalle, one of the NBA judges this year and a PEN Faulkner finalist for The Ecstatice.
http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/book-news/awards-and-prizes/article/49166-an-nba-fiction-judge-responds-to-laura-miller-.html
Jonathan
October 25, 2011, 11:23 pm
When I first found this board I was really only looking for predictions on the eventual Pulitzer winner. I simply had the goal of reading the winning book before the award was announced; the idea of collecting was hardly in my mind. Even though I sometimes buy hardcovers within a few weeks of release, I have never been a purposeful collector of first printings. Still, since I am a lover of physical books, I am starting to really like the idea.
I read The Art of Fielding as an ARC, so I didn't buy a copy when it was released. But since I am becoming further convinced that it has a *very* real shot at winning (in part because there have been few other books this year that I enjoyed and were thematically "right"), I went to a few stores trying to find a first printing. I knew it was an extreme long shot, and all I found were 3, 4, and 5th printings. Thankfully, I just found a used one cheap on ebay. I hope it is as lightly read as the description indicates. I'll be attending a reading on the 7th to get it signed.
I also wanted to thank Mr. Benchly for info on Powell's and using the notes field to request that an order only be completed if it is an edition that you want. That's great to know in the future, even if it is likely too late for this time.
Coincidentally, last week I won $20 in Powell's online cash because my comment/review on the book was their Daily Dose! If you all don't post reviews on Powell's and subscribe to the Daily Dose, you should. There is always a chance at free online credit. It looks like they choose equally from new releases as well as older books.
Mike
October 26, 2011, 6:39 am
Jonathan, you've stumbled onto that dark path that led, I suspect, most of us to bibliophilia! I had the same experience, enjoyed reading, came across authors I particularly liked, learned one day about first editions, liked having books... and I was hooked, with nary a regret, other than not starting my Pulitzer collection sooner!
I saw Chad Harbaugh at the Texas Book Festival, and I'm sure you'll enjoy his reading. He was on a panel with Amy Waldman (The Submission) and Justin Torres (We the Animals) talking about what it is like when your first novel becomes a big hit. All three were very entertaining (particularly Justin Torres) and it was a great panel.
Thanks for the tip on Powell's and Daily Dose, I'm on my way to their website to sign up!
Jonathan
October 26, 2011, 11:18 am
The only issue with bibliophilia is space! I have been living with family in a house with lots of space for books for a few years now, but if my goal of moving to NYC (to work in book publishing!) pans out, I'll have a lot less space in a shared apartment, and I fear this new obsession might not be sustainable. Then again, we often find paths through difficulties for things that we really want. So, we'll see.
Also, you can see my comment on The Art of Fielding in the Powell's Daily Dose archive here:
http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/contest/dailydose_archive?year=2011&month=10
Just scroll down to October19th.
As I mentioned, you'll see a mix of old and new, fiction and non fiction. They definitely seem to choose books that they think they think they can make some sales by spotlighting. Then again, some of the choices seem to be quite random.
Mr. Benchly
October 26, 2011, 11:53 am
Jonathan, I can definitely empathize. I own an ARC copy of The Art of Fielding and have just made the decision to buy a 1st printing HC of it in case it wins. I'm hooked and I can't stop. We should start a support group!
One thing I've noticed, which can be considered equal parts depressing and exciting, is the fact that my local Costco is starting to carry new fiction that is less mainstream than their typical Grisham, Steele, Picoult stock. The last time I was there I noticed 1sts of The Marriage Plot, The Art of Fielding, and We the Animals. It's exciting because now I can get a decent discount on 1st printings. It's depressing because this is what book collecting has become: shopping in wholesale box stores.
Mr. Benchly
October 27, 2011, 12:13 pm
I completely overlooked the fact that Laura Miller served on the jury that chose Tinkers for the Pulitzer (among a group of finalists some might also consider to be "spinach"). Kudos to Victor Lavalle for serving up that point as his punchline. I can't wait for Miller's rebuttal!
Mr. Benchly
October 31, 2011, 8:40 am
I was at Strand Books in NYC this weekend and picked up a signed 1st of Otsuka's The Buddha in the Attic (NBA finalist this year). As far as I could tell, there were 6 signed copies left in stock (2 or 3 of which were 1sts; the rest were 2nds). So FYI, if you're looking for one, you should check out the Strand. (You can probably order one over the phone to make sure it's a 1st.)
Aaron
November 1, 2011, 4:24 pm
I spotted four copies of the first printing of The Sojourn at my Barnes and Noble today. I'd assume that there is an additional printing with finalist medal on it, but I wouldn't be surprised if it only had one printing prior to being named as a finalist.
Mike
November 1, 2011, 8:24 pm
I did think Miller's piece overplayed a conspiracy theme. The New York Times had an interesting article on the history of the American Book Awards, which speaks as well to the history of the National Book Awards:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/30/books/review/the-short-unsuccessful-life-of-the-american-book-awards.html?_r=1
Also, there was a really interesting piece (I thought) in the book section of the New York Magazine about Franzen, Eugenides, and DFW, among others:
http://nymag.com/arts/books/features/jeffrey-eugenides-2011-10/
Mike
November 1, 2011, 8:26 pm
I'm about 1/3 of the way through Savage the Bones Jonathan, and I really like what I've read so far... Also about 1/2 way through Harbach's The Art of Fielding, which I like as well. So far, so good!
Mike
November 1, 2011, 8:38 pm
Good review Jonathan. I tend to just weave together thoughts from reviewers I agree with :-) Kris ought to write reviews for Powell's, he's a master review writer (Kris, you out there?).
Ah, space, yes, that's the unsolveable problem with book collecting! I now have 2500 books in my collection, and space is becoming an issue. As some may recall, I bought a bunch of bookshelves from a Borders that was closing, and have those in my basement, so there is space there, although I cringe at having to keep them down in that environment. I hope our sump pump keeps working... overall the humindty is about 45% and the temperature is a constant 65 degrees. That's a wee bit more humidity than I'd like, but not out of the range of acceptable. I bought some light cloth to put on top of the rows of books to keep dust from settling in. I don't consider this a permanent solution, just the only option for now. (I should note, all of my Pulitzers and books that have more value are upstairs, with me, and not in the basement!). I talked with a collector at a book festival recently and asked him how many books he had, and he said 8,000! I asked him where he kept them, and he said a temperature controlled storage unit ($100 a month, I think). A woman I was standing in line with at a book signing last year told me that she and her husband actually rent two houses (other than the house they live in) just to store their books! I don't think my wife will let me do that. I'd love to add floor to ceiling bookshelves and create a true library... maybe my next house.
Mike
November 1, 2011, 8:41 pm
The heck with a support group, just a discussion group! I met someone (Phil are you out there?) at the Brooklyn Book Festival who described the means by which he'd boxed and shipped books from CA to NY, and I can't remember it, but might be good for storage... if you are there Phil, could you remind me?
brak
November 3, 2011, 9:16 pm
I think we may be putting too much emphasis on the AMERICAN subject matter and its impact on the pulitzer decision. I realize that the pulitzer rules stipulate as much, but there are many examples throughout its history of themes that deviate from AMERICAN themes. Certainly, there are more examples of winners who focus primarily on America, but who knows how much of that stems from what the Nobel committee recently chastised American writers for: an inherent America-centricity within American literature--i.e., the tendency of American novelists not to look outside of American borders.
It is also worth noting that many novelists of the new generation are less inclined to tell purely American stories. Chang Ra Lee, Ha Jin, Dave Eggers, Gary Shteyngardt (too lazy to spellcheck that name), to name just a few. I have not yet read "The Tiger's Wife" (though I plucked a first edition from the shelves of a used bookstore), but if the novel is truly the best book of the year, the pulitzer committee is unlikely to snub it.
Tom
November 3, 2011, 9:51 pm
Funny, I was thinking along the same lines. Doesn't Bernard Malamud's The Fixer take place in Russia? No Americans or American themes in that one. Yet it won the Pulitzer Prize. So it has happened before. I guess it could happen again. Right?
Tom
November 3, 2011, 9:58 pm
I would say flat signed is better. Except for Presidential signatures. Presidents tend to use a device called an autopen, and it is very difficult to distinguish between an autopen signature and a hand-signed signature. So if the book is inscribed to a person in the same hand-writing as the signature, then I feel that the inscription and signature are much more likely to be genuine hand-signed and not autopen.
Jonathan
November 4, 2011, 11:12 am
Maybe we are making too much of the AMERICAN subject matter, but let's remember that it is noted as a "preference" on the Pulitzer website.
"For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life."
www.pulitzer.org/administration#letdefs
I hope the committee looks beyond American themes, that would give books like The Tiger's Wife and State of Wonder chances to win. But let's look at the winners over the 20 years (for a recent analysis): do we find *any* books that take place outside the US, AND also with non-American characters and/or non- "American themes"? I've only read about 7-8 of the 20 books, but I know about most of the others, and I don't see a good recent example to show that the committee is willing to push themselves. I know even less about the finalists, but I don't see a good example there either.
Literature is so much personal, and thus it probably comes down to who is on the committee in a given year, but in 2002, if they really wanted to award the best book (putting aside the American theme preference), in my opinion, they would have honored Bel Canto. Admittedly, I am basing this on the NBCC finalists (Bel Canto was one) and my dislike of Empire Falls, more than my memory of many other books read that year.
Going back further than the 20 years that I thought would give a good "recent" analysis: Does anyone know any details about the reason why the committee refused to give the award in 1971, 1974 and 1977. Tom's example of Malamud's book is from 1967. Is it possible that the committee got grief for their choice? I know there is some process that the choice has to be accepted by someone else (the Board of Columbia?). Perhaps, someone complain/felt that someone else dropped the ball. Surely if they weren't be stringent about American themes they would have been able to find a book to honor in one of those 3 years that they failed to. Unless there is more to the story that I am unaware of.
brak
November 4, 2011, 11:15 pm
if you include finalists, there are several examples...i do not think that a book lacking focus on america precludes it. in other rooms, other wonders, is for example, a collection about pakistan. waiting, by ha jin, is set entirely in china with chinese characters. interpreter of maladies, while featuring some americans, is largely about indians and interactions between indian and american culture. the poison wood bible, while having american characters, is set entirely almost exclusively in africa. a good scent from a strange mountain, persian nights, rabbis and wives, godrich, the fixer, and likely others all deal primarily or almost exclusively with other cultures/settings.
i'm not sure why the fiction award was refused on all of those years--i read somewhere that gravity's rainbow was chosen by the jury and then the pulitzer committee decided instead not to give the award that year. additionally, the pulitzer jury unanimously chose the feud, by thomas berger, as the winner in 1984, and the committee overturned that decision, giving the award to ironweed instead. (ironweed is a fabulous novel, but for anyone who loves confederacy of dunces, you must read the feud!)
Mike
November 5, 2011, 9:44 am
I dunno, I tend to think that the "preferably dealing with American life" criteria, albeit obviously a "soft" criteria (otherwise, why the "preferably"), seems to have been adhered to closely in the last 10 years and fairly closely in the last 25. Brak, your point about all the finalists that don't have much of an American life setting might bolster the argument that the criteria matters, since the winners for those years did have an American theme. I see Interpreter of Maladies and Good Scent from a Strange Mountain as very American life books... particularly Good Scent; they're about the immigrant experience in America. There are the odd years that a book has limited "american lifeness"; Shipping News opened up in America, but quickly went to Nova Scotia, though following American characters there; The Road is set in America, but I wouldn't call it an American life book!; But... think of the clearly 'American Life" books that have won the Pulitzer over that period... Olive Kitteridge, Oscar Wao, Martin Dressler, Independence Day, Empire Falls, American Pastoral, Thousand Acres, Breathing Lessons, Rabbit at Rest, to name a few.
That said, the criteria does state "preferably", so it does seem to leave the door open. However, how many times have books as clearly unlike "American Life" as Tiger's Wife won? I haven't read The Fixer (I've started it, just haven't made it into it yet), so I'm presuming Tom's correct about its setting. Pearl Buck's The Good Earth has nary an American character nor an American setting. A Bell for Adono is set overseas, but its a war story and the main characther is an Italian American in Allied occupied Italy in WWII, so I think we have to take stories about Americans at war in other countries as American life novels. So, as far as I can tell, only two winners have been as far off the "American life" criteria as Tiger's Wife.
I have to decide whether to include Tiger's Wife in the analysis for this year... in year's past I've (based upon my own best guess, I admit) screened out books from the analysis that didn't fit the American life criteria. I could include that as a variable in the model (is it about American life), I supposed, but it would, I'm sure, be about as helpful as adding "by and American writer" as a variable. If it wasn't getting such accolades, I would exclude it, just because of content. If, as I suspect it will, it gets nominated for other awards, I'll probably include it, on the off chance that this is the third time in almost a century a book that was so clearly not about American life might win!
Mike
November 5, 2011, 9:54 am
I still haven't read Zone One... anyone out there read it? It's sort of a genre novel, but from what I've read from reviews, as much a dystopian future book as an attempt to be a real genre novel. It also looks like, from the reviews, that it falls short on both fronts. Again, though, I haven't read it yet (I will, Colson Whitehead is one of my favorite authors) so would love to hear from someone who has read it.
Mike
November 5, 2011, 10:04 am
It got a very strong review from Machiko Kakutani in the NY Times, that's for sure. Interesting topic... faux memoir about a lost Shakespeare play that may or may not be authentic. Phillips himself sounds like a bit of a riot... I'm putting it on my 'to read' list!
Mike
November 5, 2011, 10:10 am
By the way, Jonathan Dee won the Francis College Literary Prize for The Privileges, so a Pulitzer finalist nod and a $50K literary prize for Dee... not too shabby. And, I learned where St. Francis is during my trip to the Brooklyn Book Festival... several of the readings were held there.
Back to the Literary Prize itself, it is presented to a mid-career author in hoor of a third to fifth book of fiction! It is a biannual award and was only given one other time (established in 2009), to Aleksander Hemon for Love and Obstacles, his book of short stories that followed The Lazarus Project. Notable, Arthur Phillips' novel The Song is You was a finalist that year (his book, The Tragedy of Arthur, was published this year and was brought up as a potential Pulitzer-worthy book).
Mike
November 5, 2011, 10:18 am
Agreed. I've read the Brookes book, and I liked it, but don't think it will show up as a Pulitzer winner. I've not read Eugenides' new book yet, but since no author has ever won Pulitzers for back-to-back books, it seems highly unlikely that this will happen!
Mike
November 5, 2011, 10:23 am
Interesting observation. I've read Bruno, but not Killing's Done yet. Bruno is growing on me the further I'm away from it... I liked it a lot, but wasn't bowled over completely by it, as I sort of expected to be. But, it's settling in as one of the best books I've read this year!
Tom
November 5, 2011, 6:45 pm
I'm looking for a copy of Tiger's Wife and seeing some listings say that the UK edition was published a few days before the U.S. edition. I'm usually a bit skeptical when I read listings like that, and I have debunked similar claims for other titles in the past - Gilead was one, and The Kite Runner was another.
So my question is - does anyone have any information supporting the idea that The Tiger's Wife was first published in the UK?
Mike
November 5, 2011, 7:16 pm
You've probably already seen that amazon.com lists the publication date for the U.S. Hardcover as March 8, while amazon.co.uk lists the publication date for the British 1st as March 3. The U.S. first says "First Edition"; the British first says "First published in Great Britain in 2011". I don't have ARCs for either version, so not sure if that would provide additional information. I think it's one of those where they were, basically, simultaneously released, with one or the other coming out a few days ahead or behind the other, but that for collectors, country of origin is the important factor. That said, I suspect that the UK edition did hit the market 5 days sooner, just because I've seen that fairly widely claimed. The UK first of Jeffrey Eugenides new book was also released before the US version, I had my UK copy in hand (even given the airmail time) before the release date of the U.S. version.
Jonathan
November 5, 2011, 10:26 pm
This is question of "country of origin" is very, very interesting for me, especially since I am applying for jobs in publishing, and specifically subsidiary and foreign rights. From what I know, I don't understand how The Tiger's Wife could have been published in the UK before the US. I know for certain that it was sold by Obreht's agent to Random House (US) and edited by a NY-based editor. Because the book was sold to Random House (US), the UK edition was licensed through some kind of foreign sale. Although it is common for such deals to happen prior to publication in the country where the manuscript was sold, I have never known a licensed deal to be published prior to publication in the place where it was licensed from. (I know that they sometimes happen simultaneously.) I do see the publication dates that you refer to, however, is there any chance that it was a mistake? I don't know why Random House (US) would allow themselves to be "scooped" (for lack of a better word), especially on such a major release.
Still, I am not yet working in the industry and all of my knowledge of these issues is from a publishing course that I attended. Since I am new to collection (in fact I probably can't be called a collector yet!) I never though about country of origin -- except for the fact that when I was reading Harry Potter in hardcover, I insisted on ordering the UK editions since it bothered me that they changed British-isms (like post and pitch) in the US editions.
This brings up an interesting point. Obreht is a US writer who writes in US English. The changes that were made to Harry Potter were made because American kids are dumb (someone decided they couldn't figure out that pitch=field) still might there have been some minor, minor changes made to Obreht's manuscript? Does anyone know if UK editors change color to colour?
Still, if the dates are correct, and even if there are no differences in text, would collectors really consider the UK edition the first one, regardless of the fact that it was sold to Random House US and edited in the US?
Guy Fartenhopper
November 5, 2011, 10:48 pm
Hi Mike, I hope you're well. I think it was me you talked to In Brooklyn. My name's not Guy but as you can see, I was unable to log into this site with anything other than a bizarre old alias gmail account. I did puzzle for a long while over shipping and storing my books to avoid the slightest bit of damage. Also you need to consider bugs, moisture etc.
For my cross country move, I double boxed them. I packed them tight into typical file boxes from staples with a little bit of bubble wrap or thin foam wrap to separate them. Then I put each file box into a standard "book size" moving box that was just a bit larger and filled those top and bottom with packing material too. A little over the top, perhaps but unbelievably, this protected the books from my movers; there was not a book damaged in about 15-20 boxes.
For long term storage in a storage unit, I put books, individually wrapped, in more or less air tight plastic boxes. I debated over whether I should use airtight or boxes that let air circulate, but mainly I got it into my head that bugs were my worst fear since the books are in a climate controlled storage.
May none of you have to ever move or store your fine firsts!
Guy Fartenhopper
November 5, 2011, 11:08 pm
I am pretty sure the UK is the true first, in this case by a significant margin, and yes it matters in terms of value, and more importantly the price you'll have to pay to get it. The good news is I think the UK is still available at a reasonable price. I got both just for the hell of it. The bad news is there seems to be no logic to the practice of releasing books and you can't even trust the Amazon release dates. Often i have to go to the publishers' website or call them and even then it can be inconclusive.These things still catch me by surprise, even though I consider myself seasoned.
For instance, I had not heard Eugenides was a UK first, I will look into that. Personally, I find Canadian first printings are the most vexing to get my hands on. For instance, according to what I've seen, Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones was first released in Canada. I suspect the American and Canadian may be one and the same but I tried to grab the Canadian just the same. When the giant Canadian internet retailer delayed on my order, I gave up and just canceled. I'll let someone else figure that out.
Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin is a good example. I did research at the time and according to the publishers info I found, it seemed a cut and dry case the Canadian was released before the American. So I got them both and when I had him sign them, I asked him, and as far as he is concerned, the US is the true first. That's one way to resolve controversy I suppose.
Personally, I think it does matter where the book appeared first, but I wouldn't mind if the whole process was a bit more logical.
Tom
November 5, 2011, 11:08 pm
Thanks Jonathan.
I have seen listing of the Weidenfeld & Nicolson edition signed by the author and dated March 3. So it sure appears that it was published 5 days prior to the Random House house edition.
That said, I agree with you that Random House was the main publisher, and the UK edition was part of some licensing agreement. I think being the main publisher is more important than whether one was released a few days before the other, especially when the author is American.
This kind of reminds me of Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey. It was clear the the UK edition was published a few days before the U.S. edition. Despite this, the UK edition does not seem to be more valuable than the U.S. edition. That too is probably because Wilder was an American author.
Guy Fartenhopper
November 5, 2011, 11:11 pm
Mr. Benchly, I have found this years NBA shortlist remarkably easy to find in NYC, save Pearlman's book. I have too have seen signed Otsukas all over the place at Brooklyn indies.
What have other's experiences been with this years' crop?
Anyone counting on The Sojourn being another Tinkers?
Tom
November 5, 2011, 11:24 pm
By the way, I looked through an excerpt from the Weidenfeld & Nicolson edition. I found "center", "watercolors", "colorful", "coloring" - all American spellings. I did not find "colour" or "centre".
Guy Fartenhopper
November 5, 2011, 11:50 pm
thanks for pointing out these two pieces I had not seen before.
Criticizing awards for being irrelevant is kind of silly to me. Maybe I didn't read carefully but Miller seemed not to make any points of substance. The judges shouldn't sideline already successful novels? Even if there was proof of this being a systematic problem, I'm not sure how they'd put a remedy into practice.
Awards are what they are. Of course they are going to rule out many books "people like" or publishers push and have an element of arbitrariness to them. What do people think the purpose of awards is? I like awards because they help me as a reader see what's happening, significant or artistic in a particular year, and help me as a collector focus my mania on books that might have a better chance at becoming collectable or valuable in the future (partly because others are caught in the same collective delusions i am), but I'm under no illusions about qualitative judgements about art or taste in literature.
Guy Fartenhopper
November 6, 2011, 12:41 pm
actually, it looks like the Marriage Plot was released on the same day in UK, US and Canada: Oct 11, 2011.
Pavel
November 6, 2011, 2:00 pm
Love and Shame and Love by Peter Orner
An interesting book coming out in November.
Another worth looking at book is A GOOD AMERICAN by Alex George. But this one is not due till 2012.
Mr. Benchly
November 6, 2011, 5:18 pm
I work in publishing and though I've never worked on a book published by two different publishing houses, I have had some experience working with multiple printers and I can tell you that if Book A is sent to Printer A a week before Book B is sent to Printer B, there's still a chance that Book B could be printed earlier. Sometimes printers get backed up. I can't speak for Random House or Weidenfeld & Nicolson; maybe the Random House edition of Tiger's Wife was on a faster track that got delayed for some reason, maybe it was on the slower track all along. What I can say is if Random House is the original publisher and it sells a book to a foreign publisher for simultaneous or near-simultaneous printings, I would consider them the same edition; if the foreign publisher makes one edit, however, I would consider that book to be a second edition regardless of its print date. My whole reasoning for collecting firsts is to be able to read the text as it was originally approved by the author and if there are any changes to that text, it's a later edition in my opinion.
Of course, we all have our different reasons for collecting and what's important to me might not matter at all to someone else, and in the end, a book is only worth what someone pays for it. I don't plan to sell my books, though (unless I need to help pay for future college degrees), so for now my books are only worth what I feel about them ... and I feel really comfortable with my copy of Random House's The Tiger's Wife.
Mike
November 6, 2011, 5:42 pm
That may be the case, but my copy of the UK edition shipped from the UK on October 5!:
From: Amazon.co.uk [mailto:auto-shipping@amazon.co.uk] Sent: Wednesday, October 05, 2011 10:03 AM Subject: Your Amazon.co.uk order has dispatched
Dear Customer, Greetings from Amazon.co.uk, We are writing to let you know that the following item has been sent using Royal Mail. For more information about delivery estimates and any open orders, please visit: http://www.amazon.co.uk/your-account Your order #026-1275594-7023566 (received July 20, 2011) ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Qty Item Price Delivery Subtotal -------------------------------------------------------------------------
Amazon.co.uk items (Sold by Amazon EU S.a.r.L.): 1 The Marriage Plot £10.00 1 £10.00 Dispatched via Royal Mail (estimated arrival date: October 26, 2011). ------------------------------------------------------------------------- I think this illustrates the difficulty in basing "true first" on supposed release dates. I would also note that my Canadian edition of Marriage Plot has yet to ship... not sure what's going on with that.
I was at an author event recently that preceded the release date of the book, but the independent book seller had copies for sale. I recall all the hoopla with the Harry Potter books about booksellers releasing them sooner... they are obviously printed up, sent to booksellers, and then embargoed until a release date.
Mike
November 6, 2011, 5:46 pm
Yes, that was it! What plastic boxes did you find for the storage unit? I can't find any that don't have sloping sides and in which books don't really fit that well.
Mike
November 6, 2011, 5:54 pm
I'm curoius what other Pulitzer collectors prefer with regard to flatsigned versus personalized with an inscription. I know that for resale value, flatsigned is probably better, but I have no intention of selling my collection any time soon and I like to have the author at least inscribe it to me, and it's great when they add additional inscriptions. Jennifer Egan is particularly good about writing a lot of nice things. A piece on the Quill and Brush bookstore website (http://www.qbbooks.com/autograph_books.php) states a preference for inscribed books. In the end, like so much of collecting, its a personal preference decision, but I'm interested in what others think.
My favorite inscription for one of my books... Don DeLillo's inscription to my copy of Falling Man (a 9/11 novel)... "To Mike, remember the day.... Don Delillo".
Mike
November 6, 2011, 5:56 pm
I too found that with the exception of the Pearlman book, the others have been relatively easy to get hold of. I did finally find a first of Binocular vision, and had Obreht's book from earlier in the year (it was a selection of several of the signed first edition clubs), though my sense is that its becoming a hard 1st edition to find now.
Mike
November 6, 2011, 6:02 pm
I think the standards raised by Jonathan and Mr. B are on target with regard to "true firsts". I tend to want U.S., UK, and Canadian editions of important books anyway, and I certainly agree that a situation like Stone Diaries makes the UK/Canadian edition the true first (it was releasaed a year before the U.S. version that won the Pulitzer). I have a nice, signed US first of Wilder's Bridge, and although there seems to be some consensus that the UK edition was released first, I'm not inclined to pay a lot for the UK version (until, I suppose, it's all I need to complete my collection :-).
Guy Fartenhopper
November 6, 2011, 7:42 pm
The box I intended to use was available at Staples, but when my moving time came, they were sold out across LA so I was forced to use a cheaper, less optimal box. The same box for sale at Staples I subsequently (post-move and too late) noticed at the Container store in all sorts of sizes. They are pricey clear boxes, but sealable (supposedly moisture tight) and with non sloping sides. If you are willing to spend, or don't have to store too many books, they look like they'd do the trick nicely. Once a box is airtight, I came cross the question of whether that might lead to new problems with moisture, and whether I should buy desiccant packets (also pricey, though free with a pair of shoes). I never really was able to find an authority on this issue.
Jonathan
November 7, 2011, 12:04 pm
I saw that Publisher's Weekly came out with their top books of the year: top 10 all books, top 20 just fiction, top 20 just non-fiction, and others. On the fiction list, a few are "commercial"/not literary enough for the Pulitzer and quite a few others are by non-American authors, so it may not be that helpful. Still, it is interesting to note (from what I what I was able to dig up) the top 20 fiction list for the year ending 2009 included Tinkers, but the list in 2008 missed Olive Kitteridge. So in terms of the somewhat surprising years, they are 1 for 2. They included, Good Squad, Oscar Wao and The Road in the relevant years. I wasn't able to dig up info older than that.
I think Mike has enough things in his model already, and there is nothing special about PW, per se -- there are so many top lists that will be coming out, but I thought this was interesting enough to share.
The full list is below, with a few of my notes. Does anything jump out at anyone as interesting? I had originally not paid attention to The Sister’s Brothers, but someone here was reading it. Also, not that the committee compares one year to another, but after linked stories won 2 of the last 3 years, with a slim novel in between, it might just be time for a “bigger” and historical book to win. On the flip side, there was a lot of discussion a few months ago about Denis Johnson’s novella, which is also on the list. Also a short book, 208 pp, I’ve heard good things about Lily Tuck’s, I Married You for Love.
The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides (Good, but no Middlesex. Won’t win him another Pulitzer.) The Devil All the Time, Donald Ray Pollack (Too commercial?) State of Wonder, Ann Pachette There But for The, Ali Smith (Non-American Author) The Wondering Falcon, Jamil Ahmed (Non-American Author) The Sister's Brothers, Patrick deWitt Say Her Name, Francisco Goldman The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine, Alina Bronsky (Takes place abroad, from what I can gather) Volt, Alan Heathcock The Stanger's Child, Alan Hollinghurst (Non-American Author) Train Dreams, Denis Johnson Changó's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes, William Kennedy The Night Circus, Erin Morganstern (Fun, worthy of being listed, but too commercial/not Pulitzer material) The Call, Yannick Murphy The Tigers Wife, Téa Obreht Cain, José Saramago (Translation) Luminarium, Alex Shakar Someday This Will Be Funny, Lynne Tillman I Married You for Happiness, Lily Tuck Leche, R. Zamora Linmark (Takes place abroad, from what I can gather)
Jonathan
November 7, 2011, 1:19 pm
I just learned (from an inside source) that the UK made a request to have The Tiger's Wife come out sooner than originally planned (it was originally scheduled to come out a week after the US edition). The reason was likely so that it could qualify for this year's Orange Prize, an award for women writers, regardless of nationality, but only for books published, at some point, in the UK. If you didn't know, it won. I was trying to find info on the qualification year for the prize, but I'm too lazy right now. Still, it looks like it uses a year of approx March to March. Books that came out in 2010 were on the long list including Good Squad and Room (by Emma Donoghue, an Irish writer), but Swamplandia! from 2011 was also on the list. The press release for the long list was dated March 16th. Still, if The Tiger's Wife published in the UK March 3rd, I have to think that the Orange Prize committee were a little loose with their qualification year!
Guy, does it really matter more to you that the book was released first in the UK? Even if it was not the original plan? And even if Random House (US) is the "main" publisher, and the author is an American?
Mike
November 7, 2011, 1:48 pm
Very interesting, and again a testiment to the vagueries of "release date" to determine "true first edition."
Mike
November 7, 2011, 1:59 pm
Ah, the first of the "best of the year" lists. By the way, with regard to adding the PW list appearance as a predictor variable in the model, there is certainly room for more predictor variables... the more the merrier (and, presumbaly, the more predictor variables we account for, the better the prediction). The stipulation is, though, that the predictor variable be something I can enter for every pulitzer winner (or book, for that matter) from 1981 onward. The current data set has data on around 40 predictor varialbles for about 1200 books, including every pulitzer winner since Rabbit is Rich (1982 winner). So, to be a predictor variable, the list or award or whatver must have data from 1981 onward. One predictor variable I added recently was the American Library Association notable books list, because I was able to find a document listing those since 1981. I think I've looked into adding the PW list as a predictor variable, and it doesn't go back far enough or I've not been able to find the list for the 1981 forward period. If anyone has that, let me know, i would be glad to add another predictor variable!
As for the books, Sister's Brothers was, of course, short listed for the Mann Booker, but the author has dual US/Canadian citizenship, as someone pointed out to me earlier in the discussion, so is eligible for the pulitzer. I will be interested in seeing how it does in the various award competitions. I haven't read Chango's Beads, but it looks very good... I wonder if Kennedy might not have another Pulitzer in him... I think of the existing Pulitzer winners with books out this year (Brookes, Eugenides, Kennedy, Olen Butler), Kennedy would stand the best chance of repeating. I also wonder how Tuck's book will do in the award season... haven't read i t, but intend to at some point!
Mike
November 12, 2011, 12:58 pm
As we head toward the NBA announcement (Wednesday, November 16), here's the first prediction I've seen, this one from last year's winner, Jaimy Gordon:
http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/book-news/awards-and-prizes/article/49483-handicapping-the-field-nba-finalists-in-fiction.html
She seems to favor Pearlman's Binocular Vision.
I have been trying to finish Salvage the Bones, and am now 3/4 of the way through. I like it quite a lot. Comparing it and Tiger's Wife seems apples and oranges to me, they're such different books. I had hoped to get thorugh Otsuka's and Krivak's books as well, since they're short, but seems unlikely I will. Didn't someone say they thought Otsuka's book was great and someone else mentioned Krivak's book was slow with a big ending?
The NBF is going to webcast the award ceremony... 7:00 p.m. EST on their website (check to make sure that's the right time).
Mike
Mike
November 12, 2011, 1:16 pm
Thoughts on two west coast books. First, I finally found a U.S. first of deWitt's Sister's Brothers, which was a Booker finalist. In our discussion of "true firsts", I wonder if this one will be difficult if it goes on to win anything big. deWitt has dual U.S./Canadian citizenship, thus the Booker eligibility. Amazon.com shows the U.S. publication date as April 26 in hardcover. That version is published by Ecco and the copyright page states First Edition. Ecco is a HarperCollins subsidiary. The Amazon.co.uk website shows the British 1st as a PB original from Granta published 5 May. The copyright page states "First published in Great Britain by Granta Books, 2011. First published in the United States by Ecco, and imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2011." The Amazon.ca website has the Canadian first edition as published by House of Anansi Press on April 15 (in hardcover). The copyright states "This edition published in 2011 by House of Anansi Press, Inc.) and states "Distributed by Canada by HarperCollins Canad Ltd." The Canadian and U.S. Editions state thanks to the Canadian Arts council on the copyright page.
If we go by publication date, the Canadian issue seems first. If we go by what seems to be the country of origin with regard to the publisher, that seems to be the U.S. edition. Of course, the British edition is of interest because of the Booker status. I've ordered British and Candian firsts, just to be sure. The U.S. edition is the only one that clearly states "First Edition", though, and along with the link to HarperCollins US, I'm leaning toward it as the "true" first.
Also... the Book Passage signed first edition selection for this month was a The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar. Anyone read this? It reminds me a lot of Brando Skyhorse's Madonnas of Echo Park from last year. It seems a very "American Life" story. It has a blurb on the back from one of my recent newly discovered favorite authors, Daboberto Gilb, who also has a new short story collection out (Before the End, After the Beginning). Gilb's first book of short stories won the PEN/Hemingway award for first fiction. Anyone read either of these?
Jonathan
November 14, 2011, 4:32 pm
It was probably my comment that you were remembering, Mike, but I didn't say that The Sojourn had a "big" ending, only that I really, really liked the ending in comparison to the first 2/3s. I wondered if the reason was because I wasn't a fan of war writing, but I love Tim O'Brien's novels. In this case, I had trouble following the geography and wished that I remembered more about the history of WWI to more understand details. Then again, that is probably my geek-ishness standing in the way of my enjoyment, and others might be able to read through without a problem.
I also enjoyed The Buddha in the Attic. The writing was so sparse and so tight. Very different than anything I've read before. Someone told me that even though Otsuka is American born, she seems to be writing in an Japanese/Asian literary style. I have no means of comparison, but it's interesting to note.
I am reading Salvage the Bones right now and enjoying it. I could finish it by Wednesday, with some effort. Still, I am becoming convinced that the book I haven't read, Binocular Vision, might just win. I sent a tweet to the Washington Post fiction editor, who I met at a reading, and he says it is a real contender. And with a field of two freshman novels (The Tiger's Wife & The Sojourn) and two sophomore novels (The Buddha in the Attic & Salvage the Bones), it seems distinctly possible that the jury might use the opportunity to award the elder writer in the group.
brak
November 14, 2011, 5:41 pm
anyone read Luminarium yet?
Mike
November 14, 2011, 5:49 pm
Thanks for the correction and update Jonathan. I noted that Pearlman is receiving the PEN/Malamud Award this year, given by the PEN foundation for excellence in the short story. Not sure how that recognition might effect the NBA jury... perhaps they might feel that the PEN/Malamud award was recognition enough? We'll see on Wednesday!
brak
November 14, 2011, 6:25 pm
also, thoughts on the pearlman collection?
Mike
November 14, 2011, 6:34 pm
And, speaking of west coast books, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association released its 2012 Book Awards shortlist today:
http://www.pnba.org/awardsshortlist2012.html
Among these, deWitt's The Sisters Brothers, Diana Abu-Jaber's Birds of Paradise (which got a lot of buzz at BookExpo but about which I haven't heard much lately), Jonathan Evison's West of Here (I liked it, don't think it will rise to the top on many of the major awards, though), and Davide (Snow Falling on Ceders) Guterson's new novel, Ed King, which was just released.
Mike
November 14, 2011, 6:35 pm
No, but sounds like a Richard Powers novel!
Mike
November 14, 2011, 6:47 pm
Haven't read it yet, but it's emerging as the favorite for the NBA, from my sense of things. Well, perhaps the "other-than-Tiger's Wife" favorite. I haven't finished it yet, but I'm now rooting for Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones... good review by the Washington Post's Ron Charles this past week:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/jesmyn-wards-salvage-the-bones-reviewed-by-ron-charles/2011/10/31/gIQAuLni3M_story.html

Jonathan
November 15, 2011, 1:41 pm
It was Ron who responded to my tweet when I still thought I could get through it before the announcement and asked if I should make time. He said it was a "real contender."
brak
November 15, 2011, 4:22 pm
which? the pearlman book? or salvage the bones?
Mike
November 15, 2011, 5:19 pm
I like Ron Charles' reviews a lot. Brak, this was in reference to Salvage the Bones.
Jonathan
November 15, 2011, 9:02 pm
Apologies for the confusion, Brak. In this case I was responding to your original post and not Mike's reply. Charles' tweet to me was re the Pearlman collection, which I have not read. I am still reading and liking Salvage the Bones though. I have time tomorrow to polish it off, I think. I wish I was in NYC. I have a bunch of publishing friends going to a NBA party. Totally unaffiliated with anything other than a social group, but sounds like good fun for book nerds!
Mike
November 16, 2011, 3:48 pm
My bad, I thought it was about Salvage! The next best thing to being at the NBA event is to be watching it via Webcast, so that's what I'll be doing this evening!
brak
November 16, 2011, 5:17 pm
http://www.npr.org/2011/11/16/142343471/telling-stories-hear-national-book-award-finalists thought this might be a good audience for this. =)
November 16, 2011, 11:20 pm
Absorbing the NBA results (wow!), but thought I'd comment quickly. I'm going with the Canadian edition of deWitt's Sister's Brothers. My reasoning is it was published first by a wide margin--I don't feel the "industry" (booksellers and collectors) as a whole recognizes the country of origin line, but to each his or her own. The Canadian, then the US (not easy to find actually) and then the British. I really found it to be a good read and have secured US and Ca versions. Now just need him to sign them!!
Guy Fartenhopper
November 16, 2011, 11:29 pm
Absorbing the NBA results (wow!), but thought I'd comment quickly.
I'm going with the Canadian edition of deWitt's Sister's Brothers as the true first. My reasoning is it was published first by a wide margin--I don't feel the "industry" (booksellers and collectors that I am familiar with) as a whole recognizes the country of origin line, but to each his or her own. The Canadian, then the US (not easy to find actually) and then the British. As for the book, I really found it to be a good read and have secured US and Ca versions. Now just need him to sign them!!
Guy Fartenhopper
November 16, 2011, 11:36 pm
So I went to the NBA finalists reading last night. Tickets were only 10 bucks as long as you grabbed them before, but as I had not anticipated, book signing was kind of besides the point of the event; you had to approach the authors informally. I did manage to get Ward, Otsuka (my favorite of the literature short list so far), and Krivak to sign by going up to them and asking. Other than one obvious dealer, I did not notice anyone getting books signed. All the authors were nice, as you might expect on what is probably the best day of their lives. The event itself was enjoyable and I got to hear from poets and childrens' authors, two groups I don't usually pay attention to. In my opinion, Otsuka did the most compelling reading of her book. In a way I am disappointed that Ward won (though she was very nice) because her book supposedly came out in Canada before the US. As I have noted before, I have found no Canadian copies for sale and wonder whether they are in fact different versions. Hopefully someone on this board will find out someday.
Unfortunately, the 5 under 35 did have an event earlier in the week but it didn't seem to be open to the public. I also collect those so am anxious to get some signed firsts.
Guy Fartenhopper
November 16, 2011, 11:39 pm
Jonathan I'd just say that if a silly little thing like whether there is a "1" in the number line matters, then who are we to question whether release dates matter?
Guy Fartenhopper
November 16, 2011, 11:40 pm
One other thing for East Coasters--i noticed that one of my favorites Denis Johnson is appearing at Rutgers University in March 2012. Wonder if he'll be in signing mood?
Mike
November 17, 2011, 6:31 am
I'm getting both the US and CA, just in case!
Mike
November 17, 2011, 6:32 am
In a tweet right before the NBA ceremony, Ron Charles selected Salvage the Bones as his winner, so he was spot on.
Mike
November 17, 2011, 6:38 am
I was going to ask if anyone had gone to the reading. Bummer about the signing.
I'm curious about the CA version being the true first. According to Amazon.com and Amazon.CA, it came out a eek earlier in Canada, but bith versions are published by Bloomsbury USA and they have the same ISBN number, so that looks like the same book. The copyright states First U.S. edition, but I wonder if that's because Bloomsbury is a UK company. Any additional info?
Yet Another Mike
November 17, 2011, 4:37 pm
Is the first edition of "Salvage the Bones" the softcover or the hard. I have seen both listed as the "first true."
Guy Fartenhopper
November 17, 2011, 9:01 pm
I am also assuming/hoping the Bloomsbury edition US and Canada are one in the same. Someone would have to get their hands on a Canadian bought edition to be sure, but the shared ISBN seems to point to this conclusion.
Jonathan
November 18, 2011, 12:57 pm
At the time of the announcement, I still had 50 (or so) pp left in Salvage the Bones, but I immediately agreed it was a worthy winner, even though I had not read Binocular Vision. (I had read all the others.) I finished Salvage yesterday, and still think they judges made a good choice, but personally I probably liked The Tiger's Wife more.
Mike
November 19, 2011, 10:30 am
As did I Jonathan, and finished it Thursday... I haven't read any of the other finalists other than Tiger's Wife yet, so can't say whether it was the best of the lot, but I think Bones is a worthy winner. I admired the writing in Tiger's Wife more, but liked the story in Salvage the Bones better. I was at a book reading/signing by Robert Olen Butler this summer, and he was talking about the fact that his latest book was the second in a contract with his publisher, and that the contract had stated, specifically, that he would write a book about New Orleans. He began writing a book about a hurricane, but when Katrina actually hit NOLA, he abandoned that effort, and ultimately wrote Small Hotel, which is set in NOLA. It happened to be Sunday, September 11, so the the question/answer period turned to what are the "great" 9/11 novels. Given his comments about hurricanes, NOLA, and Katrina, I asked him if he thought anyone had written a "great" Katrina novel yet. Someone in the audience suggested a James Lee Burke book, and though Olen Butler indicated he knew and liked Burke, he didn't think a Dave Robideaux mystery novel would count in the category of great Katrina novels. Butler indicated that he didn't know of any such novels. I think this is officially the first "great" Katrina novel. Great is a relative term, of course... but by winning the NBA alone, Bones is elevated to the upper echelon of American literature. I accidentaly ordered two signed copies of Bones, and now am glad I did!
Mike
November 19, 2011, 10:42 am
I've emailed Bloomsbury USA. We'll see if they answer.
I saw somewhere that the first printing of the U.S. Edition had a run of 25,000. I checked the ARC to see if it would confirm that, but it does not. The ARC does state that there will be a pre-publication media launch in NYC. Also, I have a flyer (signed!) from the "Book Premiere" of Salvage the Bones from the Pass Christian (Mississippi) Library Friday, September 9. ou can see that online at http://www.passbooksonline.com/eventDetail.php?event_id=3. All in all, IMHO, it points ot the US edition as the true first. Hopefully Bloomsbury will respond and provide something difinitive.
Mike
November 19, 2011, 12:40 pm
As I looked more closely at my advance reading copy of Salvage the Bones, I began to wonder what the role of ARC's might be in judges making decisions about books. I ask this because the ARC ov Salvage the Bones has a "Personal Statement from the Author" written by Ms. Ward that does not appear in the hardcover edition. Since the nominations for the NBA must be submitted by mid-summer, it's obvious that for a book like Salvage the Bones, that was a Fall release, the judges are reading either a manuscript version or an ARC, and I'm guessing the Personal Statement would have been in either versions for Bone. The Personal Statment is, essentailly, a very, very moving essay about Ms. Ward's life in rural Mississippi. She describes (in her words) events in her life that are "endemic of small, rural, black America": her brother was killed at 19, hit by a drunk driver; her sister became pregnant at the age of 12 and was a mother by 13; her mother worked as a maid for an attorney in her town, and so forth. Ms. Ward describes how this attorney provided her the oppotunity to attend a private middle school, which turned her academic success around. She then describes how her writing is influenced and informed by these experiences, and that the goals of her writing are to be true to these people and to depict them with dignity (my words). Many ARC's have similar content that doesn't appear in the final version. If I'm a judge of the NBA, and I read this Personal Statement, I approach my reading of the novel differently. The book must, of course, stand on its own, but I can't help but think that content like this may encourage judges to invest more in the book then they might otherwise. I would note that the Tiger's Wife does not have any similar content, though I'll bet Ms. Obreht has unique experiences, given her background. On her side, though, she had received a lot of attention because of the New Yorker 20 under 40, the buzz associated with her short story (excerpt from the novel, essentially), and the buzz the book got when it was released in March. I'd guess, that type of publicity and acclaim influences how the judges approach a book.
November 20, 2011, 6:09 pm
Do you know anything about The Night Circus?
Mike
November 20, 2011, 8:48 pm
Definitely the Hardcover, presuming its the U.S. edition that's the true first. Unclear at this point if there is a Canadian edition that is distinct from the U.S. edition. As I mentioned to Guy, I've emailed Bloomsbury U.S.A. to ask. The only softcover I've seen so far is the advance reading copy. Have you seen another softcover version, and if so, what?
Mike
November 20, 2011, 8:49 pm
Such as? It was one of the books that got a lot of buzz at the BookExpo in May, and has been getting good reviews and selling like hotcakes. My sense is that it's not really a Pulitzer type of book, though I haven't read it yet.
Mr. Benchly
November 21, 2011, 11:09 am
I just finished Harbach's The Art of Fielding. I loved it. Man, I really loved it. The relationship between Henry and Schwartz reminded me quite a bit of the relationship between Joe and Sam in Kavalier & Clay (my all-time favorite book), with Pella filling the role of Rosa. I'd go so far as to say that it felt like Harbach took out the blueprint for Kavalier & Clay, changed comic books to baseball, and let everything else fall into place, but to say that would be to strip Harbach of what he accomplished in his book. My one beef is that, even at 500+ pages, I felt its ending could have used another 50 pages to properly deal with Henry and Schwartz's relationship. Even with Pella and the 2nd-tier characters, the endings felt hurried. But all in all, a great book.
Now I'm left wondering how accessible the book will be to readers. When I read Kavalier and Clay, I was skeptical that I could get into a book about comic books, but Chabon pulled it off; now, I'm wondering the same thing about a book about baseball. I'm a huge baseball dork so I ate it up but I wonder if others will, too? Any non-baseball fans read this book? I'd be curious to hear their take.
Also, I'm in the middle of The Buddha in the Attic and thoroughly enjoying it. I was worried that the 3rd person narrative would come off as artificial and forced, but it works just as I thought it worked for Then We Came to the End. The story is so tightly compact, moving, and relevant to US history, it has to be thrown into the Pulitzer discussion. I think the NBA did a great job with this nomination.
Jonathan
November 21, 2011, 5:00 pm
The Night Circus was a great book...for a book of it's kind. It's definitely not a Pulitzer contender, though. It wasn't "literary" enough. It was too close the edge of fantasy. It didn't have any of the right themes. That said, it was a fun, captivating read. Morgenstern creates a well-drawn literary universe that allows her readers to believe in magic. (I think I was channeling a publicist in that last sentence.)
Jonathan
November 21, 2011, 5:59 pm
Great points on The Art of Fielding, Mr. Benchly. I am also a baseball fan, so the baseball content wasn't an issue for me, either. As to whether non-baseball fans would like it: I know quite a few 22-25-year old women (some who are sports fans, some who are not) who read the book and loved it. I read it in August (before its release), so it's possible I am not remembering everything, but I definitely wouldn't say that it is a novel "about baseball." Much more action takes place off the diamond than on, right? And that's what makes it brilliant. Harbach is able to use baseball (and a small college) as his structure to explore people and their relationships. In my mind, it is a character-driven novel. Anyone who cares about people and love; struggle and achievement; temptation and redemption; and on and on, will love this book. I think those are the things that most moved the young women I know. If a reader can't see those themes amidst the baseball content, then s/he isn't much of a reader!
Your comparison to Kavalier & Clay is interesting. I really need to reread that novel, it's been too long, but I would even say that The Art of Fielding is even more accessible than K&C. In my memory there was much more comic content in K&C than baseball content in Fielding. Still, I would never call K&C a novel "about comics." Also, I am a history buff/nerd, but I seem to remember some tedious details spring up in the book. I don’t remember many tedious sections to Fielding.
I am interested that you think The Buddha in the Attic should be in our conversation for the Pulitzer. I thought it was beautiful. I was also skeptical of the first person plural, but I have now read 4 novels in which the authors pulled it off. You mention Ferris' novel, the other two were The Virgin Suicides and The Fates Will Find Their Way (from this year). You mention how “tight” Otsuka’s story is. I completely agree, and while I see it as a major positive attribute of the novel, I also saw it as a major reason why it will have a hard time winning the Pulitzer. It seems that the judges tend to prefer bigger (in length and themes), bolder, more complex novels. Of course there are always exceptions. I haven’t read Tinkers, but that seems like one, at least in terms of page count. Olive Kitteridge, seems like another, for different reasons. Still, it seems like over the last 10 years bigger, more complex novels seem to have dominated.
Sorry if many of these points have been made before in past years!
My early front runner is definitely The Art of Fielding.
Mike
November 27, 2011, 6:14 pm
I'm guessing this Ed P. signed in as Guest? Thanks for the update on the SBF. Sounds like it was a good festival. First, I gotta know which authors agreed to send you copies of first edition books you had not been able to find! Wow. That's generous.
I heard the Erin Morgenstern was sick. Interesting comment from Ann Patchett about the percentage of e-book sales. During a panel at the Texas Book Festival, Hillary Jordan indicated that her royalties were higher for e-books than for print books, so to some degree, authors may preer e-book sales.
I'm not at all surprised Ms. Campbell was animated and engaging. I subscribe to a blog she writes every now and then for Goodreads and to her twitter feed, and enjoy most everything she posts. I just finished Once Upon a River, and liked it quite a lot. I hope it does well on the awards circuit. I also saw Justin Torres at the Texas Book Festival, and he was a riot! My son was with me, and we split up to get books signed after Torres' panel, so I had a copy of We The Animals for Torres to sign for my son, and he inscribed it to my son, with the note that "his father has excellent taste in books!" If anything, I appreciate We The Animals more having seen Torres in person!
There are always too many conflicting readings/signings at these things!
Mike
November 27, 2011, 6:17 pm
No reply from Bloomsbury USA yet, but I'm coming to believe that the "First U.S. Edition" is the only edition. I ordered a copy online from Amazon.co.uk, thinking it would be the British edition. What arrived was the "First U.S. Edition" (unfortunately, not even a first printing), so there doesn't appear to be a British edition that's different, and it seems unlikely they'd produce a Canadian version. Hopefully Bloomsbury will respond after the holiday weekend.
brak
November 29, 2011, 5:42 pm
http://www.npr.org/2011/11/29/142607895/plot-driven-alan-cheuses-top-5-fiction-picks
I don't think anyone has yet mentioned Bonnie Jo Campbell's novel. I haven't read it yet, but her short story book....American Salvage, I believe it was called, was a finalist for the NBA. It wasn't consistently great, that collection, but the first story was short and absolutely masterful. Any thoughts?
Mike
November 29, 2011, 6:10 pm
I just finished Once Upon a River, and liked it... Cheuses' snopsis of Annie Oakley meets Huck Finn is about right. I'm sure it will be on a lot of the year end "best of" lists, and wouldn't be surprise if it showed up on some award lists. The question I had about this that I mentioned earlier is whether Salvage's strong performance from last year (NBA and NBCC finalist) will somehow hurt the attention River gets.
brak
November 30, 2011, 1:49 am
Thought this might be of interest to some of you: http://books.google.com/books?id=qKLnSIFJYswC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
brak
December 1, 2011, 2:03 pm
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/11/books/10-best-books-of-2011.html
brak
December 1, 2011, 2:05 pm
did we already discuss ten thousand saints? 80s new york novel.
brak
December 1, 2011, 2:06 pm
it is worth noting that tiger's wife, ten thousand saints, and art of fielding are all debut novels--it would be interesting if 2 or 3 of the pulitzer finalists / winner were first-time novelists!
Jonathan
December 1, 2011, 10:26 pm
I might have to re-read Ten Thousand Saint's now. I read it as an ARC and remember liking it, but not loving it. It rambled a bit for me. Although it is a heck of a good portrait of NYC in the 80s (from what I know...since I was a wee one then). Also, lets not forget that Swamplandia! is a debut *novel.* Russell only released a short story collection.
December 2, 2011, 2:12 pm
true, though i have heard mixed things about swamplandia--also, isn't it a comedic novel? it is the rare comedic novel (the feud, confederacy of dunces) that really lands a pulitzer prize (and even with the feud it was overturned for ironweed)
brak
December 2, 2011, 2:12 pm
(the above comment is from me--forgot to include my handle)
Scott
December 2, 2011, 3:07 pm
Hello all,
I am not a collector, but I became interested in the Pulitzer Prize after falling in love with "Middlesex" in 2003. A google search for Pulitzer predictions led me to this site in 2008 and I've been checking in with you all since then. I haven't noticed any mention of Colm Tóibín's new collection "The Empty Family: Stories". Is he eligible for the Pulitzer? I've only ever read a short story of Tóibín's in the collection "The Book of Other People" but he seems to garner critical acclaim from his work, most notably "Brooklyn". According to wikipedia.org, although he was born in Ireland, Tóibín is currently the Leonard Milberg Lecturer in Irish Letters at Princeton University. In order to hold this position would it require that he possess dual citizenship?
brak
December 2, 2011, 6:57 pm
he is ineligible, because he is not an american citizen.
Jonathan
December 2, 2011, 8:51 pm
I try to avoid classifications. Still, Swamplandia! might be classified as "comedic." It does have a very, very dark side/scene, however. Most importantly, I don't see it as Pulitzer material. I liked it. It was tremendously imaginative. Russell creates a beautiful somewhat real, somewhat fantastical setting in the Everglade, and a heck of a powerful teenage protagonist. Still, of the five fiction books, Ten Thousand Saints is much closer to what the committee seems to like in style and substance, but my vote remains with The Art of Fielding.
Jonathan
December 2, 2011, 8:54 pm
I am not a collector either, Scott, but discovered the site this year when looking for Pulitzer predictions. I simply was interested in reading the potential Pulitzer winner before the announcement. Collecting wasn't in my mind. These collectors might have gotten me to start, however. Time will tell! Please weigh in with more posts/ideas/great things you have read.
brak
December 2, 2011, 11:30 pm
welcome, scott!
Scott
December 3, 2011, 11:01 am
Thank you brak! Yes, I wasn't sure if his position at Princeton would require that he apply for U.S. citizenship or not. And Jonathan, I too try to guess the Pulitzer and read it before it is awarded. Last year I was midway through Goon Squad when it was announced. I'm a slow reader, and I have quite a collection of books to get though from years past, so I don't read a lot of "new" books in any given year. I am currently working my way through the 90s winners, in addition to the (semi)overwhelming stack of books I own. I must thank this site for leading me to "The Plague of Doves". After seeing it listed on here my interest was piqued. I did not read it until after the prize was awarded that year, but I was disappointed to see that it lost to Olive Kitteridge. In my opinion Erdrich's novel was far superior to Strout's collection. The only novel I read this year that is eligible for the prize is Eugenides' "The Marriage Plot". I loved it, although I'm guessing this will not gain him another Pulitzer. I'm also interested in reading the DeLillo collection (which I learned about here...thanks again!) and "Train Dreams" by Denis Johnson.
Tay
December 3, 2011, 7:43 pm
Just got back into reading. Feeling totally overwhelmed until I stumbled upon this site. Just want to tell all of you folks how much I appreciate all your comments and insight. You have helped me weed out the crap while finding some outstanding material. I now have my reading "stack" thanks to all of you. In case any of you are feeling a little down today, please note that people like myself value every critical view you have posted on this site. Mike...you are awesome, but all of you are as well. Just wanted to give you all a big, literary hug for proving that nice people actually do exist. Stay well all of you. Thanks for everything!
Tay
December 3, 2011, 7:43 pm
Just got back into reading. Feeling totally overwhelmed until I stumbled upon this site. Just want to tell all of you folks how much I appreciate all your comments and insight. You have helped me weed out the crap while finding some outstanding material. I now have my reading "stack" thanks to all of you. In case any of you are feeling a little down today, please note that people like myself value every critical view you have posted on this site. Mike...you are awesome, but all of you are as well. Just wanted to give you all a big, literary hug for proving that nice people actually do exist. Stay well all of you. Thanks for everything!
Jonathan
December 4, 2011, 2:53 pm
As I have said before, I am new to thinking of books as collectibles, and thus, I haven't ever covered any. Now it's time.
What are your preferred covers? I talked to someone in my local DC bookshop, and he recommended a company/site. I knew I should have noted it down, but I didn't and now (a mere 2 hours later!) I can't remember. It was one word, ending in "art," I think...like Mentart, except that's not it.
I am pretty incompetent when it comes to things like this...if I have to do too much cutting to fit, I am liable to screw it up. He mentioned multi-packs with different sizes and said the website had directions.
Any idea what company/site he was talking about liking? And if not, what do you like/use? I need something easy and idiot-proof.
Aaron
December 4, 2011, 3:02 pm
I've not used them before, but I know several first edition clubs use Brodart Archival Book Covers. If you search on Amazon, they can be found there. I'm not sure if that's the best deal going, but it's an option for you.
Let us know what user friendly option you find. I'm interested in covering some books as well.
Mr. Benchly
December 4, 2011, 4:31 pm
I'm fairly certain he was talking about Brodart (http://www.shopbrodart.com/book-jacket-covers/). I hope this helps!
Mike
December 6, 2011, 7:45 pm
It is Brodart. I buy the Brodart Quik-Fold Book Jacket Covers, SKU #10-527-003. They're 21" in length, 10" high and fit almost all fiction book DJs. A packet of 100 is about $30. This version has a self-adhesive on it, so you just fit it to the DJ and fold it over to adhere. Very easily done. There are some potential problems with long term effects on the cover from adhesives. I have some much older books that I covered with mylar covers (that's what the Brodart covers are), but used scotch-tape from the era, which soaked through the paper backing on the mylar cover and onto the DJ itself. If you want to be hypercareful, you can buy mylar covers that just fold and don't use adhesive, but I never like the way those fit covers. I think the adhesives used by Brodart these days are, chemically, safer than the scotch tape of the 1980s, so I'm not too concerned with that issue. Covering DJs not only protects them (the mylar also reduces the impact of light) but makes them look better. Since I also collect advance reading copies and uncorrected proofs, I also buy several different sizes of "Brodart Plasi-Kleer 8-Mil Clear Durasavers for Books", which come in various sizes. Those are a bit more pricey, so I'm pickier about what books I put them in. I put every cover I get for a book I want to save in a Brodart.
Mike
December 6, 2011, 7:53 pm
This looks great... except I can't locate a copy for under $130.00! Yikes. I searched my university library, but not there. I'll have to hunt more, looks like something I have to have!
Mike
December 6, 2011, 8:28 pm
I found the (German) publishers website. The book is $157.00 new. It waid available as an ebook... still $157.00. I may see if I can get it via interlibrary loan.
Mike
December 6, 2011, 8:46 pm
A very dark side. I'd agree it doesn't seem Pulitzer-like... though I think it will be on several awards lists. I like it more now that I've had time to digest it then when I first finished it, mainly because the dark scene bothered me a lot. I saw Karen Russell at the Texas Book Festival (a really, really nice person and a gracious signer) and told her I was bothered by the scene, and she indicated she'd intended it to be jolting... and it worked. I'm about 1/4 of the way through Ed King by David Guterson. Not really liking it much so far... it's a retelling of Oedipus Rex, so obviously dark themes. Ron Charles at the Washington Post hated it, though it got a decent review in the NY Times. I think it won the "Worst Sex Scene in a novel" award for this year. I'll finish it, but don't expect it to be a viable Pulitzer candidate. So far, I'd have to say that Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, which won the NBA, gets my nod. I finished The Art of Fielding, and I liked it, but I was moved more by Salvage.
Mike
December 6, 2011, 8:46 pm
I meant to also say that I've got Ten Thousand Saints on my "to read" list before April.
Guy Fartenhopper
December 7, 2011, 1:57 pm
I stay away from adhesives myself, but my cover of choice are the Brodart Fold On in 91/2 (10-409-029) and in 81/2 (20-409-021)--these mostly do the trick. (Brodart seems to change their product names from time to time for some unfathomable reason, so be aware of this when searching their website). I just refold them if necessary. You may want to wait for their sales if you can because this can help offset Brodart's gratuitous shipping charges.
Mike do you also use the "Brodart Plasi-Kleer 8-Mil Clear Durasavers for Books" to cover regular size books with no jackets? I have been searching for something like that, although for ARCs and the like, i feel more comfortable with high quality comic book bags (though these are not great for displaying).
Mike
December 7, 2011, 3:01 pm
How do the Fold On versions work? Do they have a paper backing, or only the clear mylar? How well does it actually conform to the jacket? I'm sort of hoping that Brodart, which is of course in the book preservation business, has figured out how to use adhesives that are not going to cause problems later on... I don't want to be replacing 2500 mylars ten years from now! I have a "canary" book/DJ that I use to monitor whether the adhesive is doing anything. So far, so good.
I haven't tried the Plasti-Kleer's with books that don't have DJs... wouldn't the Fold On mylar work for those? One of the benefits, I think, of using the Plasti-Kleer's with ARCs is that when you're carting all of your books to fairs and festivals, it tends to protect the softcover ARCs. I keep magazines and certain off-sized ARCs in the comic bags.
Mike
December 7, 2011, 3:38 pm
So, I'm compiling the dataset from which I'll run the 2012 Pulitzer prediction analysis, and I notice that Alice Hoffman has pulled the Joyce Carol Oatesian feat of publishing two books in the year (The Red Garden in January 2011 and The Dovekeepers in August or October). I've not read anything by Hoffman, but am wondering whether others have and what they think. Red Garden made the NY Times Notable Books list this year, and Dovekeeper is making other 'best of' lists.
brak
December 9, 2011, 2:30 pm
when's the first prediction list going up?
Mike
December 10, 2011, 11:00 am
Well, since you asked! I have 80 books published in 2011 entered. There are 36 predictor variables. They are:
Book appeared on NY Times Notable Books list for year Book appeared on MY Times 10 Best books list for year Book made ALA Notable list from year Author previous Pulitzer Winner Author previous Pulitzer Finalist Author multiple Pulitzer nominations Book NBA Finalist from year Book NBA Winner from year Book NBCC finalist from year Book NBCC winner from year Book PEN/Faulkner finalist from year Book PEN/Faulkner winner from year Book PEN Hemingway Winner Book LA Times finalist from year Author previous NBA Finalist Author multiple NBA nominations Author previous NBA winner Author multiple NBA wins Author NBA award within 5 years Author previous NBCC Finalist Author multiple NBCC nominations Author previous NBCC winner Author multiple NBCC wins Author NBCC award within 5 years Author previous PEN/Faulkner Finalist Author multiple PEN/Faulkner nominations Author previous PEN/Faulkner winner Author multiple PEN/Faulkner wins Author PEN/Faulkner award within 5 years Author previous LATimes Finalist Author multiple LATimes nominatinos Author previous LATimes winner Author multiple LATimes wins Author LATimes award within 5 years Author Previous PEN Hemingway Winner Author Previous John Dos Passos Prize Winner
The database from which I generate the "weighting" functions (value between-1.00 and 1.00 assigned to each variable entered into the current year dataset) has data on each variable for 1,259 books, including every Pulitzer winner since 1982 (the farthest back I can go and have data on each of the variables) and for all prize winners and finalists and "best of lists" from 1989 to 2010).
(More in next reply, I’m running out of space)…
Mike
December 10, 2011, 11:00 am
I'll send the first list of 15 to Tom later this month, I'm still waiting a few "best books of 2011" lists to come out. As a preview, here are the top 10 as of now:
The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht The Angel Esmeralda by Don Delillo The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach Swamplandia by Karen Russell Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka Nanjing Requiem by Ha Jin The Astral by Kate Christensen Chango's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes by William Kennedy
Keep in mind that most of the "book-based” data (e.g., nominated for or won awards) are not out, so this analysis reflects the fact that the book was on the NY Times best of lists and/or nominated or won the NBA and/or the author has been nominated for or won previous awards. And, to note, this is the first year since I've been doing this that we don't have a Joyce Carol Oates or Philip Roth book in the mix!
Mike
December 10, 2011, 6:52 pm
And, just to note, I've opted to keep some books in the analysis that seem to lack the "American Life" component for the Pulitzer. Specifically, it seemed unwise to remove Tiger's Wife, given the attention its received. I've also kept Ann Patchett's State of Wonder in the mix.
Guy Fartenhopper
December 10, 2011, 8:14 pm
The fold ons have a paper backing and seems to obviate the need for adhesive. For odd sizes I need to fold them over and re-sharpen the fold. They don't work for dj-less books.
Guy Fartenhopper
December 10, 2011, 8:16 pm
Great. Interested to see how this plays out. Haven't seen The Astral by Kate Christensen but the rest are not surprising.
Mike
December 11, 2011, 11:59 am
Yeah, The Astral was the only one that surprised me, but it was there by virtue of Christensen's 2008 PEN/Faulkner win for The Great Man. There are "recency" variables in the model (e.g., won PEN/Faulkner within 5 years, won NBA within 5 years, etc.). But, when I looked at the dataset again, I forgot to credit Denis Johnson's 2006 NBA award under the "won within 5 years" variable, so reran the rankings and Astral dropped to 11 and Train Dreams moved up to the top 10:
The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht The Angel Esmeralda by Don Delillo The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach Swamplandia by Karen Russell Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward Train Dreams by Denis Johnson The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka Nanjing Requiem by Ha Jin Chango's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes by William Kennedy
Ten Thousand Saints was surprisingly high at this point, but it's because it was among the NY Times 10 Best books of the year, which is the third best predictor of the pulitzer (the first two being that the book is an NBCC finalist and that the book won the NBCC).
Guy Fartenhopper
December 11, 2011, 3:17 pm
I heard Henderson read the Ten Thousand Saints and I was not impressed at all. I really liked Train Dreams and think it's a worthy novella, but hope it doesn't win for selfish purposes--true first would be difficult to obtain.
Mike
December 11, 2011, 4:53 pm
True. I suppose the true first of that will be the Paris Review issue in which it first appeared. Kris mentioned it was published internationally as a stand-alone novella after the Paris Review publication, though that looked like a non-English language publisher. Do you know any details?
Mr. Benchly
December 12, 2011, 12:18 pm
The Paris Review website offers back issues of the Train Dreams issue (http://www.theparisreview.org/back-issues/162) for $20. At first I assumed these were just print-on-demand reprint copies but after checking out other back issues, I'm not so sure. There are numerous back issues from the last decade that are listed as "sold out." My hunch is that they're selling original stock that has been stored in the warehouse since it was printed. I've contacted The Paris Review and will let you good folks know what I find out, if anything.
Jonathan
December 13, 2011, 2:15 pm
Thank, Mike. I decided to go with your suggestion on the Quik-Fold type.
Attention all Brodart users: I did a Google search for Brodart promo codes and found one. I was sure that it wasn't going to work -- the site that I found it on said that the code was was two years old -- but it did! I don't know if it worked because I am a first time customer or if it will work for all, but if you are reordering try DOHIOS in the promo code field for a possibly 15% off. It basically paid for my shipping of a 100 pack.
Mike
December 13, 2011, 3:35 pm
Were you able to order a copy? I tried a couple of weeks ago (great minds think alike!) and clicked the Add to Cart icon, at which time a dialogue box popped up indicating this issue was sold out. Bummer. I did buy a few other Paris Review back issues while I was there... #164 had a story co-authored by Michael Cunningham, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Franzen and others; issue 139 had the first appearance of a segment from Franzen's The Corrections.
Mike
December 13, 2011, 3:45 pm
You'll also find that once you purchase something from Brodart, you get pretty frequent emails with offers of up to 20% off.
One of the reasons book collecting gets into your blood is the "incredible find" experience... when you find a book you know is rare or valuable for a pittance on a back shelf or at a book sale or something. I recall some list of the best of such finds, which included a first edition in pristince DJ of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby for a dime. Haunt enough used book stores, book sales, garage sales, auctions, and antique malls, and you'll have your own find. Like others on this discussion board, I regularly check the same used book stores for new stock and visit used book stores in about every city I visit. Occasionally, it really pays off... I was checking one of my regular used book stores last week and lo and behold, shelved on the fiction shelves, was a copy of the Powell's Indespensable signed version of Paul Harding's Tinkers... in mint condition, with like DJ, #165 of 750, for (drum roll, please)... $5.99!
Now, if I can just find that bargain copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, or A Confederacy of Dunces, or His Family!
Jonathan
December 13, 2011, 6:55 pm
I found a blog where someone has aggregated all the best of year book lists that he can find.
Given that many of these lists do not have much (if any) history (many are from blogs), they are not necessarily helpful to Mike or the model. Still, I thought it was interesting enough to pass on.
http://www.largeheartedboy.com/blog/archive/2011/11/online_best_of_7.html
Mike
December 13, 2011, 8:11 pm
Actually, I identify most of the books I enter into the current year calculations from "best of lists", so compilations like this are helpful, I'll bookmark it.
There's another website that uses various rankings and data to identify or "rank" the year's best books: http://www.fictionawardwinners.com/best-fiction-books-of-2011-ranking.cfm
It looks to me like a book is awarded a point for the following criteria: Major Prize Nominations Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize Wins and nominations for the Pulitzer, NBCC, NBA, Man Booker, and PEN/Faulkner awards.
(There must be another level of points awarded, since, for example, Harbach's The Art of Fielding is 4th with 8.50 points, but hasn't been nominated for any of the above. So, appearances on best of lists must come into play somehow).
There are similarities between what this site is doing and the PPrize analysis, though important differences. First, the Fiction Award Winners (FAW) site includes the Booker Award data. I don't include it because the vast majority of authors eligible for the Booker are not eligible for the Pulitzer (Patrick deWitt is a notable exception this year, as was Carol Shields, in both cases they have dual U.S./Canadian citizenship). Second, the PPrize analysis uses the results of a statistical analysis (Discriminant Function Analysis) of a larger dataset with variables entered in as predictors and the "won Pulitzer prize for the year" variable as the variable to be predicted. From that, each variable is assigned a unique weighted "function" based upon their power in predicting the Pultizer winner, while the FAW site assigns the same value to each variable. That said, the FAW site provides some interesting information about top performing books for the year. Here are the top 15 from that list:
1. Tiger's Wife by Obreht 2. Marriage Plot by Eugenides 3. IQ84 by Haruki Murakami 4. The Art of Fielding by Harbach 5. The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips 6. The Buddha in the Attic by Otsuka 7. State of WOnder by Patchett 8. The Night Circus by Morgenstern 9. 11/22/63 by Stephen King 10. The Sisters Brothers by deWitt 11. The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje 12. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes 13. The Submission by Amy Waldman 14. Swamplandia by Karen Russell 15. The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
Only 5 books made both top 15 lists (Tom will post the PPrize list soon). The differences, other than Pulitzer ineligible authors (Murakami, Barnes, Ondaatje) are books from previous award winners/nominees (Delillo, Johnson, Jin, Kennedy) and some of the NBA finalists/awardees other than Obreht and Otsuka.
If the FWA ranking takes into account all the "best of lists", which are selected by critics, this might be a good preview of the NBCC nominee options, for which international authors are eligible. In any case, it’s a nice site and provides additional information and links to many of the "best of" lists.
Mike
December 13, 2011, 8:48 pm
As I look at the data on the fictionawardwinners.com website more closely, I have a feeling it's getting a feed from or somehow accessing data on the books from Amazon.com.
Tom
December 14, 2011, 9:07 am
I buy rolls of Brodart Quik-Fold Book Jacket Covers. These are the least expensive way to go. You just cut the length you want, then adjust the height by folding them. I don't use any adhesive. I can't remember the exact Brodart rolls I got, but I remember that they had UV protection. That is an important point. The covers should protect the dust jackets from the Sun.
Mike
December 14, 2011, 10:24 am
I didn't know they came in rolls!
All this talk of DJ covers led me to question my assumption that the current adhesives used by Brodart will not cause the same kind of "bleed through" damage that using scotch tape did many years back. I found a 2004 newsgroup discussion on the topic, and all the discussants deferred to the judgement of one of the frequent contributors to the newsgroup, who made the following comment:
On old jacket covers, the glue that held the acid-neutral paper to the milar was itself NOT acid neutral & caused damage after a great while along the top edge of the cover, although happily the glue used today is acid-neutral. One old variety of jacket cover still sometimes encountered on 1970s library discards actually used black tape along the top edge to hold paper to milar, & that stuff was a permanently tacky tape that eventually "bled out" onto the jackets & binding edge; for a while Avalon hardbacks were sold with these tape-edge jacket covers on them, so the first-state first-editions would have to include the publisher-provided jacket protector -- except that the taped edges eventually deteriorated & damaged the books & jackets quite badly if not removed or replaced.
Some people still mistrust the glue that holds the milar to the paper, because long-term, acid-neutral paper slowly acidifies from environmental contact with atmosphere & with the book binding. As paper acidifies over time, it might interact unpredictably with the thin strip of glue. Milar does not have the type of molecular exchange with an acidic environment that paper & glue have. So some collectors prefer the paperless milar that has to be folded under the jacket top & bottom, & has no paper backing at all. I suspect this really is the best option, but I'm not personally worried about the present dry-gums, & the paperbacked milar covers are easier to use, so I use them.
I tend to think this is the case... old mylar jacket covers that were preglued (or if one used scotch tape) used glue that was not acid neutral, and thus over the long haul, there was bleed through and the DJ itself could be stained. Current Brodart covers use acid neutral adhesives that don't have the same risks. I agree completely that the absolute safest option is to just use the clear, paperless mylar foldable covers, followed, risk-wise, by the paper-backed mylar covers that don't have adhesives. I've never really liked the paperless, folded covers, as they seem awkward to manipulate to me. I'm comfortable, at this point, with the adhesive, paper-backed versions from Brodart, though if anyone has older books that they covered a while back, it's probably prudent to swap out mylar covers to the newer versions.
Jonathan
December 14, 2011, 1:43 pm
Re The Angel Esmealda.
I read that the nine stories in the book were written over the last 30 years. Thus, to me, it is more of a volume of "collected stories" than a "story collection" (a la The Interpreter of Maladies).
Do you think I am splitting hairs here?
If I were on the Pulitzer committee, I would be much more likely to reward a writer who has written a collection of beautiful stories recently than someone who collected (even extraordinary) stories from throughout his/her career. I was annoyed last year when Deborah Eisenberg won the PEN/Faulker for the single volume collection of her volumes of short stories. (It's a bit of a difference than the DeLilio situation here, but not much.)
I think that I read that some of you were felt similarly last year. Do you think that the collected nature of the volume will hurt its chances? I do.
Mike
December 14, 2011, 2:11 pm
I think it's difficult to tell, but IMHO I don't think that the "collected stories" nature of Angel will, necessarily, be a stumbling block for the Pulitzer committee. The Pultizer has gone to both kinds of collections. Lahiri's Maladies is the most recent example of the story collection version. Butler's Good Scent from a Strange Mountain is another, I think, since the stories all theme around the experiences of Vietnamese immigrants in, mainly, Louisiana. On the other end (collected stories), John Cheever, Jean Stafford, and Katherine Porter all won Pulitzers for compilations of their life's work in short fiction. You could even add a third category here... novels in short stories (e.g., Egan's Goon Squad and Strout's Olive Kitteridge).
It's true that the Pulitzer hasn't gone to someone for a collected stories volume since Cheever (1978) so one could make a case that has fallen out of favor. That said, this may be an opportunity for the committee to award Delillo for, essentially, his impact on fiction. He's twice been a Pulitzer finalist (Underworld, Mao II) and his influence is undisputed. He lost out in 1998 (Underworld) to Roth's American Pastoral and in 1991 (Mao II) to Smiley's Thousand Acres. I don't see this year's competition as having as strong a field as those two years. While I haven't read any of the stories yet, I hear the lead story is brilliant and the rest range from great to good. Michiko Kakutani's NY Times review was almost fawning, at least for her. His books since Underworld have, in my opinion, been minor works, though I thought Falling Man was well done (the critics didn't). This may be the best time for the committee to recognize Delillo by choosing a book that was well received and could very well undercut any bias against collected story volumes.
brak
December 14, 2011, 7:48 pm
It is also worth noting that there are plenty of examples of "collected stories" that have been finalists since Cheever's win. I believe Grace Paley's collected stories, Reynolds Price's collected stories, and "Where I'm Calling From" by Carver (which is "new and selected stories) were all finalists for the pulitzer.
brak
December 14, 2011, 7:51 pm
additionally, I have to agree with Mike about Angel--it is not a "collected stories" in the same way as others, who have simply collected their previous collections into one tome. Outside of magazines (and one that eventually found its way into "underworld", these stories haven't ever seen publication before. So this is more of an original collection than a "collected stories" type book. =)
Guy Fartenhopper
December 17, 2011, 10:05 pm
Mike's mind-bending location of Paul Harding's Tinkers for 6 bucks beats my recent discovery of what I am pretty sure is a first edition first printing of Johanna Skibsrud's The Sentimentalists for $2 the other week, for those of you who follow Canadian literature. It is true, these finds are what we live for.
Aaron
December 18, 2011, 3:20 pm
Wow. Excellent finds!
I found a first edition of All the Pretty Horses at my local Hastings for $12 a while back, and I was pretty pleased with that. It's not nearly as nice a find as yours, but I figured it was worth mentioning. I also found a paperback first edition (which preceded the hardcover by 4-6 weeks) of Fahrenheit 451 for $5 in a small bookshop on vacation.
Anyone else find other great first editions for cheap where people don't know what they have?
Mr. Benchly
December 20, 2011, 1:25 pm
Hey Mike - I was not able to order a copy. Like you, I tried and was greeted with an error message. Oh well. I heard back from their customer service to say that they're looking into it and will get back to me with an answer.
Mike
December 20, 2011, 4:52 pm
All the Pretty Horses is a tough find in the first edition. I check the Hastings near us (Lawrence, KS) periodically, as they do a pretty good job or recycling what's on the shelves. So many used bookstores have the same books on the shelf (literally, the same copies) year after year, so checking back frequently is of little value. Hastings moves enough books in and out that it's worth looking at more frequently... I've found signed 1sts of Geraldine Brooks', John Irving's, and Ha Jin's novels there for ten bucks or less. If you have a Half Price Book store (the chain that is based out of Dallas), they do a great job of adding new stock. I found a 1st Edition of James Gould Cozzens' Guard of Honor for 7 bucks, as well as a signed first of Michael Cunningham's The Hours in the clearance bin (one buck).
If I recall, Tom (Pprize.com's developer) found his first of Confederacy of Dunces for a song at a used book store somewhere... Tom?
Mike
December 20, 2011, 4:55 pm
Let us know if you hear anything from them. The #164 is a hard find. I ordered a copy off of abebooks.com, and what arrived was #160 (the seller refunded my money, but still!). I ordered a copy from a German dealer, but since I can't read the return emails, I'm only guessing that' it's making it's way here, and no telling what shape it will be in. So, I'd much rather order it from Paris Review itself!
Mr. Benchly
December 21, 2011, 9:47 am
For what it's worth, according to The Paris Review, any back issues available for purchase on their website are original first printings. Sadly, it appears that #162 is sold out.
brak
December 21, 2011, 7:49 pm
i just have a knack for finding signed editions and firsts, myself--but geographical location can affect stuff too. i found a copy of widows of east wick signed (two months before john updike passed away), and i never would have found that had i not been visiting boston--i highly doubt that updike did much touring for that book, given his illness. new york is a great place to find most books-- www.strandbooks.com is a good place to check as well.
i found a signed copy of "the confessions of nat turner" for 50¢ at goodwill in tennessee!
Mike
December 22, 2011, 12:32 pm
The Nat Turner find is a good one! Finding one with the dustjacket in fine condition is the hard part of that book... the orange fades on the spine very easily. With regard to finding bargains, as much as I love wandering used bookstores and finding bargains there, there are bargains to be had online as well. I recently found a signed first Canadian edition of Carol Shields' The Stone Diaries for $13.00. The problem with ordering books online, of course, is that you can never tell if the condition is accurate or, even, if the book is really a first edition. But, I figured that for $13, it was worth the risk. I fully expected it to be a later printing or be in really crappy shape, but lo and behold, it was in Fine condition with a Fine DJ, signed and dated in the year of publication. Since she had dual US/Canadian citizenship and the British and Candian editions were published a year before the U.S. Edition, I sort of think of the "follow the flag" situation here to be the Canadian version, although it's clear that the British edition was the original printing. In any case, it was a gamble that paid off...
brak
December 22, 2011, 1:22 pm
I once purchased from half.com a copy of Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker signed by 5 of the authorsand both editors, including Eugenides, Franzen, Susan Choi, David Remnick, among others. It cost me $25. A great find!
In other news, anyone have thoughts on Open City by Teju Cole? I just picked it up this morning after it appeared on Maureen Corrigan's and The New Yorker's best fiction lists. Another first novel, I gather it is a quiet one (though so was Tinkers), taking place in both New York and also other parts of the world, contending with time and memory, as have the last two years' pulitzer winners. Thoughts?
Mike
December 22, 2011, 2:49 pm
I read Open City right after it came out. I liked it... I thought I'd posted something about it, but don't see it now. It was very intelligently written... it reminded me of How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu, though I liked Open City better. I think it will show up on some award lists. I saw him at the Brooklyn Book festival, very nice person.
brak
December 22, 2011, 4:46 pm
sounds promising! thoughts on the tragedy of king george?
Yet Another Mike
December 27, 2011, 9:17 pm
Love the prediction list .. But I am confused by the fact that the Random House edition of The Tiger's Wife is cited as the first while it is acknowledged that the UK W&N edition came out five days earlier. i realize that it is ony a matter of days, but isn't that difference significant enough to make it the the true first?
Mike
December 28, 2011, 7:22 pm
Earlier in the thread, brak mentioned a book that might be of interest to PPrize.com readers: The Pulitzer Prize Archive: Vol. 21: Chronicle of the Pulitzer Prizes for Fiction by Heinz and Erika Fischer. I did a search for a copy, and the only available copies were $150 and up. I was able to obtain a copy via interlibrary loan. The narrative itself is interesting, but the valuable information is in an appendix, providing copies of Jury reports from each year. As I've read through these, I realized several things; first, the Pulitzer Advisory Board has disregarded the recommendations of the Pulitzer Fiction Jury almost as frequenlty as it has accepted the jury's recommendation, beginning with The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. The jury from that year had recommended Sinclair Lewis' Main Street, but some of the more conservative members of the Advisory Board felt Main Street was inappropriate. The snub of Main Street seems to have been a major reason Lewis declined the Pulitzer for Arrowsmith. In any case, time and again the recommendations of the jury seems to be disregarded, at least in the first forty years of the prize. Second, there are clear instances in which an award was given as much to recognize a career as one book (Ellen Glasgow is one) and, third, politics play a role in the decisions.
Since it is the Pulitzer Jury that reads all the books and makes a recommendation to the Advisory Board, anyone know how to figure out who the members (usually three) of this year's jury are? I've Googled it to no avail.
The footnotes in this book led me to another more interesting (and complete) narrative of the Pulitzer awards up through 1974. That book is "The Pulitzer Prizes" by John Hohenberg, who was the executive committee of the Pultizer Advisory Board until at least 1976. There is a lot more information about the prizes in that book, and I found it online for ten bucks or so.
The appendices in the Fischer book also made it clear that although the Pultizer Advisory Board has only announced the finalists since 1980, there were, in essence, finalists almost every year, since the "finalists" are by definition the books recommended by the jury. So, if anyone finishes their Pultizer winner collection, you could start on the Pultizer finalists!
One more note. I picked up an edited book, "A Passion for Books" at my local library (edited by Rabinowitz and Kaplan). In it there is an essay by one of the editors, Harold Rabinowitz (page 122) about his experience in being with Chaim Grade when he learned he had not won the Pultizer, but instead it had been given to Alice Walker for The Color Purple. A must read for Pultizer collectors!
brak
December 29, 2011, 2:10 am
oh nice! glad to see you looked into that--i'd love to read up on that as well!
Mike
December 31, 2011, 11:57 am
On this final day of 2011, it's appropriate to look forward to the big books in 2012. The Atlantic has a list of 15 "big books" in 2012:
http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/12/15-books-to-look-forward-to-in-2012/249957/#slide1
That list includes: NBA finalist Lionel Shriver's The New Republic (March release) Pulitzer winner Anne Tyler's Beginner's Goodbye (April release) NBA finalist Peter Carey's The Chemistry of Tears (May release) Pulitzer winner Richard Ford's Canada (May release) New Yorker 20 under 40 author Nell Freudenberger's The Newlyweds (May release) NBA winner John Irving's In One Person Pultizer winner Toni Morrison's Home Pultizer winner Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue (Fall release)
In addition, I've noted the following: Stewart O'Nan's The Odds (January release) NBA finalist Dan Chaon's Stay Awake (February relase) Adam Levin's Hot Pink (March release) PEN/Faulkner finalist Victor LaValle's Devil in Silver (April release) PEN/Hemingway winner Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (May release)
Also, non-fiction releases from Jonathan Franzen (Further Away: Essays, May release) and Marilynne Roginson (When I was a Child I Read Books: Essays March release).
But for now, back to reading contenders for the 2012 Pultizer!
Mike
December 31, 2011, 12:24 pm
Forgot to list NBA finalist Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins, set for a June release.
Jonathan
January 2, 2012, 3:40 pm
I just had a flash of a memory re All the Pretty Horses. There is a private school in the DC-area that has an annual used book sale as their primary "event fundraiser" of the year. All the private schools seem to have some event -- many are auctions -- perhaps, you all have heard of similar things elsewhere. Regardless, this school's book sale boasts over 100,000 books every year. They are coming up on their 44th annual one. Sadly, I don't think it is a place for bargain hunting. I think they know their stuff, go through donations carefully and research books they think could be valuable. I have only been once or twice in my life because I never seem to put it on my calendar. Still, my flash of a memory was All the Pretty Horses selling there in the late 90s or early 2000s. I remember it being in a locked case, unlike the rest of the sale, with things on open tables. Since I was still a youngster at the time -- in my late teens/early 20s -- my reaction to prices would have been different, but I feel like it was marked at over $100. I could be exaggerating that, however.
Mike
January 2, 2012, 5:30 pm
I think $150 to $200 is what you'll pay a reputable dealer for a Fine 1st Edition, 1st Printing of All th Pretty Horses in a Fine dustjacket. It's relatively hard to find in the 1st printing. A couple of interesting points about collecting this book. First, an excerpt of All the Pretty Horses appeared as a pullout in the March 1992 issue of Esquire, so if you run into a stack of old Esquire Magazines, keep an eye out for it, it's listed in the Quill & Brush Author Price Guide for McCarthy at $125! Second, among the more knowledgeable dealers, you'll find the DJ listed as a "presumed 2nd State Dustjacket." That's because there was supposedly a trial dustwrapper that was never actually issued which doesn't include the PW blurb on the back, has a few variations on the Lopez review, and doesn't have the first letter on the front flap in color (it's green in the typical DJ). There are only two known copies of the "first state" DJ! Third, if you are like me and collect all states of books, from manuscripts to proofs to ARCs to first printings, there are three versions of the uncorrected proof as well as a signed ARC in slipcase. There were only 200 copies of the signed ARC (the notes on my author guide indicates that according to Ken Lopez, there were supposed to be 400 of these, but McCarthy quit signing after 200 and refused to do anymore! There is also a bound galley sheets (8 1/2 inches by 11 inches) version, though there are probably only a handful of those.
I've actually found a bound manuscript version of Richard Russo's Bridge of Sighs and a bound galley sheet version of Richard Ford's The Lay of the Land, but one certainly doesn't see many bound manuscripts or galley sheets, more or less from a McCarthy book.
I would love to have first editions of McCarthy's earlier books (The Orchard Keeper, Outer Dark, Child of God, Suttree, Blood Meridian), but anytime I see one of these, it's going for thousands of dollars, so probably not in my future any time soon!
Aaron
January 2, 2012, 6:19 pm
Mike, that's a great explanation of the All the Pretty Horses ARC situation and the first edition jacket for the novel as well. I had heard that McCarthy grew tired of signing the slipcased ARCs, but I hadn't heard (or didn't remember) the numbers on those.
The signature situation is further complicated by what seems to be almost a flood of fakes. Some of the images I've seen either indicate that McCarthy isn't consistent or someone is doing some terribly shoddy forgery.
The B.E. Trice editions of No Country for Old Men and Cities of the Plain are also pretty impressive, but they're pretty tough to locate at anything close to a price I can stomach.
Anyways, thanks for indulging me on my less-than-pertinent-to-this-year's-Pulitzer posts.
Mike
January 2, 2012, 7:18 pm
Indulge? Are you kidding? I could talk about this kinda stuff all day! I've seen the B.E. Trice versions of both of those books online, and both are a bit too much for me to stomach as well.
I know McCarthy doesn't sign much... he's one of the few authors in my collection for which I don't have a single signed edition. For the reasons you mention, I'd only buy a signed copy from someone I trusted (unless it was so cheap that I could afford to scrap it if it turned out to be a forgery!).
McMurtry is another one for whom it's hard to determine the authenticity of signatures. His signature has just gotten worse and worse over time, or he's gotten sloppier and sloppier. I think I mentioned before that I got him to sign my 1st of Lonesome Dove and my Proof of the same at the Brooklyn book festival, and his signature was just a general L and M with squiggles after it. On the other hand, the talk in the line while I was waiting was that he hadn't signed uncorrected proofs in 30 years, and yet he didn't hesitate to sign mine (and others), so maybe he's softened on that.
Mike
January 3, 2012, 11:13 am
The Millions website released an extensive list of 2012 books today (http://www.themillions.com/2012/01/most-anticipated-the-great-2012-book-preview.html). The site provides brief descriptions of all of the above-mentioned books. In addition to those I mentioned , I noted a couple of books from The Million's list that might warrant attention for Pulitzer collectors:
PEN/Faulkner finalist Ron Rash's The Cove (April Release) McSweeney's author John Brandon's A Million Heavens (July release) National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 author Charles Yu's short story collection Sorry Please Thank You (July release) NBA finalist Aleskandar Hemon's first non-fiction book collection The Book of my Life (Fall release)
brak
January 3, 2012, 2:37 pm
since some of you have mentioned having contacts in the publishing industry--do we have any idea when Paul Harding's followup to Tinkers (promised to be released in the summer of 2012) will be released?
Mr. Benchly
January 3, 2012, 4:24 pm
Mike, as a self-described completist, I imagine that you've pursued a 1st printing of Jesmyn Ward's first novel Where the Line Bleeds, which was published in 2008. And so I was wondering if you had any insight into what exactly collectors should be looking for. I know it's a softcover published in 2008 by Agate Publishing. I found such a thing in a used bookstore recently. It was a stated first edition with a full number line. I paused though at the Essence Book Club logo on the front cover, which seemed to suggest a 2nd printing. I'm wondering if you know of any copies with a full number line without that stamp?
Mike
January 3, 2012, 6:02 pm
Mr. B., I think you have a first edition, first printing of Where the Line Bleeds. I have two copies, the first is an uncorrected proof/advance readers copy, with the same picture on the cover as the other copy, but no Essence Book Club logo. The copyright page is obviously not complete, with some of the information to come, but has a full number line, though no First Edition statement. I also have what is obviously a second printing. It has the same cover, though with the Essence Book Club logo on it, but the copyright page has no First Edition statement and the number line is to "2". So, if you've got a full number line and a First Edition statement, I'm betting it's the true first printing. The second printing I have has French folds, which are a bit too fancy for book club versions, plus the ISBN includes a full price. If yours has French folds and the ISBN has the price, I'm confident it's the first edition. I've not had much luck getting the first edition of that, so that's a good find!
Mr. Benchly
January 3, 2012, 7:03 pm
I misspoke earlier (from my work computer). Now at my home computer, with book in hand, I realize that there is no "First Edition" statement on the copyright page. My copy has these traits:
- French folds - the Essence Book Club logo appears on the front cover along with a 3-line quote from Susan Straight - the back cover says "An Agate Trade Paperback Original" and "$15" at the top; it has a 1-line quote from Publishers Weekly at the top followed by 4 quotes from Peter Ho Davies, Nicholas Delbanco, Laura Kasischke, and Denise Nicholas; and it has the ISBN with "$15" at the bottom - the copyright page says "Copyright 2008 by Jesmyn Ward" at the top and a number line of "987654321" at the bottom.
According to Amazon, the book was published November 1, 2008, which is backed up by what the author says on her personal blog (http://jesmimi.blogspot.com/2008/10/where-line-bleeds-aka-joshuas-birthday.html). In a previous blog entry, she mentions that the book had been selected for November's Essence Book Club. Considering how far in advance of publication dates that magazines sometimes operate, here's hoping the publisher learned of the endorsement in September, and ran with it on the first printing's cover in November. A collector can dream ...
PS. If this is a first printing, feel free to buy the other copy of it sitting on this particular store's shelves (Monroe Street Books in Middlebury, VT). It's not listed on their website but it was on their shelves on Monday. It's $5 and the only flaw I saw were two small ink marks to the front cover.
Mike
January 3, 2012, 7:34 pm
Actually, the lack of the First Edition statement makes it more consistent with the ARC version. My second printing is identical to what you describe, except the number line only goes to "2". The ARC has a different back cover, which is not unusual for ARCs.
The Fall 2008 issue of Bomb Magazine has an Pullout Excerpt of Where the Line Bleeds. There is no date on the ARC, but it does indicate that Ms. Ward "teaches at the University of New Orleans and has just been awarded a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford for 2008". According to her blog, that started at the end of August. So, the gist is, the ARC and an excerpt were out there in time for a book club to adopt it and for that blurb to appear on the first printing cover. That's my bet... though if anyone sees one out there without the Essence Club logo on the cover, let us know!
Thanks for the heads up on the bookstore.
brak
January 4, 2012, 8:06 pm
anyone read "this is not your city" by caitlin horrocks? a short story collection, a debut, and featuring many stories that were on "best of" lists (including, i believe, best stories of 2011)...thoughts?
brak
January 5, 2012, 1:26 pm
haven't read it yet, but listen to this opening writing: "It is July and we are a miraculous age. We have been sprung from our backyards, from the neighborhood park, from the invisible borders that rationed all our other summers. We are old enough to have earned a larger country, and young enough to make it larger still." beautiful.
Mike
January 5, 2012, 2:32 pm
Nice. I've seen her stories in The Paris Review and Tin House. Sounds like a candidate for the PEN/Hemingway award (given to first works of fiction.
Mike
January 5, 2012, 3:59 pm
One of the earliest prizes to be awarded is the Story Prize (early March), given to the author of an outstanding collection of short fiction each year. It has a hefty ($20,000) cash award! In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin won it in 2009, then finished as a Pulitzer finalist, so although the prize doesn't go back (in time) long enough to be a predictor variable in my model, I think it's a good thing to watch. Their website (http://www.thestoryprize.org/) announced the judges (among them, Sherman Alexie) and the process, which I thought was interesting. With the Pulitzer Prize a jury of three jurors reads all the books and selects three to recommend to the Pulitzer Advisory Board, which selects the winner. It's the other way around with the Story Prize. The Director and Founder of the Story Prize read all the entries (80 plus this year) and recommend three to the jury, who then select the winner. Kudos to the Story Prize director/founder for doing all the heavy lifting of reading all the entries!
Mike
January 5, 2012, 7:18 pm
And from the impressive list of blurbs (or blurbers), I'm thinking we need to include Nathan Englander's upcoming short story collection, What we Talk about when we Talk about Anne Frank among the highly anticipated books of 2012:
http://arts.nationalpost.com/2012/01/05/nathan-englander-recipient-of-greatest-collection-of-blurbs-ever/
I presume that the title alone was supposed to evoke Ray Carver (e.g., Carver's short story collection What we Talk about When we Talk about Love).
Mr. Benchly
January 6, 2012, 11:05 am
Damn. Blurbs from Michael Chabon, Jonathan Franzen, Colum McCann, Jonathan Safran Foer, Gary Shteyngart, Jonthan Lethem, Dave Eggers, and Richard Russo. And showing that it's not just for men, Amazon.com lists additional blurbs from Jennifer Egan, Geraldine Brooks, Tea Obreht. It's too bad the Knopf version has such a boring cover. Check out the UK cover: http://www.amazon.co.uk/What-Talk-About-When-Frank/dp/0297867695/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1325865772&sr=8-1
Mike
January 6, 2012, 9:18 pm
Yes, the British cover is much cooler. I often like the British dustjacket's better than the U.S. And by my count, four blurbs from Pultizer winners, two from NBA winners, and the rest of the blurbers aren't slouches! I've noticed quite a few of the UK ARCs on the market, but haven't seen a U.S. ARC yet.
Jonathan
January 7, 2012, 1:11 am
The title story was in the New Yorker only a few weeks ago. I enjoyed it. I've meant to check out his stuff, but haven't yet. I think I might read this first, and then work my way back.
brak
January 9, 2012, 2:11 pm
yeah, but usually when i pick up a book published in britain, it is published on lower quality paper, and the binding feels weaker....not sure what that's about, but it has been my experience
Mike
January 9, 2012, 7:18 pm
brak, I've seen that as well, but also seen the opposite, in whcih the UK hardcover is a better quality book... many have the fancy book ribbons as well! I think it depends on the publisher, obviously. I do know, though, that fewer books get published in hardcover in the UK. I lived there a year and hardcover versions, particularly of US authors, are few and far between. There also tend to be oversize softcover versions released, often just for airport sales, that one can look out for that usually are released simultaneously with the hardcover.
brak
January 10, 2012, 2:31 pm
aaaaaall right, ladies and gents, i think it may be time to see what everyone thinks will be the big 3 pulitzer contenders / winner. i'm putting it out there--i know some people have gone with the art of fielding before, but let's lay it on the line!
Mike
January 11, 2012, 11:29 am
There are a number of books I have yet to read, so I'm only willing to offer a "to this point" sort of list. To this point, the book I'd chose for the Pulitzer is The Angel Esmarelda by Don Delillo, followed by Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward and The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht, despite the fact that the latter is not at all about American Life.
Mike
January 11, 2012, 11:30 am
Story Prize finalists (see above post for more details on the Story Prize) have been announced: http://www.thestoryprize.org/ •The Angel Esmeralda by Don DeLillo (Scribner) •We Others by Steven Millhauser (Alfred A. Knopf) •Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman (Lookout Books)
brak
January 11, 2012, 1:10 pm
nice! mike, i had forgotten about hale's book until you mentioned it again. i picked it up last night--it looks to be an interesting read. i in no way feel like i can offer my three yet, because i still have many to read from this past year. i have picked up "the art of fielding", "the tiger's wife", "the swerve", "uncanny valley" (by lawrence weschler, "salvage the bones", "the sojourn", "the buddha in the attic", "this beautiful life", "ten thousand saints", "the submission", "binocular vision", "the evolution of bruno little more", "this is not your city", and "the marriage plot"....i don't think i've bought anything else, but this is the first year i've really paid close attention to everything and excitedly picked up many of this year's books...in any case, i get the impression most people have read many of those books (i've only read "the marriage plot" and started "tiger's wife"--in between, i've gotten some other books in from the library, some not from this year, making them relevant to this discussion only in that they have distracted me from 2011 novels), so i'm hoping we'll have some more brave souls step up and make some predictions!
kris disappeared....hope she's safe and well and is able to offer her fine opinions, as well. =)
Mike
January 11, 2012, 1:58 pm
I backtracked and changed my picks, replacing Hale's book with Delillo's Angel Esmarelda. I just have a feeling things are setting up to favor Delillo. We'll see, I haven't read Angel yet. I liked Hale's book when I read it and it's grown on me more and more sense. It would be fourth. Tiger's Wife is just going to be too hard for the Pultizer judges to ignore completely. I liked it, but liked Salvage the Bones much better. Other than Art of Fielding (which I liked, though not as much as the four I mentioned) and The Submission (liked it quite a lot, not sure the writing is Pulitzer caliber), I've not read the other's you mention, though they are on my "to read" list. I'm 1/2 through The Marriage Plot, and enjoying it. Listening to Colson Whitehead's Zone One right now... I like it, though it's not a Pulitzer candidate, I'm sure.
Jonathan
January 11, 2012, 2:59 pm
Have any of you followed the Tournament of Books in past years? I bet many of you have, but I only found it last year (in its 7th year), so maybe others are as clueless as I was...
It is sponsored by a site called The Morning News and pits a group of 16 books in a bracket-style single elimination match-up (with a second chance round for a few eliminated books, voted on by readers). The first rounds are judged by one author or reviewer. The championship round by the whole panel.
In 8 years, it has predicted the Pulitzer 3 times (Good Squad, Oscar Wao, and The Road). Obviously, this is not the best track record, and those winners were certainly front runners. Still, it should be interesting to watch for readers and collections, alike.
They just announced their field:
Nathacha Appanah, The Last Brother Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending Teju Cole, Open City Helen Dewitt, Lightning Rods Patrick DeWitt, The Sisters Brothers Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding Alan Hollinghurst, The Stranger’s Child Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones Haruki Murakami, 1Q84 Téa Obreht, The Tiger’s Wife Michael Ondaatje, The Cat’s Table Ann Patchett, State of Wonder Donald Ray Pollock, The Devil All the Time Karen Russell, Swamplandia Kate Zambreno, Green Girl
It doesn't start until March.
More information is here: http://www.themorningnews.org/article/here-comes-the-rooster
FYI: Nathacha Appanah is not American, so the only books that we haven't spoken about at all AND are Pulitzer eligible are Lightening Rods and Green Girl. And Green Girl takes place in London, from what I can find.
Mike
January 11, 2012, 4:35 pm
I've followed the TOB... it's entertaining. The finals last year came down to Goon Squad and Freedom. The final vote was Goon Squad=9, Freedom=8. But, one of the judges was Jennifer Weiner, who, along with Jodi Picault, threw a hissy fit about Franzen being on the cover of Time and picked a fight with Egan when she (Egan) dissed "chick lit". Here was Weiner's 'thoughtful' review from http://www.themorningnews.org/tob/:
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. Worse, neither book was any fun. Freedom’s characters range from loathsome to despicable, with the author’s contempt dripping from every sentence. Egan’s book seemed more like an exercise in Let Me Show You How Clever I Am than anything as lowbrow as entertainment. But Egan gets my vote, because if Franzen takes the prize, then the terrorists win (and because even if he doesn’t, you know the Los Angeles Times will run his picture anyhow).
I would have thrown Weiner's vote out and called it a draw. That soured me a bit on the TOB last year, but I'm ready to give it another try.
Some observations about this year's books. There are a lot of foreign authors who are not Pulitzer-eligible, so I'm not sure it will be as good a barometer for the Pultizer as it will be for the NBCC award, which includes non-U.S. books. I'm betting Murakami wins, if what I've read about IQ84 is true. Lightning Rods doesn't seem like a likely contender for the Pulitzer. Here's a segment of the review from the NY Times:
"By the third page of the novel, no matter how innocent we thought lonely, sad-sack Joe to be, we are swiftly and utterly disabused. “The woman would have the upper part of her body on one side of the wall. The lower part of her body would be on the other side of the wall”: Joe channels any creative energy he has into his increasingly eccentric fantasies, which are imagined in such scrupulous detail there is little fit to print here. At a low point, while contemplating sex and scarcity and the numerous industries that have flourished as a result, Joe, current resident of Eureka, Fla., and former resident of Eureka, Mo., has his eureka moment. He will solve the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace by starting a temp agency that offers the services of “lightning rods”: women who provide sex on-site and therefore absorb all the destructive liability of male desire."
The New Yorker reviewed Lightning Rods with books titled "Smut" and "House of Holes" A Book of Raunch". I'm not sure the Trustees at Columbia University will want their winner to have hung out with such company! Dewitt's an interesting person... she's lived all over the world, and from what I can tell, now lives in Berlin. In 2004, she was reported missing from her home in NYC and eventually found in Niagara Falls.
Mike
January 11, 2012, 4:37 pm
Also, just to state the obvious, the TOB is for novels only, so books like Delillo's Angel will not show up. Still, should be fun to watch...
Tom
January 12, 2012, 9:00 pm
Even though it went on sales earlier in the UK, Random House was the main publisher. They signed the author and performed the editing. This is evident by the fact that the UK edition has American spelling. The author's own website (www.teaobreht.com) reinforces this by listing only the Random House edition on her site, and linking only to the Random House website.
Mike
January 12, 2012, 10:07 pm
Hi Iggy! If had you made this prediction the year that N. Scott Momaday, Jhumpa Lahiri, or Paul Harding had won, you would have been right on the money!
This year seems to me to be the year of the first novel... a lot of the books that received a lot of attention were first novels like Tiger's Wife, Art of Fielding, The Submission, West of Here, Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, Open City, and so forth. We had a discussion two years ago about the odds of first novels/first books winning (the most recent up to that point was Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies), and the gist is, it doesn't happen very often. Then, of course, Harding won it for his first novel/book. Eugnides got a lot of press for Marriage Plot, but I'd bet against him getting a second Pulitzer (for that matter, a second for consecutive books) because that just doesn't happen. Given the dominance of first novels, which I still think are a real long shot for the award, I wonder if the jury and the board might recognize an established writer, say Delillo. And, although I haven't read it, Kennedy's book (Chango's Beads) sounds very good... there seems to be a consensus that its his best book in years, and it has been almost 30 years since he won for Ironweeds, so I wouldn't discount him.
Bibliomaniacs, perhaps more accurately?
Mike
January 12, 2012, 10:11 pm
Also, it appears that Random House allowed for the UK edition to appear sooner than the US edition only to meet the deadline for the Orange Prize (which it won, so that was a good move). I'm solidly in the camp of the U.S. edition as the most desireable first (notice I hedge on the use of the term "true first edition" and, of course, I did pick up the UK edition as well), but the good thing about book collecting is that one can set one's own rules, and certainly just going by release date, the UK edition wins out.
Mike
January 12, 2012, 10:16 pm
Appreciate the kind words and welcome... we'll look forward to hearing back with your opinions about some of these. Seems like all of us have a rather large stack of books to read before April!
Mike
January 12, 2012, 10:24 pm
I should give credit where credit is due to Jonathan for the info on the reason for the earlier UK release... he posted that information earlier in this year's discussion.
Also, a quick "UK edition" story. If you'll recall, last year when Franzen's Freedom was released in the UK, it was found to have been printed from the wrong proofs (rumor has it that they were the US proofs and just had US spelling!) and the UK publisher pulped all the copies, which they did. Nevertheless, a few copies got out, and I had one that I'd ordered from Amazon.co.uk. Franzen was doing a reading in my Mom's town. Usually I try to get there to go to readings with her, but wasn't able this time, so she went on her own. She had a few books from me to get signed (she likes the readings, but doesn't collect books), including my 1st British edition of Freedom. It was a couple of months before I got the books back and even then I just sat them in a stack to deal with later. A few weeks ago, I picked them up to shelve them and looked at the title page of the 1st UK, and in addition to signing the book on the title page, Franzen wrote "False" above the word "Freedom" on the title page... the "False Freedom"! I'm guessing he thought this was amusing and as a matter of fact, I found it to be a riot and like my copy signed with that better than if it had been flat signed!
brak
January 13, 2012, 2:02 pm
Regarding winning for consecutive novels, it is true that that does not happen. HOWEVER, just as an aside, there are at least a couple instances wherein consecutive novels have been finalists--anne tyler and philip roth both experienced this, if i'm not mistaken. =) I personally think we're destined to see either a little-known title or a first-time novelist win this year.
Mike
January 14, 2012, 12:44 pm
I thought it might be helpful for folks to get a sense of when the various prizes and best of lists that form the predictor variables for the Pulitzer award will be announced.
The Pulitzer Award will be announced April 16, 2012 (according to Harry Kloman's excellent Pulitzer Prize Thumbnails Project website at http://www.pitt.edu/~kloman/pulitzerindex.html). The National Book Award finalists and winner and the New York Time best of fiction lists were announced/published in the Fall of 2011, so those data are entered. Here is the timeline for subsequent predictor variables as best as I can tell:
January 21, 2012: National Book Critics Circle finalists announced (this is the single strongest predictor of the Pulitzer, so well worth looking out for!).
Mid Feb. to early March: PEN/Faulkner winner and finalists announced. Finalists are not announced in advance. Last year's announcement was March 15, which is later than preivous years. This year's judges are Maureen Howard (novelist and past NBCC memoir winner), Marita Golden (Novelist and non-fiction author), and Steve Yarbrough (novelist, past PEN/Faulkner finalist).
American Library ASsociation Notable books list (last year late February).
LA Times Book Award finalists announced.
PEN/Hemingway winner and finalists announced (for best first work of fiction).
Early to late March: NBCC fiction award winner announced.
Just a note, the LA Times fiction winner is announced after the Pulitzer, so not helpful for the current year prediction.
Jonathan
January 21, 2012, 2:02 am
Since I am unexpectedly in NYC and just learned that the NBCC finalist announcement is open to the public, I plan to go.
I also recently started a blog, where I made some predictions. Since the NBCC always seems to select a work in translation and a work in English by a non-American, I went with:
1Q84 The Sense of an Ending The Tiger's Wife The Art of Fielding and an uninformed pick since I haven't read it, The Sisters Brothers.
If I get 2, I would be surprised.
I still think The Art of Fielding COULD win the Pulitzer, but I am less convinced than I was once. I think this could be a non-NBCC finalist/Tinkers-type long shot year, but I have no clue what it's going to be.
Mike
January 21, 2012, 11:17 am
Very cool! I expect an update on what the event was like!
I don't think I've made a prediction for the NBCC finalists. If I have, I can check back and see how consistent my thinking has been! Here's my guess, in no particular order:
IQ84 The Tiger's Wife The Angel Esmerelda Salvage the Bones The Marriage Plot
Salvage and Tiger's Wife were both NBA finalst (Salvage won, of course) and the NBCC finalists often include one and sometimes two NBA finalists (American Salvage and Lark & Termite were both NBA finalists and NBCC finalists in 2009). If there is only one NBA finalist on the NBCC list, I'd bet on Tiger's Wife, although once alerted to Salvage, I'm not sure how critics can pass it up. I added Marriage Plot because its gotten rave reviews by Criticts and the NBCC doesn't shy away from big literary best sellers (e.g., Freedom and Goon Squad last year).
We'll know tonight! Enjoy the evening Jonathan and let us know how it was.
Mike
January 21, 2012, 10:06 pm
Okay, so the NBCC finalists for 2011 are The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides Open City by Teju Cole Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst
Hollinghurst is British, so Stranger's Child is not eligible for the Pulitzer. We've discussed three of of the other four. I'm very surprised that The Tiger's Wife was absent. I'm not surprised that Pearlman's book was nominated, I almost put that on my list instead of Salvage the Bones. The Critics seem to love Pearlman and she also receive the PEN/Malamud award this year. The only book that was nominated that hasn't been mentioned, to my knowledge, in our discussions was Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta. Spiotta's previous novel, Eat the Document, was a NBA finalist in 2006.
I've noted before that being nominated for the NBCC is the single strongest predictor of the Pulitzer, so it warrants giving each of these four eligible books some attention! I still don't think Eugenides will win a Pultizer for Marriage Plot. I'm not sure I believe that any of the other three are really front runners in the way that Goon Squad was at this point last year.
Anyone read Stone Arabia?
Jonathan, how was the announcement ceremony?
brak
January 21, 2012, 10:43 pm
picked up Stone Arabia this afternoon--I'm working on Marriage Plot at the moment, so I'll try to read "Arabia" next and will let you know what I think.
Jonathan
January 22, 2012, 12:47 am
The ceremony was fun! Very simple. No glitz. Just a microphone and a quick announcement of the finalists. It was held it in an big open gallery space that was in between exhibits. For people who know New York City, it was one block north of Canal St., if that gives you a sense of the vibe.
While it was truly low key, there was free alcohol and finger sandwiches, and it was truly totally open to the public. There wasn't even a check-in table with someone asking who people were, for record keeping or what not.
I heard someone say that there were less people than in past years -- probably due to the snow that hit the region Friday night -- but there must have been over150 people. (I am bad at estimating things like that, though.)
After milling about by myself for a while, seeing the typical clusters of 3-5 people where it's hard to break in and introduce yourself, I struck up a conversation with someone else standing alone. It turned out he is an author whose name many of you would know. I really don't want to give a public shout out, but I will say that he won literary award in the past few years. Still, he is by no means a household name (so, he wasn't a Pulitzer winner). Only literature dorks like us would have heard of him.
I don't know why I am being cryptic, but I am. I don't think I will confirm guesses, but if anyone is curious about anything else, ask away!
Jonathan
January 22, 2012, 1:26 am
By the way, Mike, good work slipping The Marriage Plot into your predictions. I was actually surprised that it made it.
You mentioned once that last year there was a long discussion on why the NBCC is such a good predictor of the Pulitzer. Did you talk about the process the NBCC goes through to pick the finalists? I just learned more about it from this article .(http://bookcritics.org/blog/archive/how_we_pick_our_awards/)
I am sure that some of you know, but for those who don't, books can be become finalists either a) through a committee judging process (similar to the NBA, but where any books are considered, not just publisher-submitted books) or b) alternatively, if 20% of general membership of the NBCC select it. I bet that The Marriage Plot was a general membership vote. Still, I seem to remember many, many, more mixed reviews for it than for The Tiger's Wife or others, so it is surprising.
I meant to attach the picture to my last post. It's the only one I snapped at the event. It was before the place filled up and is quite uninteresting, but I thought I would share it, anyway.
Mike
January 22, 2012, 11:30 am
Yes, there doesn't seem to be anything drawn out about the NBCC announcements! I followed them on twitter. Cool that you met an award winning author. I wondered how many authors attended this event, so sounds like at least some!
Your reticence to "drop names" is, I think, emblematic of the sometimes uncomfortable relationship between literary authors and collectors. Most authors seem at least resigned to the need for book tours and seem relatively at ease signing one book for someone whose a fan. (Some authors are, of course, very affable... Jennifer Egan is wonderful and engaging, just to take one person, Geraldine Brooks is also very engageing). But, with collectors who have older first editions and such to get signed, there seems often to be a wariness or distrust. Part of that is because some of these folks with multiple books are dealers only and will put these books online immediately. I'm not sure why even that should be that big of a deal, but I'm surprised by how relatively few literary authors are book collectors. They're readers, certainly, but only a few (Eco, McMurtry, Robert Olen Butler) are collectors.
In any case, seems to me many literary authors are suspect of "fandom" in the way that authors like James Patterson who have hordes and hordes of readers are not. I became a Pulitzer collector for a variety of reasons, but among them are I like to read literary fiction and admire the people who write literary fiction. I enjoy meeting authors and having books signed, both for the opportunity to hear what authors have to say about their writing process and their books and because doing so personallizes the book for me. Increased value is only one part of that equation and since I don't intend to sell my books, not a very big part of that equation.
So, not to worry Jonathan, I won't be pumping you for hints about who you met!
Mike
January 22, 2012, 11:41 am
Cool, I think that's the first photo added to the site! I didn't realize we could add pics, but of course, I now see the add images link! To celebrate this, I've posted three pics... Michael Cunningham at the National Book Festival (very entertaining speaker and very engaging signer), Jeffrey Eugenides at BookPeople in Austin, TX, and Oscar Hijuelos playing the Spanish guitar (he's on the right) after his reading in Atlanta.
I hope Tom has enough space in PPrize.com to handle images!
Mike
January 22, 2012, 11:59 am
Jonathan, back to the content of your post, and to a discussion we have had on PPrize.com several times, it does seem that the capacity of the NBCC to predict the Pulitzer better than the NBA is a function of the process. The fact that a 20% vote of the NBCC membership can get a book considered is why some of the big name books get nominated as NBCC finalists... Marriage Plot and Freedom two perfect examples. The NBA jury consists of writers. The NBCC committee/membership involves critics. The Pulitzer Jury (a three person jury that recommends three books to the Advisory Board) is, mainly, critics, although it also often includes award winning authors: David Gates served on the Pulitzer Jury for the 2003 awards, he's both a critic and a Pulitzer-nominated author; Gail Caldwell was the Critic for the Boston Globe, a Pulitzer Prize winner in criticism, and a memoirist, and was a staple on Pultizer juries through the 2000s; Richard Ford and Alison Lurie both served, along with Caldwell, on the 2001 committee that selected Chabon's Amazing Adventures; Oscar Hijuelos and Diane Johnson, the latter a Pultizer finalist, both served on the 1999 jury that picked The Hours; Anne Tyler served on the 1997 jury; and so forth. I don't see a lot of overlap between NBA jurors and Pulitzer Jurors. Mostly, Pulitzer jurors are critics with a smattering of previous awardees or nominees. The Pulitzer Advisory board includes mainly editors and journalists with a smattering of writers, including Junot Diaz currently. But, I think the key element in the similarity between the NBCC and the Pulitzer (and remember, there's not anything like complete agreement between being a NBCC finalist and winning the Pulitzer, it's just the strongest predictor from the thirty-some-odd predictor variables I use) is the involvement of critics in both. The NBA was established to be the publishing industries equivalent of the Academy Awards, recognizing their own, and that is a different orientation than either the NBCC or the Pultizer jury tasks, it seems to me.
Mike
January 22, 2012, 12:42 pm
With regard to the NBCC finalist announcement and the Pulitzer prediction list, there's not much value in running it again at this point... just assume that all four of the finalists move up to the top of the predication list, since the NBCC finalist weighted value is the highest value in the model. We should see the PEN/Faulkner announcement sometime in late February or early March, with the American Library Association Notable Book list issued about the same time. The ALA list is the third strongest predictor, and since it contains around a dozen books on it, that variable can reshuffle the prediction list pretty quickly when combined with the PEN/Faulkner announcement (both winning the PEN/Faulkner and being a finalist are distinct variables, so although neither one is as strong as some of the other variables, the winner gets a real boost with points from both). I'm wondering if this is where we'll see Kennedy's name (he was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner with Ironweed) come up or David Foster Wallace (not sure about the rules of the PEN/Faulkner for posthumous works). This also might be where Eugnides has the best chance for Marriage Plot.
By virtue of her presence on both the NBA and NBCC list, Edith Pearlman's Binocular Vision is a strong contender at this point.
Some of the books that I expected to see in the running about now are absent... DFW's Pale King made the NY Times 100 Best books list, but nothing since. Same with Delillo's Angel, so I'm going to have to rethink my infatuation with that book as the potential Putlizer winner, I suppose. I really thought it would be on the NBCC list by virtue of Delillo's stature and the good review's the book has received. Another book that I thought might make the NBCC list is William Kennedy's Chango's Beads. Also, as Jonathan noted in his NBCC prediction list, DeWitt's Sister's Brothers has not garnered anything in the U.S. so far, not even making the NYTimes Best 100 books. Which makes me wonder, how does a book become a Mann Booker shortlister and then get no attention from the U.S. awards?
Mike
January 22, 2012, 12:43 pm
[Continued from my previous post.. the 3000 character limit always gets me!]
Notice as well, there are no first books on the NBCC list, and while Harbough's Art of Fielding will likely hang in the top 15 for now by virtue of its status as a NY Times 10 Best book, a lot of the highly publicized debur novels (Justin Torres' We the Animals, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Benjamin Hale's Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, Jonathan Evison's West of Hear, Siobhan Fallon's You know When the Men are Gone, among others) have no points in the model. The ALA list, however, does seem to identify a fair number of first novels or first books... Harding' s Tinkers was on that list (and nothing else, thus ending up 33rd on my prediction list) as was the case for Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies.
So, in my mind, it's really wide open for the Pulitzer this year. There is no Goon Squad or Oscar Wao that is clearly ahead of the rest of the pack. Probably the next most interesting announcement will be the PEN/Faulkner, which tends to reward innovation. Deborah Eisenberg, who is known as ann innovator in short fiction (seh was a MacArthur Fellow in 2009) won it last year for her short stories collection. Alexie Sherman won it the year before for War Dances, which was a mix of short stories and poetry (I read this and loved it, highly recommended). The PEN/Faulkner, though, also has a tendency to go to very well established authors... Ha Jin has won it twice in the past dozen years, as has Philip Roth.
Mike
January 22, 2012, 12:48 pm
Final thoughts for this morning... I wonder if we'll see Kennedy's name for the PEN/Faulkner... he was a finalist for Ironweed. Also, perhaps, David Foster Wallace, though I'm not sure of the PEN/Faulkner rules with regard to posthumous publications. Also, Eugenides would seem a good PEN/Faulkner candidate for Marriage Plot. I personally don't think Marriage Plot will win the NBCC. I haven't read Stone Arabia yet, so don't really have an opinoin on it, obvously. I recall some PPrize.com discussants indicating that Pearlman's book was good but not great. Open City was interesting and well written, might be a dark horse for the NBCC. Not sure about Hollingsworth's book...
brak
January 23, 2012, 1:53 pm
regarding Pearlman, I haven't gotten to her book yet--but I have heard many, including some people on a call-in nor show discussing the best novels of the year, call her a "national treasure", those familiar with her writing always shocked that she has managed to remain relatively obscure for so long, seemingly unable to break out....if it is true that she is primarily a writer respected among writers, it strikes me that she might be a great candidate for the pulitzer prize, an award that, assuming her stories truly are as good as her audience would have us believe, would catapult her into the limelight she deserves.
Mike
January 23, 2012, 7:18 pm
Well, I have a feeling she's going to finish very high in the prediction list... and if she does win, which I'm not discounting, it's a very hard first edition to find.
Mike
January 23, 2012, 7:28 pm
Much to my surprise, the ALA released it's Notable Books list today, which is, as I mentioned, the third strongest predictor of the Pulitzer. It was a rather unsurprising list:
Banks, Russell. Lost Memory of Skin. Barnes, Julian. The Sense of an Ending deWitt, Patrick. The Sisters Brothers Goldman, Francisco. Say Her Name. Harbach, Chad. The Art of Fielding MacLeod, Alexander. Light Lifting Obreht, Téa. The Tiger’s Wife Ondaatje, Michael. The Cat’s Table Phillips, Arthur. The Tragedy of Arthur Russell, Karen. Swamplandia! Torres, Justin. We the Animals Trevor, William. Selected Stories
Barnes, MacLeod, Ondaatje, and Trevor are not American's so not eligible for the Pultizer. Most of the rest we've discussed. This is the first bit of love (among the Pulitzer Predictors) shown to deWitt's Sister's Brothers (a Mann Booker shortlisted novel), and Torres' We the Animals. Banks' Memory of Skin was a NYTimes 100 Best book, but nothing else so far. The Goldman book was also a NY Times 100 Best book and is the only eligible book that I really haven't seen discussed. Harbach, Russell, and Obreht get big boosts in the Pulitzer prediction model from this... a quick calculation with these data puts Obreht at the top (followed by Pearlman's Binocular Vision). I'm going to wait for the PEN/Faulkner announcement to release a new list, just because the influence of the NBCC finalists is still pretty overwhelming (in the model) at the moment and we need one more variable to enter to wash those effects out a bit.
Mr. Benchly
January 24, 2012, 10:53 am
Mike, am I correct in saying that the first printing of Pearlman's Binocular Vision is a paperback?
Mike
January 24, 2012, 12:43 pm
Yes, the first edition is a softcover original published by Lookout Books, University of North Carolina, Wilmington. The softcover is cardstock with french folds, with the $18.95 price on the inside front flap. The first printing states "First Printing, January 2011". The back cover has blurbs by Ann Patchett, T.C. Boyle, Yiyun Li, Chris Adrian, and Brock Clarke. The advance reading copy has "Advance Uncorrected Proof/Not for Resale" on the cover, has the same cover art, no french folds, no printing statement, and the same blurbs on the back cover with the addition of one from ALice Mattison. At the time of the NBA finalists announcement, I ordered a copy from Amazaon, and it was a later printing, so you'll have to go to the used book market to find a copy. There weren't very many, but a few signed first printings from Pearlman's signing at the Tennessee book festival in Nashville are available online, but priced accordingly.
brak
January 24, 2012, 4:40 pm
i have a signed copy of "say her name"--i have wanted to read this since it came out, the passion that the author seemed to have when speaking of his wife, of this book, suggested it deserved to be read. i haven't read it yet, but there is part of me that hopes it continues to garner attention.
brak
January 26, 2012, 7:48 pm
Anyone have thoughts on Alexander MacLeod's collection?
Mike
January 26, 2012, 8:08 pm
Not I... other than the fact that he's Canadian and not eligible for the Pultizer. Short story collections are a bit of a slog for me, so I tend only to read those that are Pulitzer eligible (or won the Pulitzer). I know, sort of a Neanderthal-like attitude, but I really prefer novels.
Thinking about the NBCC finalists, though, I've been considering Dana Spiotta's book. She was a NBA finalist with her last book, but Stone Arabia stayed under the radar, at least our radar, until this NBCC finalist nomination. Just like Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge, which was not noticed until it became a finalist. I haven't read Stone Arabia yet, but here's the description on the back cover of the ARC: "...has written a fascinating and intrepid novel about family, obsession, memory, and the urge to create-in isolation, at the margin of our celebrty based culture" (shouldn't celebrity based be hyphonated?). Sounds a little Goon Squadish to me and check out Spiotta's picture, below... she bears more than a striking resemblance to Jennifer Egan, IMHO!
Scott
January 27, 2012, 12:56 pm
This may be out of left field, but has anyone read Dominic Smith’s “Bright and Distant Shores”? I have it on my Kindle but have yet to read it. I have, however, read his first two novels; “The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre” and “The Beautiful Miscellaneous”. He is an excellent writer, and “Bright and Distant Shores” appears to thematically exemplify American life. Mr. Smith grew up in Australia but now lives in Texas. If he holds U.S. citizenship, “Bright and Distant Shores” may be a good “dark horse” candidate to keep an eye on.
brak
January 27, 2012, 2:17 pm
also sounds like it could be "love in infant monkeys"-ish., haha. in any case, i have a first ed. and will let you know when i read it!
Jonathan
January 30, 2012, 2:42 am
I was speaking to a bookseller a few weeks ago about the "American"-ness of recent Pulitzer winners. He made an interesting point about how many seem to evoke a very specific place/have a very good sense of place. This is obviously somewhat of a generalization, but it seems to fit.
Goon Squad - NYC and surrounding area Tinkers - I haven't read it, but general "New England", right? Olive Kitteridge - Coastal Maine Oscar Wao - New York area (and Dominican Republic)
This might be totally incidental, and certainly can't be modeled, but what do you think? Do you think there is something to be said with the panel responding to a novel with a very good sense of "place"? If so, what novels might demonstrate this concept this year?
Mike
January 30, 2012, 6:03 pm
I think I mentioned previously that I've been reading the "Chronicle of the Pulitzer Prizes for Fiction", which includes a very helpful appendix with all of the letters from each of the Pulitzer Juries from the onset of the awards. It's been interesting to observe the ebb and flow of this notion of "American-ness" throughout the decades through these documents. The original language for the prize was "Annually, 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 issue of "wholsome-ness" was a problem from the git-go, but probably accounts for the award to His Family (1917) and several other early awards more than the literary value of the work. In 1929, the "and the highest standard of American manners and manhood" was dropped and the wording changed to "for the American novel published during the year, preferably one which shall best present the whole atmosphere of American life." That allowed more latitude, though the Pulitzer Advisory Board (to whom the jury's report) was still dominated by the Columbia President and Advisory Board Executive Director, Nicholas Murray Butler, continued to push awards that met the "wholesomeness" criteria, by and large. I'd have to look up when it was changed to the current "preferably about American Life", but it seems to me that if you look at winners over the years, the last decade has been one in which the "about American Life" criteria has been pretty consistently applied. Jonathan, you're right about the notion of a sense of place seeming to be part of that, particulalry recently, particulalry Tinkers, Olive Kitteridge, Gilead and The Known World. I think the role of "sense of place" as reflecting American life may account for why Empire Falls won in 2001.
This year's "sense of place" contenders? Teju Cole's Open City is one long sense of place novel. Karen Russell's Swamplandia, Harbach's The Art of Fielding, and Salvage the Bones all have strong place connections.
Mike
January 30, 2012, 6:11 pm
I just finished Julie Osuka's The Buddha in the Attic, which was a NBA finalist. I'm not a big fan of the first-person-plural POV Otsuka uses. It's very lyrical, but it almost seems like a lyrical version of a narrative non-fiction telling of the story of Japenese immigrants to California. The "we", "us" POV made the first 2/3 of the book sound almost repetitive... I listened to it on CD, and one time the CD ended and went back to the first track, and I didn't notice that the flow of the narrative had changed for about two minutes! The final third of the book is much stronger, although that is because it focuses on the Japanese American internment from WWII, and it would be a cold person who could not be moved by the suffering experienced by Japanese American's during that time.
I'm back to listening to Charles Frazier's Nightwoods, and I really like it. The tone for the dialogue and the context is just right... it reminds me of Pete Dexter at his very best. I'm certain it will be among the five books from this year that I liked most.
brak
February 6, 2012, 2:33 pm
40 pages into stone arabia--just fyi--be glad to hear if someone else has thoughts on it. so far, it is good, but odd, small and focused and jumps right in, almost like a short story does.
brak
February 6, 2012, 8:35 pm
hey guys, i feel like i asked this earlier, but i don't remember the answer--does the date of the pen / faulkner award move every year? do we know the date of this year's announcement (finalists / award)?
Mike
February 6, 2012, 9:02 pm
It doesn't seem to be a firmly set date (e.g., always the fifthTuesday of February, or something like that). It's typically sometime in February. I checked the PEN/Faulkner website earlier today, wondering if they had an announcement date posted, and couldn't locate anything. Last year the announcement was late... mid March. But, if I recall, there was a change in executive directors last year and I think the announcement may have been delayed due to the change in leadership. But, that's pure speculation.
Mr. Benchly
February 6, 2012, 9:24 pm
It looks like the Pen/Faulkner will be awarded late this year on Cinco de Mayo: http://www.penfaulkner.org/2012/05/05/32nd-annual-penfaulkner-award-for-fiction-ceremony-2/
Mike
February 6, 2012, 10:02 pm
Ah, I'd forgotten that they announce the finalists first, then the winner. The finalists will be announced first (looking at last year's timeline, it was earlier in March than I recalled... March 2), and then the winner is announced shortly after that (it was March 15 last year, which is what I was remembering). The ceremony in May is a gala event to raise money and honor the winner and finalist. So, we'll know the finalists soon, one hopes.
brak
February 9, 2012, 6:29 pm
not to get to next year too preemptively, but: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/05/books/review/stay-awake-stories-by-dan-chaon.html Anyone know much about Dan Chaon's work? This sounds promising, to me.
Mike
February 9, 2012, 6:52 pm
I do think Chaon's book is one to watch. He was a NBA finalist with his first book, Among the Missing, and his second book, Await Your Reply, received a lot of positive press. I read Await Your Reply and liked it. This book is getting good reviews, though not as good as Nathan Englander's book of short stories, What we Talk about When we Talk about Anne Frank.
brak
February 9, 2012, 7:29 pm
I guess I'm not a huge fan of the referential nature of that title, haha, but yeah, he sounds like he might be someone to watch. That is stories as well, yes?
Mike
February 11, 2012, 10:27 am
See Michiko Kakutani's review of Englander's book (yes, short story collection) in the NY Times at:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/10/books/what-we-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-anne-frank-stories-by-nathan-englander.html?_r=1&nl=books&emc=booksupdateemb7
She discusses the Carver-esque aspects of Englander's collection....
brak
February 13, 2012, 4:09 pm
http://www.npr.org/2012/02/13/146694354/anne-frank-short-stories-fumbling-for-perfection
brak
February 14, 2012, 6:02 pm
i picked up "anne frank"--i hadn't read his previous collection and started reading it just the other day...the stories are fantastic! they remind me of malamud in places, and i really like his work. anyway, like i said, i don't mean to be too precipitous (though we are already in a new year, i suppose), but this does seem to be getting some pretty damn good reviews. even the reviews that find certain stories less successful seem to insist that this collection remains a strong strong book, worth picking up and spending some time with. perhaps our first contender for this year's prediction list. =)
brak
February 15, 2012, 5:15 am
and yet too his stories bring to mind "the fixer", which won, and "ghost writer", a finalist!
brak
February 15, 2012, 3:49 pm
http://www.npr.org/2012/02/15/146920283/nathan-englander-assimilating-thoughts-into-stories
(my previous comment didn't show up, so i'll write it again here):
his stories remind me, as well, of "the fixer", which won the pulitzer and also "ghost writer", which was a finalist.
brak
February 21, 2012, 5:37 pm
http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/story/2012/02/21/pen-faulkner-award.html
The announcement has been made! =D We haven't paid much attention to Russell Banks, but he's been nominated several times...he stands a good chance of winning, perhaps--haven't read the book yet.
Mike
February 21, 2012, 6:47 pm
Cool! Here's the list:
fiction:
Russell Banks for Lost Memory of Skin Don DeLillo for The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories Anita Desai for The Artist of Disappearance Steven Millhauser for We Others: New and Selected Stories Julie Otsuka for The Buddha in the Attic
As brak noted, Banks' book Lost Memory of Skin was also a NBCC finalist, so with this nomination that book is one we can look at more seriously. He's been a PEN/Faulkner finalist two previous times (Affliction, Cloudsplitter) so I wonder if he might be a sentimental favorite. Millhauser's We Others also hasn't received a lot of attention. He's also been a PEN/Faulkner finalist one other time (The Barnum Museum). He and Delillo are up for the Story Prize, which is awarded for best short story collection. Edith Pearlman was the third nominee for that award. I really don't think Millhauser will get a second Pulitzer, that just doesn't happen. Only Tarkington, Faulkner, and Updike have won it twice, and Tarkington's two were in the first four years of the prize and its doubtful he's of the Faulkner/Updike status. This pushes Dellilo's Angels up a bit and I think he's still one to watch on the Pultizer. I don't think we've talked about Anita Desai's book yet, which is a book of novellas (of all the nominees, Banks' book is really the only true novel, Otsuka's book is almost a long novella in prose), but I don't know if she's eligible for the Pulitzer. She was born in India and is a three time nominee for the Mann Booker prize. That said, she's a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, so maybe she is a U.S. citizen.
Mike
February 21, 2012, 7:04 pm
Okay, I checked out the American Academy of Arts and Letters website. They have a "Foreign Honorary" membership category, and Anita Desai was elected under that category, so I doubt she's eligible for the Pulitzer (although her nomination to the AAAL was in 1992, so not impossible she's become a citizen since).
Jonathan
February 22, 2012, 8:48 pm
Um, Lost Memory of Skin was NOT an NBCC finalist, Mike. Did you mean that Banks has been nominated before?
Also, I read the book and I was THOROUGHLY underwhelmed. To me, the prose was not very beautiful and the story was kind of cartoonish.
Of the other PEN/Faulkner nominees, I have only read The Buddha in the Attic. I think it is a contender. It's really tight and beautiful. I own a copy of the Delilio collection, but I haven't read it. The nomination might be the inspiration I need. Shamefully, I haven't read any of his other stuff.
I also deleted a comment that I had made about the Englander collection because I didn't like how I stated things. Bottom line: I think it will be a contender for awards next year, but I am not convinced it is Pulitzer material. For a collection to win the Pulitzer. I think EVERY story need to verge on flawless. There are missteps in the collection....but they are few.
Mike
February 22, 2012, 9:51 pm
My bad. Banks' Memory was one of the ALA notable books. The finalist lists begin to blur together this time of the award season :-). The topic of Lost Memory of Skin seems to me to be a barrier for the Pulitzer, but Banks is well respected among writers and I could see him getting the PEN/Faulkner. I probably won't read Memory, too little time left to read 2011 books before the Pulitzer announcement. I will try to read Delillo's Angel, I think. I read Otsuka's Bhudda, the writing was lyrical, I wasn't quite as keen on it as you were, but both a NBA and PEN/Faulkner nomination is impressive.
Jonathan
February 27, 2012, 10:43 am
Mike, Did you see that LA times book prize finalists were announced?
Fiction “Ghost Light” by Joseph O'Connor (Frances Coady Book/Farrar, Straus & Giroux) “The Cat's Table” by Michael Ondaatje (Knopf) “The Buddha in the Attic” by Julie Otsuka (Knopf) “Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories” by Edith Pearlman (Lookout Books/University of North Carolina Wilmington) “Luminarium” by Alex Shakar (SoHo Press)
Do you account for the debut fiction category equally? Or does it have less history?
The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction “The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach (Little, Brown) “Ten Thousand Saints” by Eleanor Henderson (Ecco/HarperCollins) “Leaving the Atocha Station” by Ben Lerner (Coffee House Press) “Shards” by Ismet Prcic (Grove Press, Black Cat) “The Arriviste” by James Wallenstein (Milkweed Editions)
Binocular Vision and The Buddha in the Attic show up again. Will this push them further towards the top of the list? Or is the weighting here not as high?
BTW, here is the link if anyone wants to see the full article. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2012/02/la-times-book-prize-finalists-2011.html#more
Jonathan
February 27, 2012, 10:54 am
Of course, it's not Pulitzer eligible, but I wanted to say that I am happy to see The Cat's Table on this list. I was very surprised that it was overlooked by the Booker voters. I also thought it might have a chance for the NBCC, but no. It was one of my favorite reads from 2011. I highly recommend it.
Mike
February 28, 2012, 5:54 pm
Cool! I had not seen this. I need to add this (and the PEN/Faulkner finalist) values into the dataset and run an updated prediction list. I'm traveling this week, will do so this weekend, probably. I can guess, though, that both Buddha and Binocular Visions will be up toward the top of the list, if not at the top. In fact, I'm pretty sure, given that Binocular Visions was a PEN/Faulkner finalist, that it will be at the top of the prediction list at this point. It's been a NBA finalist, NBCC finalist, and a LA Times finalist.
The LA Times first fiction award hasn't been around long enough to be used as a predictor variable. Interesting to see both Art of Fielding and Ten Thousand Saints on that list, but not Obreht's Tiger's Wife.
brak
February 29, 2012, 4:28 pm
has anyone yet read: the arriviste, shards, or leaving the atocha station?
"shards" author has been a finalist for the national book award, though the subject matter is decidedly not american.
brak
February 29, 2012, 4:30 pm
er, sorry, the author of "leaving the atocha station" was nominated for a national book award--though for poetry, i believe
brak
February 29, 2012, 4:39 pm
http://www.npr.org/2011/11/09/142109786/life-without-plot-in-leaving-the-atocha-station
March 1, 2012, 3:43 am
pardon my ignorance, but after reading through the 25 pages or so of comments i see that many people even a year ago were predicting which books would be contenders for the pulitzer. i'm a bit confused as to how you guys know which books will be contending during awards season--before checking the nominations/winners of the national book award and the finalists for the NBCC award, i had never heard of some of these books. usually the nominations and winners direct me to some of the better books to read. how does one know, say even now, when a book might be a contender for awards season 2013? i try and read the new york times book review when i can but they review so many books i don't know when to say "ah, this book could definitely be a contender for the pulitzer next year." because so many of them can, if they get a good review. i'm just a bit perplexed is all.
brak
March 2, 2012, 6:29 pm
Also, I think we've basically ignored Luminarium, despite some good reviews and the fact that it is set in New York, a setting which, we seem to agree, is sometimes a favorite (whether it is a causal or correlative) of Pulitzer Prizes.
Mike
March 3, 2012, 2:21 pm
Okay, I just sent Tom a new list to post that takes into account all the awards/nominations through the end of February. The top 15 at this point are:
1. Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman 2. The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht 3. Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta 4. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides 5. Open City by Teju Cole 6. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach 7. Swamplandia by Karen Russell 8. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka 9. The Angel Esmeralda by Don Delillo 10. Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks 11. Say her Name by Francisco Goldman 12. Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson 13. The Tragedy of Author by Arthur Phillips 14. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward 15. Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
There are three remaining variables to enter... NBCC winner, PEN/Faulkner winner, and PEN/Hemingway winner, so there will be one more list before it's final. While there are enough variables still out that the list could shake up a bit, numerically, only Open City by Teju Cole, The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides and Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta have an opportunity to overtake Pearlman or Obreht. Essentially, its coming down to the same situation as last year... the winner of the NBCC will be the top ranked book on the Prediction list, and if it's Pearlman, she will be on top by a long shot. Delillo, Banks and Otsuka have the chance to move up with a PEN/Faulkner win, but none of those could overtake Obreht or Pearlman. Teju Cole is the only author with a first book on the PEN/Faulkner or NBCC finalists lists, so the only one eligible for the PEN/Hemingway award, so if he won both, he'd jump to the top by a sizeable margin. The NBCC announcement will be March 8, so after that, we'll have a pretty good idea of who has the highest rated book for this year.
Mike
March 3, 2012, 2:22 pm
Luminarium is in my prediction list, but the LA Times finalist nomination was the first bit of love any of the awards or best of lists to come its way. It's a long shot, currently 25th on the list, but of course, Tinkers was something like 31st on the list, so nothing's impossible!
Mike
March 6, 2012, 8:43 pm
The PEN/Hemingway award for best first work of fiction was announced today (from AP report):
"Open City" by Teju Cole has won the 2012 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for a distinguished first book of fiction.
"Written in a deceptively quiet voice, Teju Cole's remarkable and penetrating debut novel achieves what Kafka said art should; it chops the frozen sea within us," said novelist and PEN award judge Andre Dubus III, quoted in a press release.
The award finalists are Amy Waldman for "The Submission" and Stephanie Powell Watts for "We Are Taking Only What We Need" (BkMk Press). BkMk Press is based in Kansas City at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Two writers will receive honorable mention: Marjorie Hudson for "Accidental Birds of the Carolinas" and Chad Harbach for "The Art of Fielding."
"Patrick Hemingway, the son of writer Ernest Hemingway, will present the award to Cole on April 1, at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.
End AP report---
With this win, Open City basically ties Delillo's Angel Esmarelda in the standings. I'll wait until the NBCC and PEN/Faulkner finalists are announced to run the final anlaysis. Teju Cole was also nominated for the NBCC, so still in the running to catch Pearlman or Obreht.
Amy Waldman's The Submission was a finalist. I thought it would get more attention in the various award nominations. Also, The Art of Fielding shows up for honorable mention.
Mike
March 7, 2012, 8:09 pm
The Orange Prize announced its longlist today. Because it's a British prize and because it's limited to women authors and to novels, it's not a predictor for the Pulitzer, but it's of interest nonetheless! It is for any full length novel written in English by a woman (any nationality) and published in the UK for the first time between April 1 of the year before the Prize is awarded and March 31 of the year in which it is awarded. Here are the finalists and their nationality:
•Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg (Quercus) - Swedish •On the Floor by Aifric Campbell (Serpent's Tail) - Irish •The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen (The Clerkenwell Press) - American •The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue (Picador) - Irish •Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (Serpent's Tail) - Canadian •The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright (Jonathan Cape) - Irish •The Flying Man by Roopa Farooki (Headline Review) - British •Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (Quercus) - American •Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding (Bloomsbury) - British •Gillespie and I by Jane Harris (Faber & Faber) - Britishl •The Translation of the Bones by Francesca Kay (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) - British •The Blue Book by A.L. Kennedy (Jonathan Cape) - British •The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Harvill Secker) - American •The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury) - American •Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick (Atlantic Books) - American •State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (Bloomsbury) - American •There but for the by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton) - British •The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard (Alma Books) - British •Tides of War by Stella Tillyard (Chatto & Windus) - British •The Submission by Amy Waldman (William Heinemann) - American
Lots of Americans on the list (Barbara Kingsolver won it last year for The Lacuna, Marilynne Robinson won it the year before for Home, and other Americans have won it in the past decade). Jaimy Gordon's Lord of Misrule is on the list, and from books eligible for the Pulitzer this year, Erin Morgenstern's THe Night Circus, Ann Patchett's State of Wonder, and Amy Waldman's The Submission. Cynthia Ozick is, apparently, the oldest author ever to be long listed for the prize (age 83).
brak
March 7, 2012, 10:16 pm
has anyone read "We Are Taking Only What We Need" or "Accidental Birds of the Carolinas"? If one of these were to win, it would be something of a shock--a dark horse indeed! at least, to me. =)
Mike
March 7, 2012, 10:35 pm
Seems highly unlikely, though I suppose Tinkers taught us that nothing is impossible. That said, Tinkers did show up on the ALA Notable Books list, so wasn't completely obscure. The PEN/Hemingway awards, along with the National Book Foundation's "Five Under 35" annual list and the LA Times first fiction award, are good ways to learn about promising young authors who might be worth watching. One of the blurb's on Watts' We Are Taking Only What We Need states:
"an impressive debut that promises only wonderful work to come." That blurb is by Edward P. Jones, so I've ordered my copy of Taking!
Hudson's book is, apparently, a darling of indie book sellers, which is also a good way to garner attention!
Shawn Brooks
March 9, 2012, 12:22 am
I've read a number of the books on the 'list' above. The novel that I actually enjoyed the most is still Chad Harbach's "The Art of Fielding" and I'm pulling for that one. shawn
Mike
March 9, 2012, 3:44 pm
And, as I'm sure several of you saw, Pearlman won the NBCC. I'll wait until the PEN/Faulkner award announcement to run the final analysis, but nobody is going to beat out Pearlman for the top spot... Binocular Vision will be the book to bet on, at least according to the numbers!
Mike
March 12, 2012, 6:31 pm
Well, a number of reasons... though I should note that just as many of the books we talk about early in the process fade to obscurity, or at least Pulitzer obscurity. One factor is just the power of the group... we have a group of folks who like literary fiction, read, and post their thoughts about what they've read and liked. Second, most of the books we mention early are by authors who have achieved some status with regard to awards. So, when Louise Erdrich or Jayne Anne Phillips or any number of previous award finalists/winners have a book coming out, we're likely to talk about it. Third, books by up and coming writers, such as the authors on the New Yorker's 20 under 40 list or the National Book Foundation's 5 under 35 lists are likely to get discussed when they come out. Tea Obreht's book The Tiger's Wife is a good example... she was named to the 20 under 40 list even though she had never published a novel at the time, so when Tiger's Wife was announced, it was one to focus on. I use a couple of early detector systems, as it were. First, the annual BookExpo America held in early summer is a way to find out the potential blockbusters, particularly first novels. During last year's BEA, Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding, Justin Torres' We the Animals, and Amy Waldman's The Submission got a lot of buzz. There are multiple blogs that follow the BEA, so it's a way to learn what might be worth watching for. I also subscribe to a weekly email from PrepubAlert from libraryjournal.com, which is a source for librarians to know what's coming out in 6 to 9 months so they know what to order. From that, I know that former NBA nominee Lionel Shriver has a new novel out later this month (March), previous PEN/Faulkner finalist Victor LaValle has a novel out in April, Pulitzer winners Anne Tyler, Richard Ford, Toni Morrison, Junot Diaz, and Michael Chabon all have new novels coming out, as do John Irving, T.C. Boyle, Joyce Carol Oates and so on. Finally, if you hang out in book fairs and festivals and, like some of our contributors, work in the publishing industry, you hear stuff. For example, I heard Richard Russo and Pete Dexter on a panel recently, and someone asked them what they were reading, and Russo said that he was reading what he was sure would be the best book of 2012, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. Dexter piped up and said that Walter was the most underappreciated novelist in America. Walter was a NBA finalist for The Zero (which, by the way, is still, in my estimation, the best 9/11 novel), so when Russo says his new one is the best, I will pay attention to that! A final way is to see who has blurbed a book. Franzen doesn't blurb that many, so when his name shows up, I presume the book is something to watch out for. Nathan Englander's new book of short stories had (it was noted on this board) the most impressive list of blurbers most of us had ever seen, so I'm going to pay attention to that book in the prize season.
Jonathan
March 15, 2012, 9:27 pm
It seems that when I cleared cookies from my cache, it cleared my log-on here, and I couldn't log in again with "Google Friend Connect. (I have never exactly figured out what it is, anyway!) Anyhow, I've logged in with my Blog profile, which I have meant to share with some of you here. I write about publishing industry news, book awards, and reviews. I actually mentioned this site in a recent post. I think if you click on my name, it should go to my blog.
Mike, I think you told me that you've followed the Tournament of Books in past years. I encourage others to do so, simply as book lovers. In two past years, last year and 2008, the winner was the eventual Pulitzer winner, but with a field of only 16 books, this is partially by "chance," and how the organizers choose books. In other years, the Pulitzer winner wasn't even a competitor.
There are two match-ups remaining in the opening round, and Monday's match is a big one: The Art of Fielding vs. Open City. The way the competition works, once there are only two books left, there is an open-to-the-public poll which can "resurrect" two books as "zombie" selections. These books can be books that have lost in the first round or in subsequent rounds.
I am making it more complicated than it is. Check out: http://www.themorningnews.org/tob/
Some big defeats already: Salvage the Bones (a legit Pulitzer contender) and State of Wonder (which I never really thought was). State of Wonder lost to The Sisters Brothers, which I have not read, but something tells me it could be a "dark horse" in this competition and the Pulitzer. Salvage the Bones lost to a bizarre sounding book called Lightening Rods, which I don't think needs to be part of our discussion. Also, the judge made some interesting observations which I thought were legitimate quibbles with Ward's work.
Since the match-ups are judged by a single judge, personal taste factors likely factors in even more than in the Pulitzer and other awards, where there are multiple judges.
I am curious to see how Open City does. Although I think it could lose to The Art of Fielding, maybe it will be resurrected if it does lose. Regardless of this competition, I think it has a very good shot at the Pulitzer. Still, I keep wondering if this is the year that a book we haven't even mentioned wins again, like Tinkers. (I wasn't around for that discussion, but I think it never came up. Or that someone mentioned it at the last minute.)
Sorry to have rambled so much!
brak
March 16, 2012, 3:26 pm
that's pretty awesome, man! thanks for the info--i'll check it out.
as to the tinkers discussion, there was one person who mentioned it early early on, and none of us seemed to pay it much mind. looking back, of course, we should have. =)
Mike
March 16, 2012, 4:02 pm
Glad you got logged back in Jonathan! Thanks for the update on the TOB. RE: Lightening Rods, see my comment on it back when we first discussed the TOB (January 11, page 22 of these discussion pages). I don't think it's a Pulitzer-type book, content-wise. RE: Open City vs. Art of Fielding in TOB. I'd put my. Oney on Harbach. I thought Open City was one of the most intelligently written books of the past year, but there's not much plot. Depends, obviously, who the judges are.
As for the Tinkers mention on the discussion site two years ago, I've come to suspect that was a post from someone in the know, somehow. The site periodically gets posts from publishers/agents/or other insiders proposing that a relatively obscure book is a strong contender. We now know that one of the Pulitzer jurists asked Tinkers' publisher, Bellview Literary Press, to submit the book. That is within the purview of the judges, and one had obviously heard of or read Tinkers and felt it was strong enough to consider. The comment from Tara on the PPrize.com site was close to the the announcement time, came out of the blue, and had no follow up post. Why wouldn't someone who'd hit the nail on the head come back to the site after the announcement? Tara, if you're out there and nota publishing insider or agent or marketer, we'd welcome your thoughts on this year's winner :-)
I'll post a full list for my choices sometime in early April, but my money is probably going to be on Edith Pearlman.
brak
March 19, 2012, 2:06 am
as i understand it, it was previously published in the paris review. so that would place train dreams in the realm of a short story: i.e., it was published in a lit mag but not published in book form until this year, making it eligible.
Kris Coffield
March 20, 2012, 6:12 am
The question about 'Train Dreams' has never been resolved to my satisfaction. Not only did it win an O. Henry in '03 (oh, the fun we can have with O's), it was published in book-form internationally, in 2006. As Mike noted on page 2 of this year's thread, the Pulitzer rules are fairly loose. Since it wasn't published as an American book before this year, 'Train Dreams' is probably eligible. Emphasis on the prob. Whatever the case, it's worth reading, but not the strongest contender for the 2012 prize, in my opinion.
Mike
March 23, 2012, 7:48 am
While it's been a banner year for Edith Pearlman this year, with Binocular Visions winning the NBCC and being nominated for the NBA, she lost out on a sizeable paycheck a few days ago. Binocular Visions, Steven Millhauser's We Others, and Don Delillo's Angel Esmarelda were all nominated for the Story Prize, for excellence in short fiction. The Story Prize has a $20,000 cash award! Millhauser's We Others was announced the winner recently. It doesn't boost Millhauser in the rankings for the prediction list any because the Story Prize only goes back a few years and can't be entered as a predictor variable. I'm awaiting the announcement of the PEN/Faulkner winner, which is scheduled for March 26. Once that's announced, I'll finalize the prediction list. Pearlman will, however, still be at the top of the list, no matter what the outcome of the PEN/Faulkner is.
brak
March 24, 2012, 7:26 pm
I think Pearlman and Delillo also have better shots at a win than Millhauser, an author who probably deserves to win for his short stories (instead of the book he won for) but who has, as I said, already won a pulitzer. It is the rare author who wins twice.
Mike
March 25, 2012, 9:59 am
Yes, I agree, Millhauser has won his Pulitzer, I don't see it happening again--although, he beat out Pearlman and Delillo in their only head to head competition and it's been a while since he's won the Pulitzer and his first win was for a novel and this is a short story collection. That said, I don't think it will happen, though I haven't read the three collections. I'm going to start Pearlman's Binocular Vision today, as no matter what happens she'll be at the top of the predication list, and frankly, I haven't read anything else written in 2011 that, IMHO, stands out as a clear Pulitzer winner (a la Junot Diaz a few years back). I'm waiting until the final list to make my personal predictions for Pultizer winner/finalists, but Pearlman's Binocular Vision and Teju Cole's Open City will be among the three, just not sure where yet and not sure about the third book I'll pick.
brak
March 27, 2012, 8:13 pm
wild to me that "buddha" won the pen faulkner this year--so many better novels this year, i am honestly astounded at how well that book has done, despite being nicely written. pen faulkner tends to choose, at least in my experience with what i've read, some of my favorite novels as finalists and winners. i'm going to be shocked if this wins the pulitzer. and perhaps a bit dismayed, despite owning a copy of the book.
Mike
March 28, 2012, 7:31 pm
I agree brak. I shared my thoughts about the book earlier in the discussion and won't repeat those, other than I agree completely with the Washington Post book review editor Ron Charles (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/arts-post/post/julie-otsukas-the-buddha-in-the-attic-wins-penfaulkner-award/2012/03/26/gIQAuZQYcS_blog.html). Quoting from his comments on the PEN/Faulkner award:
"Julie Otsuka’s “The Buddha in the Attic” has won the PEN/Faulkner Award. It’s a disappointing choice from a list of finalists that unfortunately gave strong preference to short fiction. The judges considered more than 350 books from 2011, but could find only one traditional novel worthy of inclusion: Russell Banks’s grim “Lost Memory of Skin,” about a young sex offender. The other finalists, all collections of stories or novellas, were Don DeLillo’s “The Angel Esmeralda,” Anita Desai’s “The Artist of Disappearance,” and Steven Millhauser’s “We Others.” It’s regrettable to see so many fine novels from 2011 left standing outside the gates. Where’s Ann Patchett’s “State of Wonder,” Mary Doria Russell’s “Doc,” or Bonnie Jo Campbell’s “Once Upon a River”? How about David Vann’s devastating “Caribou Island”? Or Alex Shakar’s demanding “Luminarium”? — long, fully developed stories we can sink into for days."
As for Otsuka's novel, specifically, Charles says:
"Otsuka’s “The Buddha in the Attic,” on the other hand, is a work that never lets you forget its own artifice. Following up on her bestselling “When the Emperor Was Divine,” it’s about Japanese picture brides brought to California in the early 20th century. But no real characters emerge, and no story develops in the conventional sense. Sometimes, these chapters are moving and effective, but just as often they turn flat and monotonous: “How to light a stove. How to make a bed. How to answer a door. How to shake a hand. How to operate a faucet, which many of us had never seen in our lives. How to dial a telephone. How to sound cheerful on a telephone even when you were angry or sad. How to fry an egg. How to peel a potato. How to set a table.”
All that said, the PEN/Faulkner tends to lean toward somewhat offbeat writing... last year it was Deborah Eisenman's collected short stories, the year before, Sherman Alexie's War Dances. Alexie's book was a mix of poems, short stories, and some almost memorist pieces (and I must say, I really enjoyed War Dances). Eisenman is known as a master of the short-short story. So Otsuka's book, which is as much poetry as prose in some ways, fits that pattern.

Mike
March 28, 2012, 7:39 pm
Okay, I've sent Tom the "final" prediction list. Essentially, Otsuka's win in the PEN/Faulkner moved her up from 8th to 3rd. Here are the top 15 (note several ties):
1. Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman 2. The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht 3. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka 4. Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta 5. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides 6. Open City by Teju Cole 7. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach 7. Swamplandia by Karen Russell 9. The Angel Esmeralda by Don Delillo 9. Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks 11. Say her Name by Francisco Goldman 12. Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson 12. The Tragedy of Author by Arthur Phillips 14. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward 15. Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
Mike
March 28, 2012, 8:10 pm
So, it's time for folks to begin to post their predictions! From the top 15 list, I've read Tiger's Wife, Buddha, Marriage Plot, Open City, Art of Fielding, Swamplandia, Salvage the Bones, the lead story in Angel Esmeralda, and the first few stories in Binocular Vision. Of all of the books that I read published in 2011, and thus eligible for the Pultizer, my favorite 5 were Salvage the Bone, The Night Train (Clyde Edgerton), Nightwoods (Charles Frazier), and then a tie between West of Here (Jonathan Evison), The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore (Benjamin Hale), Swamplandia (Karen Russell), The Submission (Amy Waldman) and We the Animals (Justin Torres). I also thought that Open City by Teju Cole was the most intelligently written book I read.
So, looking at the predication list, at what I liked/didn't like, and then just guessing about some other factors: my prediction is that the winner and two finalists will include Binocular Vision, Open City, and The Angel Esmeralda by Delillo. The smart money is probably on Pearlman, although Millhauser beat her and Delillo for the Story Prize. And, although I'd be perfectly happy if Pearlman won (for the sake of my prediction list method!), I am going to go out on a limb and predict that The Angel Esmeralda will win, with Binocular Vision and Open City as finalists. I think this is a chance for the Pulitzer committee to recognize Delillo's contributions. He's been a Pulitzer finalist twice (Underworld, Mao II). Plus, I thought the story Angel Esmeralda was better than any of the short stories I've read by Pearlman so far (though Pearlman’s stories are very good). Cole's book was well done, but it's his first novel and I don't see him winning, and I don't see any other novel from among the remaining top 15 beating out either Pearlman or Delillo. There were some good ones, but not one, IMHO, that really stands out from among the others. Tiger's Wife got a lot of early buzz, and was an interesting book, but I think the topic is just too far off of the "American Life" preference to be a winner. I'm leaving it in the list just because it was such a strong contender. Had I excluded Tiger's Wife because it wasn't at all about American Life, the book that would have ended up 15th would be Millhauser's We Others. I really liked Salvage the Bone, but I think it got its recognition with The NBA. Lost Memory of Skin is too odd and morbid for the Pulitzer (IMHO), and Art of Fielding and Swamplandia were great first novels, but, again IMHO, didn't really stand out so much as to beat out Pearlman and Delillo. I haven't read Stone Arabia and may be missing that one completely; it is 4th on the list. Marriage Plot was well written, but I don't think Eugenides (or Millhauser) will win a second Pulitzer on their books this year.
So, my prediction: Winner: The Angel Esmeralda by Don Delillo Finalist: Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman Finalist: Open City by Teju Cole
Mike
March 28, 2012, 8:11 pm
FYI, I heard from Kris via Twitter. He was having a hard time logging in to the PPrize.com discussion site with his Google account. His top three are: 'Binocular Vision', 'The Buddha In the Attic', and "The Art of Fielding'.
Tom
March 28, 2012, 10:04 pm
Hi everyone,
I started a 2013 Prediction page. Please note that it uses a different commenting system. I just learned that Echo discontinue commenting services in October. So I'm trying out LiveFyre for the new 2013 page. Please email me if you have any problems.
Mr. Benchly
March 29, 2012, 10:43 am
Also having trouble logging in.
For me, picking the winner this year means picking my favorite novel. It's a book that is grand in size but simple and elegant in delivery. It has a great heart, its characters are thoroughly developed, it's well-written, well-received, and, to the best of my knowledge, has yet to win any major award. I think after last year's selection (Goon Squad), the Pulitzer committee is going to make a point of selecting a book that stands out from the NBCC and other awards. And so, this year, I think they'll give the award to Chad Harbach for The Art of Fielding.
As for finalists, I think they'll be Amy Waldman for The Submission and Russell Banks for Lost Memory of Skin.
brak
March 30, 2012, 12:16 am
Okay, let's see...
I think it's going to be
Winner: Open City Finalist: Binocular Vision Finalist: Leaving the Atocha Station
I don't know why, but I am enjoying reading Leaving the Atocha Station--as it is, like Open City, a book that waxes poetic and focuses less on plot, it is perhaps unlikely that both of these books would find their way onto this finalist list. Since I think Open City is the likely winner, I'll have to also put, as another finalist option: The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore. =)
Mike
March 30, 2012, 6:15 pm
It struck me today that the real sleeper in this year's lot might be The Sisters Brothers by Patrick Dewitt. I'm not going to change my predictions, in part because I haven't read it yet, but it was a finalist for the Mann Booker award and as Jonathan told us a while back, it won this year's Tournament of Books, won last year by Goon Squad. When I mentioned earlier that if I took Tiger's Wife out of the list due to its content matter (not at all based in America or about America), Steven Millhauser's We Others would rise to the 15th place on the list, I didn't look closely enough. We Others is actually tied with two other books, We The Animals by Justin Torees and The Sisters Brothers, by Dewitt. So, it's currenlty tied for 16th and could be considered tied for 15th on the list if we disqualified Tiger's Wife. I've opted not to do so, just because Obreht's book got so much buzz and a very few books with no American content have won (The Good Earth by Pearl Buck and The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder). I actually think it's harder for a book with absolutely no American content to win these days then in the days Buck and Wilder won, so I'm considering We Others, We The Animals, and The Sisters Brothers as sort of honorary members of the top 15 list and will lay claim to that if one of them wins!
Jonathan
March 30, 2012, 10:23 pm
I really want to read The Sisters Brothers now. I am afraid that being broke and unemployed prohibits me from seeking out a first edition. Even before it won the Tournament of Books, I (somehow) thought that it could be a Pulitzer dark horse. I do wonder if it pushes too close to "genre" for the Pulitzer. Still, from what I have read, especially during the Tournament of Books, it does seem to elevate itself above that, so I wouldn't count it out.
Tom
March 31, 2012, 10:53 pm
This year I am hoping to see a novel (not a collection of short stories) win. That puts me in the camp of books like The Tiger's Wife and Salvage the Bones. I also think that it's time for someone more established to get recognized. That said, here's my list: Winner: The TIger's Wife Finalist: The Angel Esmeralda Finalist: Salvage the Bones But I certainly wouldn't be surprised if The Art of Fielding or The Buddha in the Attic got the prize. I've picked up first editions of both just in case.
Tom
April 2, 2012, 9:01 am
For what its worth, I think The Fixer also had no American content. So that makes three. Still very low.
Also, the Pulitzer board has been flexible when it comes to their rules. For example, they changed the rules in 1948 to allow shorts stories so they could award the prize to Tales of the South Pacific. Now they certainly don't have to change any rules for Tiger's Wife (as Mike has already pointed out). But the board has demonstrated that they can think outside the box for the right book.
Jonathan
April 2, 2012, 9:11 am
I am reading Binocular Vision right now, and hope to tackle another candidate, perhaps Stone Arabia or The Sisters Brothers before I give my final predictions. I was skeptical of Pearlman's collection turning the heads of the Pulitzer committee, even with all the accolades and NBA finalist/NBCC winner credibility. I am 50 pp in and might have to change my mind!
brak
April 2, 2012, 3:22 pm
i dreamed last night that delillo won. not sure thats worth much, but we will know in a couple weeks. the title story, which appeared in some form in "underworld", is amazing.
Mike
April 3, 2012, 7:41 pm
I'm taking that as an omen!
Jonathan
April 3, 2012, 11:34 pm
I'd like it if Delillo won! When I found this site, I was more interested in just talking about great books contending for the prize -- I had a goal to have read the winner before the announcement -- than collecting, but the collecting bug hit me. Sadly, circumstances will prevent me from amassing a horde of books this year, but I do have a first of The Angel Esmeralda! I think it's the only real contender than I have, besides The Art of Fielding.
Dave
April 6, 2012, 1:57 pm
First post after following for quite awhile. I just finished The Art of Fielding; after not being impressed early on the story caught me and I could not stop readingthe last 150+ pages. maybe not Pulitzer quality writing but I found it a gread read. I'm partial to novels versus short stories so I would go with Harbach over DeLillo and Pearlman. I did love Salvage the Bones and liked Ten Thousand Saints. Disappointed in The Marriage Plot and Stone Arabia. Sorry for the rambling post.
Tom
April 6, 2012, 2:42 pm
Welcome Dave. Thanks for your comments.
Tom
April 6, 2012, 4:34 pm
I've been worried that Binocular Vision will win the Pulitzer and I will end up spending a fortune trying to secure a first edition. So I've been trying to pick up a first edition as a hedge. I have had zero luck finding any first editions online at a reasonable price. But I'm happy to report that I finally got a first edition.
Here's how I found it. I checked the publisher's website. The publisher, Lookout Books, is part of the University of North Carolina. I don't think they directly distribute their books. Rather they use a partner - John F. Blair Publishing. I call Blair Publishing (800)222-9796 and asked if they had any first editions. The woman on the phone told me that they do get returns. She checked the returns and found a first edition. I paid full price and $8 for shipping and handling. I just got it in the mail today. I'm sure I have now Jinxed Binocular Vision by doing this ;-)
MC
April 6, 2012, 11:32 pm
I found a first edition on Amazon for $18.95 last week. Anyone know how many copies were printed. Can't seem to find them in local bookstores in California. Scouring on Amazon worked for me on Tinkers as well. Found a Powells Indiespensable copy for $450. The crazy price we pay for collecting Pulitzer winners. :)
MC
April 6, 2012, 11:32 pm
I found a first edition on Amazon for $18.95 last week. Anyone know how many copies were printed. Can't seem to find them in local bookstores in California. Scouring on Amazon worked for me on Tinkers as well. Found a Powells Indiespensable copy for $450. The crazy price we pay for collecting Pulitzer winners. :)
Mike
April 8, 2012, 5:16 pm
Yes, you probably have jinxed it, now that you have the first, it won't win :-). Copies of first editions of Binocular Visions are hard to find online at any price. But, your strategy is a good one that I've employed a couple of times with small press books. I was able to pick up a first edition and an ARC back when it was announced for the NBA, but haven't seen many available yet.
I just realized that I'm going to be out of the country the day the Pulitzer is announced, so I'm hoping that it's not some obscure book (a.k.a., Tinkers) that I would have to chase around and find, since by the time I return, those copies will have been snapped up, at least on line.
Mike
April 8, 2012, 5:19 pm
I think there's a case to be made for The Art of Fielding. I did like it, though not really a lot more than, say, Jonathan Evison's West of Here or Benjamin Hale's The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore. That said, I think The Art of Fielding has a much better chance than either of those. I wouldn't be unhappy if it won. I didn't get to Ten Thousand Saints (reading it, I mean), and it sort of hangs out there as a potential dark horse, I think.
Mike
April 8, 2012, 5:22 pm
It dawned on me a few days ago that nobody is talking about David Foster Wallace's The Pale King with regard to Pulitzer. Unlike most of the other awards, it can be given posthumeously. I had a long drive early in 2011 and listened to it on CD. It was a very different book, to say the least. Parts were brilliant, parts were monotonous, and I agree it still felt like an unfinished novel. I don't really think it will win the Pulitzer, personally, but it is still out there as an option. Anyone else read it and have any opinions?
Jonathan
April 9, 2012, 4:14 pm
I am scooping myself a bit, as I am not going public with my predictions on my blog (click my name above to get a link) until Friday. Still, since I have enjoyed my time here so much, I wanted to share with enough lead time so that many of you could see before the announcement.
In making these predictions, I am thinking about the choice I think the Pulitzer Board will make, not necessarily what I would choose myself.
Winner: The Angel Esmeralda Finalist: Open City Finalist: Binocular Vision
Still, I could see either of the finalists win or it could be a Tinkers-type year. My thinking was informed by a few things
Re: Open City, As beautiful and thought provoking as it it, I think it has rightly been faulted for having little plot. (This happened in the Tournament of Books.) Also, I am not sure if the Pulitzer Board will want to honor another work mostly set in New York City.
Re: Binocular Vision, I have only read 1/3 of the stories and while I am liking them a great deal, I am not convinced that they will resonate with the, mostly journalists, who comprise the Pulitzer Board. I think it is too "literary."
Oh yea, and as I said before, being unemployed has prevented me from acquiring many of the firsts which are in the hunt. Delillo's is the only one I own, besides Harbach. So, from a collecting standpoint, I want it to win!
My Site (click to edit)
April 9, 2012, 5:44 pm
I just picked up a signed copy of The Angel Esmeralda. I read the first 50 pages and enjoyed it so far. It is certainly not too New York, nor too East Coast. In the past we have talked about life-time achievement awards. Some say that the Pulitzer board doesn't do that sort of thing. But just going through the list of past winners suggests otherwise - The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter and The Stories of John Cheever are two examples. So I think the nine stories of The Angel Esmeralda presents an opportunity to get Don DeLillo into the Pulitzer hall of fame.
Jody
April 10, 2012, 11:39 pm
Winner Russell Banks, Don Delillo or Edith Pearlman. I can see the Board going with a sort of Lifetime Achievement Award.
Other Possible Nominees Teju Cole, Chad Harbach or Karen Russell as possible nominees. As possible first time contenders, although I don't see any of them winning.
Spoilers Frank Bill or Amy Waldman. I haven't seen either of these on anyone predictions but I like throwing out a few possible contenders and hoping to come up spades.
Scott
April 16, 2012, 6:53 am
I'm going with:
Open City - Teju Cole (winner) The Marriage Plot - Jeffrey Eugenides (finalist) The Angel Esmeralda - Don Delillo (finalist)
Tom
April 16, 2012, 2:08 pm
Wow! no winner this year.
brak
April 16, 2012, 2:09 pm
WHOA. no award given this year for fiction! O_O
MC
April 16, 2012, 2:12 pm
What a let down. Waited all year and no winner.
Kris Coffield
April 16, 2012, 2:17 pm
Seriously, no award? Finalists: SWAMPLANDIA by Karen Russell, TRAIN DREAMS by Denis Johnson (answers that question), and THE PALE KING by David Foster Wallace. There hasn't been a vacant award year since the inception of social media, so I'm really looking forward to the explanation given for this.
Kris Coffield
April 16, 2012, 2:21 pm
What a weird year. There was also no award for editorial writing. Moreover Manning Marable's sharply written biography of Malcolm X was originally a finalist in the biography category, but moved, by the judges, to the history category - which it won.
Kris Coffield
April 16, 2012, 2:28 pm
Here's this year's fiction jury:
Susan Larson, former book editor, The Times-Picayune and, host, “The Reading Life”, WWNO-FM (Chair). Maureen Corrigan, critic in residence, Georgetown University and, book critic, “Fresh Air,” NPR. Michael Cunningham, novelist & past Pulitzer Prize winner, New York, NY.
Tom
April 16, 2012, 2:32 pm
They should have at least gone for a lifetime achievement with DeLillo's collected stories. What a bummer.
Kris Coffield
April 16, 2012, 2:34 pm
I wonder if TRAIN DREAMS was selected as the winner, but rejected by the board because of the confusion we've been discussing regarding the work's publication date. Pure speculation. Even if true, it doesn't absolve the board of not picking one of the other two finalists. I'd hate to think that a jury boasting Michael Cunningham as a member was unable to reach a decision.
Yet Another Mike
April 16, 2012, 2:52 pm
I guess if you are a collector, you buy all 3 and call it good. But I agree, it's odd. Look forward to the fallout on this one in the literary community. Should be fun to watch.
Mike
April 16, 2012, 2:59 pm
I find it slightly annoying that they could not agree on a book. I mean, that is their job. Do you really mean to tell me that no novel was worthy? I would like to have been a fly on the wall when the trio was debating. I am very curious how they will defend their lack of selection.
Mr. Benchly
April 16, 2012, 3:07 pm
It makes you wonder what Michael Cunningham's role was in this process. After reading what he had to say about winning the prize in 1999 (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/entertainment/jan-june99/pulitzer_4-13.html), I wonder if he was the driving force behind giving no award:
"It's a wonderful thing. It was a shock. That's putting it mildly. And it's great to win a prize. At the same time, it's an odd notion that there is a best book and that these other books were somehow not the best books. Look at all the incredible books that were published last year. I'm thrilled that my book was singled out, especially this book, this strange little book that I had fully imagined in my wildest dreams might sell a couple hundred copies. But prizes are problematic. Prizes are a funny proposition about what they imply about first place, second place, third place. "
Whatever the case, I'm bummed. As a book reader/collector, I became attached to these books and openly rooted for some to win the prize, to gain the recognition. Giving no award leaves me feeling how I felt when the baseball all star game ended in a tie. If this year's jury can't find a winner, find a jury who can. Lame.
Tom
April 16, 2012, 3:32 pm
There have been cases in the past where the jury picked a winner, and the board rejected it. Sometimes the board picked their own winner, and sometimes they have asked the jury to send them another recommendation. So I suspect that the jury and the board reached some kind of impasse. Because there are always two (not three finalists) I think it's fair to assume that the jury put forth one of the three finalists listed on the Pulitzer site, and the board rejected it. It could have been what Kris suggested with Train Dreams.
Kris Coffield
April 16, 2012, 4:10 pm
Here's an unhelpful official statement: "The three books were fully considered, but in the end, nonemustered the mandatory majority for granting a prize, so no prize was awarded," said Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, declining to go into further detail. "This is the 11th time this has happened in the fiction category; the last time was 1977. It's unusual, but it does occur."
Tom
April 16, 2012, 4:44 pm
I only collect the winning book. Not the finalists. So I guess I'm off the hook this year.
DustySpines
April 16, 2012, 6:19 pm
I hate to sound outraged but this is ridiculous. It cheats our community of course, but also cheats readers, writers, and also diminishes the award. I can't help but think that Louis C.K.'s bit about apathetic teens at a car rental place ("you're wearing a jacket the color of the building, just do your job")--a critique of American culture more generally if you ask me-- speaks to this pathetic jury. Their only job was to chose a winner and they could only get as far as the finalists? It is insulting to the authors that were eligible, not to mention the finalists. Also, I also can't help but mention that Train Dreams by Denis Johnson is certainly deserving and better than anything I've ever read by Chabon.
Jonathan
April 17, 2012, 12:18 am
Please see my blog for my thoughts on the Pulitzer. Many of my thoughts have been covered here, but I hope I have have something to add! Also, check back in for book reviews and other publishing related posts.
http://twoforluck.blogspot.com/2012/04/news-no-pulitzer-prize-in-fiction-my.html
Mike
April 17, 2012, 6:32 am
There are too many Mikes commenting :-). This is the Mike who did the analysis for the prediction model, and I suppose that I take some comfort in two of the three finalists showing up on the list. The Pale King got no mention in any other awards, this strikes me as a sympathy pick. It's very disappointing not to have a winner. I think it's an odd list for the jury to have sent. Swamplandia and Train Dreams were on the prediction list, of course, but I thought they were pretty well placed at 7th (tie) and 15th. As I said, Pale King was brilliant in parts, tedious in more parts and very clearly an unfinished work. So, on one hand I'm annoyed at the jury for sending up such an odd list. That said, nothing prevents the Pulitzer board from disregarding the jury's recommendation and picking their own winner, and since they didn't feel they could support any of the three, I'm even more of the mind that they should have used the chance to get Delillo his Pulitzer. Angel Esmarelda was deserving in its own right.
Bummer.
Jonathan
April 17, 2012, 10:18 am
I have not followed the Pulitzer for as many years as most of you. I have seen press about the Board rejecting the chosen winner of the jury, in 1984 for instance when The Feud by Thomas Berger was rejected and Ironweed (one of the two finalists) was chosen instead. But I think that the process has changed. This piece from a member of the Pulitzer board from 2008 says,
"The arts and letters juries begin their work much earlier and take weeks and months to sift through the entries. Each jury presents the board with three unranked finalists." http://www.pulitzer.org/oppel_blog
Thus, it is now up to the Board to come to a majority vote on one of the three finalists. The Board couldn't. I think that they had very strange choices. Ron Charles, the fiction editor for the Washington Post, tweeted about there being only one "full" novel among the finalists, and one that falls below "excellence" (in my opinion!) at that. I was also surprised that the jury chose a previously published novella and an "unfinished" novel. Where was Open City? Or Stone Arabia? Or Once Upon a River. I don't think the jury gave the Board the chance to agree.
Jonathan
April 17, 2012, 10:30 am
As journalists (Junot Diaz is the only "literary" type) I bet that the Board doesn't read enough literature every year to have all read a contender other than the finalists. I read that the deliberations were held over Thursday and Friday of last week. I suppose they could have agreed to read one more book and had a conference call over the weekend to see if they could come to an agreement, but I doubt that they could have read more. I think that the choices the jury passed on doomed the award.
Tom
April 17, 2012, 11:06 am
I while back we were talking about who won the award more than once. I think "no award" holds the record - 11 times since 1917. Does that mean that there is an 11% chance in any given year of a "no award" ?
Yet Another Mike
April 17, 2012, 12:54 pm
The Huffington Post has taken matters into its own greasy hands and is asking people to vote on which of the three finalists is most deserving of the Award.
http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=collecting+pulitzer+prize&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8
brak
April 17, 2012, 1:10 pm
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/04/17/150792103/pulitzer-jurors-are-shocked-that-no-fiction-prize-was-awarded
apparently the jury is pissed.
Mr. Benchly
April 17, 2012, 1:20 pm
Anyone else going through a Pulitzer-inspired 5 stages of grief today? I keep toggling between Anger and Bargaining; between "I hate you, Pulitzer! I'm going to suggest we create an NBA prediction page instead! and "Maybe if I read Water by the Spoonful," I can pretend it's a novel. I'm sure Depression will come soon enough. Damn you, Pulitzer. Damn you.
Mr. Benchly
April 17, 2012, 1:29 pm
I don't blame the jury for being pissed. They worked hard to come up with that list. I also don't blame the board members if they're pissed at the jury for giving them such a dubious lot from which to choose.
Tom
April 17, 2012, 1:44 pm
Let's come up with our own winner. Instead of stating who we predict will win. Why don't we try to agree on who should have won??? If we can come to a consensus, then let's state who we think the winner is, and make our own prize.
Mike
April 17, 2012, 2:56 pm
The board still has the authority to supplant the recommendations from the jury with their own selection. They haven't, since The Feud, but they still can. I tend to agree with the "the-board-is-overwhelmingly-journalists-who-don't-read-literary-fiction" sentiment. I liked Sherman Alexie's twitter post that the board could not come to consensus because none of them could finish The Pale King :-)
Mike
April 17, 2012, 2:58 pm
Although predicting the NBAs is infinitely more depressing lately. This year's batch was slightly less obscure than previous years, but only slightly. Bit, at least they always name a winner!
Mike
April 17, 2012, 3:01 pm
Delillo for Angel Esmarelda. The lead story is terrific, and if they give Welty a "really-lifetime-achievement" Pulitzer for The Optimists Daughter (which, IMHO, was barely readable), Delillo deserves recognition as well
Jonathan
April 17, 2012, 7:40 pm
Doubleday was running a poll on Twitter for a "Twitter Pulitzer" today. Apparently it went to Open City. But I agree on Angel Esmeralda. It was my choice here, after all.
Jonathan
April 17, 2012, 7:42 pm
Then again, the no-award years were clustered. Two in the 40s, two in the 50s, three in the 70s. Given it's been 35 years, I don't think we'll see a no-award again soon.
brak
April 17, 2012, 8:21 pm
wait wait--okay, here's a suggestion. we do two different polls. first, who would we have chosen out of all the books from this year? (sounds like the angel esmerelda is the frontrunner so far!)
second, who would you have chosen if presented with the three finalists? can we agree on who should have won?
brak
April 17, 2012, 8:23 pm
i honestly haven't read any of these books yet--reading "train dreams" now...i'll read "swamplandia" next. but i will say that both the former and the latter seemed to get a lot of positive attention, albeit not winning awards. the three finalists from this year were on a lot of "best of 2011" lists. (and all three were, i believe, on maureen corrigan's list--so they actually don't surprise me.)
Tom
April 17, 2012, 9:31 pm
Yes, it would be nice to hear which you would have picked as a board member if you were presented with the three finalist. But I think we can solve that one quickly. The more interesting poll would be who you have recommended to the board if you were on the jury. ????
I think your answer would be more relevant than what the jury presented. We ought to give our prize a name and award it this year. I don't think it could be a cash prize, but it could be a prize that reviews only the top books of the year based upon the top awards it wins. Then we could select a winner from that list.
Kris Coffield
April 18, 2012, 5:32 am
Not to be disagreeable, but most of the journalists I've known read widely. I do agree that this year's choices were odd, though. SWAMPLANDIA and THE PALE KING aren't exactly experimental, but they're certainly non-traditional in their plotting and delivery. TRAIN DREAMS is less so, though it presents its own weird twists and turns in terms of its publication history (sure, a previously foreign-published work can win, but this baby was basically published thrice over a period of four years). I'm not saying that the Pulitzer is stodgy. It does, however, tend toward evocative portrayals of distinctly American narratives. It's a cultural artefact, as much as a literary award.
Kris Coffield
April 18, 2012, 5:46 am
As I've said in previous years, I don't believe the Pulitzer should be given for lifetime achievement. I know that's been done before, but it's a prize for the best work of distinctly American blah, blah in a given year, and that's how it should be awarded. So, while I thoroughly enjoyed THE ANGEL ESMERELDA, my vote would go to THE ART OF FIELDING by Chad Harbach, with THE BUDDHA IN THE ATTIC and SALVAGE THE BONES as my finalists. Harbach's hysterical realism uses America's pastime as an extended metaphor for viewing modern relations as comedies or errors. Moreover, the book is riddled with allusions to great American writers of yore, from Melville to Emerson to Whitman.
Chris Herring
April 18, 2012, 7:39 am
Tom: I really like this idea to award a "Not The Pulitzer" Award. Maybe you could call it the Reztilup Award (Pulitzer backwards) or the Pulitzer Critics award, which will only be awarded when the Pulitzer board doesn't do it's job.
Also, you could go back and issue awards for the previous 10 years no award was given.
Mr. Benchly
April 18, 2012, 7:43 am
I, too, vote for The Art of Fielding.
Mike
April 18, 2012, 9:22 am
I agree that the award should not be a "lifetime achievement" award when the book it's going to is not worthy of recognition, which IMHO, was the case for Eudora Welty and Optimist's daughter. The notes from various Pulitzer juries during the first half century of the award are full of discussions about a certain book being preferred as much to recognize an author for a body of work, even when the book under consideration wasn't the best from the author. But, I thought Angel Esmarelda held up pretty well on its own, and when the board gridlocked on the jury selections, it would have been appropriate to look toward Angel as a viable alternative. I do think, though, that the award-as-lifetime-achievement tendency as decreased in more recent times. Good points about the literary influences in Fielding. Of all the books I read, Fielding vied with Jonathan Evisin's West of Here as meeting the Pulitzer criteria pertaining to American Life.
brak
April 20, 2012, 2:13 pm
I also think this was the case for "The Road", which I always thought was very close to being a novella length--nobody complained, but the margins and spacing between the lines are large. I'd imagine that if they had done that with "Train Dreams", it would have been approximately 200 pages, and the judges--most of them not literary people--wouldn't have felt it inadequate.
But I digress. My actual point about the road is that, while it is a well-written book with moments of poetry, it is generally not held to be Mccarthy's best novel. (Then again, I'm not sure the other two finalists in 2007 were particularly steep competition.) I saw "The Road" as more of a lifetime achievement award than anything else.
brak
April 21, 2012, 6:47 pm
so--out of the three nominees presented by the jury this year--which would you have chosen to win? i'm curious.
i think the idea of choosing a book to award when the pulitzer board doesn't do its job is intriguing, and definitely something worth pursuing (although, i think we need to set up some actual guidelines if we want to make it something official); however, i think the reason that the board didn't choose a winner seems to be that they didn't entirely respect the outcome of the jury's deliberations: the three pieces of literature that the jury pared it down to. Since we here, despite not always agreeing with the winner / finalists, have collected and respected the previous years' winners (and, for myself, some of the finalists), I think it is incumbent upon us not to continue to indulge our speculative proclivities, but rather to put ourselves, for this brief moment, into the shoes of the board, to show these three choices the respect the jury thought they deserved, to try to at least come to some conclusion. We don't all have to agree, but each of us should offer our personal winner.
I myself have only read "Train Dreams", and I think it incredible. It is a beautiful gem of a novella. I'm not going to offer my opinion until reading Swamplandia, at the very least! But let's hear it, friends. =)
brak
April 22, 2012, 4:52 pm
in some regards, train dreams reminds me of tinkers
Scott
April 23, 2012, 9:22 am
I would have to go with "Train Dreams" as well, since it is the only one of the finalists that I have read. I'm not sure if I'll read the other 2, but based on the synopsis for "Swamplandia!" and the unfinished status of DFW's novel, I doubt I'd change my mind even if would.
Scott
April 23, 2012, 9:22 am
I would have to go with "Train Dreams" as well, since it is the only one of the finalists that I have read. I'm not sure if I'll read the other 2, but based on the synopsis for "Swamplandia!" and the unfinished status of DFW's novel, I doubt I'd change my mind even if would.
brak
May 4, 2012, 6:54 pm
nothin'?
still working my way through the nominees, but i was honestly really impressed with "train dreams".
brak
May 24, 2012, 2:05 am
All right, even though none of you seem at all interested in choosing which, among the three nominees, you would have chosen to win the pulitzer, I'm going to go ahead and say: "Train Dreams" deserved the pulitzer. The only thing that you could say against it are that it is short (and, as sited earlier, so is "the old man and the sea") and that it was originally published a decade ago--as are the short stories in many collections, including collections which have won.
I'm working on Swamplandia, and it is good, but "Train Dreams" has captivated me, despite its brevity--it is something worth discussing, a novel whose characters deserve deliberation and metaphorical debate. It is powerful. I can understand dismissing Foster Wallace's posthumous offering, because (while I haven't yet read it), it was incomplete at the time of Wallace's death, and I think there are likely stronger offerings--as previously discussed. This year, a year that was particularly strong, honestly, was ripe to honor a first time novelist. That being said, if I had been presented with these three novels as finalists, Johnson would have gotten the award, and frankly, deserved a nomination.
I'm not sure why nobody else wants to state which of the 3 nominees presented by the jury they would have chosen--I myself find that far more interesting, honestly, than simply continuing to indulge our speculative proclivities after the fact. I do like the idea of having our own award for a year in which no award is given, but that being said, we spent an entire year (perhaps longer) debating who would be the winner. Many of us then provided our own top three....if we continue to simply provide our top choice, we in no way satisfy or validate the reality of this year's selections. I'd really like to know which of the three submissions, had you been among the lucky 18, you would have selected as a winner.
John Zulovitz
May 31, 2012, 3:54 pm
Like many of you, I was also disappointed in the Pulitzer Board's failure to select a book from the three finalists. It's quite unfair to do this to a jury that has spent much time and effort winnowing down three possible finalists from hundreds of books.
Having respect for the jury, I decided to read the three finalists. Now I have done so, having just finished SWAMPLANDIA! last night. I can understand why the jury picked the three, though there are flaws in all of them (true of any book, is it not?). As with any award given for art, the question of what one prefers aesthetically cannot be extricated from one's decisions; it's simply not possible to do. That said:
TRAIN DREAMS: Sharply realized, quietly intimate epic. Grainier is an enigmatic character. I enjoyed the way Johnson chose to reflect an specific period of American life through Grainier's observations. Johnson's prose is vivid and blunt. It's a challenging life Johson chronicles; at the story's core a melancholia that permates every page and sequence. Length does not matter to me, provided a story is told well. It may take a thousand-plus pages (as with Mailer's masterpiece, THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG), or no more than a little over a hundred (as with Hemingway's lovely OLD MAN AND THE SEA).
THE PALE KING: Well-researched, told in a just-this-side-of-off-kilter elliptical manner. Yes: the novel was pieced together by Wallace's editor after Wallace's death. Yes: sometimes this culled piecemeal shows. But it's ambitious, bold, and dares to do nothing less than encapsulate the minutiae of what it means to be human (working for the IRS!). At its core, it's about monotony--something which Wallace seems to have felt pertinent in making a reader feel.
SWAMPLANDIA!: A short story and expanded to novel length that moves toward a kind of grungy backwoods magical realism. Dickey by way of Marquez, if you will. It's odd, deceptive, leads you in one direction, and then--WHAM!--smacks you in the face with the force of a two-by-four. Vivid descriptions (echoes of Proulx, Dunn, Eugenides) and often amusingly arcane. Rampant metaphors and similes. It's a sad novel that moves through one like a mood or a moribund piece of music. The break from an ostensibly magical realm of prose to that of cold, ugly reality might offend some (I'm sure it has), yet isn't life itself sometimes ugly and mean, throwing a proverbial curveball and mucking up joy? Problems fall within the constraints of grammar. (I know: all writers do it. Dangling modifiers abound in many a book that has gone on to win literary prizes.) Here, the eyesores are split infinitives, perhaps a tad too many adverbs, and the improper use of "who" and "whom." Of the three, it's the strangest and most original story, although, the method has been used before (familial dysfunction weaved through generations of mordant eccentricity). It's a sad, rather bleak novel--or perhaps not so much "bleak" as pragmatically "resigned."


wehmeyer
June 7, 2012, 6:15 pm
Hi brak, Mike here. Not ignoring your post on which of the three I would have selected, but I've been unable to login to this discussion page (which is why, I think, Tom switched to a different discussion option for the 2013 discussion board. I finally got logged in using my twitter account. In any case, although I probably will go back to read Train Dreams at some point, I didn't get to it before the Pulitzer was announced, and am trying to catch up on some of the books that might make the 2013 list (just started What we talk about when we talk about Anne Frank). But, as I've thought about the three options since the announcement, I've come more and more to the conclusion that they should have just given the thing to The Pale King. When I read it, right after it first came out, I commented that it was like nothing I'd ever read and that I didn't even know how to compare it with other novels. So, count me in the "should have been awarded to David Foster Wallace" camp.
You should retry this post (your post) on the 2013 discussion page...
brak
June 11, 2012, 12:58 pm
Is there, perhaps, one that you would have felt satisfied with, had it been selected by the jury?
brak
June 11, 2012, 12:58 pm
Thank you for your truly thoughtful and enlightening response, by the way!
John Zulovitz
July 5, 2012, 1:15 am
My personal choice would have been Train Dreams. Johnson is a wonderful writer (Jesus' Son, Tree of Smoke); of the three, I think it's the most cohesively told, poignant story. There's also a sparseness to it that I liked quite a bit, and a few sequences (i.e., Grainier recalling a ribald friend of his trying to woo a widow during a car ride) that struck me as, for want of a better term, "Pulitzer quality." It happens often in a Pulitzer novel (excepting The Road): the writer has a clear, concise vision that he or she manages to translate quite succinctly from mind to page. (Marilynne Robinson did it quite well in Gilead. Ditto Larry McMurtry in Lonesome Dove. Mailer did it on nearly every page of The Executioner's Song.) I also liked Wallace's ambition, and Russell's often curiously beguiling sentences that now and then put me in mind of Annie Proulx.
John Zulovitz
July 5, 2012, 1:16 am
Thank you, brak.