2001 National Book Award Finalists
November 14, 2001 8:19 AM   Subscribe

2001 National Book Award Finalists Awards tonight in New York mc's by Steve Martin. Will Franzen win despite the raging controversy? Pick the winners, anyone? Any good ones left out?
posted by Voyageman (9 comments total)
Right up to the eruption of the Oprah controversy, Franzen appeared to be in the process of annointment as "the great writer of our moment" by our raggle-taggle commercial literary establishment. (I'd nominate Louis B. Jones ["California's Over"] myself.) Now, however, I can't get a clear reading of where he stands. The Oprah controversy has simultaneously revealed him to be total moron (his complaint that the Oprah sticker on the book cover was "corporate" -- as if his food, car, gas, clothing, heat, light, computer, shoes, books, magazines, medicine and everything else that keeps him and his family alive were not delivered profit-seeking "corporate" entities, who happen to do a damned good job of it. As if is isn't big, profit-seeking "corporate" publishers who make it possible for people like him and me to make a good money writing books while they do all the dirty work of printing, distributing and promoting) -- As I say, he simultaneously revealed himself to be a moron, and to have pulled off the publicity coup of the decade, insuring that everyone in America who took the slightest interest in books would know who he is, and associate his name with interest and lively controversy. At this point, it's hard to tell where his interupted annointment stands. Will the "establishment" still support its candidate? Or will there be a backlash? Franzen is not really good enough to take fire as a popular favorite among readers of literary fiction without heavy assistance. There are a million other guys and gals who are just as good. It will be interesting to see what happens.
posted by Faze at 9:01 AM on November 14, 2001

Haruki Murakami had two books come out in the US this year, one fiction and one non- (a translation of an earlier work), both of which are more articulate and accurate statements about America and whatever it is we previously though of as some kind of unique American spirit, American psyche - does the national book award have to go to a national? I suppose so. Well - how about Mark Danielewski? He's just as long-winded and pretentious as Franzen. Maybe Andre Aciman or Nicholson Baker deserve it more. Those are my two picks, both for non-fiction.
posted by luriete at 9:02 AM on November 14, 2001

I think Franzen will probably get the award. Although I haven't read the book (and I won't until it's at least out in paperback, I can't be spending $24.95, good lord!) he has been such a literary darling, and in the media to boot, that I can't see it going anywhere else. I am disappointed to see David Mitchell's "Ghostwritten" is not on the list. Although I guess the "National" book award should be a commentary on America, Mitchell's book is a pretty amazing commentary on the world. And with the way things stand right now, it seems that much more relevant.
btw luriete, I just got my first Murakami book- haven't started yet but I am eager to!
posted by babydoll at 8:32 PM on November 14, 2001

posted by Voyageman at 8:37 PM on November 14, 2001

god bless you voyageman.
posted by babydoll at 9:57 PM on November 14, 2001

I feel compelled to make a note here that whatever one thinks of the Franzen-Oprah thing (which strikes me as a terrible mistake by Franzen, and not a calculated publicity coup at all; but then who knows), it has nothing to do with whether the book is good or not.

And it is very good; it's better certainly than past winners such as Cold Mountain, All the Pretty Horses, or The Shipping News. It's suspenseful, thoughtful about both its characters and the mileux they move in, has great set pieces, includes both tragedy and satire, and is capacious and includes lots of detail without wandering into complete self-indulgence (like, say, Infinite Jest, which has a similar sensibility but which demanded a lot more forgiveness from the reader).

All of the above is opinion, of course, and I fully expect to get trashed here (if anyone's still reading this thread). But I read a fair amount of new fiction, and I've enjoyed this more than most: just because a novel or a work of art is annoyingly hyped doesn't necessarily mean it lacks merit in itself.

Thanks for the post, Voyageman.
posted by BT at 6:56 AM on November 15, 2001

A friend of mine edited the winning poetry collection of Alan Dugan. This is a big triumph for the excellent little publishing company Seven Stories Press. (Warning: Along with fiction and poetry, they publish Chomsky, Abu-Jamal and Subcommandante Marcos.)
posted by liam at 7:48 AM on November 15, 2001

see post in Metatalk re all your excellent book suggestions
posted by Voyageman at 8:06 AM on November 15, 2001

I'm not a metatalker but I will be if there's some sort of book list or discussion. How long must I search for someone that also thought The Shipping News was horrible!!! (I'm sure there's more to be gained than just someone affirming my opinions however.) Print is not quite dead. :)
posted by babydoll at 7:11 PM on November 15, 2001

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