I love the beginning of October. Not because of the fall weather, in Los Angeles autumn means everyone covers their lawns in manure so it smells like, well you get the idea. Plus, we have the Santa Anas which blow the smog to me and causes fires anywhere. Despite the environmental hazards, October means literary award activity. In case you’ve been too busy caring for your lawn or enjoying the changing leaves in other parts of the country, here’s a recap:
On October 7th, the Swedish Academy named Mario Vargas Llosa as the winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in literature “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat”. Although some literary critics are unhappy with the choice because Llosa is no longer a socialist and they see this as a victory for the right. Remember, one country’s right can be another country’s socialist. I was grateful they picked an author I knew and read (loved reading Conversations in the Cathedral when traveling in Peru a few years ago), it feels like years since that happened. The betting was pointing heavily towards Cormac McCarthy, which generally indicates the author will not be picked. Hope he didn’t stay up late waiting for the call.
Earlier this week, Howard Jacobson won my favorite book award, the 2010 Man Booker Prize. Actually, it’s my favorite short list and the start of my Christmas list every year. Jacobson’s book The Finkler Question won him the award. I didn’t know anything about the book, but the title alone made me giggle. Rightly so, it’s a comic novel. Jacobson penned an essay about the need for comedy in serious novels in The Guardian.
To my ear the term “comic novelist” is as redundant and off-putting as the term “literary novelist”. When Jane Austen rattled off the novel’s virtues in Northanger Abbey – arguing that it demonstrated the “most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour . . . conveyed to the world in the best chosen language” – she wasn’t making a distinction between the literary novel and some other sort, or between the comic novel and the not so comic. The liveliest effusions of wit and humour are simply what the reader of a novel has a right to expect.
Again, the odds makers were wrong. The betting was so heavy for Tom McCarthy’s C that one betting house stopped accepting bets. They should have taken the risk, all that money they left on the table.
Last, but not least, the National Book Foundation announced the finalists for the National Book Award:
- Peter Carey, Parrot and Olivier in America (Alfred A. Knopf)
- Jaimy Gordon, Lord of Misrule (McPherson & Co.)
- Nicole Krauss, Great House (W.W. Norton & Co.)
- Lionel Shriver, So Much for That (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)
- Karen Tei Yamashita, I Hotel (Coffee House Press)
And now my Christmas list is just about complete. Of course, the scuttlebutt was more about who was not on the list, Jonathan Franzen for Freedom. I’m not surprised, I enjoyed the book, but there wasn’t a single sentence that I underlined as stunning. We’ve been having a discussion about Freedom on the Bookstore People Facebook page, hop over and tell us what you think.