One-Minute Book Reviews

November 18, 2010

Jonathan Franzen’s ‘Freedom’ Makes Shortlist for Bad Sex Award

Filed under: Book Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:36 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Freedom has made the shortlist for the annual Bad Sex in fiction award, always one of year’s most entertaining literary prizes. The Guardian has more on the dubious honor for Jonathan Franzen’s novel, which landed its author on the cover of Time but not on the dais at last night’s National Book Awards ceremony. Given by the U.K.-based Literary Review, the Bad Sex award went last year to Jonathan Littell, who defeated Philip Roth, Paul Theroux and others.

September 27, 2010

2011 Newbery and Caldecott Winners to Be Announced on Jan. 10 at 7:30 a.m. – National Book Awards Winners on Nov. 17

The American Library Association will announce the winners of 2011 Newbery and Caldecott medals for distinguished American children’s books beginning at 7:30 a.m. on Monday, January 10, 2011. The ALA site has more information on those and other prizes awarded by the organization.

Other dates for major book awards:

The winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize for fiction will be named on Oct. 12, 2010, and the winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in literature in mid-October at a date to be determined by the Swedish Academy. Michael Orthofer over at the Literary Saloon, a veteran observer of Nobel Prize politics, thinks the annoucement could come on Oct. 7 but that Oct. 14 is more likely.

The finalists for the 2010 National Book Awards for fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people’s literature will be announced on Oct. 13, 2010. The winners will be named on Nov. 17.

The shortlist for the National Book Critics Circle Awards in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, criticism, biography and autobiography or memoir will be announced on Jan. 22, 2011, and the winners on March 10, 2011.

Jan Harayda (@janiceharayda) often comments on book awards, including those listed above, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/janiceharayda.


July 4, 2010

2011 Newbery and Caldecott Medal Predictions From School Library Journal

Filed under: Book Awards,Children's Books — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:39 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Who has the best record of predicting the winners of the American Library Association’s Newbery and Caldecott Medals? For my money, it’s Elizabeth Bird, a children’s librarian for the New York Public Library who writes the popular Fuze #8 blog for School Library Journal. Bird has posted her annual midterm report on books she considers frontrunners for the awards here and should have another roundup of the 2011 candidates near the end of the year.

April 11, 2009

Robinson, Updike or Roth Will Win the 2009 Pulitzer for Fiction, Statistical Analysis Shows — But Don’t Count on It

I’m on record as saying that the frontrunner for this year’s Pulitzer Prize for fiction would seem to be Toni Morrison’s novel A Mercy, which I haven’t read. Morrison is the only Nobel Prize–winner in the hunt. And I think it’s going to be tough for the judges to pass over a laureate, although the National Book Critics Circle board did it in March.

But a research scientist and a book collector have reached a different conclusion by using regression analysis, a statistical technique for evaluating variables. The two say that the books most likely to win the 2009 fiction prize are Marilynne Robinson’s Home, John Updike’s The Widows of Eastwick, and Philip Roth’s Indignation. They’ve also identified the 12 other candidates that, based on their analysis, are most like to win, all listed in order at  PPrize.com. You can read their 2008 predictions — and how they fared — on the same site. The Pulitzer Prizes honor books in five categories — fiction, poetry, history, biography, and general nonfiction — and will be announced on Monday, April 20, at 3 p.m. Eastern Time.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 25, 2009

Randy Pausch Wins First Delete Key Award for Lifetime Achievement – Author of ‘The Last Lecture’ Is Gone, But His Football Clichés Live

Filed under: Book Awards,Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:32 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

You know how the Academy Awards people often give a special award announced before the ceremony? This year the tradition comes to the Delete Key Awards, which recognize authors who don’t use their delete keys enough.

The first Delete Key Award for Lifetime Achievement goes to Randy Pausch (1960–2008), the computer science professor who wrote The Last Lecture after learning that he had pancreatic cancer.

Like many books considered for tomorrow’s Delete Key Awards shortlist, Pausch’s bestseller shows his love of clichés. Unlike the authors of other candidates, Pausch admitted in his book that he loved well-worn phrases. He also explained why: He taught students who didn’t know the clichés and for whom they seemed fresh.

Pausch’s honesty was unique among the authors considered for Delete Key Awards since their inception in 2007. It sets him apart from the many writers who pretend – or really believe – that their clichés offer startling insights. And Pausch used his clichés with enough wit and charm to endear him to legions and make him the star of a YouTube video that more than 9 million people have watched and that led to a book contract.

For these reasons, Randy Pausch receives the first special Delete Key Award for Lifetime Achievement for the line:

“I liked my students to win one for the Gipper, to go out and execute, to keep the drive alive, to march down the field, to avoid costly turnovers and to win games in the trenches even if they were gonna feel it on Monday.”

A review of and reading group guide to The Last Lecture (Hyperion, 224, $21.95) appeared on One-Minute Book Reviews on May 30, 2008.

The finalists for the 2009 Delete Key Awards will be announced tomorrow beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern Time, at roughly 30–minute intervals, that will include samples of their bad writing. The full shortlist will be posted by 5 p.m. and the winners named on March 16.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

January 30, 2009

National Book Critics Circle Judges Snub Toni Morrison and Joseph O’Neill in Announcing Finalists for Awards

Filed under: Book Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:11 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Just before the American Library Association named the winners of the Newbery and Caldecott medals that have preoccupied me for much of this week, the National Book Critics Circle announced the finalists for its annual awards in six categories: fiction, poetry, criticism, biography, general nonfiction and autobiography or memoir. The big news this year is the books that aren’t on the list: Toni Morrison’s A Mercy and Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland. Both novels have won stellar reviews, and I predicted that O’Neill would win this one. (Neither book made the shortlist for the 2008 National Book Awards, either, but A Mercy came out after the deadline for entries.) Read the list of NBCC finalists and tell me what you think.

January 24, 2009

Jan the Hungarian Predicts … ‘Chains’ Will Win the 2009 Newbery Medal

[Update Jan. 26, 2009: Halse Anderson won the Margaret A. Edwards award for lifetime achievement today, not the Newbery.]

The latest in a series of occasional posts that predict the winners of major awards to books for children or adults

Jan the Hungarian predicts …

Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains will win the 2009 Newbery Medal, which the American Library Association will award on Monday to “the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” Why? It’s a good book, but others I haven’t read may be better. So I’m going mostly on instinct honed by years of covering the Newbery and Caldecott medals for the Plain Dealer and this blog. But I’m not alone here: Halse Anderson was a 2008 National Book Award finalist for this historical novel about a 13-year-old slave in New York City who hopes to win her freedom by exposing a plot to kill George Washington on the eve of the American Revolution. A review of and reader’s guide to Chains appeared in separate posts on this site on Dec. 5, 2008.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

December 16, 2008

Is Frank Bidart the Susan Lucci of Poetry? He Keeps Losing the Big Ones, But ‘Watching the Spring Festival’ Could Change His Luck

Filed under: Book Awards,Poetry — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:04 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

One of the country’s most respected poets is always a bridesmaid for the top prizes. At least the National Book Awards people don’t make you wear bad dresses to the ceremony.

Watching the Spring Festival: Poems. By Frank Bidart. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 58 pp., $25.

By Janice Harayda

Frank Bidart is turning into poetry’s Susan Lucci, the soap opera star who lost l8 daytime Emmy awards before winning on her 19th nomination. He has spent decades in the trenches and is one of America’s most respected poets, but he has never won one of the Big Three honors in the field: a National Book Award, a Pulitzer Prize or a National Book Critics Circle Award.

Bidart has written seven poetry collections, and if his publisher nominated each book for all three prizes, he passed Lucci in November when he got his 19th snub: He lost the 2008 National Book Award for poetry to fellow finalist Mark Doty. He still has a chance to win on nominations No. 20 and No. 21 when the NBCC and Pulitzer prizes are awarded in 2009.

What explains his perennial bridesmaid’s status? Bad luck — always a possibility in the iffy realm of book awards — may play a role, given that Bidart has won many other honors.

But I suspect that more than chance explains some of his rejections. Bidart often focuses on unpleasant or even grisly subjects. The first of his seven collections had a poem written in the voice a psychopathic child-murderer and necrophiliac.

Bidart has also written many poems that, with up to 30 pages, are unfashionably long by today’s standards. And he plays with typography for reasons that at times seem opaque. The first line of “Under Julian, c362 A.D.” in Watching the Spring Festival is: “[ ] or full feeling return to my legs.”*

Even as an editor with an intimate knowledge of the uses of square brackets, I wonder how to read that line. How would you read the brackets aloud? Doesn’t it matter if you can’t?

Watching the Spring Festival is Bidart’s first book of short poems or lyrics and, on that level, might represent his swing for the fences. All 26 of its poems deal, paradoxically, with death or physical decay, as though there were an inverse relation between the length of a life and that of the poems it inspired. In the sestina “If See No End In Is,” a speaker who is nearing death wonders why life is a double-bind: “… why what we love is / precluded always by something else we love, as if /each no we speak is yes, each yes no.

Those lines express a theme of this book: the constant tension between what is and what ought to be in affairs of state as in those of the heart. In “To the Republic,” the Union and Confederate dead rise up at Gettysburg and “roll in outrage across America”: “You betray us is blazoned across each chest. / To each eye as they pass: You betray us.”

In the poem the ghosts of the dead soldiers meet with indifference: “Assaulted by the impotent dead, I say it’s / their misfortune and none of my own.”

First published in The New Yorker, these are chilling lines. But they read like a speech to an American Legion convention. How has the nation betrayed the Gettysburg dead? What freedoms has it stifled? Is the speaker describing a general or specific warp in the national unity? The poem doesn’t say and instead has a whiff of the harangue about it. The subtext seems to be: You know you’re guilty, and I don’t need to tell you why.

“To the Republic” may evoke strong emotions, but it doesn’t fully earn them. So it’s hard to say whether this and other poems in Watching the Spring Festival will help to change Bidart’s luck with the big literary prizes. If it doesn’t, a few lines from his “Little O” may offer comfort: “The French thought Shakespeare // a barbarian, because in their eyes he wrote as if / ignorant of decorum, remaking art to cut through.”

* Please note that this template can’t reproduce correctly the number of spaces between Bidart’s square brackets. There should be approximately seven spaces.

Best line: The sestina “If See No End In Is” departs from the standard form in interesting ways. Bidart omits the three-line envoi at the end. And instead of repeating the end word “no” in the prescribed numerical order in each stanza, he sometimes substitutes the homonym “know” or “know-“ (the first syllable of “knowledge”). Read the full sestina at www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=180058.

Worst line: The first line of the poem “Under Julian, c362 A.D.,” quoted above.

Published: April 2008

About the author: Bidart www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/162 teaches at Wellesley College. His won Yale University’s 2007 Bollingen Prize for American poetry. The National Book Foundation site has more on Watching the Spring Festival www.nationalbook.org/nba2008_p_bidart.html. Bidart also wrote Desire, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry when I was a judge. That year, he lost to Charles Wright.

Furthermore: Bidart co-edited Robert Lowell’s Collected Poems and may have intended “To the Republic” as a dialogue with Lowell’s “For the Union Dead,” which the critic William Logan has called “perhaps the most significant political poem of the last half-century.” If you’ve read both poems, I’d welcome comments on how if at all they converse.

Janice Harayda has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book editor of the Plain Dealer in Cleveland and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle www.bookcritics.org.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

October 21, 2008

Late Night With Jan Harayda — The Complete 2008 National Book Awards Shortlist for Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature

Amid the hoopla over the Nobel, I didn’t have a chance to post a link to the list of the recently announced finalists for the National Book Awards for fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people’s literature. If you missed the list, you can find it here www.nationalbook.org/nba2008.html.

Some years none of National Book Awards finalists seems a strong candidate for the prize. But the 2008 nonfiction shortlist alone has two worthy books: Jim Sheeler’s Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives and Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. No complaints from here if either wins, though I haven’t seen the other nonfiction finalists, which may be equally good.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

October 14, 2008

India’s Aravind Adiga Wins 2008 Man Booker Prize for ‘The White Tiger,’ a Novel That Outlook India Calls ‘A Tedious, Unfunny Slog’

Filed under: Book Awards,News,Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:20 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Aravind Adiga tonight won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction for his first novel, The White Tiger, which the New Yorker described as a “darkly comic début novel set in India” about a chauffeur who “murders his employer, justifying his crime as the act of a ‘social entrepreneur.’” The White Tiger won praise from some American and English reviewers, but the Indian novelist and critic Manjula Padmanabhan of the New Delhi-based Outlook India called it “a tedious, unfunny slog.” You’ll find links to that review and others over at the Complete Review, which gave the novel an overall B-minute rating www.complete-review.com/reviews/india/adigaa.htm. If you want just the hype, you’ll find it at the Man Booker site www.themanbookerprize.com.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

« Previous PageNext Page »

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 373 other followers

%d bloggers like this: