One-Minute Book Reviews

March 7, 2008

Junot Díaz Wins NBCC Fiction Award – Danticat Gets Autobiography Prize – Other Winners Are Ross, Bang, Jeal and Washington

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Junot Díaz has won the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction for his first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead). Other books that won prizes in the March 6 ceremony in Manhattan are: General nonfiction, Harriet Washington’s Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans From Colonial Times to the Present (Doubleday); Biography, Tim Jeal’s Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa’s Greatest Explorer (Yale University Press); Autobiography, Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying (Knopf); Poetry, Mary Jo Bang’s Elegy (Graywolf); and Criticism, Alex Ross’s The Rest Is Noise (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).The NBCC awards are one of the top three literary honors in the U.S. along with the National Book Awards and the Pulitzer Prizes. They are given annually by the 800-member association of American book critics.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

January 15, 2008

Why Did the American Library Association Snub Sherman Alexie?

Did Alexie’s young-adult novel finish out of the medals because it uses the word “boner” 12 times? Or because a character tells a vicious racial joke that includes the “n” word?

By Janice Harayda

Sherman Alexie never really had a shot at winning the 2008 Newbery Medal, which honors the most distinguished work of literature for children (specifically, for those under the age of 14). The material in his The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is too mature for many children in that age group.

But Alexie was a favorite for the American Library Association’s Michael L. Printz Award for young people’s literature, which honors a book for an older audience and went to Geraldine McCaughrean’s The White Darkness. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian won a 2007 National Book Award www.nationalbook.org. And it was mentioned repeatedly in the Mock Newbery contests held by libraries in the weeks before yesterday’s awards ceremony.

So a lot of people were surprised when The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian finished out of the medals at the ALA’s midwinter meeting yesterday, receiving neither a major prize nor an honor-book designation. Did the novel lose because it uses the word “boner” 12 times? Or because a character tells a vicious racial and sexual joke that includes the “n” word and caused some students to walk out of a speech that Alexie gave at an Illinois high school in October?

Tomorrow One Minute Book Reviews will review The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian www.lb-teens.com, including comments on parts that might given pause to the ALA. Please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed to avoid missing this review. One-Minute Book Reviews normally reviews books for children and teenagers on Saturdays but may depart from this policy when books make news. Its reviews of books for adults will resume on Thursday.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

January 9, 2008

Newbery and Caldecott Medals TBA 7:45 a.m. Monday, Jan. 14

[Update: The complete list of 2008 Newbery and Caldecott winners and Honor Books has been posted on One-Minute Book Reviews www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/01/14/. The Coretta Scott King and Michael L. Printz winners also appear in the first post of the day on Jan. 14, 2008. Other Jan. 14 posts include a review of and reading group guide to the 2008 Caldecott medalist, Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret.]

A public service announcement for the patience-impaired …

No, you’re not the only one having trouble logging onto the American Library Association site this week. Here are the facts you may have been looking for:

The ALA will announce the winners of its annual children’s book on awards on Monday, January 14, on a free live Webcast from its midwinter meeting in Philadelphia. The Webcast http://unikron.com/clients/ala-webcast-2008/ will begin at 7:45 a.m. EST. Names of the winners will be posted on the ALA site www.ala.org by 10:30 a.m. The list will include the recipients of the John Newbery Medal for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” and the Randolph Caldecott Medal for “the most distinguished American picture book for children.

[Note: Because it may be difficult to log onto the ALA site on Monday, I'll post the Newbery and Caldecott winners on this site as soon as I have the them. And if the librarians pick another winner with the "scrotum" on the first page, as they did last year, it's likely that I'll also have comments on the awards.]

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

November 30, 2007

Do We Need Awards for Brand-Name Blight in Fiction?

Designer labels fester in fiction despite the critics’ complaints

By Janice Harayda

Do we need awards for brand-name blight in fiction?

Critics have complained for years about novelists who tell you about their characters’ designer labels as a substitute for character development. But the problem keeps spreading. In many novels you read about more than the labels on characters’ clothes and shoes. You learn the brand names on their cars, appliances, baby gear and more.

The most egregious example I’ve reviewed was Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho (Vintage, 1991) www.randomhouse.com, a novel about a young Wall Street serial killer, who “describes his designer lifestyle in excruciating detail,” as Nora Rawlinson wrote aptly in Library Journal. But Ellis at least seemed to be trying to develop a theme — that our culture views products and people as equally disposable and that consumerism fosters violence.

Many novels, though less grotesque than American Psycho, have no such core. Their authors use designer labels as a shortcut to meaning. Brand-name abuse is a sin that I consider in giving out the annual Delete Key Awards on this site. But books can go wrong in so many ways that the prizes don’t focus on label blight. Should I give separate awards for Brand-Name Blight in Fiction (maybe in the summer after I’ve had a few months to recover from naming the winners of the Delete Key Awards on the Ides of March)? Can you suggest candidates?

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

Nominate Your Candidates for the 2008 Delete Key Awards for the Year’s Worst Writing in Books

Which of the authors you’ve read this year didn’t use their delete keys enough?

One-Minute Book Reviews will announce the finalists for the 2008 Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books on February 29, 2008. So it’s not too early to nominate your candidates for these prizes, given to authors who don’t use their delete keys enough.

The Delete Key Awards recognize the worst lines or passages in hardcover or paperback books published in the United States. The grand prize winner and runners-up will be named on March 15, the date of Julius Caesar’s assassination, because all the finalists assassinate the English language with weapons such as clichés, jargon, bad grammar, dumbing down or pomposity.

All books that contain bad writing are eligible for the awards, except for those in the categories listed at the end of this post. But the prizes are intended especially for established authors who have been overpraised or granted unmerited immunity by critics. The 2007 winners were: grand prize, Danielle Steel’s Toxic Bachelors; first runner-up, Mitch Albom’s For One More Day; and second runner-up, Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children.

To inspire your nominations, here’s a complete list of last year’s finalists. You can read their offending passages by clicking on the “Delete Key Awards” tag at the top of this post or going to the “Delete Key Awards” category at right.

Finalists for the 2007 Delete Key Awards:

For One More Day by Mitch Albom

The Handmaid and the Carpenter by Elizabeth Berg

Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris

The Book Club Companion: A Comprehensive Guide to the Reading Group Experience by Diana Loevy

Love Smart: Find the One You Want — Fix the One You Got by Dr. Phil McGraw

The Confession by James McGreevey with David France

The Interruption of Everything by Terry McMillan

The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud

Toxic Bachelors by Danielle Steel

The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World With Kindness by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval

Janice Harayda is the sole judge of the Delete Key Awards but enthusastically considers suggestions from visitors to One-Minute Book Reviews. She is a novelist and award-winning journalist who has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book editor of the Plain Dealer in Cleveland and vice-president for awards of the National Book Critics Circle.

Jan does not accept free books from publishers and excludes from consideration for the Delete Key Awards any books that would present a conflict of interest or the appearance of such a conflict. The ineligible books include those published by her current publisher, represented by her literary agent, or written by her friends or enemies. Unfortunately, the publishing axiom is right: You don’t know who your enemies are until you review their books. Or give them a Delete Key Award.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

November 28, 2007

Read All the Passages Shortlisted for the 2007 Bad Sex in Fiction Award Here

Just found a link to all the passages shortlisted for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award from the U.K-based Literary Review, won Tuesday by Norman Mailer‘s The Castle in the Forest, which defeated books by Ian McEwan, Jeanette Winterson and others. The Guardian (formerly the Manchester Guardian) has them here: http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,2217735,00.htm

That link will take you to them, but if it doesn’t work for you, just Google “Guardian + Bad Sex Awaard Shortlisted Passages.” Still haven’t found a YouTube upload of the reading of the offending lines that preceded the announcement of the winner. The finalists included Gary Shteyngart‘s Absurdistan, shown here.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

November 27, 2007

Norman Mailer Wins 2007 Bad Sex Award for ‘The Castle in the Forest’

[This post has been updated. A link to the bad-sex scene that won appears at the end of the post.]

The late Norman Mailer has won the 2007 Bad Sex in Fiction Award from the U.K.-based Literary Review for his novel The Castle in the Forest www.randomhouse.com, beating Ali Smith, David Thewlis and other finalists. I can’t get the direct link to the BBC post on the award to work from One-Minute Book Reviews. (The URL is news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7115451/.) But you can find the BBC post by Googling its headline, “Late Mailer wins ‘bad sex’ award.” (Sounds like he didn’t mail his application on time, doesn’t it?) You may also want to read the post just before this one on One-Minute Book Reviews, which has the shortlist for the Bad Sex Award and a link to a few lines from Smith’s bad writing on sex.

Update at 7:20 p.m., Eastern Time: Hooray! Just got this link from impatientreaderdotcom (see the comments section) to the lines by Mailer that won the 2007 Bad Sex in Fiction Award. (The winning passage was supposed to have been read aloud by an actress before the announcement. Anybody have a link to a YouTube or other video clip of the reading?) The following link provided by impatientreaderdotcom may look “off” but will take you right to a priceless passage from Mailer’s The Castle in the Forest that begins: “His mouth lathered with her sap …” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/7115451.stm

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

 

‘Sex in Ian McEwan’s Novel Is Not Bad Enough to Impress Judges’ of 2007 Bad Sex in Fiction Awards, Times of London Reports — Here’s the Shortlist

[Note: A post with the name of the winner follows in five minutes.]

Ian McEwan is safe — at least until One-Minute Book Reviews considers the candidates for its next Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books, the winner of which will be announced on the Ides of March. The online edition of the Times of London reports that McEwan’s longlisted On Chesil Beach didn’t make the shortlist for the 2007 Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

The newspaper says that the finalists who swept past McEwan are: Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods, Richard Milward’s Apples, Ali Smith’s Girl Meets Boy, David Thewlis’s The Late Hector Kipling, the late Norman Mailer’s The Castle in the Forest, Gary Shteyngart’s Absurdistan, Christopher Rush’s Will and Clare Clark’s The Nature of Monsters. The winner will be announced today after the offending passages are read aloud by actresses. Read the Times post, headlined “Ses in Ian McEwan’s Novel Is Not Bad Enough to Impress Judges.”

www.entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article2951176.ece

November 23, 2007

Ian McEwan Makes Longlist for Bad Sex in Fiction Award As Expected, Along With Norman Mailer and Jeanette Winterson

Read the list of the nominees for the 2007 Bad Sex in Fiction Award and the lines that may have qualified On Chesil Beach for it

By Janice Harayda

Call me Nostradamus.

Back in August, when a lot of people couldn’t stop praising Ian McEwan’s overrated On Chesil Beach, I wrote that “McEwan aggressively courts a Bad Sex in Fiction Award from the Literary Review” with the novel www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/08/10/. I raised the possibility of the Bad Sex Award again when McEwan made the shortlist for the 2007 Man Booker Prize for Fiction (“Does Ian McEwan Deserve the Man Booker Prize or a Bad Sex Award for Writing Like This? You Be the Judge”) www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/09/07/.

The Literary Review has just announced the longlist for the 2007 Bad Sex Award, meant to “draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description … and to discourage it” in modern literary novels (not pornograhy or erotica). And who’s on it? McEwan, along with Norman Mailer, Jeanette Winterson and others. Here’s the longlist:

Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods

Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach

Richard Milward’s Apples

Ali Smith’s Girl Meets Boy

Maria Peura’s At the Edge of Light

James Delingpole’s Coward on the Beach

David Thewlis’s The Late Hector Kipling

Norman Mailer’s The Castle in the Forest

Quim Monzo’s The Enormity of the Tragedy

Gary Shteyngart’s Absurdistan

Christopher Rush’s Will

Claire Clark’s The Nature of Monsters

Nobody seems yet to have a list of the passages that won their authors a spot on the longlist for the award, the winner of which will be named on Nov. 27. But these lines from On Chesil Beach (Doubleday/Nan Talese, $22) quoted in my August 10 post, should have qualified McEwan easily (page 24 in the first U.S. edition):

“Like most young men of his time, or any time, without an easy manner, or means to sexual expression, he indulged constantly in what one enlightened authority was now calling ‘self-pleasuring’ … How extraordinary it was, that a self-made spoonful, leaping clear of his body, should instantly free his mind to confront afresh Nelson’s decisiveness at Aboukir Bay.”

Thanks to the Nov. 23 Literary Saloon www.complete-review.com/saloon/ for a link to a post on the Bookseller www.thebookseller.com that had the list. When is the Literary Review www.literaryreview.co.uk going to post the qualifying passages?

By the way, you can’t use the “Search Inside This Book” tool on Amazon www.amazon.com to find those lines from On Chesil Beach that I quoted, because the people at Doubleday/Nan Talese haven’t enabled it for the book. Those spoilsports.

Janice Harayda www.janiceharayda.com is an award-winning journalist who has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book editor of the Plain Dealer in Cleveland and a vice-president for awards of the National Book Critics Circle.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

November 16, 2007

I Belong to the ‘Tribe of Chronic Masturbators,’ Says the Hero of ‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,’ Winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature

By Janice Harayda

Remember how upset some librarians got when the word “scrotum” appeared on the first page of the 2007 Newbery Medal winner www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/02/19/? I wonder what they’re going say to when they find out that the hero of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian says that he belongs to “the tribe of chronic masturbators.”

Alexie’s novel won National Book Award for Young People’s Literature on Wednesday, so it’s safe to say that it will also receive consideration for the Newbery that the American Library Association www.ala.org will hand out in January. I’ll review the book in the next week or so (along with Daughter of York, originally scheduled for this week).

Until then librarians who want to check out that “good part” can do it by going to the listing for the novel on Amazon www.amazon.com and using the “Search Inside This Book” tool to search for “tribe of chronic masturbators,” which appears on page 217. [Note: All you teenage boys who found this site by searching for “scrotum” or “masturbation,” go back to your Social Studies. That page number was a public service for librarians.]

Oh, am I going to have fun reviewing this book! Please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed if you’d like to read my comments.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

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