November 18, 2010
Jaimy Gordon’s Lord of Misrule won the 2010 National Book Award (NBA) for fiction. The book’s publisher, McPherson & Company, released the book just days ago (November 15), so few have read and/or reviewed this astonishing winner. That’s not the big news, though, rather that once again a surprise unknown from a small press took a huge fiction award.
At the beginning of 2010, the year’s Pulitzer Prize in fiction was awarded to Tinkers by Paul Harding, published by the small Bellevue Literary Press. During the years Harding tried to get his book published, New York agents and editors sent rejections and this laughable advice: “Nobody wants to read a slow, contemplative, meditative, quiet book.” (via The New York Times)
These two awards may well be the harbinger of small independent presses assuming the helm of literary fiction. They’re giving hope to readers and authors of this genre that small plus literary no longer equals obscure. Bruce McPherson, owner and publisher of McPherson & Co., said he usually prints 2,000 copies of a new book. When the Lord of Misrule was nominated as an NBA finalist, he took a chance and printed 8,000 (via WSJ Speakeasy).
I’d wager he’s going back for a second printing.
Here’s the list of winners for the 2010 National Book Award:
- Fiction: Jaimy Gordon, Lord of Misrule (McPherson & Co.)
- Non-fiction: Patti Smith, Just Kids (Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)
- Poetry: Terrance Hayes, Lighthead (Penguin Books)
- Young People’s Literature: Kathryn Erskine, Mockingbird (Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group)
April 26, 2010
The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation recently announced the 2010 fellows in categories for creative arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Thirteen fiction writers are among the 180 recipients. They’ll now be able to mention in the bios on their book dust jackets that they’re a Guggenheim Fellow. But what does that tell their readers?
The Foundation’s website defines recipients as advanced professionals, which means, for writers, having “a significant record of publication.” That says to me these authors already have a backlist of good books. But it’s not just past accomplishment that snags these prestigious grants. Exceptional promise for future work is also part of the mix. That means we should take note when we see new books published by these authors.
Below are the 13 and their recent works of fiction. If I found an author’s website, I listed that. Oherwise, I listed the publisher’s web page about the author. From my reading past, I can safely shout out about Lorraine Adams, Ethan Canin, Anthony Doerr, Colum McCann and Nell Freudenberger. Christine Schutt’s Florida is a book I regretfully missed when it first came out; it was a National Book Award finalist in 2004. I’ve purchased Tinkers and Driftless.
Lorraine Adams, The Room and the Chair
Ethan Canin, America, America
Anthony Doerr, Memory Wall
(Memory Wall is a story collection to be published July 2010.)
Nell Freudenberger, The Dissident
Paul Harding, Tinkers
(Winner of this year’s Pulitzer in fiction)
Victor LaValle, Big Machine
Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin
Philipp Meyer, American Rust
Joseph O’Neill, Netherland
David Rhodes, Driftless
Christine Schutt, All Souls
Salvatore Scibona, The End
Monique Truong, Bitter in the Mouth
(Bitter in the Mouth is to be published August 2010.)