And that means what for their readers?

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
Author website

Ethan Canin, America, America
Author website

Anthony Doerr, Memory Wall
(Memory Wall is a story collection to be published July 2010.)
Author website

Nell Freudenberger, The Dissident
Publisher website

Paul Harding, Tinkers
(Winner of this year’s Pulitzer in fiction)
Publisher website

Victor LaValle, Big Machine
Publisher website

Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin
Author website

Philipp Meyer, American Rust
Author website

Joseph O’Neill, Netherland
Publisher website

David Rhodes, Driftless
Publisher website

Christine Schutt, All Souls
Author website

Salvatore Scibona, The End
Publisher website

Monique Truong, Bitter in the Mouth
(Bitter in the Mouth is to be published August 2010.)
Publisher website

2 thoughts on “And that means what for their readers?

  1. Thanks for continuing to educate us about authors and books that are honored by well-respected organizations and/or competitions — awards that are not very well-publicized in the mainstream media. I’ve dipped into some of your earlier listings to sample the goods, with mixed results as far as reading enjoyment. Do you think these listings are good places to find “good reads” or are they usually awards given by those who are more interested in showing they are “academically high-brow” or “in the publishing clique”? Do they try to name a diverse group within their specified genre or are most of the named “winners” usually pretty homogeneous? Just interested in your thoughts. P.S. I cannot wait for the new Anthony Doerr collection to come out! A wonderful Ohioana author…..

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  2. I think such lists provide rich hunting ground for good books, especially those typically not promoted or displayed. But I don’t believe that’s connected to any bias of “high-brow” or any other bias. Not always but generally, lists of finalists reflect the depth of books available — a knowledge by the literary community of books published by the Big Six and also independent presses. Which is why we saw Mantel’s well-known Wolf Hall recently contending with Campbell’s little-known American Salvage. Or another time, Morrison’s Beloved with Heineman’s Paco’s Story.

    That component of a book on the list that makes it “unputdownable” for a reader is the part that’s no guarantee. What sings to you may not be what sings to me, or those selecting the finalists and winners. Hence those “mixed results” you mention.

    Thanks for checking in here and sharing your thoughts!

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