I met Lauren Myracle at a crowded book party in New Orleans last summer, during the American Library Association's annual convention. She grabbed my arm and insisted that I have a glass of champagne immediately. I had no idea who she was at the time (having failed to recognize the resemblance to her author photos) but I soon realized that this petite woman was a force of nature. Talking a blue streak while she guided me through the party's close quarters, she located the bar, put a glass of champagne into my hand and only then mentioned her latest book. Oh, I thought to myself, this isn't just "Lauren" I'm talking to, it's Lauren Myracle -- the author of the popular Internet series for teens (ttyl, ttfn, etc.) and a writer whose work is frequently challenged because of its controversial themes.
If you've met her, heard her speak, been moved by her writing or inspired by her unflinching reaction to having her books banned, then you probably reacted as I did on learning a couple of weeks ago that it was bubbly, hilarious, impassioned Lauren Myracle who had been done wrong by the National Book Foundation. In a perplexingly sloppy process, the foundation not only mistakenly announced that Myracle's novel Shine was a finalist for the National Book Award in Young People's Literature, the organization's director compounded the error a few days later by asking Myracle to withdraw her own book from consideration. After a weekend of deliberation, Myracle agreed to the NBF's "request" — drawing new sympathy for the author and new outrage about the blunder.
Though she's been engulfed by a media whirlwind, Myracle deserves attention for something more than being dissed by the National Book Awards. Shine has many admirers — NBA or no NBA — and her latest book for tweens is due out in January.
In a Q&A with BookPage, Myracle gives us her reaction to the events of the last two weeks and her thoughts on what the future holds. Here's my favorite exchange:
Looking a couple of years down the road, if someone calls to inform you that you're a finalist for a major literary award, how will you react?
Myracle: I will tell said caller to call my publisher, who will go to the ends of the earth and back to make sure that it's EFFING REAL. Then . . . then I will throw five thousand gumdrops into the air and twirl around until I'm so dizzy I fall to the floor.
Read the full Q&A for Myracle's thoughts on dealing with adversity, the benefits of crying in public, and the possibility that the whole NBA mess might end up benefiting her career.
The news that Lauren Myracle was asked to remove Shine from the list of National Book Award finalists rocked the literary community on Monday. Myracle, who took the high rode with her response to the NBA's ham-handed handling of their monumental error, is starting to make the media rounds—her cover designer at Abrams has posted a terrific rundown of the coverage so far, including today's Vanity Fair Q&A. One of our favorite links to come out of the controversy is this collection of tweets in support of Myracle. More can be found here.
But the NBAs aren't the only awards that have created a stir. When Julian Barnes was given the Booker Prize last night, the spotlight was stolen by a bizarre speech from committee chairman Stella Rimington, who had earlier been lambasted for this year's shortlist selections. It seemed that Rimington, who has written several spy thrillers, was smarting over the insinuation that "books you can zip through," as one judge described the novels on their shortlist, are less worthy of awards.
This crossing of swords between the "readable" and the literary has been given more nuanced treatment by Laura Miller in Salon. Also of interest: a post by NBA judge and novelist Victor LaValle, who rightly points out that the literary and the readable are not separate categories and gives a defense of this year's fiction nominees.
At 1 p.m. Central European Time (aka 6 a.m. in Nashville), we learned that the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer won the Nobel Prize in Literature “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality.”
Tranströmer, 80, is a bestseller in Sweden, and his work has been translated into more than 50 languages. Poets.org has some more information about Tranströmer, including selected poems. Here's some info about his poetry:
His work has gradually shifted from the traditional and ambitious nature poetry written in his early twenties toward a darker, personal, and more open verse. His work barrels into the void, striving to understand and grapple with the unknowable, searching for transcendence.
You can read more about past winners of this prize on NobelPrize.org. The literature prize has been awarded ever since 1901. The last time an American won the prize was in 1993, when the honor went to Toni Morrison, "who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality."
Though I usually root for authors that are familiar to me (like Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood and Haruki Murakami), it is always thrilling to discover an international voice I have never read before, like Tranströmer.
By the way, on Monday there was an interesting piece in Salon asserting that the reasons Americans are not strong contenders for the Prize is because our great authors are writers of "self-enforced isolation" and not "novel[s] of big ideas." Do you agree?
By the way, part two: My favorite literary depiction of what it's like to win a major book award is in Meg Wolitzer's The Wife, in which famous author Joseph Castleman wins the (fictional) Helsinki Prize and must journey to Finland to accept it. The account of "the call"—and its aftermath—is from the point of view of Joseph's wife, Joan. Here's an excerpt:
Always, each year, you hear stories about how some winner or other assumed the call was a prank. There are legendary tales of writers being shaken from sleep by a ringing telephone and cursing the man with the accent on the phone, telling him, "Do you know what time it is?" Only then, lifting to the surface of consciousness, did they realize what the call was about, that it was genuine, and that it meant that their life would change shape forever.
This wasn't the Nobel prize, of course; it was a few steps down, a defiant stepchild that had enhanced its reputation over time by the sheer power of its prize money, which this year was the equivalent of $525,000. It wasn't the Nobel, just as Finland wasn't Sweden. But still the prize was an extravagant honor and thrill. It elevated you—if not to Stockholm heights, then at least partway up.
The National Book Foundation announced the "5 under 35" today, and the honorees include a couple surprises.
The main surprises on the list are Shani Boianjiu, whose novel The People of Forever Are Not Afraid will not be published until 2013—and who, at 24, is one of the youngest ever "5 under 35" recipients—and John Corey Whaley, whose novel Where Things Come Back is the first-ever young adult title honored.
The other recipients are Mary Beth Keane, author of The Walking People (this one was selected by Julia Glass, so I know I'm reading it!); Melinda Moustakis, author of Bear Down, Bear North: Alaska Stories (and winner of the 2010 Flannery O'Connor Award in Short Fiction); and Danielle Evans, author of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self (a BookPage staff favorite and recent winner of the 2011 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize).
Besides Julia Glass, the other National Book Award authors who selected the honorees are Jaimy Gordon, Oscar Hijuelos, Nicole Krauss and Robert Stone.
The five young writers will be honored at a celebration on November 14.
Does this award introduce you to any new authors? What young writers are you "watching" these days?
If you've read this blog for a while, you probably know that BookPage editors get excited every year for the announcement of the Man Booker Prize, which honors the best novel "written by a citizen of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland and published in the United Kingdom." The cash prize of this prestigious award is £50,000. In the past, some of our very favorite authors—Margaret Atwood, Peter Carey, Yann Martel, John Banville, Kiran Desai (and the list goes on . . . )—have won the Booker.
This year's list shortlist for the award was announced today:
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
Carol Birch, Jamrach’s Menagerie
Patrick deWitt, The Sisters Brothers
Esi Edugyan, Half Blood Blues
Stephen Kelman, Pigeon English
A.D. Miller, Snowdrops
BookPage reviewed Pigeon English in August as part of our roundup of debut authors to watch. We also interviewed Kelman about what it felt like when he found out his first novel would be published. He responded: "I was surprised, elated, honoured and grateful. I’d wanted to be a published author for as long as I can remember, so it was very much the fulfilment of a dream." I wonder what he feels like now?!
Which one of these novels are you rooting for to win? Do you have a favorite past Man Booker winner?
You probably already know that Jennifer Egan won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for A Visit from the Goon Squad, her quirky novel described in BookPage as "a series of pastiches that deftly and lyrically illustrates the ways people and culture change, yet stay remarkably the same."
But did you know that Egan's award-winning novel is set to become a series from HBO? Deadline has the scoop:
Egan has closed a deal with HBO to turn her sprawling tale into a TV series. Groundswell's Michael London will be executive producer and Jocelyn Hays Simpson will be co-exec producer. Egan will be a consultant. The network hasn't yet set a writer to draft the series pilot, but it will happen quickly . . .
(Side note: A Visit from the Goon Squad came out in paperback on March 22, and it's one of our top picks for book clubs in the April issue of BookPage.)
As far as other Pulitzer news, I admit that I was even more excited about the finalists for the fiction prize, because both novels are very special to me—two of my favorite reads of 2010, in fact.
The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee and The Privileges by Jonathan Dee are the two finalists, and here's what the Pulitzer website has to say:
A haunting and often heartbreaking epic whose characters explore the deep reverberations of love, devotion and war. (The Surrendered)
A contemporary, wide ranging tale about an elite Manhattan family, moral bankruptcy and the long reach of wealth. (The Privileges)
Were you pleased with the Pulitzer for fiction winner and finalists? Have you read A Visit from the Goon Squad, The Surrendered and/or The Privileges? Why did you love them (or not)?
The award honors fiction written by a woman and written in English. The longlist, announced yesterday, includes several BookPage favorites—including our current cover story, The Tiger's Wife. Here's the complete lists, with links to our reviews or features:
Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela
Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch
Room by Emma Donoghue
The Pleasure Seekers by Tishani Doshi
Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna
The London Train by Tessa Hadley
Grace Williams Says it Loud by Emma Henderson
The Seas by Samantha Hunt
The Birth of Love by Joanna Kavenna
Great House by Nicole Krauss
The Road to Wanting by Wendy Law-Yone
The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
Repeat it Today with Tears by Anne Peile
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin
The Swimmer by Roma Tearne
Annabel by Kathleen Winter
This is unusual for me, but I actually do not have a strong opinion on who I want to win. I thought Emma Donoghue should have won the Booker, so I would be thrilled with a victory for Room. But I'd also root for Nicole Krauss, Karen Russell, Aminatta Forna and several others on this list . . . sigh.
In this longlist of stand-outs, are you especially rooting for a particular author?
The shortlist will be announced on April 12, and the awards ceremony is June 8. Stay tuned for more news!
Both proven prize winners and relatively new faces appear on the list of LA Times Book Award finalists for 2010, which were announced on Tuesday.
Books were nominated in 10 categories: Biography, current interest, fiction, first fiction (the Art Seidenbaum Award), graphic novel, history, mystery-thriller, poetry, science and technology, and young adult literature.
In fiction, old hands Jonathan Franzen, Richard Bausch and Rick Bass will be battling it out against Jennifer Egan (A Visit from the Goon Squad) and Frederick Reiken (Day for Night). We were also excited to see BookPage favorites Tana French and Tom Franklin up for the mystery-thriller award (alongside Laura Lippman, Stuart Neville and Kelli Stanley).
Of course, Laura Hillenbrand made it to the nonfiction category with her best-selling (and riveting) Unbroken, as did Edmund Morris with Colonel Roosevelt. Somewhat surprisingly, Patti Smith's Just Kids is included in the current interest category along with books like War and The Big Short.
For a full list of the nominees in all categories, click here.
Today is the 202nd anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe—the perfect day to announce the nominees for the 2011 Edgar Allan Poe Awards (honoring the best in the mystery genre). You can see the full list on the TheEdgars.com, but I thought I'd give a special shout out to a couple of the categories, both packed with BookPage favorites.
Nominees for Best Novel include:
Caught by Harlan Coben
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
Faithful Place by Tana French
The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan
The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton
I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman
Nominees for Best First Novel by an American Author include:
In the Best Novel category, I've got my fingers crossed for Tom Franklin's atmospheric page-turner, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. (Okay—maybe I'm biased because I interviewed the guy in person.) In the other category, I'd be thrilled to see Paul Doiron take home the prize. After mystery columnist Bruce Tierney declared The Poacher's Son to be "one of the best debut novels in recent memory," I asked Doiron to write a guest post on how he came to write about the Maine wilderness. Check it out here.
The winners will be announced on April 28 in New York City . . . what books are you rooting for?
After last week's Newbery and Caldecott announcements at ALA Midwinter, we have been dying to hear from the big winners.
Clare Vanderpool won the Newbery Medal for Moon Over Manifest, the Depression-era story of 12-year-old Abilene Tucker, and Erin E. Stead won the Caldecott Medal for A Sick Day for Amos McGee, described in BookPage as "a heart-warming story, comforting without a lot of fuss."
Today, both winners answered seven of our most pressing questions. Like: Are they nervous about writing an acceptance speech? What was the first thing to go through their heads when they found out they had won? Who provides inspiration? And perhaps my favorite question: Which book character would be the best desert island companion?
What would you like to ask the Newbery and Caldecott winners?