Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday Book and Publishing News

What I’m Reading: The Pagan Stone by Nora Roberts and Graceling by Kristin Cashore

What I’m Working On: The annual summer reading book club book fair!!! It’s this week at the bill paying job.

The Pulitzer Prize will be announced today. I love book awards of all kinds. There is no long or short list for the Pulitzer as there is for so many other book awards. However, there is alot of speculating.

Check out the following article before 3 pm eastern to see who the speculative favorites are:

Pulitzer Prognosticating by Omnivoracious (Click here to read the entire blog at its original site.)

Pulitzer Prognosticating
by Tom on April 17, 2009

The Pulitzer Prizes are announced on Monday at 3 pm Eastern time (noon our time)--as always, there are no shortlists or nominees given in advance, but despite that, the Fiction prize has actually become relatively easy to predict in recent years. It wasn't always the case, but in the past dozen years or so the Pulitzer, as the last major US award of the year, has often gone to what by then had become the consensus best book of the year. There have been a few surprises (Martin Dressler, Interpreter of Maladies), but for the most part the winners have been books like Kavalier & Clay, Middlesex, Gilead, and The Road, which, when the prize was announced, just made you say, "Yup, sounds right."

Having said that, I'm not sure what the consensus pick for '08 is (maybe when the Pulitzer makes their choice it'll be clear in retrospect, just as their pick of Oscar Wao over Tree of Smoke made it the novel of the year last year). The folks over at (the Pulitzer Prize First Edition Guide) have gone all Nate Silver over this and done a regression analysis based on previous Pulitzer winners and this year's previous award winners, newspaper best of the year lists, author track records, etc. (And make sure you scroll down to the comments section, for some thorough discussion of the contenders and their methods.) Their top 15 contenders:

Home by Marilynne Robinson
The Widows of Eastwick by John Updike
Indignation by Philip Roth
The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon
Fine Just the Way It Is by Annie Proulx
The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
A Mercy by Toni Morrison
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Dangerous Laughter by Steven Millhauser
Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner
Netherland by Joseph O'Neill
My Sister, My Love by Joyce Carol Oates
Lush Life by Richard Price
Our Story Begins by Tobias Wolff

Clearly, their model heavily weights late-career titans like Updike, Roth, and Oates (maybe thanks to some winners like The Old Man and the Sea, A Fable, and The Reivers in the award's earlier history), but I don't think any of those are contenders (much as I liked Indignation). And Robinson, Proulx, Lahiri, and Millhauser appear to be getting credit for being previous Pulitzer winners, while it looks to me like the Pulitzer (unlike, say, the PEN/Faulkner) has avoided multiple winners in recent years.

The ones on that list that best fit my "consensus" definition would be The Lazarus Project, Home, and Lush Life (all nominees for either or both of the NBA and the NBCC) and PEN/Faulkner winner and most-discussed-novel-of-the-year-until-2666, Netherland. And perhaps, after its Tournament of Books win, A Mercy. But maybe this will be the year for a dark-horse candidate like Olive Kitteridge. Tobias Wolff would also be a nice choice--I've been surprised that his collection, by one of our great masters of the short story, hasn't gotten much award or end-of-year attention (even from us), and it would fit in with earlier Pulitzer collected-stories picks like John Cheever, Jean Stafford, and Katherine Anne Porter. Or perhaps a lateish-career win for the prolific Erdrich.

Unlike last year, with Oscar, I don't really have a horse in this race--my favorite novels of '08 were British (A Northern Clemency and Pravda) or Spanish/Mexican/Chilean (2666). But here are my own top contenders, in order:

A Mercy
Lush Life
The Lazarus Project
Our Story Begins
Olive Kitteridge
Serena by Ron Rash
The Plague of Doves

And for the other book Pulitzers? They have a more idiosyncratic history (especially the History picks), but I'll guess The Forever War (heavy favorite for General Nonfiction), White Heat (Biography/Memoir), This Republic of Suffering (History), and Sleeping It Off in Rapid City (Poetry). And, based on their odd history of giving Special Citations to deceased jazz composers (Gershwin, Ellington, Monk, and Coltrane--all deserving but quite dead), I half-expect an award for Miles Davis this year too. We'll see on Monday. --Tom