The National Book Awards are almost like the Emmys or Oscars for the book lovers out there. Yes, we will bet on who we think will win for the categories (Fiction, Non-fiction, Young People, and Poetry). Yes, we make huge announcements who wins what and whether it was well deserved. While it might not be a Twitter trending topic nation wide, it’s important in the literary world. And this past Wednesday, October 16th, the finalists were announced. Now we’ll scramble to read all the books and try to figure out who will win.
Each book and full review can be found on Amazon.
1. Rachel Kushner for The Flamethrowers (Scribner)
“The Flamethrowers is an intensely engaging exploration of the mystique of the feminine, the fake, the terrorist. At its center is Kushner’s brilliantly realized protagonist, a young woman on the verge. Thrilling and fearless, this is a major American novel from a writer of spectacular talent and imagination.”
2. Jhumpa Lahiri for The Lowland (Knopf)
“Masterly suspenseful, sweeping, piercingly intimate, The Lowland is a work of great beauty and complex emotion; an engrossing family saga and a story steeped in history that spans generations and geographies with seamless authenticity. It is Jhumpa Lahiri at the height of her considerable powers.”
3. James McBride for The Good Lord Bird (Riverhead)
“An absorbing mixture of history and imagination, and told with McBride’s meticulous eye for detail and character, The Good Lord Bird is both a rousing adventure and a moving exploration of identity and survival.”
4. Thomas Pynchon for Bleeding Edge (Penguin Press)
“If not here at the end of history, when? If not Pynchon, who? Reading Bleeding Edge, tearing up at the beauty of its sadness or the punches of its hilarity, you may realize it as the 9/11 novel you never knew you needed… a necessary novel and one that literary history has been waiting for.” -Slate.com
5. George Saunders for Tenth of December (Random House)
“Unsettling, insightful, and hilarious, the stories in Tenth of December—through their manic energy, their focus on what is redeemable in human beings, and their generosity of spirit—not only entertain and delight; they fulfill Chekhov’s dictum that art should ‘prepare us for tenderness.'”
1. Jill Lepore for Book of Ages (Knopf)
“To stare at these siblings is to stare at sun and moon. But in Jill Lepore’s meticulously constructed biography, Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin, recently placed on the long list of nominees for the National Book Award in nonfiction, this moon casts a beguiling glow….Consistently first rate.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times
2. Wendy Lower for Hitler’s Furies (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
“Hitler’s Furies builds a fascinating and convincing picture of a morally “lost generation” of young women, born into a defeated, tumultuous post–World War I Germany, and then swept up in the nationalistic fervor of the Nazi movement—a twisted political awakening that turned to genocide…..Hitler’s Furies will challenge our deepest beliefs: genocide is women’s business too, and the evidence can be hidden for seventy years.”
3. George Packer for The Unwinding (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
“The Unwinding portrays a superpower in danger of coming apart at the seams, its elites no longer elite, its institutions no longer working, its ordinary people left to improvise their own schemes for success and salvation. Packer’s novelistic and kaleidoscopic history of the new America is his most ambitious work to date.”
4. Alan Taylor for The Internal Enemy (Norton)
“This searing story of slavery and freedom in the Chesapeake by a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian reveals the pivot in the nation’s path between the founding and civil war.”
5. Lawrence Wright for Going Clear (Knopf)
“In Going Clear, Wright examines what fundamentally makes a religion a religion, and whether Scientology is, in fact, deserving of this constitutional protection. Employing all his exceptional journalistic skills of observation, understanding, and shaping a story into a compelling narrative, Lawrence Wright has given us an evenhanded yet keenly incisive book that reveals the very essence of what makes Scientology the institution it is.”
Young People’s Literature:
1. Kathi Appelt for The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp (Atheneum)
“Newbery Honoree and National Book Award finalist Kathi Appelt presents a story of care and conservation, funny as all get out and ripe for reading aloud.”
2. Cynthia Kadohata for The Thing About Luck (Atheneum)
“There is bad luck, good luck, and making your own luck—which is exactly what Summer must do to save her family in this novel from Newbery Medalist Cynthia Kadohata.”
3. Tom McNeal for Far Far Away (Knopf)
“Veteran writer Tom McNeal has crafted a young adult novel at once grim(m) and hopeful, full of twists, and perfect for fans of contemporary fairy tales like Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Holly Black’s Doll Bones. The recipient of five starred reviews, Publishers Weekly called Far Far Away ‘inventive and deeply poignant.'”
4. Meg Rosoff for Picture Me Gone (Putnam)
“Printz Award-winning author Meg Rosoff’s latest novel is a gorgeous and unforgettable page-turner about the relationship between parents and children, love and loss.”
5. Gene Luen Yang for Boxers & Saints (First Second)
“One of the greatest comics storytellers alive brings all his formidable talents to bear in this astonishing new work.”
1. Frank Bidart for Metaphysical Dog (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
“A vital, searching new collection from one of finest American poets at work today.”
2. Lucie Brock-Broido for Stay, Illusion (Knopf)
“Stay, Illusion, the much-anticipated volume of poems by Lucie Brock-Broido, illuminates the broken but beautiful world she inhabits. Her poems are lit with magic and stark with truth: whether they speak from the imagined dwelling of her “Abandonarium,” or from habitats where animals are farmed and harmed “humanely,” or even from the surreal confines of death row, they find a voice like no other—dazzling, intimate, startling, heartbreaking.”
3. Adrian Matejka for The Big Smoke (Penguin)
“Long listed for the 2013 National Book Award in Poetry—a new collection that examines the myth and history of the prizefighter Jack Johnson.”
4. Matt Rasmussen for Black Aperture (Louisiana State University Press)
“In his moving debut collection, Matt Rasmussen faces the tragedy of his brother’s suicide, refusing to focus on the expected pathos, blurring the edge between grief and humor.”
5. Mary Szybist for Incarnadine (Graywolf Press)
“In Incarnadine, Mary Szybist restlessly seeks out places where meaning might take on new color.”
Only United States citizens are eligible for the award which are administered by the National Book Foundation. The award ceremony is November 20 where we’ll learn who won what.
Do you have any favorites? What book do you think will win each category?
By: Shelby Hillers
Despite the rain, fog, and cold weather, the Western Maryland Independent Lit Festival 2013 continued on and showed just how dedicated readers and writers are.
The Festival featured two events. The major event, The Press Festival, took place on East Main Street in Frostburg, Maryland on Saturday, October 12 from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm. Featuring panels like genre specific writing, Publishing: A How to Guide, Marketing Your Work, and Future of Books for Readers, Writers, and Publishers, the Indie Lit Festival highlighted the relationship between a publisher and the writer. It’s often forgotten that both parties need each other in order to thrive.
The day before, Friday, October 11, featured a reading event that included Deena November from Hyacinth Girl Press, Phillip Terman from Autumn House Press, Nathan Leslie from Atticus Books, and William Hathaway from The Gettysburg Review. The reading event was held at Main Street Books, an amazing book store in town that features both independent and well-known publishers. Due to the rainy weather, the event was very intimidate and personal. It was a great chance to get to know both the publishers and writers. Every writer was thankful for their publisher and having the chance to share their works with equally enthusiastic readers and writers.
The main event, The Press Festival, brought together editors and publishers with writers and educators. The journals and presses that participated had tables where they displayed books, submissions guidelines, and other promotional materials like tee-shirts, book marks, and pens. The journals and presses’ tables were held in the Lyric Theater while the panel discussions took place along the buildings on Main Street.
Personally I used this chance to network and get to know other publications. During my time there, I met with Big Pulp, The Fourth River, Hyacinth Girl Press, The Idiom Magazine, and Ink Press Productions. All the editors with their journals and presses were amazingly friendly and gave insight into the community. And that’s really want these events are for. Sure, it was a great chance to spread the word about the publication I was with (Grub Street) but I also was able to talk to editors about how they reach out their readers and writers, what it’s like to be on a staff that constantly changes, and what genres need more attention. It’s being around book-loving fanatics that reminds me why I love the literature community so much. We geek out over books and that’s totally okay.
Shelby Hillers is the Online Assistant Editor for BrickHouse Books where she helps manage Facebook, Twitter, and the blog. She is a senior at Towson University majoring in English and minoring in Creative Writing. Her works have been published by The Towerlight, Limerence Magazine, and TU Career Center’s co-written blog The Thriving Tiger.
BrickHouse Books 2013 $12.00
A review by Sonja James
Beginning with the title, GLTTL STP, Doritt Carroll’s new book of poems encourages us to consider the importance of what is present and what is absent in our understanding of the world. Though Carroll has removed the vowels from the title, she kindly defines herself and her project by clarifying the title in the epigraph at the beginning of the book. “GLTTL STP” is “glottal stop,” which is “a sound produced in speech or singing by a momentary complete closure of the glottis.” This is also described as “a tightening or choking off of sound.”
Carroll simplifies this definition in the title poem, “glttl stp.” She clarifies herself in the opening lines: “everything good/is in the things/that we don’t say.” She then gives examples of “glottal stop” with images from everyday life: the space between sculptures in a museum, the moment before a struck match bursts into flame, and the tension in the air before a recess bell rings. She concludes with the image of two birds pausing in their song “because it was/the right place/in both of their songs/to pause/the/glottal stop.”
After establishing these parameters of the spoken and the unspoken, Carroll then decides on the concrete content of exactly what she is willing to reveal about herself in subsequent poems. In the poem, “2010,” she writes of the death of her father while distancing herself from it. She writes of herself in the third person: “the year her father died/Christmas wasn’t awful/just divided.” In “report,” Carroll reverts to the first person and gives a cheerful account of an ordinary day of life.
The upbeat mood does not last. She then writes four poems that are reflections on various aspects of death: “final commendation,” “death poem #5,” “in re: the scheduled rapture,” and “erasure.” The opening lines of “erasure” sum up the finality of death: “everybody dies the same/boning up like skeletons/stinking like toilets.”
In “first apt.,” Carroll turns to a different subject when she describes an incident of marital discord between a newly married couple. In “to each,” she elaborates on the theme of relationships:
we come into this place
trailing clouds of others
daughters and husbands
mothers we hated
lovers we rejected
and forgot about
The closing poem of the volume, “edits,” compares life to the act of poetic creation. Carroll addresses herself as “you:” “you’ve already written the poem/but now you have to fix it.” The poem she speaks of stands for the act of living one’s life. Everything in the poem is “in the wrong order” and the poem and she have “never really gotten along.” The poem can’t be erased because it has been written “in ink.” At this point she tells herself “there’s no more blank paper/so the only thing you/can really do with it is/revise/revise/revise.”
And so the volume concludes with this note of hope. Life in its permanence and vast array of mistakes can be revised. Carroll has spoken, revealing herself as one who is overtly silent and yet profoundly vocal. This is “glottal stop.” The vowels have been restored in this book celebrating and defining what one poet is willing to say and not say. The poems in GLTTL STP transport us to the edge of speech and then save us from any temptation to leap in despair. This is an exciting book and one worth reading.
Sonja James is the author of Baiting the Hook (the Bunny & the Crocodile Press, 1999), Children of the Moon (Argonne House Press, 2004), and Calling Old Ghosts to Supper (Finishing Line Press, 2013).
Poets are invited to submit recent books for review consideration. Contact Sonja James at firstname.lastname@example.org