Announced today, the National Book Awards in every category have largely looked past the year's high profile titles to honor many midlist, underdog finalists. (The fiction judges are Alan Cheuse, Junot Díaz, Jennifer Egan, Charles Johnson, and Lydia Millet.) Among the exceptions is Carl Phillips, the well-known and highly-praised black, gay poet nominated for his tenth collection, Speak Low.
As announced earlier, Gore Vidal will be awarded the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation. And Dave Eggers will receive the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. In addition to writing his many books and screenplays, running McSweeneys journal and publishing, and editing the Best American Nonrequired Reading series annually, Eggers has co-founded three significant nonprofits, most notably 826 Valencia which now hosts writing centers for young people in seven cities. He is 39.
The long list of writers ignored today includes Lorrie Moore, E.L. Doctorow, Edmund White, Philip Roth, Reynolds Price, Kate Christiansen, Dale Peck, Michael Chabon, Stacey D'Erasmo, Thomas Pynchon, Jonathan Lethem, Madison Smart Bell, William Vollman, Jonathan Safran Foer, Sarah Schulman, Ha Jin, John Irving, Wells Tower, Taylor Branch, Christopher Bram, Neil Sheehan, Tim Egan, Thomas Ricks, David Grann, Colson Whitehead, Pete Dexter, Jim Harrison, Francine Prose, Richard Russo, Maile Meloy, John Wray, John Updike, and Joyce Carol Oates. Two titles I would have been particularly happy to see on the YA list are Alex Sanchez's Bait and P.E. Ryan's In Mike We Trust.
Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage
Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin
Daniyal Mueenuddin, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders
Jayne Anne Phillips, Lark and Termite
Marcel Theroux, Far North
David M. Carroll, Following the Water: A Hydromancer's Notebook
Sean B. Carroll, Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origin of Species
Greg Grandin, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City
Adrienne Mayor, The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy
T. J. Stiles, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt
Rae Armantrout, Versed
Ann Lauterbach, Or to Begin Again
Carl Phillips, Speak Low
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Open Interval
Keith Waldrop, Transcendental Studies
Deborah Heiligman, Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith
Phillip Hoose, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
David Small, Stitches: A Memoir
Laini Taylor, Lips Touch: Three Times
Rita Williams-Garcia, Jumped