National Book Awards

The National Book Award Winners were announced last night.

The premise, or at least advertised premise, of Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin put it on my books-to-avoid list. I have nothing against tightrope walkers, but a story involving someone tightrope walking between the World Trade Center towers seemed gimmicky. But now it has won at least one major award. That ordinarily would not be the end of my resistance, but I anticipate it will be included in the Tournament of Books. My plan is to read most, if not all, the Tournament contestants this year. So….

In other categories, the winners were —

Nonfiction:
T.J. Stiles, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. (This book was already on the TBR pile.)

Poetry:
Keith Waldrop, Transcental Studies: A Trilogy

Young People’s Literature:
Phillip Hoose, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice

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10 Responses to National Book Awards

  1. Kerry: The tightrope aspect of McCann’s book is mainly just a unifying image — in fact, the book is a look at New York from several different points of view. I read and reviewed it a few months ago; thought it was a quite good book. Much of it succeeds very well; alas, quite a bit of it doesn’t. I do think you would value reading it — there are not a lot of successful novels set in metropolitan modern America and this can lay claim to being one.

  2. Stewart says:

    It’s also worth noting that where you say “a story involving someone tightrope walking between the World Trade Center towers seemed gimmicky”, it’s not so much gimmicky as something that happened.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippe_Petit

  3. kimbofo says:

    I’m with Kevin on this one: it’s worth reading, but it’s not as brilliant as it could have been.

  4. Kerry says:

    Kevin,

    I did vaguely recall your review. I should have went back to read it (after confirming you had reviewed it). I think the part that stuck was (a) how this book was joined by a non-fiction book and a documentary addressing the tightrope walk which, in my mind, confirmed the “gimmiky” aspect and (b) the “quite a bit of it doesn’t” part. But, you’ve affirmatively recommended it to me, which is more than enough for me to go read it.

    Thanks, as always, for your comments.

  5. Kerry says:

    Stewart,

    I certainly appreciate your perspective. I did realize the tightrope actually occurred, but my own (probably flawed) view is that using the actual tightrope walk between the WTC Towers as a critical part of the fictional work is gimmicky. What I mean by that is I view it as a backdoor method of cashing in on WTC-mania. McCann’s publisher: “I can put the WTC on the cover, that’ll sell some copy!” Of course, they didn’t really put the WTC on the cover.

    My view is probably completely wrong.

    Thank you, though, for providing a useful link and clarifying that the WTC tightrope walk is nonfiction.

  6. Kerry says:

    Thanks, kimbofo. I will focus on the “worth reading” part of yours and Kevin’s summary opinions. I can be very unfair to books I have not read. (I try not to be with those I have.)

  7. Lisa Hill says:

    I tried reading Let the Great World Spin (after reading Dancer, an enjoying it, see http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/2009/10/25/dancer-by-colum-mccann/) but I gaveup. It became one of the few books – the very few indeeed – that I could not be bothered finishing. Beyond tedious.

  8. Kerry says:

    Lisa,

    Thank you for the warning. Now, if I abandon it, I will at least feel in good company. I will be taking the library route with this one.

  9. Lisa Hill says:

    Heavens, don’t take any notice of me! I didn’t like Junot Diaz either, and he won the Pulitzer!

  10. Kerry says:

    I appreciate a contrarian. Someone who likes all the hyped books is a little suspect, I think. But I did like Junot…

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