If it's Fall (according to the calendar, if not the thermometer), then it must be Awards Season. This year's MacArthur "Geniuses" have been chosen (particular congratulations to Chicago Favorite Stuart Dybek, the gloriously-voiced Dawn Upshaw, and artist Whitfield Lovell, who gets the joy of placing his 2007 award next to that of his partner, 1999 recipient Fred Wilson.
Nominations for the OTHER NBA (i.e. the National Book Award) will be announced later this week (October 10), as will the British Man Booker Prize (October 16)
The National Book Critics Circle on the Season (be sure to check the end of the last paragraph on how timing is everything in publishing for the Big Shots). The NBCC awards usually get announced in January
Jamaican Novelist Marlon James' take on the Nobel
Place your bets! British Bookmakers publish the Nobel Prize Odds
My friend John and I usually do the Nobel shortlist thing. He's posted his take for the year. I've been calling out Philip Roth for a number of years now, and suspect (unless the Swedes just can NOT bring themselves to award an American with The National Cowboy in the White House) that he's the man to beat this year. As always however, there are folks who I would like to see win, that is writers who I think are very deserving of the award, and those who are more likely to win. As with everything in life, these are often not the same people.
If there were any justice, astonishing writers like Jay Wright, Wilson Harris (John's favorite), or Thomas Pynchon should have one a long time ago (after Mason & Dixon would have been a great time for the mysterious Mr Pynchon, and Mr Wright has a new book out now). Salman Rushdie has been on a lot of short lists for a while, as has Chinese poet Bei Dao, and will most likely win one day. I feel the same way about Spanish author (and blogger)Javier Marías. And John Ashbery seems to have gotten every prize BUT the Big Gold One. It's also astonishing to me that neither Juan Goytisolo nor Milan Kundera haven't been Nobel-ed (Some people think they have!). And if there were such a thing as a posthumous Nobel, I suspect it would go to W G Sebald, who the lit crit types were chomping at the bit to honor during his much too short writing life.
My 'shortlist' for this year would have to be Roth, Canadians Alice Munro (who says she's retired from writing) and Margaret Atwood, Adonis (Adunis) and Mahmoud Darwish (how about a political double header with either of these two and A. B. Yehoshua or David Grossman?), Nuruddin Farah or the Father of the Modern African Novel, Chinua Achebe (again, is he another one the Academy has forgotten they didn't give the prize to?), Haruki Murakami, and perennial nominee Thomas Transtromer (who probably doesn't win because the Swedes don't want to look like they're playing favorites by picking one of their own). Those looking for something to read this fall and winter should consider taking a look at the work of these authors.
BTW: Here's my choice for any and every possible prize: Junot Diaz's astoundingly fantastic Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. And if I really wanted to go out on a limb, I'd predict an all-Hispanola sweep of fiction and non-fiction categories, with Diaz's novel paired with Edwidge Danticat's wrenching Brother, I'm Dying. Run out and buy them now!
Oh for more time for reading!