Again, please be safe during the solar eclipse, and care for your remarkable eyes. But that being said (again and again), we also hope you can enjoy this remarkable event!
Last night, the winners of the 2017 Hugo Awards were announced at Worldcon 75, in Helsinki, Finland. We talked a good deal about the Hugo Awards a few months ago, covering the really troubling “Puppies” and their attempt to hijack the awards (which are voted on at the Con itself), as well as the need to celebrate diverse books of all kinds, genres, and forms.
So it’s a delight to present this list of award winners, which highlights the diversity of the science fiction genre, and, hopefully, will provide you with plenty of ideas for your To Be Read pile!
In total, 2464 valid nominating ballots (2458 electronic and 6 paper) were received and counted from the members of the 2016, 2017 and 2018 World Science Fiction Conventions, and 3319 members of the 2017 Worldcon cast vote on the final ballot.
And the (literary) awards go to:*
Best Novel: The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin (her second win in a row!)
Best Novella: Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Arrival, screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: The Expanse: “Leviathan Wakes”, written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, directed by Terry McDonough
Best Editor, Short Form: Ellen Datlow
Best Editor, Long Form: Liz Gorinsky (editor with Tor Books and Tor.com)
A big, Free-For-All Congratulations to all the winners!
*A number of Hugos are awarded for materials that the Library does not stock, such as fan fiction, fanzines, and visual arts. We nevertheless support and celebrate their achievements, and you can read the whole list of winners here.
A few days ago, PBS announced the production of a new eight-part television series, and related nationwide campaign “that explores the joy of books and the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved books”. The working title of the project?
The goal, apparently, is to harness the power of digital media to get the American people to compile a list of 100 books–an “Advisor panel of literary professionals” will also help compile the list, so that we don’t end up with the literary equivalent of “Boaty McBoatface”. The show will also work with local bookstores and libraries (PBS…HERE WE ARE. SITTING BY THE PHONE. WAITING FOR YOUR CALL) in order to get under the skin, so to speak, of American readers, and discover why the books chosen are so meaningful.
The books will, according to PBS’ press release, be organized in themes, “such as ‘Being American,’ ‘Heroes,’ ‘Growing Up,’ ‘What We Do for Love’ and more…As summer turns to fall, voting will close and America’s top 10 books will be revealed counting down to America’s Best-Loved in the final episode of the series in September 2018.”
Hey, I’m as intrigued about this as the next person–and I know, as a devoted reader yourself, you’ve already got a list of books ready to got that you would like to force the American public at large to read. Maybe it’s not a round 100 books, but that’s ok…But I’m also really interested to see how the rules of this Literary Survivor is going to work. Is it just a book that a lot of people in this country like to read? Does the book have to be about America? Does it have to be written by an American? If so, how do we define American? Indeed, what makes a novel American in the first place?
We’ll be keeping an eye on all of this for you, beloved patrons. And it would be exiting if this show got us all talking a lot more about the books that shape us, shape our communities, and, perhaps, shape our country, as vast and varied and confused and contentious and fascinating as it is. In fact, here are a few 20th century books to get us started thinking about how varied the literary USA really is. We’ll add onto this list over the coming weeks!
Lolita: Vladimir Nabokov’s most well-known, and most contentious novel is, yes, the story of a middle-aged pedophile. But the entire framework of the story–the road trips on which Humbert Humbert and Dolores Haze embark during the book–were inspired by the yearly driving trips Nabokov and his wife, Vera, took every summer to catch and study butterflies. An immigrant from Russia, Nabokov was fascinated by American consumerism and kitsch. If you ever wondered why ‘Lolita’ insisted on staying in hokey hotels, eating at diners with ads on the napkins? It’s because those were the details that delighted Nabokov himself.
In Cold Blood: Speaking of road trips, travels across the country make up a significant part of Truman Capote’s non-fiction novel that details the 1959 murders of four members of the Clutter family in the small farming community of Holcomb, Kansas. When Capote learned about the details of the crime, he traveled to Kansas himself with his best friend, Harper Lee. Together, they interviewed the Clutter’s neighbors and friends, creating a portrait of a family that was flawed, strong, strange, and wholly realistic. Following the arrest of Richard “Dick” Hickock and Perry Smith, Capote turned his focus on them, telling the story of these two men, the life that brought them to Holcomb, and the country they had traveled in their strange, short lives. This is very much a tale about a moment in American history, about the social framework that shaped all these people’s lives, and the environments in which they existed, giving us all a glimpse into a time and a place that feels at once utterly familiar and shockingly far away. The image above is of the audio book, which is also stunning.
No Name in the Street: James Baldwin’s non-fiction work, detailing the racial tensions in the United States, especially during the 1960’s and 1970’s, are some of the most insightful, heartbreaking, and inspiring out there, and his name deserve to be on a list of great American writers. This biographical work displays James Baldwin’s fury and despair more deeply than any of his other works. He vividly detail his Harlem childhood which shaped his early consciousness and forced him to realize the violence of racism first-hand, and the later events that scored his heart with pain–the murders of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Baldwin also discusses his sojourns in Europe and in Hollywood, and his return to the American South to confront a violent America face-to-face. This is a powerful, unforgettable account of another side of US history.
Goodnight Moon: Hey, if we’re going to talk about books that meant something to as many people as possible, there are few books as widely-read and widely-enjoyed as Margaret Wise Brown’s classic tale about a bunny getting ready for bed, and saying goodnight to all the things in the bedroom. It’s led to any number of parodies, from the philosophical to the profane, but despite it all, Brown’s 1947 story remains. In a 2007 on-line poll, the National Education Association named the book one of its “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children”, and in 2012 it was ranked number four among the “Top 100 Picture Books” in a survey published by School Library Journal…so you don’t have to take my word for it!
It’s here! It’s here!
The lovely people at the Man Booker Prize have announced their longlist for the 2017 award, and the fiction world is abuzz.
As with all awards, there are debates raging about who was left off the list, as I’m sure we’ve all read a book this year that we want lauded from the mountaintops. The Booker Prize year runs from October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017, so books published outside that window are automatically ineligible. It’s also very much worth considering our discussion of class and awards from earlier this summer, and thinking about whose stories aren’t being told here.
However, for what it’s worth, there are some terrific stories being told in these books. Two are from Irish authors, two from UK-Pakistani authors, four Americans authors, four UK authors, and one Indian author (Arundhati Roy’s debut novel, God of Small Things, won the Booker Prize in 1997, and this book is her ‘return to fiction’). Many of these books have been nominated for other awards (especially Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad), and many authors have been shortlisted previously (Sebastian Barry, Ali Smith, Zadie Smith, and Mohsin Hamid), while Jon McGregor is longlisted for a third time. There are also debut novels from young writers, giving us a taste of the geographic breadth, scope, and drive of fiction from around the English-speaking world. As Chair of the 2017 judges, Baroness Lola Young, says:
Only when we’d finally selected our 13 novels did we fully realise the huge energy, imagination and variety in them as a group. The longlist showcases a diverse spectrum — not only of voices and literary styles but of protagonists too, in their culture, age and gender. Nevertheless we found there was a spirit common to all these novels: though their subject matter might be turbulent, their power and range were life-affirming – a tonic for our times.
Together their authors — both recognised and new — explore an array of literary forms and techniques, from those working in a traditional vein to those who aim to move the walls of fiction.
So have a look at the list, place your bets, and we’ll be here to announce the short list to you when it’s released on September 13!
The 2017 Man Booker Prize Longlist:
4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US)
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland)
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK)
The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India)
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US)
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan)
Autumn by Ali Smith (UK)
Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK)
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US)
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland) *Will be released in the US on September 19*
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) *Will be released in the US on January 25, 2018*
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (UK) *Will be released in the US in the fall, date unset*
We’re a little late on this news, dear readers, for which please accept our humble apologies. However, we are still thrilled and delighted to offer some big Free For All congratulations to David Grossman and Jessica Cohen for the novel A Horse Walks Into a Bar!
Description: The setting is a comedy club in a small Israeli town. An audience that has come expecting an evening of amusement instead sees a comedian falling apart on stage; an act of disintegration, a man crumbling before their eyes as a matter of choice. They could get up and leave, or boo and whistle and drive him from the stage, if they were not so drawn to glimpse his personal hell.
Dovale Gee, a veteran stand-up comic – charming, erratic, repellent – exposes a wound he has been living with for years: a fateful and gruesome choice he had to make between the two people who were dearest to him.
The Guardian quoted the chair of judges of the award, who said of Grossman’s work:
“David Grossman has attempted an ambitious high-wire act of a novel, and he’s pulled it off spectacularly…A Horse Walks into a Bar shines a spotlight on the effects of grief, without any hint of sentimentality. The central character is challenging and flawed, but completely compelling. We were bowled over by Grossman’s willingness to take emotional as well as stylistic risks: every sentence counts, every word matters in this supreme example of the writer’s craft.”
Grossman shares the award with his translator, Jessica Cohen. The New York Times did an interview with Cohen and Grossman just after the prize was announced at the V&A Museum in London, and discussed the process of finding a translator, and the incredibly laborious, loving effort that goes into translating a work–and often, the un-translatable nature of humor:
“A Horse Walks Into a Bar” obviously raises a particular question of how to translate jokes. Are there any examples of jokes you weren’t able to translate?
COHEN There were a few examples of jokes — not so much because of pacing or sound but because of cultural knowledge a non-Israeli reader wouldn’t have — that just weren’t going to work in English. Obviously if you have to explain something, it’s not funny. There were some cases like that where I managed to come up with a kind of equivalent. Some things we just had to drop.
You can read the full text of the interview here.
Congratulations to David Grossman and Jessica Cohen!
Big news today from the Librarian of Congress: See this press release for full details:
Librarian of Congress Names Tracy K. Smith Poet Laureate
Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden today announced the appointment of Tracy K. Smith as the Library’s 22nd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, for 2017-2018. Smith will take up her duties in the fall, opening the Library’s annual literary season in September with a reading of her work at the Coolidge Auditorium.
Smith, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and a professor at Princeton University, succeeds Juan Felipe Herrera as Poet Laureate.
“It gives me great pleasure to appoint Tracy K. Smith, a poet of searching,” Hayden said. “Her work travels the world and takes on its voices; brings history and memory to life; calls on the power of literature as well as science, religion and pop culture. With directness and deftness, she contends with the heavens or plumbs our inner depths—all to better understand what makes us most human.”
“I am profoundly honored,” Smith said. “As someone who has been sustained by poems and poets, I understand the powerful and necessary role poetry can play in sustaining a rich inner life and fostering a mindful, empathic and resourceful culture. I am eager to share the good news of poetry with readers and future readers across this marvelously diverse country.”
Smith joins a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position, including Juan Felipe Herrera, Charles Wright, Natasha Trethewey, Philip Levine, W.S. Merwin, Kay Ryan, Charles Simic, Donald Hall, Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass and Rita Dove.
The new Poet Laureate is the author of three books of poetry, including Life on Mars (2011), winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; Duende (2007), winner of the 2006 James Laughlin Award and the 2008 Essence Literary Award; and The Body’s Question (2003), winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Smith is also the author of a memoir, Ordinary Light (2015), a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in nonfiction and selected as a notable book by the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Born in Falmouth, Massachusetts in 1972, and raised in Fairfield, California, Tracy K. Smith earned a B.A. in English and American literature and Afro-American studies from Harvard University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Columbia University. From 1997 to 1999, she was a Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University. Smith has taught at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York, at the University of Pittsburgh and at Columbia University. She is currently the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Professor in the Humanities and director of the creative writing program at Princeton University.
Background of the Laureateship
The Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1937, when Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the Library. Since then, many of the nation’s most eminent poets have served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and, after the passage of Public Law 99-194 (Dec. 20, 1985), as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry—a position which the law states “is equivalent to that of Poet Laureate of the United States.”
During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry. The Library keeps to a minimum the specific duties required of the Poet Laureate, who opens the literary season in the fall and closes it in the spring. In recent years, Laureates have initiated poetry projects that broaden the audiences for poetry.
For more information on the Poet Laureate and the Poetry and Literature Center, visit loc.gov/poetry/. Consultants in Poetry and Poets Laureate Consultants in Poetry and their terms of service can be found at loc.gov/poetry/laureate-2011-present.html. To learn more about Poet Laureate projects, visit loc.gov/poetry/laureate-projects.html.
Hey there! If you’re one of our UK or Northern Irish readers, stop reading and go vote! If you’re in the US, and would like a distraction from…well, mostly everything, then we have an important announcement for you:
Naomi Alderman’s The Power has won the Baileys Prize for Women’s Fiction!
Alderman’s book is also the first science fiction work to win the prize, which is a huge win for genre fans (like me…and you, I’m sure). Alderman’s win comes just over a decade after her debut novel Disobedience, won the 2006 Orange Award for New Writers.
Tessa Ross, 2017 Chair of Judges, said: “The judges and I were thrilled to make this decision. We debated this wonderful shortlist for many hours but kept returning to Naomi Alderman’s brilliantly imagined dystopia – her big ideas and her fantastic imagination.”
As The Guardian describes:
The novel has been described as feminist science fiction, and asks the question what is power: who has it, how do you get it, and what does it do when you have it? And, when you have power, how long before power corrupts you? It follows four main characters: Roxy, the daughter of a London crime lord; Tunde, a journalism student in Lagos; Allie, from the southern states of the US and Margo, a low-level politician. They all feature in a combination of page-turning thriller and thought experiment that attacks some of the biggest issues of our times, including religion, gender politics and censorship.
And if this sounds a bit like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, there’s some good reasons for that; Margaret Atwood actually took Alderman under her wing when her career was just beginning, and the two remain close friends. So those of you currently reading or watching The Handmaid’s Tale, be sure to add this one to your list!
Unfortunately, Alderman’s super-sensational book won’t be released in the US until October of this year, but you can bet we’ll be making a big deal about it when it does! Here’s the cover image to whet your appetite:
Congrats to Naomi Alderman from the Free for All!