The National Book Awards: What Gives?
Sigh: It’s happened again. I don’t want to rag on any of the nominees picked by the National Book Award judges, but I’m simply stunned by some of the omissions. Where is Cheever: A Life, Blake Bailey’s monumental biography of John Cheever, which received raves everywhere, including this magazine? It redefined biography for me. Where is Dave Cullen’s Columbine, or Robin Romm’s searing The Mercy Papers? Where is David Mazzuchelli’s stunning graphic novel, Asterios Polyp? (For that matter, why does the NBA continues to largely ignore the graphic novel category, even though some of the best, most imaginative work is being done in that genre? I see Stitches received a YA nod, but…). Where is Abraham Verghese’s incredible Cutting for Stone? Stephanie Kallos’ lyrical novel Sing Them Home? Laurie Scheck’s A Monster’s Notes? Jonathan Tropper’s big-hearted family drama, This Is Where I Leave You? Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely think the NBA panels should look for small, overlooked books, especially those that come from small presses. But the list of nominees looks inconsequential — and the NBA looks a little silly — when the year’s truly great books are nowhere to be seen.
What do you think? Are there any books you think are missing, or are you pleased with the nominees?