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National Book Award finalists announced: No Franzen


The National Book Award finalists announcement Wednesday morning in Savannah, Ga., contained one major surprise: The acclaimed bestselling novel by Jonathan Franzen, "Freedom," failed to make the list. Author Pat Conroy read out the five finalists in four categories -- fiction, poetry, nonfiction and young people's literature -- at Flannery O'Connor's childhood home.

L.A. Times staffers made a splash in the nonfiction category: Beijing bureau chief Barbara Demick's "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea" and "Every Man in This Village Is a Liar: An Education in War" by Megan K. Stack, a former Moscow bureau chief now working in the Beijing bureau, are among the finalists. They're in competition with John Dower, Justin Spring and the rock star Patti Smith for her memoir of her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe, "Just Kids."

The fiction category, which omitted Franzen, includes both the well-known and the lesser-known. Finalist Peter Carey ("Parrot and Olivier in America") has twice won the Man Booker prize, while another finalist, UC Santa Cruz professor Karen Tei Yamashita, quietly published "I Hotel," her fifth book, with the independent Coffee House Press.

Young people's literature finalists include Southern California writer Laura McNeal's "Dark Water" and the rising science fiction star Paolo Bacigalupi for his first book for young adults, "Ship Breaker." Each of the five poets is a first-time National Book Award finalist.

The complete National Book Award finalist list:

Peter Carey, "Parrot and Olivier in America"
Jaimy Gordon,"Lord of Misrule"
Nicole Krauss, "Great House"
Lionel Shriver, "So Much for That"
Karen Tei Yamashita, "I Hotel"

Barbara Demick, "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea"
John W. Dower, "Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq"
Patti Smith, "Just Kids"
Justin Spring, "Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward"
Megan K. Stack, "Every Man in This Village Is a Liar: An Education in War"

Kathleen Graber, "The Eternal City"
Terrance Hayes, "Lighthead"
James Richardson, "By the Numbers"
C.D. Wright, "One with Others"
Monica Youn, "Ignatz"

Young People’s Literature:
Paolo Bacigalupi, "Ship Breaker"
Kathryn Erskine, "Mockingbird"
Laura McNeal, "Dark Water"
Walter Dean Myers, "Lockdown"
Rita Williams-Garcia, "One Crazy Summer"

The National Book Awards will be announced at a ceremony in New York on Nov. 17. At the event, Tom Wolfe will receive the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters and the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service will be presented to Joan Ganz Cooney, a founding producer of "Sesame Street."

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Comments () | Archives (6)

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Why Franzen in the headline? I would think the measure of an award is the quality of the work and not the volume of sales. I'm not familiar with most of the books nominated so I can't say which deserves a prize, not that I would be asked. But, I think the Times should be objective in the report on the nominees and omit the editorializing except in the appropriate section.

My reading list just expanded.

BTW, it's a blog-- Franzen, away.

Is it a mark of how low poetry has sunk that it is the only category not mentioned in the text? Are more people actually writing poetry or teaching others how to write poetry, than get pleasure from reading poetry?

Must we drag Franzen into everything?

Franzen doesn't deserve the distinction. He didn't deserve to win it 9 years ago either. His publisher also puts out a bunch of magazines and newspapers, so everyone pretends the real story is his absence from the list.

NO - the real story is the list!

And if this program was legit at all - not a popularity contest - Eggers and Wunderlee would have been short-listed.

Franzen certainly deserved consideration. But then so did many hundreds of other authors. Franzen is simply the one who in the last few weeks has gotten a lot of press.


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