Wednesday, September 22, 2010

National Book Award Fail

Add Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann to my ever-growing list of award-winning books that I hated (and in most cases Did Not Finish). This dreary novel joins recent winners of other coveted awards such as Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (2009 Pulitzer Prize) and The Great Man by Kate Christenson (PEN/Faulkner 2008, a DNF, so unblogged) in my collection of “they weren’t talking to me when they picked these” books.

In the same vein, I took great delight in reading B. R. Myers' trashing of the latest Jonathan Franzen book Freedom in October's Atlantic Monthly. Hooray, finally someone agrees with me that Franzen is a lazy writer who tries to pass off bad prose and boring characters under a wrapper of "social relevance." The Corrections (National Book Award 2001) was one of the worst books I have ever read and is at the very top of my aforementioned list of dreadful prize-winners. Myers is the author of A Reader's Manifesto, a book I've been meaning to read for a really long time, ever since I read the excerpt from it that was published in the Atlantic back in 2001. That essay caused a huge kerfuffle among fans of literary fiction, but I loved it.

10 comments:

gina said...

I also did not like Let the Great World Spin. I only made it about half-way through before quitting. I did really enjoy the Corrections though, and am looking forward to borrowing my boyfriend's copy of Freedom when he finishes it.

Carin S. said...

I also have a hit-or-miss record with award winners. Finished The Known World by Edward Jones (Pulitzer) yesterday and didn't like it one bit. Earlier this year I read and hated The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard (National Book Award). And I Hate Cold Mountain (NBA) and I didn't like Middlesex half as much as I was supposed to. I will though disagree and say I LOVED Olive Kitteridge! Well, no one can (or should!) like everything!

Shelley said...

Gosh, I just read that Atlantic Review too, and actually saved it to reread.

Love your DNF category. Fortunately for me, I never expect my readers to completely F.

p.s. I can't help adding that my "word verification" non-word sounds like an obscene lisp: "sucksp"....

LINDA from EACH LITTLE WORLD said...

Hated Cold Mountain as well, but liked the film.

I rarely like fiction award winners, but usually find non-fiction winners worthy of the nod. I am guessing that is because fiction judgements are more subjective. It would seem a certain amount of NF decisions are based on the factual nature of the books; they got it right or not.

sherry said...

Loved Olive Kitteridge and The Corrections. I'm reading Freedom now. Funny thing about preferences in literature. Detested The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a book you didn't mention but that won the Pulitzer the year prior to Olive Kitteridge.

Linda makes a good point about nonfiction award winners.

Sarah Laurence said...

I loved the book Olive Kitteridge even if I didn't like her personally. She was a great character. I can see how she'd rub people the wrong way.

I'm also not convinced about Franzen. I picked up Freedom in a bookstore and put it down after reading for as long as I could stand it. It seemed so trivial. I don't get what all the buzz is about. He seems so arrogant, refusing Oprah etc.

Man of la Books said...

I couldn't finish Olive Kitteridge and did not Let the Great World Spin either.

http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

Carolyn said...

I found that essay in the Atlantic a few years ago and really enjoyed it, I feel out of sync and underwhelmed by most of the big new books that get talked up, so it's nice to finally know who the author is and that he's written a book about it and that someone else liked it!

Philippe said...

I read Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom" and LOVED it.

The radically opposite reactions to it just go to show how one man's meat can be another's poison, don't they?

Anonymous said...

My favorite books: Oliver Kitteridge, Let the Great World Spin, Corrections, and now, Freedom! Still I depend on your blog for titles. Please don't tell us that you don't read Dickens!

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