“We have many of our people in America,” he said. “This part of Ireland played a big role in building up your country, so it did. Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Washington. Mr. Eisenhower. All of them Tipperary men, I understand.”

On Women and Literary Awards

[ Created by Staff | 3/27/2016 ]

What happened in 2015?

It is an improving picture over the last 35 years. Our database is far from comprehensive, but across the span of this chart at least ten awards per year are represented. From a historical perspective, it is unlikely there is much suprise here.

We continue to add to our database but it is unlikely the results will see meaningful change, and they could easily worsen. In addition, we have the Orange/Baileys Prize included, which is given only to women, so stripping that out the results do get worse.

In any case, I am focused on 2015, where the prizes to women dropped dramatically. What gives? I can't say. There were plenty of terrific novels last year.

Philosophically, of course, we want the best book to win. Life is too short to read bad fiction to satisfy some quota. But "blind" judging, as impossible as that seems to implement widely, would be a great step forward.

Literary Awards Database

[ Created by Staff | 3/23/2016 ]

We've launched our little database of literary awards, as much for our own ease of use as anything. Why isn't this in a single, user-friendly place, we wondered? So now it is here, sorted by what award is to be announced next.

Who were all the big English-language award winners in 1998?

Who have been the recent winners of The National Book Award?

Eventually we will link it all up better and include references to our reviews, but for now we have a framework that hopefully will be useful to others beyond ourselves.

It is interesting to contrast the awards. The National Book and Pulitzer winners are, on average, twice as long as the debut fiction awards (PEN/Hemingway and PEN/Bingham). I guess you have to write big if you want to win big.

March 22nd - Birthday of Louis L'Amour

[ Created by Staff | 3/22/2016 ]

Louis L'Amour had to rank among my grandfather's favorite authors. You knew what you were getting. Seemed like there was always a worn paperback on the side table next to his easy chair. Like grandpa, he was from a high plains state and grew up working with livestock. So it is no surprise that grandpa found his writing so authentic. They were both cowboys at heart.

The first few lines of Hondo, one of L'Amour's best, and a good illustration of his storytelling:

He rolled the cigarette in his lips, liking the taste of the tobacco, squinting his eyes against the sun glare. His buckskin shirt, seasoned by sun, rain, and sweat, smelled stale and old. His jeans had long since faded to a neutral color that lost itself against the desert.

He was a big man, wide-shouldered, with the lean, hard-boned face of the desert rider. There was no softness in him. His toughness was ingrained and deep, without cruelty, yet quick, hard, and dangerous. Whatever wells of gentleness might lie within him were guarded and deep.

An hour passed and there was no more dust, so he knew he was in trouble. He had drawn up short of the crest where his eyes could just see over the ridge, his horse crowded against a dark clump of juniper where he was invisible to any eye not in the immediate vicinity.

The day was still and hot. Sweat trickled down his cheeks and down his body under the shirt. Dust meant a dust devil or riders ... and this had been no dust devil. The dust had shown itself, continued briefly, then vanished, and that meant that he also had been seen.

If they were white men fearful of attack, they were now holed up in some arroyo. If they were Apaches, they would be trying to close in.
Hondo doesn't have the sweep of Vollmann's The Dying Grass or even Michener's Centennial, but very readable and fast-paced.

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