KevinfromCanada’s first contest

Welcome to the first contest on the KevinfromCanada book blog — I hope to hold them periodically.  Since Canadians love to comment (usually critically) on things American, it is entirely appropriate that the first contest is centred on a U.S.-based award.

The National Book Critics Circle shortlist  for fiction (and a number of other categories) will be announced in New York at 7 p.m. EDT, January 24.  The challenge is to submit your entry on what books will be the five finalists in the fiction category.  The winner is announced March 12.  Since Trevor Berrett at The Mookse and The Gripes already has the system set up for prize discussion groups (the National Books Award discussion is still posted), I am assuming he will be hosting one for the NBCC awards — he is U.S.-based, after all, so it is his right and it is also true of Canadians that, while we like to comment on things American, we prefer it if they do the heavy lifting.

The NBCC fiction award is certainly the widest reaching in the U.S. — and arguably for all English language fiction.  The criteria for entry:  “Books published in English (including translations) in the United States with pub dates within 2008 will be considered.”  Since amazon.com in the U.S. is pretty good at listing publication dates, it isn’t that hard to determine entry eligibility.

The NBCC also has the most wide-open shortlist procedure that I know.  Publishers make submissions and the jury can call in titles (which is normal).  The NBCC membership is also polled — and as far as I can tell, if 20 per cent name a book, it automatically goes on the shortlist.

The result is a prize which produces a wideranging shortlist of titles, perhaps with somewhat of a literary slant.  Last year’s shortlist (just by title) was Sacred Games, The Brief Wonderous Life Of Oscar Wao, In The Country of Men, The Gravedigger’s Daughter and The Shadow Catcher – I’d say that is proof enough that national chauvinism is not at play here.  The NBCC website is here .

First prize will be a) bragging rights and b) a $50 Cdn. gift certificate at whatever online site you use that will let me but it from Canada (Amazon does that at all their national sites).  In the event of a two-way tie, the prize will be split.  In the true schoolyard tradition, the three-tie, all-tie rule will be imposed and no financial prize will be issued if more than two entries tie.

I have every intention of entering my own contest and have let Trevor know my entry (he doesn’t even know about the work I am creating for him) so you know I have not cheated.  Everyone else’s entry can be submitted through the comments section at the bottom of this post.  My entry will be posted at the close of the contest deadline which is midnight, Jan. 23 GMT.  Both entries and comments are welcomed immediately — if you only have three or four books that you know, there is no requirement that your entry have five books.  Good luck to one and all.

KevinfromCanada

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23 Responses to “KevinfromCanada’s first contest”

  1. Trevor Berrett Says:

    Cool, Kevin! I’m definitely going to put up a space for discussion of the NBCC just haven’t got around to it yet. It should be ready by tomorrow!

  2. Trevor Berrett Says:

    The NBCC discussion forum is up and running.

  3. alison gzowski Says:

    I love the idea of a contest. I’m going to do my best to guess, somehow I always find it easier to read or read about a shorttlist and work from there. Bt it;’s a great idea

  4. Trevor Berrett Says:

    Okay, Kevin. Here’s my five guesses.

    * Netherland: Joseph O’Neill
    * A Mercy: Toni Morrison
    * Dangerous Laughter: Steven Milhauser
    * Breath: Tim Winton
    * Yesterday’s Weather: Anne Enright

    Hmmm. Well, it was unintentional but at first I had Annie Proulx’s collection of stories Fine Just the Way It Is, bu then I thought: three collections of short stories? No that can’t be. Including two is stretching it. So, there’s my shot in the dark!

  5. nico Says:

    I loved the gravedigger’s daughter. I saw Oates live in St. Louis about a year ago, she is just illuminating!

  6. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Welcome to the blog, nico — and I look forward to your comments. I know you are in Chile, but will you enter this contest anyway? I might have to add a “farthest away in the Western Hemisphere” prize if you do.

  7. Will Says:

    Ok, from all the way over here in the UK I’m going for:

    2666, Roberto Bolano
    A Mercy, Toni Morrison
    The Lazarus Project, Aleksandar Hemon
    Netherland, Joseph O’Neill
    Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri

    I’ll be amazed if I’m right.

  8. William Rycroft Says:

    Ok, from all the way over here in the UK I’m going for:

    2666, Roberto Bolano
    A Mercy, Toni Morrison
    The Lazarus Project, Aleksandar Hemon
    Netherland, Joseph O’Neill
    Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri

    I’ll be amazed if I’m right.

  9. Irish75 Says:

    Here are mine:

    Netherland – Joseph O’Neill
    A Mercy – Toni Morrison
    The Lazarus Project – Aleksandar Hemon
    The Secret Scripture – Sebastian Barry
    Lush Life – Richard Price

    Alternates: Telex from Cuba – Rachel Kushner
    2666 – Roberto Bolano

  10. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Welcome Irish75. I would love it if Telex from Cuba showed up on the list — it is one of those books that landed in the midrange of my thoughts when I first read it, but has moved up ever since when I think about it. I definitely have it marked down for a re-read — maybe sooner rather than later if it makes the NBCC shortlist.

  11. Trevor Berrett Says:

    Looks like Netherland and A Mercy are not going to be the books to settle this contest, Kevin.

    Go Milhauser, Enright, and Winton!!!

  12. KevinfromCanada Says:

    While I am giving away nothing on my entry, it does include Netherland and A Mercy as well. This of course means that neither book will be on the shortlist.

  13. padma Says:

    It’s so nice that you have a blog!
    Here are my guesses:

    Richard Price “Lush Life”
    Rachel Kushner “Telex from Cuba”
    Marilynne Robinson “Home”
    Jhumpa Lahiri “Unaccustomed Earth”
    Joseph O’Neil “Netherland”

  14. al Says:

    Netherland
    The Lost Dog
    Unaccustomed Earth
    A Mercy
    Indignation

    And I do know the lost dog doesn’t stand a chance, but I couldn’t help it. I enjoyed it. And will again.

  15. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Thanks for the entry, al. I too liked The Lost Dog and was disappointed it didn’t make the Booker shortlist — I might well have made it my pick for the prize. I do suspect you are right that it didn’t land that well in America but salute you for including it in your entry.

  16. KevinfromCanada Says:

    My entry was and is:
    Netherland
    A Mercy
    The Impostor
    Indignation
    Unaccustomed Earth

    I got the time for tomorrow’s announcement mixed up when I set up the contest so I won’t be fussy if some late entries come in — they do have to be before 7 p.m. EDT however.

  17. Trevor Berrett Says:

    Well I sure didn’t win! Does this make you want to read The Lazarus Project to form your own opinion Kevin? I didn’t like it, but I must have missed something.

  18. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Having got nary a finalist on my entry, I obviously know not whereof I speak. I do have a copy of The Lazarus Project and will probably read it — I don’t think even this will convince me to read 2666.

  19. Colette Jones Says:

    The selection was too wide for me to even attempt a guess, but it’s fun to watch the rest of you do it. I have now ordered 2666. amazon (UK) has it for £9 – bargain! And my library has Home, so I’ve requested that.

    Now, when will I decide that I wish to read a 912 page book though? Maybe if it wins…

    Is the length what puts you off, Kevin?

  20. KevinfromCanada Says:

    While the length was certainly a factor, my biggest challenge with 2666 is that I twice tried to read The Savage Detectives and abandoned it both times. Bolano has a way of going into a fantasy world with very long paragraphs that I just didn’t find rewarding. All of the reviews, even the most positive, indicate that is the case with this book. And the descriptions of the overarching “plot” indicate that it probably would not interest me. I do recognize that my tastes and concerns are not shared by everyone, so don’t take that as a “do not read this book” comment — it simply reflects my bias.

  21. Tim Burns Says:

    kevin,
    This is my list for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize Fiction. They are in order of preference. At the bottom are outside contenders. Often with the Pulitzer a compromise book makes it into the finalist column.
    1. Olive Kitteridge
    2. Fine Just the Way It is
    3. Netherlands
    4. The Lazurus Project
    5. The Plague of Doves
    6. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
    7. Telex from Cuba
    8. A Mercy
    9. Home
    10. My Sister My Love
    Outside Contenders: Cost, Golden Grove, Songs for the Missiong, Driftless (just because I like it so much!)

  22. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Thanks for the entry, Tim — and a most comprehensive entry it is. I have not read your top two (which gives me something to look forward to). Of those I have read, I can’t find much to disagree with in your order of preference.

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