National Book Awards: 2012 Proves to be Deep, Dark and Heavy Year For Literature

Drawing the close of the year means that award season is upon us. The MacArthur Genius Grant winners were revealed last week, Toronto Film Festival, London BFI Film Festival and the Turner Prize nominations have all been going on over the past two weeks. Now it's the turn of the National Book Awards in the USA, and this year's nominations across all the awards have a distinctly sombre tone.

The awards, funded and administered by the National Book Foundation, includes categories for fiction, non-fiction, poetry and children's literature, plus two special awards for outstanding lifetime service to literature, and distinguished lifetime contribution to literature. This year's recipients for the the latter two awards will be Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr and Novelist Elmore Leonard respectively (Washington Post).

This year's nominations for fiction are: Dave Eggers (A Hologram for the King), Junot Diaz (This is, How You Lose Her), Louise Erdrich (The Round House), Kevin Powers (The Yellow Bird), and Ben Fountain (Billy Lynn’s Long Half-Time Walk).

The non-fiction nominees are: Anne Applebaum (Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1945-1956), Domingo Martinez (The Boy Kings of Texas), Robert Caro (The Passage of Power), Katherine Boo (Behind the Beautiful Forevers), Anthony Shadid (House of Stone).

The poetry nominees are: David Ferry (Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations), Cynthia Huntington (Heavenly Bodies), Tim Seibles (Fast Animal), Alan Shapiro (Night of the Republic), Susan Wheeler (Meme).

And, finally, for young people's literature the nominations are for: William Alexander (Goblin Secrets), Carrie Arcos (Out of Reach), Patricia McCormick (Never Fall Down), Eliot Schrefer (Endangered), and Steve Sheinkin (Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal — the World’s Most Dangerous Weapons).

The adult fiction category has a strong slant on Iraq and the middle east, with three of the five nominations set there with the exception of The Round House and Junot Diaz's This is How You Lose Her. Diaz's entrance into the literary world was somewhat of an explosion, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008 with his debut novel, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” and having just won the MacArthur Genius Grant, 2012 is shaping up to be pretty good for the Dominican/American writer as well.

The young people's literature category covers all range of deep dark depths including drug addiction, child soldiers, the Congolese civil war and atomic bombs in WWII. No light reading for our youth, it seems.

All the above finalists will receive $1000 but the winners, to be announced on November 14th, for each category will win a $10,000 prize.


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