LA Times Book Prize Nominees of the Fictional Sort
LA Times Book Prize Fiction Nominees
There are some juicy picks - and even a few underdogs - among the nominees of the two fiction categories for the LA Times Book Prizes that will be awarded later this month. While the National Book Award often goes to the obvious front-runner and Pulitzers (go Diaz!) rarely surprise, the LA Times Book Prize winners are never a sure thing, which is what makes following them all the more fun.
In the Fiction category, you've got:
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
- Be Near Me by Andrew O’Hagan
- Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan
- Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
- The Shadow Catcher: A Novel by Marianne Wiggins
Nearly everyone we know thinks Junot Diaz is the front-runner, the shoo-in, the man of the hour. Yet the Book Prizes have a history of favoring their own and we wonder if The Shadow Catcher by Marianne Wiggins (Professor of English at USC) won’t sneak in and steal the nod. There has been much talk of Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses, and we’re a big fan not only of the novel but of works in translation (it was translated from the Norwegian by Anne Born) and works from small presses (published by Graywolf Press) so a Petterson win would be quite sweet. Yet we can't quite count O'Nan out as his character, Manny, and his job at the local Red Lobster is funny and smart and imminently enjoyable.
LA Times Book Prize First Fiction Nominees
In the First Fiction category, you’ve got:
- Skylark Farm by Antonia Arslan
- Twenty Grand: And Other Tales of Love and Money by Rebecca Curtis
- The Understory by Pamela Erens
- The Last Chicken in America: A Novel in Stories by Ellen Litman
- The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
The difficulty here is the range of novels, of subjects, of humor, of drama. Mengestu’s novel is so stunning, so gorgeous and so big, that it hardly seems fair to put it in the same category as Litman’s story collection which is nuanced and cannily observant or the somewhat surreal and bittersweet stories in Twenty Grand by Rebecca Curtis. We don’t have a good read on which way this will go, but our money is on the big Mengestu novel, even though it has already won a slew of awards. We have heard rumblings, though, of Skylark Farm, an underground favorite, taking top honors. This will be an interesting one to watch.
The LA Times Book Prizes will be awarded on April 25th.