Posted by: Jeanie F | February 24, 2010

And Now. . . The Pen/Faulkner Award

Spring is just around the corner, as heralded by the rash of book award nominations. The latest announcement is the 2009 Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction nominees , the largest peer-juried award in the US.

I’ve read two of the nominated titles – A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore and Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead. I should say that I’ve read part of both of these books because, frankly, I couldn’t get through them. Both have been highly touted in the press and received great reviews, but I found them to be dull and insubstantial. Certainly not the quality of literature that Faulkner would endorse . . .

I went back to review previous Pen/Faulkner seasons, because I remember a time when I considered the P/F nomination a good recommendation for a book. Sure enough, there were lots of old favorites among the nominees. To name just a few:

  • All Aunt Hagar’s Children by Edward P. Jones
  • The March by E.L. Doctorow
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  • Waiting by Ha Jin
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

These books, to me, had something new to say or a new way to say it. They made me think and feel something I hadn’t thought or felt before.

This current group of nominees seems highly commercial and only marginally literary to me. I’m wondering if I’m missing something? Can any of you defend the 2010 nominees? Is there a stand-out title or two that I should be sure to read? I’m willing to be persuaded!


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