Thursday, March 03, 2011

And The Nominees Are...

Two awards that really matter to me as a reader have just been announced: the 2011 Indies Choice awards and the 2011 PEN/Faulkner award for fiction.  (Many thanks to Shelf Awareness for the heads-up)

The shortlist for the 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award includes:
  • A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Knopf)
  • The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg by Deborah Eisenberg (Picador)
  • Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (McPherson & Co.)
  • Model Home by Eric Puchner (Scribner)
  • Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives by Brad Watson (Norton)

The adult fiction nominees for the Indies Choice Awards: 
  • Great House, by Nicole Krauss (W.W. Norton)
  • How to Read the Air, by Dinaw Mengestu (Riverhead)
  • Room, by Emma Donoghue (Little, Brown)
  • The Surrendered, by Chang-rae Lee (Riverhead)
  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell (Random House)
  • A Visit From the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan (Knopf)
The nominees in other categories can be found here: 

I have read a few of the titles and am happy to see them included.  Though I have yet to post about Donoghue's Room or Krauss' Great House (I will), both are startlingly original novels.  An excerpt from How To Read the Air ran in the New Yorker and my short story club chose it a few months back.  It was the subject of some lively debate and we all agreed Mengestu shows remarkable ability as a storyteller.  My friend Peter thinks Jacob de Zoet is the best David Mitchell yet.

I keep hearing about Goon Squad, the only title up for both awards, and have added it to my list of titles to read.  Aside from the accolades it has already received, I find I MUST read a book that recalls track 1, side 2 of Elvis Costello's third record, which the nascent Reed Next received as a bar mitzvah present all those years ago.

Finally, while I'm discussing accolades, I got the kindest shout-out in ages from Wendy writes a daily blog about matters that matter--health, happiness, exercise, diet and a healthy dollop of opinion (okay, more than a dollop).  

In the post below, she plugs Eggers Best Non-Required Reading, discusses her love of books and makes her case for having so many in her home.  She also threw us a most beneficent blog bone.  (Quite honestly, there was considerable blushing going on here at Chez Next.)  
Check her out. 

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

West of Here by Jonathan Evison

In days of yore, and before the new austerity in which publishing finds itself, it was not uncommon for publishers to create clever ways to promote their books, among them by providing swag.  The good folks at Algonquin were always particularly adept at this, even sending salamis to accompany the publication of one of their titles (anyone remember Laurie Gwen Shapiro's charming first novel?).

Last week, I had the good luck to be chosen among five winners for a "boxed" version of the new novel from Algonquin, West of Here.  Expecting a slipcased edition of the book, you can imagine my absolute delight when the package arrived in yesterday's mail, containing:
  • A sturdy wooden box with a sliding lid revealing a hardcover copy of the book with a signed bookplate.  Is the dust jacket Tyvek?  What a wise move.
  • A note on High Tide Seafood Company letterhead from executive editor Chuck Adams extolling his love of the book. (It was addressed to Dear Reader but I'll forgive him for getting my name wrong.  It's 'Reed', Chuck)
  • Five old-timey postcards depicting people and places from the era in which the book is set
  • A map of the Washington Territory from 1879
  • A reproduction of a newspaper piece decrying how land barons and railroad magnates were carving up the Territory for their own needs instead of use by "settlers and homebuilders" per the original land grant
  • A one-sheet with bookseller blurbs and news that West of Here is a #1 Indie Next Pick
The book, published February 15, was well-hyped and has been well-reviewed and it's obvious the publisher is behind it, going to some considerable expense to create this fine package.  More importantly, the goodwill this generates and the obvious love and care, thought and planning, makes me think the financial outlay will be well-justified soon enough.  Bravo, Algonquin. 

Once my travels in Swamplandia! conclude, I will travel West of Here happily.