Wednesday, October 14, 2009

National Book Award 5 Under 35

I think it might be any young writer's dream to be on this list.  I know it would make me feel good.  But as with many of these kinds of awards, I have to wonder what the criteria are for choosing the winners.  The Winners of 2009 can be found here.  (I'm not going to touch on the fact that four out of five are photogenic women, and the third is basically a male model or that all five of them are very white.)  What I am thinking about, though, is the Nobel Prize.  The Globe and Mail recently ran an enlightening article, in which the author suggested that the Nobel is awarded--at least in the Peace category--for symbolic actions, more so than demonstrated success.  They're looking for someone who can embody their ideals to inspire others to do the same.  Now this may not translate completely to something as trivial as the National Book Award 5 Under 35, but it seems to me that it may shed light on why our winners won.  To be truthful, I've only read Lydia Pelle before, and it was her story in One Story, which was pretty delightful.  I've wanted to read Karen Russell's St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, but my opinion on that may be clouded by my sincere obsession with wolves.  Anyway, when I look at the accomplishments of the 5 writers selected, what I do note is that they are actively out there promoting their work.  They've finally gotten the book deal, and they've taken the hard-earned lessons of surviving the slush pile time and time again and applied it to their publishing careers.  Life doesn't end after you get that first book.  You still have to send out stories, be rejected, give readings to an audience of five people in small college-town coffee shops, and you still have to try hard.  If anything, these writers are more symbolic for what they represent to writing communities.  So, congratulations to the winners, and may they continue to set a good example for us all.

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