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November 08, 2004

Blind Item: The Real NBA Oversight

by Ron Hogan

As regular readers of Beatrice and other bookblogs know, there's been a lot of fuss made over this year's National Book Awards, with publishers warning that the industry is "completely cutting [itself] off from the culture at large" with its five nominees for the fiction prize, while authors (well, just Thomas McGuane, really) gripe about the shortlist's "provinical tone." Now, as it happens, I've just read two of the nominees--Christine Schutt and Joan Silber--and they're both great books, certainly among the best fiction I've read this year, and I have similarly high hopes for the rest of the nominees as I get to them. That said, we probably all have at least one favorite novel that didn't get the nod...but it might not be the fault of Rick Moody, Stewart O'Nan, and all those other judges.

To wit: Beatrice has heard about a major publishing conglomerate which put out both a novel and a short story collection from the same author this year, both of them to significant accolades, and then completely failed to submit either book to the National Book Foundation. The oversight is even more egregious when you remember that the publishers were trying to position their author, who'd been appreciated by a fervid but small fan base for years, as finally ready for the big time--an assessment the reviews would have seemed to have validated. And, we hear, at least one judge was shocked when asked about the omission, having assumed the two books were published late last year and not realizing they were, in fact, eligible. So if you're wondering why your favorite novel isn't on that list, ask yourself if that novel's publisher has as much faith in its author as you do.

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