Remember when I predicted (with a yawn) some of the potential critiques of this year's fiction nominees for National Book Awards?

Here, we are, just a week later, and the New York Times presents a few choice quotes, tied with a neat little bow ("New Novels, Big Awards, No Readers"):

""We are completely closing ourselves off from the culture at large," said Larry Kirschbaum, the chairman of the Time Warner Book Group, "we are supporting our demise.""

"Esther Newberg, a literary agent at International Creative Management, said, "We are not helping the book business this way, and we're not exactly flourishing already.""

"Jason Epstein, former editorial director of Random House and the first recipient of the National Book Award for distinguished contributions to American letters, said it was particularly surprising that the panel did not choose Philip Roth's novel "The Plot Against America" (Houghton Mifflin). "I can't imagine what the conversation was that produced these results," Mr. Epstein said."

My favorite section is this claim made by the reporter: "The awards were once more firmly planted in the cultural mainstream," which he qualifies with the following passage: "From Here To Eternity," by James Jones, won the fiction prize in 1952, followed by Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" the next year. Faulkner, Cheever, Updike and Roth all have won, as have Joyce Carol Oates, E. Annie Proulx and Alice McDermott."

Oh yes, because nine (hardly related, with the exception of two successive years) examples over 54 years certainly denote a major cultural trend.


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