The 2008 Winners in...
Fiction: Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen*
Nonfiction: The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed
Poetry: Fire to Fire by Mark Doty
Young People's Literature: What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell
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* L-A-M-E! Peter Matthiessen won for rewriting and revising three novels into Shadow Country. You might not hear this at any other book website but that sucks. The New York Times review of the book which appeared on 4/27/08 concludes that "It offers a quicker and easier passage through the swamp, but fewer shades and shadows." So, according to the paper of record, it wasn't even a successful conflation. What really pisses me off about this award is how original works of fiction were ignored to get Mr. Matthiessen his NBA. Charles McGrath did an investigation on this whole thing on 11/11/08 and doesn't really come out for or against but included in his investigation is one sentence from Mr. Matthiessen that is the smoking gun in my opinion. In the second paragraph of the article, Mr. Matthiessen says: "There’s hardly a sentence in the whole damn thing that’s exactly the same." Uh huh. But that isn't the same as an original work of fiction is it? A bigger man than I once said that "you can put lipstick on a pig, it's still a pig." (Ahem.) A rewrite, a revision, a reworking no matter how you frame it amounts to the same thing: a previously published book(s). Simple, right?
The writer most screwed by this bit of sneaky subterfuge by the National Book Foundation? Charles Bock. His novel, Beautiful Children, is the best novel of the year and it's a completely original piece of writing unlike that other guy.