Hey, party people.
This is nothing like the gushing I’m about to do about Cormack McCarthy’s masterfully-written The Road, which I tore through. No, this post will be a bit of fluff about the winners of some word-centred prizes that have been announced in the last few weeks.
Amazon’s Best Books of 2015
Not sure Amazon can be considered an authoritative source, but it’s got populist roots that can be food for thought. I’m not sure how influenced by sales their editors are, but it’s likely that they kept the books on their best sellers list in mind. That makes it unlike other prizes in that it isn’t a core of literary aesthetes dictating to us, through the wisdom that comes with their cultivated taste, what is best to read. (See David Hume’s “Of the Standard of Taste.” Actually, you know what, don’t bother. It’s garbage.)
Not that I’m against people with great taste telling me what to read. I’m not against anyone telling me what to read, really. Which is why I’m perfectly happy to check out Amazon’s. Here it is. Or, if you’re like me, you can hop straight to the fiction category.
- Check out you, Purity. Lovely to see you.
- To see what effect Stieg Larson’s books have had on cover design, get an eyeful of all the covers in the lit and other categories (including Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me) and then check out this Google image search.
- This has just occurred to me after going on my Pulitzer adventure. Before doing this, many of the things I read were in the public domain (read: free). Reading modern books is expensive. I’ve probably spent close to $100 on books this year, as opposed the maybe $10 I usually spend.Totally worth it.
Oxford’s Word of the Year
It’s an emoticon. True story.
If it weren’t for the smile part, that pretty accurately represents the reaction the public has had to this choice. An emoticon? Cue hell-in-a-handbasket hysteria.
I personally could not care less that an emoticon won. I’d even give them this: emoticons are indeed words, the same way hieroglyphics are words. Structuralists everywhere will agre that the image acts as a signpost for meaning, just the way words do.
What I care about is how late to the game all the people at Oxford are. They’re like Stan’s dad from Southpark: so terrified of seeming uncool that they jump on all the things “kids nowadays are into.” If you were going to go the emoticon route, (1) you’re too late—like, years too late—and (2) I think you’ve got to go with one of the more cutting edge pictorials. Facial expressions are already so integrated that they’re hardly fresh news. If you’re going for novel, I think you have to go with the octopus. I say that based on the documented evidence that it is my personal favorite.
Anyway. Ask anyone under the age of 30 what they think of the shortlisted Oxford nominee “on fleek,” and they will raise one (previously-referred-to-as-on-fleek) eyebrow and throw shade. Oh no. Is “throw shade” still cool? Well, either way, I suggest making the people at Oxford your last to consult on the matter.
2015 National Book Awards
Here’s a link to the winners, but be prepared for an onslaught of unwelcome noise. (Why do sites do that?)
Adam Johnson topped the list, with a book called Fortune Smiles, encased in this marvelously designed exterior:
Goodness. That is so fun that you almost forget he wrote the BRUTAL, NIGHTMARE-INDUCING, UNFINISHABLE The Orphan Master’s Son.
Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies shows up on this list, as well as Amazon’s. Since it’s getting so much attention, here’s the New York Times‘ review and the reviews on Goodreads. If you pick it up, let me know what you think.
Ta-Nehisi Coates takes the non-fiction prize again. If non-fiction doesn’t make you feel like you suck at reading, I would check this out. I might check it out, considering that it comes recommended from far and wide.
Next! The Road. I can’t wait to tell you about it. McCarthy is the antithesis of everything I love in literature, which makes it all the more interesting that I found The Road absolutely riveting. Stay tuned.