The Los Angeles Times hosted its 35th Annual Book Prizes ceremony over the weekend.
Book critic David L. Ulin hosted the event at at the University of Southern California’s Bovard Auditorium. Some of the presenters throughout the evening included Hope Larson, Aisha Saeed, and Matt Pearce.
World’s End author T.C. Boyle received the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement and Reading Rainbow star LeVar Burton took The Innovator’s Award. We’ve got the entire list of winners after the jump.
The 2015 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winners
- Biography: Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts (Viking)
- Current Interest: The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs (Scribner)
- Fiction: The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt (Simon & Schuster)
- The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction: Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli (Coffee House Press)
- Graphic Novel/Comics: The Love Bunglers by Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books)
- History: The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931 by Adam Tooze (Viking)
- Mystery/Thriller: Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman (W.W. Norton & Company)
- Poetry: Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf Press)
- Science & Technology: The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert (Henry Holt & Co.)
- Young Adult Literature: The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade/Random House Children’s Books)
The papers of T.C. Boyle have "Gone To Texas."
Here's a map I did recently for the Westchester Library System's summer reading program. The theme this year is 2009's Hudson River Quadricentennial celebration. (See the sketch below.)
This was a particularly fun project to work on, since I'm not only a huge fan of libraries, but also because I was reading World's End by T.C. Boyle at the same time. The libraries are going to be using this book in the summer for their community-wide read, since it takes place around the Hudson River Valley area. I highly recommend it-- Boyle has a rich and full and bizarrely fascinating way with words, and the book is full of quirky characters and history. Even though it's a fictional story, it grounded a sense of place in my head while I worked, if that makes sense!
Readercon 21 was, for me, exciting and stimulating, though this year in particular it felt like I only had a few minutes to talk with everybody I wanted to talk with. I think part of this is a result of my now living in New Hampshire rather than New Jersey, so I just don't see a lot of folks from the writing, publishing, and reading worlds much anymore.
Before I get into some thoughts on some panels and discussions, some pictures: Ellen Datlow's and Tempest Bradford's. Tempest asked everybody to make a sad face for her, not because Readercon was a sad con (just the opposite!), but because it's fun to have people make sad faces. The iconic picture from the weekend for me, though, is Ellen's photo of Liz Hand's back. I covet Liz's shirt.
And now for some only vaguely coherent thoughts on some of the panels...
I actually missed my own first panel, "Interstitial Then, Genre Now", with John Clute, Michael Dirda, Peter Dube, and Dora Goss, because the battery in my car died because of absent-mindedness on my part the night before. Luckily, I have a car battery charger, but charging took just long enough to make it so there was no physical way I could get to Burlington, MA in time for the panel. (Andrew Liptak wrote a recap for Tor.com.)
My Saturday panel, "The Secret History of The Secret History of Science Fiction", with Kathryn Cramer, Alexander Jablokov, John Kessel, Jacob Weisman, and Gary K. Wolfe went pretty well, I thought, though as so often happens, it felt like it was just getting going when it was time to end. The panel allowed John to talk about the motivations for the book, some of what he thought it accomplished, etc. -- a lot of what he said parallels what he and Jim Kelly told me when I interviewed them about the anthology. Gary Wolfe offered probably the best line of the panel: "An anthology is, inevitably, a collection of the wrong stories." (This, of course, from the critic's point of view!)
I'm not very good at inserting myself into conversations, so I did a lot of observing during the panel, piping up only to offer a sort of counter viewpoint from Gary's -- where Gary was in some ways agreeing with Paul Witcover's assertion that writers like T.C. Boyle are just using science fiction as "a trip to the playground". I was hoping we'd be able to discuss this idea a bit more, but time didn't allow it. Had it, I suppose I would have tried to say that to me the resentment of writers not routinely identified with the marketing category of "science fiction" or the community of fans, writers, and publishers that congregates under the SF umbrella -- the resentment of these writers for using the props, tropes, and moves of SF is unappealing to me for a few reasons. It's a clubhouse mentality, one that lets folks inside the clubhouse determine what the secret password is and if anybody standing outside has the right pronunciation of that password. It is, in other words, a purity test: are the intentions in your soul the right ones, the approved ones? Had we had time, I would have tried to make some sort of connection between this attitude toward non-SF writers with an attitude I've seen within the field from people toward writers of a younger generation who haven't read, for instance, e
I have written exactly one piece of fan mail in my life, to the baseball writer, Roger Angell. I’m sorry, that tag does him a disservice; Angell is a writer, period, a great one, a crafter of sublime sentences, a keen observer, a man who feels things and captures living moments. His writing goes deep into baseball and beyond it. I think Angell’s more than a great writer; I suspect he’s a great man.
I had written Six Innings and wanted him, an important stranger, to have a copy of my beautiful book. I wanted him to love it, of course, to see me as a fellow traveler, but writers don’t have much say over how the world responds. You release the work into the wild and hope it finds food, shelter, a home, and thrives.
Mr. Angell wrote a kind, handwritten letter in return.
For some reason, lately I’d been thinking about “the ideal reader,” and determined, perhaps cleverly, that my ideal reader would be someone who wasn’t afraid of being bored. That had been my worry of late, because so many children’s books these days are high concept and plot-driven, because we hear over and over again that boys don’t read, and if they do open a book they want wall-to-wall action. And I guess I sometimes fret that I don’t deliver that kind of pleasure. In truth, I only infrequently read that kind of book. So, yes, please, if I may order one to go, I’d like a reader who will hang with me during the slow parts.
And I heard in that an echo. And realized, once again, that the notion was not entirely my own. Authentic, yes; original, not exactly.
I remembered something I heard Mr. Angell say at a public reading on March 1, 1989, at Peter Norton Symphony Space in New York. The program was a special evening in Selected Shorts history, created by Roger Angell along with his friend, A Bartlett Giamatti, who was soon to assume his duties as Commissioner of Baseball. I remember the reading vividly, the great selections and talented readers. Years later I tracked down the CD compilation and recommend it, highly. Some of my favorite stories from that night include John Updike’s, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu,” W.P. Kinsella’s “The Thrill of the Grass,” T.C. Boyle’s hilarious “The Hector Quesadilla Story,” and Giamatti’s classic, “The Green Fields of the Mind.”
I recalled, most especially, some opening remarks made by Angell. So I got out the CD, listened and listened again while scribbling on a yellow legal pad, until I could transcribe the brief exchange I’d remembered. As far as I know, there isn’t a transcription available on the net, so here you have that one brief moment — an exchange that struck me, and has stuck with me, for more than 20 years. Angell makes a simple comparision, doesn’t extend it much, doesn’t labor over it, gets in and out, yet it made me laugh at the time, an