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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Final Pulitzer Prediction List

Here's the final fiction prediction list from Pulitzer Prize First Edition:

1. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
2. A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
3. The Round House by Louise Erdrich
4. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
5. This is How you Lose Her by Junot Diaz
6. Magnificence by Lydia Millet
7. The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
8. Canada by Richard Ford
9. Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
10. Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club by Benjamin Saenz
11. Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie
12. Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins
13. One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper
14. Dog Stars by Peter Heller
15. Watergate by Thomas Mallon

Looks like Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is still holding strong.  I must say, I'm super excited to see Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins make the list.  I think it's my most favorite book-that I didn't totally love.  It's a complex relationship, but I can't wait to see what else she'll do.  Here's my review.

Reviewing this book is tough. Another review somewhere said, "Watkins shows promise." I think that's a great way to describe this debut collection. I liked some of these stories, loved one or two, and was frustrated by several.

Sometimes I really trusted Watkins, was drawn in by her obvious need to find hope in the hopeless. But then her genuineness would slip away and reveal an author working too hard at being provocative, when in truth she is at her most provocative (and genuine) when the subjects aren't so "edgy". Sure, sex and violence and drugs and prostitution and infidelity are edgy, but a story doesn't become provocative simply by their inclusion. Not surprisingly, Watkins is at her best when she isn't working so hard; try Graceland and The Diggings. For most of this book I just wanted her to get out of her own way, because she does have such...you know, promise.

But, what she does do well, she does really well. And what she does well, is write about the desert. For as much as a story would be pissing me off, it would be dragging me in with the smell of creosote, the shimmer of heat waves, and that great, big, western sky stretching on for miles. The desert does something to you, burrows in and never leaves. And to be able to capture that and the raw ache and emptiness of missing the desert when not there; that, I find remarkable. Watkins is a child of the desert and writes it well.

I don't think I've ever agonized so much over a review for a book I thought was just 'pretty good.' I read these stories compulsively, and if the first part of this review doesn't indicate that, it's because I think they could be so much better. I think she could be really great. Very much looking forward to more.

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