A National Book Awards Skeptic

IT’S ALWAYS HEARTENING to see contrarian viewpoints within the often-monolithic established literary world. One of the consistent contrarians is critic and book reviewer Thomas Leclair. Recently he wrote this provocative examination of the National Book Award fiction finalists. (Winners were announced last Wednesday, November 16.) We agree with Leclair’s calling for more nominees from the small press– though we may be thinking of a different small press than he is. Our favored small press is in the process of creation– presenting neither “Big Five” commercialized crap, nor excessively “literary” scribblings penned by an insular literary elite disconnected from the vital currents of the American people and land. We look for a new hybrid– literary art which will be both popular, relevant, and original. A new American literature.

We also note that Leclair avoided the question of political correctness– of whether or not politics and/or ideology played a role in the NBA selection process. The task of the writer– of any artist– is to avoid the trap of an approved status quo viewpoint.

We trust that Thomas Leclair will continue to question the literary status quo, whatever his viewpoint.

(Also see our own recent look at the National Book Award poetry finalists. The announced winner shows the topsy-turvy alternate-universe world of American literature now.)

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