Congratulations to James McBride and The Good Lord Bird, winner of the 2014 Rooster. There were some really nice, compact thoughts from all the judges and I urge you to read the whole thing. Here are some parts that resonated with me:
Judge Hu: [Life After Life is] one of the best self-obsessively formal novels of all time. How did Atkinson manage to craft a story so simultaneously cognitive and visceral?
Judge McElwee: This story [The Good Lord Bird] about a boy in a dress hardly touches gender.
Judge Fershleiser: But in Life After Life, I got my book about female inner worlds. These characters face rape, abortion, abusive marriages, motherhood—all the inescapable strictures of a woman’s existence even as she has a freedom beyond imagining. Amid the extraordinary premise, it’s the fundamentally ordinary that is so beautiful: love for a brother, sharing secrets with a friend, seizing or shirking opportunities.
And commentator Kevin Guilfoile asks: I wonder if a less American jury might have leaned more toward Atkinson. I think The Good Lord Bird presupposes at least a passing familiarity with John Brown and Frederick Douglass, and maybe even an internalization of slavery as America’s original sin.
So that’s the end of another March of frenetic reading and posting. I am both relieved and saddened. As always, it’s been a great opportunity to read some amazing and interesting books and think some thoughts about them. I thank ToB in particular for The People in the Trees and At Night We Walk in Circles. Without you, I wouldn’t have read these wonderful books. Till next year.