Monday, December 31st, 2012
On this last day of 2012, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the previous year, and to offer my thanks: to the bookstores that stocked me and the bookseIlers that championed me, and most of all to my readers–those of you who took the story of Achilles and Patroclus to heart, who mentioned it to friends, who wrote me lovely notes, who pressed copies of my book on your book groups, and supported me in a thousand other ways. I can never say enough how grateful I am.
As for reflections, a number of readers have asked how my life is different (or not) since winning the Orange Prize. Here’s a recent essay I wrote for Waterstones on just that topic.
December is the time of the infamous “best books” list, which I generally avoid making, because as soon as I draw one up, I am stricken with the thought of seven other novels I have left out. But here’s a piece I did for The Millions that includes some favorites from my reading year. And here, below, are some of the ones I was stricken about missing:
1) Doc, by Mary Doria Russell, a novel about Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp that completely enraptured me–so much so that I both listened to it on audiobook AND read it on the page. It’s wonderful both ways, and I recommend it wholeheartedly, even if you thought you had no interest in Doc Holliday. Also, a personal bonus for me: Doc Holliday loved Classical literature, and there are a number of references to the Odyssey, and Homer, as well as Vergil.
2) Joan Wickersham’s beautiful book of short stories, The News from Spain. I had the good fortune of hearing her speak about the book in person at the Boston Book Festival and she’s just as piercingly smart and elegant as her writing.
3) The Ramayana. In preparation for my event at the Mumbai Literary Festival (Our Ram, Their Achilles), I reread this ancient epic in a number of versions, including the abridged R. K. Narayan retelling and the excellent translation by Arshia Sattar. Reminded me of how much I love epic poetry in general, not just from ancient Greece. Next up: The Mahabharata.
4) I also loved reading Three Parts Dead which was a debut novel by an author-friend of mine, Max Gladstone. It’s a ferociously smart fantasy novel which draws trenchant inspiration from the financial crisis–while also featuring gods, gargoyles and wizard-lawyers. I appreciated Max’s gripping, clean prose and particularly admired his terrific and complex heroines, all-too-scarce in fantasy novels. Bonus: makes a great gift for lawyer friends.
5) After hearing Jess Walter speak, I immediately procured several of his books. The first one I tackled, The Financial Lives of the Poets was wonderful–and has one of the best Good Cop/Bad Cop scenes I’ve ever encountered in literature. I am looking forward to reading his new novel, Beautiful Ruins.
Finally, I had the opportunity to write a piece for the Center for Fiction on five of my favorite novels inspired by classics books. Sadly, the Aeneid counts as a poem, not a novel, otherwise it would have been first on the list.
I am wishing you all a wonderful 2013, and thank you again, for everything.
Sunday, June 17th, 2012
My apologies for taking so long to post the news here, but I hope better late than never. It is my huge honor to announce that on May 30th, I was awarded the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction. I was then, and still feel now, completely humbled, bowled over, and struck dumb with joy. Simply going to the reception for the shortlistees felt like such an honor–I was sharing the shortlist with Ann Patchett (more on how amazing she is coming up), as well as Georgina Harding, Anne Enright, Cynthia Ozick and Esi Edugyan. Each of their books is terrific.
It was a particularly poignant evening because the Orange Prize is going to be Orange no more; the telecommunications company Orange has decided to stop sponsoring the prize (no word yet on who the new sponsor will be). It was such a privilege to meet Kate Mosse, one of the original founders of the prize, and hear stories from its early days. It was a privilege too to hear her speak about the Orange Prize’s mission: bringing great fiction by women writers to everyone. In a world where often two or three men are getting reviewed for every woman, the Orange Prize serves a vital function.
This year’s Prize Chair was the novelist Joanna Trollope, whose grace, thoughtfulness and smarts were an inspiration. Here she is announcing the prize, followed by my acceptance speech. Which is a good time to mention the lovely Ann Patchett again, whose dress I was wearing. Ann, as you may know, already won the Orange Prize once, for her terrific Bel Canto. This time around (she was nominated for State of Wonder), she unfortunately couldn’t make it to the reception because of previous book obligations. So she had contacted me and said that she had a great orange dress, and did I want to wear it? My answer was an emphatic yes, especially after discovering that luckily/strangely, we are exactly the same size. As I said above: an amazing, and incredibly generous, woman.
I only had a few moments at the podium to thank the enormous number of people who were so helpful to me in writing this book; I didn’t even make it through half of everyone who deserved mention. So let me take a moment now to name three groups that I especially wanted to thank: my teachers, from grade school through graduate school, who supported and nurtured my love of Classics, literature and writing. My amazing students, whom I feel so lucky to know every single day. And my readers (and if you’re reading this, I think you count). In the wake of the prize, I received such a moving flood of notes from people offering congratulations and kind words about my work. After so many years spent writing in solitude, it is deeply meaningful to me to hear that people have connected to these characters. Thank you. And I will try to reply to everyone, it just might take a bit of time for me to do it.
I promise to post some pictures soon from my UK trip, and to return to Myths of the Week once I catch my breath a bit. In the meantime, I am hard at work on a short story set in Homer’s world, due to be published next month. More on that to come!
Thursday, April 19th, 2012
I was absolutely thrilled and bowled over that The Song of Achilles was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. It is a huge honor for me to be in the company of such amazing authors: Ann Patchett (State of Wonder), Cynthia Ozick (Foreign Bodies), Esi Edugyan (Half-Blood Blues), Georgina Harding (Painter of Silence) and Anne Enright (The Forgotten Waltz).
By total and wonderful coincidence, I was actually with Ann Patchett on the day the shortlist was announced, doing a reading at her bookstore, Parnassus Books. Ann was so gracious and lovely, and I also got to meet her Parnassus partner, Karen Hayes, and the Parnassus staff, all of whom were just terrific. A giddy, unforgettable evening!
If you love having signed books, you might want to check out Parnassus’ First Editions club–you don’t have to live in Nashville to join!
Reviews“A startlingly original work of art by an incredibly talented new novelist... a book I could not put down.” Ann Patchett, author of the Orange Prize-winning Bel Canto
- Exciting shortlist news! Mass Book and UK Independent Bookseller Awards
- Update: India
- Signed copies of The Song of Achilles–Year Round!
- Reflections on 2012, traveling and the Orange Prize
- In Praise of Literary Adaptations
- My Year in Reading
- Reflections on 2012, Book Recommendations and New Essays
- Signed Copies of The Song of Achilles
- General news
- Shortlisted for Stonewall