The winners for the National Book Award will be announced tonight and, once again, I've spent the past five weeks reading the five finalists for fiction and handicapping the field. It was touch and go whether I'd complete the reading, as one of the finalists, "Lord of Misrule," didn't reach the printers until Oct. 29 and didn't land in my mailbox until Monday. Fortunately, at 294 pages it was the shortest of the five finalists and, as J.G. can attest, I've spent every free moment these past couple of days zipping through the novel. Mission accomplished.
I've correctly predicted four of the past five winners, but I'm not feeling so confident this year. There wasn't a standout, in my mind, and only one or two that I thought to be outclassed. That said, here's my ranking with odds:
"Great House" by Nicole Krauss -- 3-1
"Parrot and Olivier" by Peter Carey -- 5-1
"Lord of Misrule" by Jaimy Gordon -- 8-1
"So Much for That" by Lionel Shriver -- 12-1
"I Hotel" by Karen Tei Yamashita -- 20-1