Tom LeClair Critiques National Book Awards

By Dianna Dilworth 

Former National Book Awards judge and literary critic Tom LeClair is not pleased with the nominations for this year’s fiction prize.

While he admits that judges change and tastes evolve for what makes an award winning book, LeClair argues that nepotism and the pay-to-play system prevents great books from being considered. (In his opinion Booker Prize winner The Sellout by Paul Beatty is missing from the list). In a piece in The Daily Beast, LeClair outlines what he thinks causes to the problem. Here is an excerpt:

…mediocrity is also a product of the NBA’s nominating process. Publishers pay a fee for each book they nominate and agree to cover expenses for travel and promotion if one of their authors is chosen as a finalist. To please their writers, deep-pocket publishers nominate many books that, I discovered, were obviously neither literary nor prizeworthy. In this pay to play system, small presses with a distinctly literary mission are priced out and judges are overwhelmed with 300 books.

What do you think? Share your response in the comments.