We’ve made it to the middle of November, and it is with a grateful sense of continuity that I direct your attention to the recently announced IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Longlist. Regular readers know that this is one of my favorite literary competitions for a number of reasons: The books are nominated by librarians worldwide on the basis of “high literary merit,” not how well they did on the best-seller lists or who’s the flavor of the moment. The judges tend to be writers and translators, as opposed to reviewers, and of international provenance; this year the non-voting chair is a former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals, so you know they’re not going to screw around. The books are an eclectic and international bunch, and there are always some great surprises—if you want to jazz up your reading list, it’s a good place to start.
This year 154 books have been nominated for the 2013 Award, which will be announced in June. Eight are originated in Ireland, the most Irish writers ever chosen for this Dublin-centered award. The remainder of the pack hails from another 43 countries, including 12 Canadian authors, 22 of British origin, and 43 from the U.S. Forty-two of the nominees are translations, representing some 19 languages, and 47 are first novels. All of this is nothing but good.
But… wait. The list. It’s not a list this year, but a gallery of thumbnails, and I’m sorry—I don’t like it.
A few people have asked me what, exactly, I’m objecting to here. And I’m having a hard time pinning it down. I realize that sites need click-throughs and graphics produce far better than text hyperlinks. I realize there’s good solid cybermetrics behind that. I’ve long ago stopped complaining about the Huffington Post looking like a ten-year-old girl went crazy on it with her sticker collection. But there was something about the IMPAC longlist being an actual list that I really liked, and I miss it. OK, I realize it wasn’t particularly pretty, or slick, or anything that any respectable organization hires a web designer to accomplish. Perhaps this is my latent old-fart analog tendency pushing its forlorn way out of the closet: the old list was like a series of books on a library or bookstore shelf, and you had to pull one out—that is, click through—to see the cover, the details, the book’s description, and the librarians’ comments, which I think are my favorite part. It was, unequivocally, a long list. And now it’s a long, slow-scrolling, piece of decoupage. There—I imagine they’ll be knocking on my door any minute to come and confiscate my backstage pass to the Internet. I don’t care; it needed saying.
At any rate, don’t let my complaining keep you away. The IMPAC Dublin longlist—or whatever you want to call it—is a neat batch of books this year, no matter what the format, and well worth checking out.