Ben Fountain’s celebrated novel about a group of Iraq War vets — “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” — has already made the rounds among the big literary contests (a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award). But it continues to show up in smaller contests. Just a few days ago, it was named a finalist for the Southern Indie Bookstore Association‘s fiction prize. Today comes news that it’s a finalist for the Chautauqua Prize.
Started just two years ago, this award recognizes a work of fiction or literary nonfiction “that provides a richly rewarding reading experience.” It also favors authors who have made “a significant contribution to the literary arts.” — i.e. No spectacular debuts need apply.
The other five finalists are:
- “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher,” by Timothy Egan (HMH)
- “The Presidents Club,” by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy (Simon & Schuster)
- “Devil in the Grove,” by Gilbert King (HarperCollins)
- “The Song of Achilles,” by Madeline Miller (HarperCollins)
- “The Names of Things,” by John Colman Wood (Ashland Creek Press)
The winner, announced next month, will receive $7,500. But the more valuable part of the prize may be the all-expenses-paid week at the Chautauqua resort in New York. Every summer, the 138-year-old community on Chautauqua Lake offers a fantastic mix of performing arts, lectures and classes. (Full disclosure: My family has been going for many years, and I served as a very tangential consultant when the Chautauqua Prize was being designed.)
This year the contest drew 125 submissions — twice as many as last year. A panel made up of 50 writers, publishers, critics, editors, librarians, booksellers and teachers who regularly attend the summer program winnowed that list down to a more manageable size. The finalists and the ultimate winner are chosen by a three-member anonymous jury.