More than 100 books in 13 categories have been nominated for the 1980 American Book Awards, the latest and most controversial entry in the literary-prize sweepstakes and sequel to the now-defunct National Book Awards.
Winners will be announced May 1 at presentation ceremonies in the Seventh Regiment Armory, New York City. Today's announcement of nominees did not specify the award, but earlier reports indicated that each winner would be given $1,000 and perhaps "an Oscar-style statuette." The Armory Ceremony, some publishing-industry supporters believe, will eventually evolve into a television extravaganza similar to the Academy Award, Emmy and Grammy shows.
Besides the familiar categories used in other major literary awards, the American Book Awards -- sponsored by the Association of American Book Awards -- include such low-prestige but briskly selling categories as science fiction, mysteries, westerns and "general interest." The ABA allows such titles as "Woman Chief" by Benjamin Capps and "The Spy Who Sat and Waited" by R. Wright Campbell to shre attention with "Decline of Bismarck's European Order" by George F. Kennan, "Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Connoisseur" by Ernest Samuels, "Your Second Life: Vitality and Growth in Middle and Later Years" by Gay Gaer Luce, and "The Pritikin Program for Diet & Exercise" by Nathan Pritikin with Patrick M. McGrady, Jr.
Unlike the National Book Awards, the American Book Awards include paperback titles in separate categories -- thus giving a second chance to some books that missed prizes in hardcover, as well as to some that won their share of hardcover awards. But most attention will probably be given to the hardcover titles in some of the traditional categories.
Hardcover nominees in general fiction are: "Just Above My Head," by James Baldwin; "The Executioners Song.' by Norman Mailer; "The Ghost Writer," by Philip Roth; "Endless Love," by Scott Spencer, and "Sophie's Choice," by William Styron. Other categories and nominees include:
General nonfiction: "America Revised," by Frances FitzGerald: "The Powers That Be," by David Halberstam; "A Nervous Splendor; Vienna 1888-1889," by Frederic Mortion; "The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA," by Thomas Powers; "The Right Stuff," by Tom Wolfe.
Biography: "Marquand: An American Life,' by Millicent Bell; "Bloomsbury: A House of Lions," by Leon Edel; "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt," by Edmund Morris; "Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Connoisseur," by Ernest Samuels.
Authobiography: "By Myself," by Lauren Bacall; "I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can," by Barbara Gordon: "Front and Center," by John Houseman; "Obituaries," by William Saroyan.
First novel: "Vision Quest," by Terry Davis; "When the Tree Sings," by Stratis Haviaras; "Stealing Home,' by Philip F. O'connor; "Mom Kills Kids and Self," by Alan Saperstein; "Birdy," by William Wharton.
Like the Academy Awards, to which they have been compared, the American Book Awards will be sponsored by the industry that will be their primary beneficiary. Inability to obtain sufficient funds to continue without heavy subsidies from publishers and booksellers was one reason for the suspension of the National Book Awards.
The close link between the new awards and the publishing industry was emphasized last summer when a committee of more than 40 winners of the National Book Awards announced that they would not allow their titles to be nominated for the American Book Awards.
Portesting that writers and critics who had controlled the National Book Awards, were to become a minority on the American Book Awards committees, the authors said that the new system would turn the awards "into a rubber-stamp prize for best sellers."
Authros of the open leter of protest included many prestigious names that are not among the nominees for the new American Book Awards -- writers such as Donald Barthelme, Saul Bellow, Elizabeth Hardwick, Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, Howard Nemorov, Joyce Carol Oates, Walker Percy, Philip Roth and Susan Sontag. But some signers of the letter were among the nominees -- Malcolm Cowley, for example, for a paperback reissue of his autobiography, and William Styron, for "Sophie's Choice.' which held a long term lease on the best seller lists.
Last summer, Styron had said he would ask his publishers not to submit "Sophie's Choice" for the award. "I don't think it's a very complicated issue" he said at that time. "Everybody felt the new award was heavily weighted for media hype and unfair to books without publicity."
Nominations were not announced in several categories of secondary interest: translation, general reference, poetry, illustrated art books, book design, jacket design and cover design. Announcements in these categories are expected in early April.