The judges of the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction — previously known as the Orange Prize — have whittled their long list down to six books. The shortlist for the $50,000 award includes:
●Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch,” one of the hottest books of 2013. It’s a coming-of-age story about a boy who loses his mother in a terrorist bombing in New York. The novel has been on The Post’s bestsellers list for 23 weeks.
●Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Lowland,” about two Indian brothers whose lives diverge in the tumultuous 1960s. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year.
Tartt is the 2 to 1 favorite to win, according to British bookmakers William Hill. (How wonderful that our British cousins bet on literature!) They have Adichie at 3 to 1.
Eleanor Catton’s “The Luminaries,” which won the Booker Prize last year, was long-listed for the Bailey’s award but did not make the shortlist.
Kirsten Reach, in a blog item for book publisher Melville House, points out that none of these shortlisted authors are British. Americans have taken home the U.K.-based award for five straight years.
The Bailey’s Women’s Prize will be awarded on June 4 at a ceremony in London.
More than two decades ago, David Guterson was a high school English teacher working on a book that would make him famous: “Snow Falling on Cedars.”
“The novels I’ve published in the wake of ‘Snow Falling on Cedars’ have been inundated by its enduring presence,” he writes in the spring issue of the American Scholar. He’s not complaining or bragging — he’s just reflecting on the curious case of an idealistic young man determined to save the world by writing fiction.
“Looking Back, Warily, But With Affection” is a smart, modest essay about literary ambition and the peculiar costs of fame. Guterson recalls some of the potentially disastrous editorial choices he avoided while working on “Snow Falling on Cedars.” At one point, he thought “the novel would be best if it didn’t include a trial.” He wanted the title to be “Discord.” His editor told him his “prose style was wooden.”
Laced with self-deprecation, Guterson’s essay describes the singularly self-conscious experience of re-reading his award-winning novel 20 years after it was published. That distance allows him to see the book as he couldn’t have back in 1994.
Four million copies later, he can be hard on his best-selling story: “I found conviction and sincerity — which, taken together as a sensibility, missed too much. Where was life as it is? I couldn’t find it very often.” And he notes that in his treatment of race and racism, he was guilty “of pursuing good intentions while wearing weak glasses.”
But he also appreciates the novel’s humanity and tempered hope.
The movie version of Stephen Amidon’s “Human Capital,” a novel about American aspiration gone wrong, is a hit — in Italy. “It briefly topped the Italian box office,” Amidon says. “I’d like to take all the credit, but to be honest that goes to the screenwriters and the director, Paolo Virzi, who made a terrific film. It is very Italian and yet somehow remains true to the core story. I guess money knows no borders.”
Amidon is in Torino, Italy, working as “Storyteller-in-Residence” at the Holden School, an arts college founded by writer and director Alessandro Baricco. “It’s a good gig,” Amidon says. “I like the students, and I’ve hosted events with Jhumpa Lahiri and Philipp Meyer.”
The American premiere of “Human Capital” will be at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York on April 18. Jonathan Yardley chose the novel as one of his five favorites for 2004.