I have to admit I was floored today to read that the next judging panel for the National Book Award in Fiction will include none other than Samuel R. Delany and Andrei Codrescu. As well as Carolyn See and Joanna Scott.
Can’t say I ever saw the NBA securing Delany and Codrescu for a panel. But I’m thrilled.
Delany, who teaches right here in Philly at Temple, is a hero of mine. He made news most recently when his novel Dhalgren was made into a stage play. If you’re a writer, I highly recommend his book, “About Writing,” which includes encouragement like, “Most of you who read these notes – the vast majority – will discover, sometime fairly soon (that is, in the next three, four, or six years), that you are not really writers. The very few who do not discover this then, will – sometime around the age of fifty-five, sixty, seventy, or seventy-five – discover that, with the general deterioration of the mind that accompanies the second half of your lifetime, you are no longer a writer. (So no one escapes.)”
Codrescu, whose Exquisite Corpse is and always has been inspiring, is someone else, like Delany, who simply cannot be summed up with a link or a couple quotes. Still, I’m fond of this very-out-of-context snippet, which was part of his intro to “Up Late: American Poetry Since 1970” (2nd Edition)” decrying “the organized forgetting of capitalism”: “The purging of the commodity church is an agonizing process and it is not ironic, though it is often hilarious. Demystifying in order to believe is steady work. Sometimes black, most often purgative, humor is one of the ritual constants of this generation, whose poetic physiognomy is shaped by an erotic and sometimes unstoppably gruesome laughter.”
The National Book Awards aren’t always noteworthy. But I’ll be paying attention to this next one.