The fun is in happening upon the lesser-known, like the “The Balloonist,” MacDonald Harris’s 1977 novel “about a Swedish inventor and his two companions who embark on a hydrogen-balloon voyage to the North Pole at the end of the 19th century.” Or another Harris, Mark, who was nominated twice in a three-year span, for “Something About a Soldier” (1958) and “Wake Up, Stupid” (1960).
New fiction categories were introduced and discarded over the years, including Best First Novel, which was awarded from 1980 to 1983, and those fleeting honors are also included. (The site was launched Wednesday, and still has some kinks to work out. I didn’t see the 1980 winner of Best First Novel — “Birdy,” by William Wharton — when scrolling through the covers, but tracked down its page by putting Wharton’s name in a search box.)
Featuring the original cover art for each book, the exhibit is also a treasure trove for fans of dated graphic design, who can feast on the “Vertigo”-like cover of “The Martyred,” by Richard E. Kim, a novel that was made into a play, an opera and a film; Edward Lewis Wallant’s “The Pawnbroker,” which lost out to Walker Percy’s “The Moviegoer” in 1962; and Richard Yates’s “Revolutionary Road,” which looks like it could be an earnest guide to couples counseling.
Full piece at The New York Times