Saturday, May 07, 2016

The Sympathizer Won a Pulitzer and an Edgar, and May Herald the Great Literary Convergence


jan03c  -  Caption: Cover art for Viet Thanh Nguyen's novel The SympathizerCredit: Grove Press##########x##########GROVE PRESS
Last week, the Mystery Writers of America handed out the 2016 Edgar Awards, the most prestigious of the crime-writing awards. Among the winners was The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, named Best First Novel — a win that, while well-deserved, was the opposite of notable, given that his novel has already garnered a host of accolades, including the Pulitzer Prize the week before. And yet, for this exact same reason, his Edgar win is remarkable, even momentous — and likely unprecedented. The Sympathizer — a literary thriller about a Vietnamese double agent who moves to Los Angeles after the Vietnam war — is the first novel (or at least the first I can unearth) that’s won both a major literary award and a major genre award in the same year.

The cross-pollination of “literary” fiction and “genre” fiction has been a hot subject of contention for years in bookish circles, “a lover’s quarrel among literati,” as critics, both online and off, bandy questions like What exactly constitutes a genre book? and Can genre books be truly literary? and Are genre and literary books even comparable ?  MORE

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