Publisher’s Marketplace reports that the Litblog Co-op (which includes our friends Sarah Weinman and Mark Sarvas) is generating controversy with their first "Read This" pick, Kate Atkinson’s novel CASE HISTORIES.
In initial"comments" posted by blog readers, at least a few express disappointment with what one co-op member acknowledges was the "biggest" of the five nominated books. Atkinson’s book, published here last fast fall, registered widely within
the mainstream reviewing circles to which the lit-bloggers want to offer an alternative. Our own Book Review Index has logged 18 full-length reviews from top newspapers–almost all quite enthusiastic.
As one poster remarks: "You say yourselves that the LBC’s purpose is to draw attention to ‘the best of contemporary fiction, authors and presses that are struggling to be noticed in a flooded marketplace.’
So how does this novel qualify? It seems like a middlebrow cop out." Another reader concurs with the sentiment: "Nothing against Kate Atkinson, but a Whitbread Award Book of the Year winner whose latest novel is being published by Little, Brown hardly seems to be a choice in keeping with the spirit of the LBC’s self-imposed mission."
My brother Tod Goldberg says it’s definitely the "in" book right now.
I’ve heard lots of good things about this book and may have already told more
important literary types at cocktail parties and readings that I’ve already read
it and simply adored it and was seriously considering sending the author a fan
letter, but the fact is I haven’t, though I intend to.
People on Tod’s blog are hotly debating the choice as well. The gist of the argument is, since the book is already generating a lot of attention, did it really need help from the Litblog Coop? Should the LitBlog Coop have gone further afield and picked a book that’s struggled for attention? Author Lynn Viehl, for one, thinks so:
Now, I’m a little slow, and kinda confused, so maybe one of you nice
people will explain this to me. We’re supposed to be getting the skinny
on struggling writers, books and presses from the LBC, correct? Um, how is Kate Atkinson struggling, exactly? Did she like blow all her Whitbread prize money?
Based on the backblog debates on the various blogs, it seems the LitBlog may have stumbled out of the gate with this choice, but the judges are defending their pick. Mark Sarvas says:
Remember, we never said "unknown" fiction … Worthy is the goal, and besides if
we’d have picked some obscure, experimental novel, we’d be pilloried for being
pedantic and elitist. We only means you can’t please everyone and we’re not
even trying. We’re confident that those who check out Case Histories
will be glad they did, and the ones who knew it already have future choices to
look to (including the other four summer nominations).
What do you think? Did The LitBlog undermine their own highly-publicized intentions with their first "Read This!" honoree?