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National Book Award Chair Harold Augenbraum Shares His Vision For American Literature

 

Harold Augenbraum
Photo credit:
National Book Critics Circle

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Interview
With Harold Augenbraum, Executive Director,
National Book Foundation (NBF)
Audio Length: 9.5 min.


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An AUDIO Interview with Harold Augenbraum
Executive Director of the National Book Foundation
Provided by WordSmitten "About the Books"

November 2008

St. Petersburg, FL (WSN, Authorlink News, November 17, 2008)–Alfred Nobel might be spinning unrestrained from his grave over Harold Augenbraum's retort to Swedish judges who shun American literature. Providing the Swedish panel with a remedy for years of rejection, Harold Augenbraum, the new executive director of the National Book Foundation (NBF), offers to send Nobel Prize committee members a “letter of enlightenment and a long reading list of American authors’ books.”

On Sunday, November 16, Augenbraum discussed his vision for the NBF and America’s National Book Awards (US literature’s Holy Grail) on the WordSmitten "About the Books" Internet program. The discussion was broadcast Sunday, November 16 on WordSmitten, leading up to the 59th National Book Awards held November 19 in New York City.

With a pithy comment to Swedish committee members responsible for the venerable award known as The Nobel Prize in Literature, Harold Augenbraum announced he was mad and was not going to take it anymore. Here, the feisty leader of American literati discussed fresh ideas he brings to the National Book Foundation.

This week kicks off a celebration of literature, authors, avid readers, and book enthusiasts sponsored annually by the NBF. Finalists are listed below, and winners are listed in a follow up story.

Recently named as Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, Augenbraum had been a distinguished director of The Mercantile Library since 1990 and succeeded Neil Baldwin at the NBF.
During his fourteen years at the Mercantile Library, Augenbraum established the Center for World Literature, The Proust Society of America, the New York Mystery Festival, and the Fadiman Medal for Literature.

He has served on the Board of Directors of the New York Council for the Humanities. The recipient of many significant grants and awards, Augenbraum has directed such literary projects as "Bard of the People: John Steinbeck and His World" for the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Finalists for the 2008 National Book Awards include (for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry categories):

FICTION
Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project (Riverhead)
Rachel Kushner, Telex from Cuba (Scribner)
Peter Matthiessen, Shadow Country (Modern Library)
Marilynne Robinson, Home (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Salvatore Scibona, The End (Graywolf Press)

NONFICTION
Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (Alfred A. Knopf)
Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton & Company)
Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (Doubleday)
Jim Sheeler, Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives (The Penguin Press)
Joan Wickersham, The Suicide Index: Putting My Father’s Death in Order (Harcourt)

POETRY
Frank Bidart, Watching the Spring Festival (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Mark Doty, Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems (HarperCollins)
Reginald Gibbons, Creatures of a Day (Louisiana State University Press)
Richard Howard, Without Saying (Turtle Point Press)
Patricia Smith, Blood Dazzler (Coffee House Press)

The WordSmitten Weekly Broadcast ("About the Books") is a live podcast, airing each Sunday afternoon on Internet radio station BlogTalkRadio, based in New York City.