Mar 6, 2007, 9:32 AM
Post #78 of 467
I can't speak for all the Iowa Book Prize winners, but Kevin Moffett's book (one of the two winners last year -- the other was a non-Iowa person) is really fantastic. I have no trouble believing his was the best thing they got. Ditto Thisbe Nissen's book a few years back, which is a really tremendous first collection. Actually, that book was good enough it was subsequently scooped up by a large press as part of a multi-book deal.
Re: [Junior Maas] The jig is somewhat up?
I admit the whole thing looks suspicous. And despite having gone to Iowa, I don't feel any great compunction to defend the contest. But I can say, basically, how it works, which is that a couple first-year students read all the entries as part of their funding package, and then pass along a certain number to the guest judge (it's a lot more than 5). My girlfriend was one of those first readers, and the sense I got was that they passed along just about everything that wasn't obviously flawed.
Again, I know the thing looks shady, and maybe it is. Though I think you also have to account for how the contest is publicized, which means the number of entries from Iowa grads and local people is disproportionately high. Really, the only reason I care about this at all is that it makes me sad to think people will possibly discount Kevin's work, or some other winner's, because they'll assume it won on grounds other than merit. When in fact he's a really amazing writer. At the same time his book was in the contest pipeline, incidentally, he was getting stories published in Tin House and McSweeneys, and he also won the Chicago Tribune Nelson Algren Prize, which definitely has no "connection" to Iowa.
(This post was edited by mingram on Mar 6, 2007, 10:34 AM)