By now you know the winners:

Fiction, William Vollman, Europe Central

Non-fiction, Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

Poetry, W. S. Merwin, Migration: New and Selected Poems

Young People’s Literature, Jeanne Birdsall, The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy

I’m certainly not surprised that Didion won. The book is a tour de force, to trot out a hack phrase. It’s simply stunning.

OTOH, I just bought Doctorow’s book at Borders lastnight. I was sure he’d win, as were most people, simply on the force of his literary giantness. Though, as previously reported, that first sentence of The March is a kicker. In flipping through the book, however, I noted that the rest of the prose doesn’t suggest Ulysses redux. So I took the plunge. I had 20 bucks in my Christmas account anyway, so I got the book basically for free. Gotta love that.

I can’t begin it, however, until I finish The Egyptologist (by Arthur Phillips; see post on Reading Material). What a fun book! The egyptologist himself, a Mr. Ralph Trilipush of Oxford, Harvard, and who knows where, is the most deluded guy on the planet. He is so convinced of his own correctness that every setback, every proof negative, he recasts to make it favorable to his theory. He is a hoot! And the mystery is, really, who is this Ralph Trilipush anyway? Is he who he claims to be? What the heck is going on in 1922 Egypt? I’d be reading it now, except I’ve promised myself I will do some work today.