Wolf Hall collected a second major literary prize for its "Mantel" (sorry...) when it won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Hillary Mantel's period piece about Thomas Cromwell's rise to power in the court of King Henry VIII also won The Man Booker Prize last year.
Wolf Hall's second award got me thinking: Is such award overlap frequent among the major literary prizes? By major literary prizes, I mean the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, the Man Booker and the NBCC. And I only mean the fiction version.
So let's take a look: Wolf Hall's dual Booker and NBCC prize isn't even the first time it's happened in the last five years. Karin Desai's The Inheritance of Loss won the Booker and NBCC in 2006. That book won my own literary prize, too: Longest, most fractured, and totally boring book I've ever read.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao won the NBCC in 2007 and the Pulitzer in 2008. Edward Jones's The Known World (which bored me silly) won the NBCC in 2003 and Pulitzer in 2004. Rabbit at Rest by John Updike won the Pulitzer in 1991 and the NBCC in 1990. And Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres won both in 1992.
Only twice in the last 30 years have the NBA and Pulitzer overlapped: Alice Walker's The Color Purple won the NBA and the Pulitzer in 1983 and Annie Proulx's The Shipping News won the NBA in 1993 and Pulitzer in 1994.
So there you have it — award overlap isn't nearly as rare as I might have thought. Apparently when the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award go to the same novel, then we'll really have a piece of news.
By the way, have you read Wolf Hall? I haven't, but with another award under its tunic, I'm moving it several slots up my priority list. I've heard it's not difficult, just long. Your thoughts?
(Side note: I thought it a little odd that this English novel had won an American critics' award, but when I looked at the list of NBCC winners, I realized that a foreign writer winning an award voted on by more than 600 U.S. book reviewers is not that unusual either. Last year, in fact, Argentinian writer Roberto Bolano won the NBCC Award posthumously for his massive (and all-but-unreadable, I've heard) tome 2666. British novelist Ian McEwan won the NBCC in 2002 for Atonement.)