Washington Post book critic Ron Charles finds the winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, The Buddha in the Attic, by Julie Otsuka, “a disappointing choice from a list of finalists that gave strong preference to short fiction… [with the one exception of] Russell Banks’s grim Lost Memory of Skin.” He blames the oversight on the makeup of the jury, “As writers and teachers of writing, the judges have a professional interest in the craft of storytelling, which attracts them, I suspect, to perfectly cut miniatures as opposed to the rock and flow of a great novel.”

He wishes the jury had been more sympathetic to “long, fully developed stories we can sink into for days,” and lists the following as the year’s prime examples (none of which were on the PEN/Faulkner short list):

Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, (Harper)

Mary Doria Russell’s Doc (Random House) 

Bonnie Jo Campbell’s Once Upon a River,  (Norton)

David Vann’s “devastating” Caribou Island, (Harper)

Alex Shakar’s “demanding” Luminarium, (Soho Press)

The Buddha in the Attic
Julie Otsuka
Retail Price: $22.00
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: RH/Knopf – (2011-08-23)
ISBN: 9780307700001

RH Audio/BOT; Thorndike; Overdrive, audiobook and ebook

Previous honors:

National Book Awards Finalist
Library Journal Top Ten of 2011
New York Times Book Review Notables, 2011
Women’s National Book Assn. Great Group Reads

3 Responses to “BUDDHA IN THE ATTIC Wins PEN/Faulkner”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    Really? Oh Charles, you know I would probably feel more for your argument if you actually gave better reasoning to why you didn’t like the winner other than it is short.

  2. Brock Martin Says:

    Definitely lost some respect for Ron Charles for those comments.

  3. Cynthia Says:

    I was very disappointed in Ron Charles’ comments about Buddha in the Attic. Admittedly, the book’s style is a bit different but I think it adds to the book’s power.