Dear Harold Augenbraum,
Heard you were rounding up new judges for the 2009 National Book Award and sending out guidelines. First, thank you for my '08 appointment: a signal honor, books galore and a host of new authors to worship. Sorry I didn't get to meet you at the gala. I was at Table 35, an excellent one (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt editors and brass). You may have seen me (black dress, pearls, eyeglasses) across the room when the judges were asked to stand. Loved the corsage and especially enjoyed the baked tagliolini. Grazie!
Lunch earlier, I confess, left me dyspeptic—the two straight hours I spent arguing with my fellow judges over who our winner should be. Hope that's not too egregious a violation of the warning in my judges' packet: “ALL ASPECTS OF THE JUDGING PROCESS TO BE PRIVILEGED INFORMATION.”
Let me say, I was delighted with every fresh work, so wouldn't want you to think that this, my Fairness Doctrine for Enhanced Judging, impugns the '08-ers. I met two of our fiction finalists at the banquet, and they were adorable.
You might remember the first time we spoke when I accepted your kind offer to be a fiction judge. Unsolicited, I put forth my theory on how to de-bias the awards, a little initiative I'd had bottled up for years: that judges should read not from finished books or galleys but from unsigned manuscript pages, period.
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