Surfer memoir wins best American book prize

Source:AFP Published: 2017/6/27 17:03:39


William Finnegan Photo: IC

A surfing memoir already hailed as a classic won the inaugural Prix America Monday for the best book published in or about the US.

New Yorker magazine journalist William Finnegan has already won a Pulitzer prize for Barbarian Days, which has garnered the kind of reviews most writers can only dream of.

He told AFP that the book had begun as a hesitant "coming out" on his secret life as a not-so-dumb surfer, forever searching for the perfect wave.

The New York Review of Books called it "an utterly convincing study in the joy of treating seriously an unserious subject."

The judges of the France-based Prix America agreed, declaring that if it had been about "sex or drugs it would be seen as one of the strongest books we have about the effects of desire, the vortex of obsession the difficulty of weaning ourselves off" our addictions.

Finnegan, 65, told AFP that he was "astounded to win with a book [about surfing] with all the big novels around.

"I am thrilled. I think the judges got the whole ambition of the book and felt it came together."

Having taken 20 years to write, "to have someone tell you your book is literature and that it reads like fiction is just great," he said.

The judges also praised Finnegan - who covered civil wars in Latin America, Sudan and the Balkans - for his acute understanding of the effect of US foreign policy.

"One of the threads running through the book is an incredible description of the humiliations the US has visited upon those who do not go along with its vision of the world," they added.

His New Yorker colleague George Packer's highly acclaimed The Unwinding, a portrayal of the "coming apart of America's national fabric," also made the shortlist.

Posted in: BOOKS

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