The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes are a set of awards for excellence in literature held annually since 1980. They are given to books published in the United States within the previous calendar year by a living author(s). Winners receive a citation and $500 for each category. The finalists for each category were announced recently, and the Graphic Novel category, the newest to be added to the prestigious prizes, has an impressive line-up. The Comics Observer looks at each Graphic Novel finalist in the build-up to the award ceremony April 20.
Dave McKean‘s wordless erotic graphic novel Celluloid is an unexpected choice as one of the finalists for this year’s LA Times Book Prize. It uses mixed media and a variety of art styles to depict a sensual and increasingly dream-like and abstract series of sexual encounters by a woman who discovers a mysterious film projector that transports her into another world.
Despite the fantastical angle and artistic prowess of McKean, it is a book with no words and lots of nudity and sex. Perhaps not the ideal poster child for literacy in comics. Despite that simplistic and prudish summary, its artistry elevates it to another level, and that artistry has not gone unnoticed. Paste Magazine named it the fifth best comic of 2011, describing it as a “coital masterwork that elicits beauty and excitement in equal measure” and a “treasure of technical finesse and sensual mystique that transcends its potential controversy”.
It helps that Dave McKean is an award-winning artist known for pushing visual boundaries by depicting the dark and bizarre with more than just a pencil and paper. He has been known to include photography, paintings, sculptures and more to capture his unique visions. He is perhaps most well known for his eerie covers of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman and directing the feature film MirrorMask. He also wrote and illustrated the massive award-winning graphic novel Cages.
Will all of that acclaim and the stunning execution of the book itself be enough for the LA Times Book Prize judges to select erotica for the graphic novel of 2011?
The LA Times Festival of Books is ramping up for this year’s event, one of the country’s largest free outdoor book fairs. Last week, a press release announced the finalists for the 32nd Annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, which are given out on the eve of the Festival. Last Friday, the Festival’s website and social media once again came to life to announce that the 17th Annual Festival of Books will be held April 21 and 22 on the campus of the University of Southern California. The Book Prizes award ceremony will be held in USC’s Bovard Auditorium on Friday night, April 20.
The LA Times Book Prizes have been awarded every year since 1980, but it wasn’t until 2009 that a graphic novel category was added. This third year of the graphic novel category has the following five finalists:
- I Will Bite You! And Other Stories by Joseph Lambert (Secret Acres Books)
- Celluloid by Dave McKean (Fantagraphics Books)
- Finder: Voice by Carla Speed McNeil (Dark Horse Comics)
- Congress of the Animals by Jim Woodring (Fantagraphics Books)
- Garden by Yuichi Yokoyama (PictureBox)
Finalists and winners of the LA Times Book Prizes are selected by a panel of three judges per genre. The panels are made up of writers who specialize in each genre. Tickets for the Book Prizes ceremony will be available for purchase at 10 a.m. Monday, March 26. Once again Geoff Boucher of the LA Times’ Hero Complex blog will be presenting the Book Prize for the Graphic Novel category. Look for more on each of the finalists here at The Comics Observer in the weeks and months leading up to the ceremony.
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books began in 1996 and typically attracts about 140,000 people every year. Just as comics and graphic novels have been embraced by libraries and book stores over the last decade, so too has their presence increased at the Festival. This year will surely include plenty of writers, artists and other comics creators and publishers. A list of authors attending the Festival has already been posted and will be updated as more are confirmed. Already spotted are writers Cecil Castellucci (The Plain Janes and the upcoming The Year of the Beasts) and Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead), and writer/artist Jim Woodring (Congress of the Animals, Weathercraft)