I sat on a prize-panel recently. A lot of us have done this; everybody reads 60 books or so and one of them wins. I disagreed with most of the other people on the panel. They liked stories with social purpose; I like gorgeous writing. Given a different mix on the committee, probably another book would have won.

Which brings me to the Kentucky Derby tomorrow (Saturday). The two favorites are drawn down on the rail and all the way to the outside. They’re separated by 18 other horses. Now it’s supposed to rain in Louisville. Which — when it comes to complicating things – is probably tantamount to having one of the book judges have a psychotic episode.
Probably the sages are right when they suggest there’s not much to really get excited or distressed about. It’s nice to win, but the rush subsides pretty quickly. Losing is a drag but the sun comes up, anyway.
After a certain winnowing out process, most writers are pretty good. Following that, ambition really helps — getting out there, hiring publicists, pressing the flesh. But after a certain point, it’s just the luck of the draw.