Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


Episode 260: Winter of Wayback, 1991 (Nelson Algren Prize Winners)

It’s the second week of our tour through the 1990s, which means we’re on to 1991. For our reading this week we chose two stories: the winner and runner-up in the annual Nelson Algren Fiction Prize. The contest, which is still active, awards cash prizes and prints the winning stories in the pages of the Chicago Tribune. The winner for 1991 was Tom Barbash’s story “Howling at the Moon,” and the runner-up was Patricia Stevens’ “Leaving Fort Ord.” You can also read an article about all the winners here.

Also this week, we talk about a Jacob Weisberg piece that rocked the publishing world in 1991. Weisberg laid into several of the big New York publishers for putting out hastily edited books that were nearly unreadable. He also called out a couple big-time editors by name, accusing them of not even reading the books on their lists. As might be expected, there was some serious blowback, though Howard Kurtz’s prediction that Weisberg would be blackballed from American publishing turned out to be pretty far off the mark.

1991 was also a big year for video games, with new higher-bit consoles and the introduction of Street Fighter II, considered to be a landmark in the industry.

And of course there’s lots, lots more: an unsolved murder, the Gulf War, Mike’s first cigarette, another edition of Nineties Movie Club, and the tantalizing smells of teen spirit.

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