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Homework too hard for book award judge

November 23, 2002|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — The job seems impossible from the start: As a nonfiction judge for the National Book Awards, you get six months to read some 400 books on everything from environmental science to backroom politics.

At least one of this year's voters, columnist and television commentator Michael Kinsley, says he didn't even try.

In a column posted Thursday on the online magazine Slate, Kinsley acknowledged he looked at only a fraction of the submissions. He likened the awards to choosing "the best rhubarb pie at the state fair" and hinted that he didn't complete Wednesday's winner: Robert A. Caro's 1,000-page "Master of the Senate," the third volume of his Lyndon B. Johnson biography.

The chairman of the nonfiction panel, Christopher Merrill, said Kinsley was only speaking for himself. But neither he nor Neil Baldwin, executive director of the National Book Foundation, claimed every book was read in its entirety.

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