I’m reading the five Oregon Book Award nominees before the winner is announced next month. The books are judged according to “literary merit.” That is the sole criteria. But what does it mean? Which has more literary merit: a book with finely crafted sentences, rich sensual detail, carefully drawn characters—or a more simply told story with a strong narrative thrust, a compelling voice, characters, who despite being sparsely drawn, are complete and full? I don’t see how anyone can tell.