Annal: 1980 National Book Award for Fiction

Results of the National Book Award in the year 1980.

Book:Sophie's Choice: A Novel

Sophie's Choice: A Novel

William Styron

“[One morning] in the early spring, I woke up with the remembrance of a girl I’d once known, Sophie. It was a very vivid half-dream, half-revelation, and all of a sudden I realized that hers was a story I had to tell.” That very day, William Styron began writing the first chapter of Sophie’s Choice.

First published in 1979, this complex and ambitious novel opens with Stingo, a young southerner, journeying north in 1947 to become a writer. It leads us into his intellectual and emotional entanglement with his neighbors in a Brooklyn rooming house: Nathan, a tortured, brilliant Jew, and his lover, Sophie, a beautiful Polish woman whose wrist bears the grim tattoo of a concentration camp…and whose past is strewn with death that she alone survived.

Sophie’s Choice is a passionate, courageous book…a philosophical novel on the most important subject of…[more]

Book:The World According to Garp

The World According to Garp

John Irving

This is the life and times of T.S. Garp, the bastard son of Jenny Fields—a feminist leader ahead of her times. This is the life and death of a famous mother and her almost-famous son; theirs is a world of sexual extremes—even of sexual assassinations. It is a novel rich with “lunacy and sorrow”; yet the dark, violent events of the story do not undermine a comedy both ribald and robust. In more than thirty languages, in more than forty countries—with more than ten million copies in print—this novel provides almost cheerful, even hilarious evidence of its famous last line: “In the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases”.

Book:Collected Stories

Collected Stories

Paul Bowles

In the stories that make up this collection, Bowles creates a world in which the extreme situations the characters find themselves in move relentlessly towards their logical, yet disturbing conclusions.

Book:Endless Love: A Novel

Endless Love: A Novel

Scott Spencer

One of the most celebrated novels of its time, Endless Love remains perhaps the most powerful novel ever written about young love. Riveting, compulsively readable, and ferociously sexual, Endless Love tells the story of David Axelrod and his overwhelming love for Jade Butterfield.

David’s and Jade’s lives are consumed with each other; their rapport, their desire, their sexuality take them further than they understand. And when Jade’s father suddenly banishes David from the house, he fantasizes the forgiveness his rescue of the family will bring and he sets a “perfectly safe” fire to their house. What unfolds is a nightmare, a dark world in which David’s love is a crime and a disease, a world of anonymous phone calls, crazy letters, and new fears—and the inevitable and punishing pursuit of the one thing that remains most real to him: his endless love for Jade and her family.

Book:The Executioner's Song

The Executioner's Song

Norman Mailer

In what is arguably his greatest book, written in 1979, America’s most heroically ambitious writer follows the short, blighted career of Gary Gilmore, an intractably violent product of America’s prisons who—after robbing two men and killing them in cold blood—insisted on dying for his crime. To do so, he had to fight a system that seemed intent on keeping him alive long after it had sentenced him to death.

Norman Mailer tells Gilmore’s story—and those of the men and women caught up in his procession toward the firing squad—with implacable authority, steely compassion, and a restraint that evokes the parched landscapes and stern theology of Gilmore’s Utah.

The Executioner’s Song is a towering achievement, impossible to put down, impossible to forget.

Book:The Ghost Writer (Philip Roth)

The Ghost Writer

Philip Roth

The Ghost Writer introduces Nathan Zuckerman in the 1950s, a budding writer infatuated with the Great Books, discovering the contradictory claims of literature and experience while an overnight guest in the secluded New England farmhouse of his idol, E. I. Lonoff.

At Lonoff’s, Zuckerman meets Amy Bellette, a haunting young woman of indeterminate foreign background who turns out to be a former student of Lonoff’s and who may also have been his mistress. Zuckerman, with his active, youthful imagination, wonders if she could be the paradigmatic victim of Nazi persecution. If she were, it might change his life.

The first volume of the trilogy and epilogue Zuckerman Bound, The Ghost Writer is about the tensions between literature and life, artistic truthfulness and conventional decency—and about those implacable practitioners who live with the consequences of sacrificing one for the other.

Book:Just Above My Head

Just Above My Head

James Baldwin

The stark grief of a brother mourning a brother opens this novel with a stunning, unforgettable experience.  Here, in a monumental saga of love and rage, Baldwin goes back to Harlem, to the church of his groundbreaking novel Go Tell It on the Mountain, to the homosexual passion of Giovanni’s Room, and to the political fire that enflames his nonfiction work.  Here, too, the story of gospel singer Arthur Hall and his family becomes both a journey into another country of the soul and senses—and a living contemporary history of black struggle in this land.

Book:Too Far to Go

Too Far to Go

John Updike

Stories that trace the decline and fall of a marriage, a history made up of the happiness of growing children and shared life, and the sadness of growing estrangement and the misunderstandings of love.

Book:Violet Clay

Violet Clay: A Novel

Gail Godwin

Violet Clay had come to New York City from Charleston to take the art world by storm. But nine years, many affairs, and thousands of drinks later, the reality of her shadow life is made clear when she is fired from her job as a freelance illustrator. That same day, she hears that her beloved Uncle Ambrose, an unsuccessful writer, has shot himself.

As Violet collects the shattered pieces of her uncle’s life, she is forced to face herself and her own tattered dreams. And what she discovers is that she has just been going through the motions of living. She’s not even sure she can do anything else. But she’s in her mid-thirties and knows she still has time to try again. If she succeeds, she will have broken from her family of dreamers forever and can deservedly claim both the rich rewards and frustrating adversities of the artist’s life….

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