Results of the PEN/Faulkner Award in the year 1982.
The legends say something happened in Chaneysville. The Chaneysville Incident is the powerful story of one man’s obsession with discovering what that something was—a quest that takes the brilliant and bitter young black historian John Washington back through the secrets and buried evil of his heritage. Returning home to care for and then bury his father’s closest friend and his own guardian, Old Jack Crawley, he comes upon the scant records of his family’s proud and tragic history, which he drives himself to reconstruct and accept. This is the story of John’s relationship with his family, the town, and the woman he loves; and also between the past and the present, between oppression and guilt, hate and violence, love and acceptance.
Marshall Pearl is orphaned at birth aboard an illegal immigrant ship off the coast of Palestine in 1947 and brought as an infant to America. Determined to see the world in its beauty, ferocity, and ultimate justice, he does so, in scenes of gorgeous color and great excitement, as a child in the Hudson Valley, fighting the Rastafarians in Jamaica, at Harvard, in a slaughterhouse on the Great Plains, in the Mexican desert, on the sea, and in the Alps. Finally, he is drawn to Israel to confront the logic of his birth in a crucible of war, magic, suffering, and grace. At the opening of the book, he is one of the dying wounded being transported to Haifa during the 1973 War. We follow him as he dreams, reconstructing his life, until, by the strength of what he has learned, suffered, and hoped, Marshall Pearl rises.
Diverse characters are drawn into the maelstrom of Tecan, a small Central American country on the brink of revolution.
At a mission on the coast a priest is lapsing into alcoholic mysticism, while a young American nun is veering towards commitment to the cause. In a bar in Brooklyn, Frank Holliwell is lunching with an old CIA friend who is begging for a favour. On the Tex—Mex border, Pablo, a Coast Guard deserter, loco on speed, is about to take a job carrying mysterious contraband to Tecan. As these lives converge and this small, crowded world erupts, the novel builds to an electrifying climax.
A modern classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, their eccentric and remote aunt. The family house is in the small Far West town of Fingerbone set on a glacial lake, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck, and their mother drove off a cliff to her death. It is a town “chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere.” Ruth and Lucille’s struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.
With these audacious and murderously witty stories, Donald Barthelme threw the preoccupations of our time into the literary equivalent of a Cuisinart and served up a gorgeous salad of American culture, high and low. Here are the urban upheavals reimagined as frontier myth; travelogues through countries that might have been created by Kafka; cryptic dialogues that bore down to the bedrock of our longings, dreams, and angsts. Like all of Barthelme’s work, the sixty stories collected in this volume are triumphs of language and perception, at once unsettling and irresistible.
Richard Bausch’s novels and short stories render the struggles of ordinary people through simple, direct language and a straightforward narrative style. His southern Catholic sensibility and his emphasis on spiritual crises and the nebulous nature of human connections have evoked comparisons to the writing of Flannery O’Connor.
Take Me Back, Bausch’s second novel, set in a dingy apartment complex in fictional Point Royal, Virginia, explores the disaffected lives of Gordon Brinhart, an unsuccessful insurance salesman; his wife, Katherine, a former rock guitarist; and Katherine’s illegitimate son, Alex, a subdued eleven-year-old obsessed with baseball. When Gordon goes on a drinking binge, loses his job, and sleeps with a teenage neighbor, Katherine attempts suicide, and Alex is the unfortunate witness to it all. In Take Me Back, Bausch has fashioned a harrowing examination of the hopelessness, despondency, and frailty families can engender.