Annal: 1984 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 1984.

Book:The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Milan Kundera, Michael Henry Heim

A young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing; one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover—these are the two couples whose story is told in this masterful novel.

Controlled by day, Tereza’s jealousy awakens by night, transformed into ineffably sad death-dreams, while Tomas, a successful surgeon, alternates loving devotion to the dependent Tereza with the ardent pursuit of other women. Sabina, an independent, free-spirited artist, lives her life as a series of betrayals—of parents, husband, country, love itself—whereas her lover, the intellectual Franz, loses all because of his earnest goodness and fidelity.

In a world in which lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and by fortuitous events, a world in which everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight. Hence we feel, says the novelist, “the unbearable lightness of being”—not…[more]

Book:Democracy

Democracy

Joan Didion

Inez Victor knows that the major casualty of the political life is memory. But the people around Inez have made careers out of losing track. Her senator husband wants to forget the failure of his last bid for the presidency. Her husband’s handler would like the press to forget that Inez’s father is a murderer. And, in 1975, the year in which much of this bitterly funny novel is set, America is doing its best to lose track of its one-time client, the lethally hemorrhaging republic of South Vietnam.

As conceived by Joan Didion, these personages and events constitute the terminal fallout of democracy, a fallout that also includes fact-finding junkets, senatorial groupies, the international arms market, and the Orwellian newspeak of the political class. Moving deftly from Honolulu to Jakarta, between romance, farce, and tragedy, Democracy is a tour de force from a writer who can dissect an entire society with a single phrase.

Book:Him With His Foot in His Mouth and Other Stories

Him With His Foot in His Mouth and Other Stories

Saul Bellow

Book:Stones for Ibarra

Stones for Ibarra

Harriet Doerr

Richard and Sara Everton mortgage, sell and borrow, leave friends and country to settle in the Mexican village of Ibarra. They intend to spend the rest of their lives here, in a place neither of them has seen, to speak a language neither of them know. Their dream is to reopen Richard’s grandfather’s abandoned copper mine.

In a few short months work is advancing in the mine and their home is ready—then Richard learns he has six years to live.

Richard’s determination to make the mine and village prosper matches Sara’s effort to deny the diagnosis. While Richard measures time, she rejects its passage.

This novel, Harriet Doerr’s first, was written when she was in her seventies.

Book:The Witches of Eastwick

The Witches of Eastwick

John Updike

In a small New England town in the late 1960s, there lived three witches Alexandra Spoffard, sculptress, could create thunderstorms. Jane Smart, a cellist, could fly. The local gossip columnist, Sukie Rougemont, could turn milk into cream.

Divorced but hardly celibate, content but always ripe for adventure, our three wonderful witches one day found themselves quite under the spell of the new man in town, Darryl Van Horne, whose hot tub was the scene of some rather bewitching delights.

To tell you any more, dear reader, would be to spoil the marvelous joy of reading this hexy, sexy novel by the incomparable John Updike.

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