Annal: 1985 National Book Award for Fiction

Results of the National Book Award in the year 1985.

Book:White Noise

White Noise

Don DeLillo

Jack Gladney teaches Hitler studies at a liberal arts college in Middle America where his colleagues include New York expatriates who want to immerse themselves in “American magic and dread.” Jack and his fourth wife, Babette, bound by love, fear of death, and four ultramodern offspring, navigate the usual rocky passages of family life to the background babble of brand-name consumerism.

Then a lethal black cloud floats over their lives, an airborne “toxic event,” an industrial accident. The menacing cloud is a more urgent and visible version of the “white noise” engulfing the Gladney family—radio transmissions, sirens, microwaves, ultrasonic appliances, and TV murmurings—pulsing with life, yet filled with dread and danger.

Book:Always Coming Home

Always Coming Home

Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin’s Always Coming Home is a major work of the imagination from one of America’s most respected writers of science fiction. More than five years in the making, it is a novel unlike any other. A rich and complex interweaving of story and fable, poem, artwork, and music, it totally immerses the reader in the culture of the Kesh, a peaceful people of the far future who inhabit a place called the Valley on the Northern Pacific Coast.

Book:Face

Face: A Novel

Cecile Pineda

On a chill and stormy day, a man slips and plunges over a cliff into an experience that will change his life forever. But Helio Cara’s fall from a cliff is not merely a fall that results in horrific disfigurement. It is a fall from grace.

The fabric of his daily existence comes unraveled as jobless, penniless, deserted by lover and friends; he is driven from his home by horrified neighbors. At last, using needle, thread, and razor blades, he determines to reconstruct his own face and to rebuild a place for himself in the world.

Face is the story of a man at the limit of existence who finds the patience and courage to change himself. With power, intensity and sparseness of poetry, it voices the predicament of all people who partake of a culture, which separates the individual’s notion of self from his sense of community.

Book:Slow Dancing

Slow Dancing

Elizabeth Benedict

The story of a longtime friendship between two women by critically acclaimed author, Elizabeth Benedict.

Book:The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life: A Novel

Hugh Nissenson

Eighteen months of the life of Thomas Keene, a fictitious 19th-century congregational minister, is traced in this journal-like novel. Having suffered a loss of faith, Keene abandons the East for frontier life in the Ohio wilderness. His account is by turns violent, tender, and erotic. Keene is both a witness to history, describing the many ordinary and horrific details of frontier life (including the conflict between white settlers and Indians), and a man searching for personal meaning in a world without God.

Like a true frontier journal, the novel includes illustrations attributed to Keene. As a foil to the main character, the historic figure John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, is portrayed as a believer who lives with self-doubt.

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