Annal: 1985 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Results of the PEN/Faulkner Award in the year 1985.

Book:The Barracks Thief

The Barracks Thief

Tobias Wolff

The Barracks Thief is the story of three young paratroopers waiting to be shipped out to Vietnam. Brought together one sweltering afternoon to stand guard over an ammunition dump threatened by a forest fire, they discover in each other an unexpected capacity for recklessness and violence. Far from being alarmed by this discovery, they are exhilarated by it; they emerge from their common danger full of confidence in their own manhood and in the bond of friendship they have formed.

This confidence is shaken when a series of thefts occur. The author embraces the perspectives of both the betrayer and the betrayed, forcing us to participate in lives that we might otherwise condemn, and to recognize the kinship of those lives to our own.

Book:The Dixie Association

The Dixie Association

Donald Hays

Meet the Arkansas Reds, the oddest, craziest, rowdiest bunch of sluggers ever to step out of a dugout. The lineup consists of an ex-con first baseman named Hog, a couple of real Reds on loan from Castro, some young bucks on their way up and worn-out old-timers on their way down, a few wild Indians, a woman, a pitcher named Genghis Mohammad, Jr., and a lecherous knuckle-baller—all led by a one-armed Marxist and former major-leaguer named Lefty. Hog chronicles a season with the Reds as they travel from one seedy southern ballpark to another, always barely a step ahead of the small-town sheriffs and right-wing evangelists who think these motley minor-leaguers are an insult to “America’s game.”

Book:Family Dancing

Family Dancing: Stories

David Leavitt

Tender, unsettling, and amusing, these stories present families all unhappy in their own different ways. A mother who presides over her local Parents of Lesbians and Gays chapter has trouble accepting her son’s lover. A recently separated couple’s compulsion to maintain a twenty-six-year tradition seems to magnify futility. The New York Times called this collection “astonishing—funny, eloquent, and wise.”

Book:On Glory's Course

On Glory's Course

James Purdy

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.

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