Annal: 1986 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Results of the PEN/Faulkner Award in the year 1986.

Book:The Old Forest and Other Stories

The Old Forest and Other Stories

Peter Taylor

From the grand master of the American short story, these fourteen tales of domestic life in the South during the thirties and forties explore that extraordinary world of manners, expectations and unspoken understanding. The reader is drawn as if by magnetic force into a world rendered in breathtaking, painterly detail. These stories are marvelous entertainments, rich with amusement, yet Taylor renders his characters truly and understands them in a profoundly meaningful way.

Book:Carpenter's Gothic

Carpenter's Gothic

William Gaddis

This story of raging comedy and despair centers on the tempestuous marriage of an heiress and a Vietnam veteran. From their “carpenter gothic” rented house, Paul sets himself up as a media consultant for Reverend Ude, an evangelist mounting a grand crusade that conveniently suits a mining combine bidding to take over an ore strike on the site of Ude’s African mission. At the still center of the breakneck action—revealed in Gaddis’s inimitable virtuoso dialoge—is Paul’s wife, Liz, and over it all looms the shadowy figure of McCandless, a geologist from whom Paul and Liz rent their house. As Paul mishandles the situation, his wife takes the geologist to her bed and a fire and aborted assassination occur; Ude issues a call to arms as harrowing as any Jeremiad—and Armageddon comes rapidly closer.

Displaying Gaddis’s inimitable virtuoso dialogue, and his startling treatments of violence and sexuality, Carpenter’s Gothic “shows again that Gaddis is among the first rank of contemporary American writers” (Malcolm Bradbury, The Washington Post Book World).

Book:The Christmas Wife

The Christmas Wife: Stories

Helen Norris

A lonely widower rents a woman to keep him company over the holidays. The young wife of a considerably older man steps off their train for just a moment and never returns. A woman and her withdrawn grandchild try to bridge the generations and loneliness keeping them apart. In these tales and others in The Christmas Wife, Helen Norris celebrates the heart’s triumph over the tragic losses and nameless longings of our common existence.

Book:Later the Same Day

Later the Same Day

Grace Paley

Seventeen stories focus on social and political concerns that oppose practical pressures.

Book:Lonesome Dove

Lonesome Dove

Larry McMurtry

A love story, an adventure, an American epic, Lonesome Dove embraces all the West—legend and fact, heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settiers—in a novel that recreates the central American experience, the most enduring of our national myths.

Set in the late nineteenth century, Lonesome Dove is the story of a cattle drive from Texas to Montana—and much more. It is a drive that represents for everybody involved not only a daring, even a foolhardy, adventure, but a part of the American Dream—the attempt to carve out of the last remaining wilderness a new life.

Augustus McCrae and W. F. Call are former Texas Rangers, partners and friends who have shared hardship and danger together without ever quite understanding (or wanting to understand) each other’s deepest emotions. Gus is the romantic, a reluctant…[more]

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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